September 2014
NNEST Newsletter

Leadership Updates


Greetings fellow NNEST-IS members,

I hope this message finds everyone well.

I have already met many of you in person this March, and you may know me as I have been sending out messages via our listserv. As this is the first message I am writing as chair, however, I would like to thank all of you for entrusting me with the task of leading our IS; I sincerely hope that I will meet your expectations. Our past chair, Ali Fuad Selvi, has done an admirable job of promoting our goals and missions as well as organizing and streamlining some of our activities and programs, and I hope to continue his good work.

In 2016, TESOL will celebrate its 50th anniversary, and this year its leadership is busy considering ways to celebrate and reflect on the organization’s half a century history. While our IS is not even half that old, I would still like us to reflect on our own (almost) two decades and consider our future directions together in the upcoming year.

To that end and as a starting point, I have put together a survey asking our members about our IS, its name, its website. and various activities and programs that the IS offers. At this point, only 21 members have completed the survey. I will send out a reminder about the survey soon, and hopefully by the time you read this message, I will have enough data to share with you; I will post the full report (via our listserv) once it’s available. In this letter, I still want to share and discuss with you some of its preliminary findings.

One of the questions asked our members about the website. Out of 21 members who completed the survey, 13 members said that they have visited our website. While many found the website to be relatively useful, three thought that it is in dire need of revision/update. We also asked members which page they found most useful and which page least useful, and respondents said that they found three pages useful: Resources (10), Newsletter (8), and History (6). Interestingly, the resources page was also considered least useful and in need of significant revision by six respondents. The website is one of the issues that prompted the survey, and as preliminary as the findings are, I believe they nonetheless reflect the need for significant revision of the site. I will discuss this issue with others in the leadership team and follow up with all of you regarding this matter.

Rather unfortunately, many of the respondents don’t feel quite engaged with the IS. It seems that while for some it is because they simply don’t have time to participate more actively, for others it is because they either don’t know how they can get more involved in the IS or don’t feel qualified to do so. Along with the website, this is something I believe that the IS needs to address as soon as possible. In the coming months, I will probably ask you more questions to help me and others on the leadership team to consider and determine ways to better engage our members in the organization. In the meantime, however, please know that there is no voice not worth listening to, and that in any shape or form your participation and contribution will be valued.

The survey also asked the membership if our IS needs a new name. This was from the discussion we had at the annual business meeting in Portland this past March. Out of 21 members, eight thought that we should have a different name, while the rest thought that we should keep our name as is. Only a few individuals suggested alternative names: MEST (Multilingual English Speakers at TESOL) and Language Marginalized Teachers.

We actually had a similar discussion about this several years ago. If my memory serves me correctly, the question in fact generated quite extensive discussion among members for some time. The fact that we are still debating this issue, and that we have not yet reached a consensus, clearly reflects the difficulty of choosing a name that appropriately represents all that this IS is and what we do. On the one hand, we may indeed need a new name which better reflects who we are as an IS now. As many of you pointed out at the meeting in March, we as an IS have moved beyond simply advocating and promoting NNEST issues. Many members are actively researching and publishing in the field and want the name to reflect such professional and academic expertise. On the other hand, many have also pointed out that the NNEST-IS has been already well established and thus believe that we should keep our current name.

“What’s in a name?” While Juliet may believe that “a rose by any other name will smell as sweet,” the name of an entity (be that a person or an organization) is as important as what the entity is. So while you are reflecting on 50 years of TESOL and almost 20 years of our organization, please also consider what really is in our name.

From sweltering Houston,
Kyung-Hee Bae

Kyung-Hee Bae is the associate director at the Center for Written, Oral, and Visual Communication, as well as a lecturer in the Program for Writing and Communication at Rice University in Houston, Texas. Before she became the chair of the NNEST-IS, she also served as chair of TESOL’s Awards Committee.




Nathanael Rudolph

Within the field of ELT, the NNEST movement,1 and the contents of this edition of the NNEST Newsletter, there is ontological and epistemological variety underpinning the way in which (in)equity is conceptualized. These various worldviews, in turn, shape differing approaches to addressing inequity within scholarship and other professional activities. In this article, we seek to apprehend and provide an overview of conceptual approaches to (in)equity, and then briefly discuss the implications such variety might have for participation in and direction for the movement.

For decades, scholars have sought to apprehend the origin, construction, and perpetuation of the native speaker (NS) construct in ELT. The most frequent critically-oriented approach to the NS construct includes its conceptualization as a universalized, stable truth in global ELT, wherein an idealized NS is the de facto owner of English, the holder of corresponding linguistic and cultural authority, and the standard by which all learners, users, and instructors of the language might be measured (e.g., Leung, 2005). This NS is constructed as Caucasian, Western, and generally as male (e.g., Braine, 1999).

Holliday’s (2005, 2006) conceptualization of native speakerism (NS-ism), or the maintenance and perpetuation of the NS construct by NSs and nonnative speakers (NNSs) alike, corresponds with the notion of the NS construct as universal in nature. From this viewpoint, NS-ism: 1) is Western in origin; 2) is ubiquitous, and, to a large degree, uniform in its manifestations; 3) flows out of globalized ELT into local contexts; and 4) privileges native-English-speaking teachers (NESTs) and marginalizes NNESTs (in accordance with the NS fallacy). Approaches to in(equity) grounded in this understanding of the NS construct and NS-ism actualize categories of identity and apprehend in(equity) through the lens of critically-oriented, categorical binaries: NS/NNS and NEST/NNEST (e.g., Menard-Warwick, 2008). These binaries suppose a common NNEST (and NEST) “experience” situated within the “field of ELT” and the multiplicity of learning, using, and teaching contexts therein. Hence, the facilitation of awareness, activism, and advocacy is deemed largely uniform in nature, seeking to address the “NNEST condition” in the interest of cultivating equity in the profession.

