Monday, November 19, 2012

Non-native English Speaking Language Teachers' Challenges and Strengths

Non-native English Speaking Language
Teachers' Challenges and Strengths 

English is regarded as the global language (Crystal 1997) around the world and there is a highly increasing trend toward global English usage.  As a consequence, this situation increases the importance of English language teaching (ELT) field.  In this connection, this field has a growing number of teachers who are non-native speakers of English.  However, English teachers each have their own challenges in this profession and there have been a lot of studies which focused on the challenges of non-native speaking teachers all around the world. 

The idea of English language teachers’ major challenges and strengths to their profession is not only the subject of this research.  Many researchers have been working on this issue and a large number of articles and books have been published about this topic. The non-native English speaking teachers (NNESTs) deal with a number of challenges which occur in the workplace and in their daily lives.  Although the number of NNESTs outweighs the number of native speakers of English in the world, NNESTs struggle for equal treatment in the ELT profession (Matsuda & Matsuda, 2001).  They come across with various challenges including those related to accent and credibility in the workplace.

Lippi-Green (1997) found that teachers with non-native accents were perceived as less qualified and less effective and were compared unfavorably with their native-English-speaking colleagues.  This challenge has always been the cause of employment discrimination practices in ESL programs in the United States and other countries.

Credibility in the workplace:
Issues of teacher credibility are encountered by many NNESTs in the classroom, where even students are influenced by the discrimination between the native English speaker teachers and the NNESTs.  Some NNESTs have stated that they had to prove that they could be as effective as a native-English speaking teacher to their students until they gain credibility in the workplace.  In reality, increasing number of educators today is pointing out the many strengths of competent teachers of English who share a first language with their students and have experienced the process of learning English.
Medgyes (1992: 346 – 7) stated the following strengths of NNESTs:
  1.       Only NNESTs can serve as imitable models of the successful learner of    English…
  2.       NNESTs can teach learning strategies more effectively…
  3.       NNESTs can provide learners with more information about the English language…
  4.       NNESTs are more able to anticipate language difficulties…
  5.       NNESTs can be more empathetic to the needs and problems of their learners…
  6.    Only NNESTs benefit from sharing the learners’ mother tongue… 

  If you want to read more, here are the cites:

  What do you think about the challenges and strengths of NNESTs?
  As you will be a NNEST, what do you think about the challenges that you may
  encounter in your profession?

     Maum, R. (2002). Nonnative-English-Speaking Teachers in the English Teaching Profession. ERIC Digest. Retrieved December, 2002, from

      Tajino, A. & Tajino, A. (2000). Native and non-native: What they can offer? Lessons from team-teaching in Japan. ELT journal, 54(1), 3-11  


  1. I cannot say that native speaker teachers are better thatn non-native speakers. I think that it depends on the knowledge of the teacher. Also, I believe that a NNESTs teach grammar more efficiently because they strict to the rules more and want their students learn grammar well and talk grammatically approriate. On the other hand, non-natives may sometimes ignore some insignicant grammar mistakes that leads students to learn incorrect. In contrast, non-native teachers are better in terms of accent that students can get the accent more effectively from them.

    1. Thank you for your comment Ulku but I was wondering are you sure NNESTs have better accent than native speakers?

  2. I think non-native teachers teach in detailed way, the native teachers don't concern with the grammatical point of the English. They just try to teach students for daily life, for communication. I aggree with you, accent can be the one of the challenge. Classes have different students from different nationalities and they try to adapt to their own accent to English language so this will lead teachers to have problems.

  3. I think that there are different challenges of non-native and natrive teachers. While native teachers have basic competence for language, non native teachers may have more experience and different kind of language system. Native teachers can't completely be compared with non-native teachers because they can dominate the language completely, but non-native teachers can't competely dominate on the language because the first language can have the role of inference on the aqusition of the second language.This is a big debatable topic, although Chomsky gave some answers, this is till theoretical, but to me , the challenges and strentgs can change according to the context that is used in the language.

  4. Actually, learners doesn't know the difference between accent and pronunciation that's why NNESTs are percieved badly. However, I think at least a NNEST should use formal AmE or BrE accents.
    I think for credibility NNESTs must be knowledgeable in the language enough. This can cover their lack of accent. Students will show respect them when they satisfy with NNESTs' knowledge in the language. As we all know, we are percieved as walking dictionaries. When we show a sign of a lack of word knowledge, we can be seen as really bad teachers.
    I support the idea that NNESTs can serve as imitable models because, in Japan students tended not to learn English from native speakers because they thought they couldn't learn English when there were better speakers of English than they were. So the government used NNESTs to show students they could learn English NNESTs.
    Moreover, it is true that NNESTs can easily anticipate the problems students face in the learning phase because they walked through same way as students doing.
    I think you have chosen good topic to remind what situations NNESTs are facing.

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