More recently, postmodern and poststructural scholarship has advocated for the reconceptualization of identity beyond categorical constraints (e.g., Motha, Jain, & Tecle, 2012). This scholarship argues that such categories oversimplify and neglect learner, user, and instructor identities by effectively stripping individuals of voice and agency. Identity, through the postmodern and poststructural lens, is “fluid, multiple, diverse, dynamic, varied, shifting, subject to change and contradictory. It is regarded to be socially organized, reorganized, constructed, co-constructed, and continually reconstructed through language and discourse. It is unstable, flexible, ongoing, negotiated, and multiple” (Kouhpaeenejad & Gholaminejad, 2014, p. 200).

From this perspective, scholars contend that the NS construct, NS-ism, and the NS fallacy are the product of the interaction between glocal discourses of identity,2 flowing fluidly in and out of ELT and the context in which it is situated (e.g., Houghton & Rivers, 2013). These discourses, cultivated and maintained by individuals, entities, and institutions deriving authority from their perpetuation, seek to establish borders of being and becoming, regarding who individuals “are,” and can or should become, which includes their status as learners, users, and teachers of English (Rudolph, 2013). In establishing borders of being and becoming, such discourses attempt to restrict or eliminate space for teachers whose identities do not correspond with glocal constructions of linguistic and cultural authority, whether in terms of the idealized NS or membership in the local community.The complexity of how these discourses manifest and are negotiated by individuals in their assertion of agency, challenge static, conceptual descriptions of learner, user and teacher identity, of context, and of privilege and marginalization therein. Thus, there is neither a shared nor completely identical NEST nor NNEST experience: Privilege and marginalization are fluidly and dynamically constructed in glocal ELT contexts. A postmodern and poststructural worldview, therefore, would argue that conceptual and practical approaches to (in)equity attend to its complexity as socioculturally and sociohistorically constructed and situated in context.

In the spirit of postmodern and poststructural scholarship, we contend that scholars are negotiating conceptual and descriptive borders within the field, leading to complex formulations of worldview and (in)equity. Thus, for instance, scholars may acknowledge that “NESTs” and “NNESTs” experience fluid privilege and marginalization that cannot be contained within categorical descriptions of identity, while at the same time retaining a critically-oriented binary framework for approaching inquiry. What does this diversity of worldviews mean for the NNEST-IS, and the NNEST movement in general? We assert that attending to this diversity is key to cultivating constructive dialogue with the intention of shaping the purpose for and direction of the movement to address the complex issues of equity and inclusivity.

In approaching dialogue, we posit that our community must attend to the varied meanings our members and associates pour into the words they use, in conceptualizing and approaching equity. Such attention may facilitate more constructive interaction between us, and, in turn, cultivate clearer and more productive dialogue with the ELT community and stakeholders in ELT, in general. Additionally, we maintain the IS and NNEST movement in general would benefit from the increased incorporation of learner, user, and instructor accounts of the negotiation of identity, and the glocal construction, perpetuation, and maintenance of borders of identity, into the ELT literature, our IS, and other professional activities. This, we believe, would be a move toward addressing local accounts of privilege and marginalization in the “global,” while at the same time cultivating a “global” that might more specifically attend to the “local.” This would provide teachers with space for agency and voice, and therefore participation in knowledge construction in the field, beyond the overgeneralized and stifling categories of “NEST” and “NNEST.” In moving beyond categories of identity, the IS and NNEST movement within and beyond TESOL International Association would necessarily confront and resolve the issue of nomenclature, to better align with the first expressed goal of the NNEST movement: “to create a nondiscriminatory professional environment for all [emphasis added] TESOL members regardless of native language and place of birth” (NNEST IS, 2014b).

1 In TESOL International Association, the NNEST acronym relates to “nonnative English speakers in TESOL” (NNEST IS, 2014a). Scholarship and professional activities addressing issues of equity and the status of “nonnative” English-speaking teachers can also be referred to as the NNEST movement, with the acronym referring to “non-native English speaker teacher/s” (Selvi, 2011). In this article, we conceptualize the movement as including both within and beyond organization-specific activities.

2 Discourses are “systems of power/knowledge (Foucault, 1980) that regulate and assign value to all forms of semiotic activity” (Morgan, 2007, p. 1036). Power, according to Foucault (1984), shapes societal perspectives of “correct,” “normal,” and “acceptable,” via the construction, maintenance, and perpetuation of “regimes of truth.”


Braine, G. (1999). Non-native educators in English language teaching. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Foucault, M. (1984). The Foucault reader (P. Rabinow, Ed.). New York, NY: Pantheon.

Holliday, A. (2005). The struggle to teach English as an international language. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Holliday, A. (2006). Native-speakerism. ELT Journal, 60(4), 385–387.

Houghton, S. A., & Rivers, D. J. (2013). Introduction: Redefining native speakerism. In S. A. Houghton & D. J. Rivers (Eds.), Native-speakerism in Japan: Intergroup dynamics in foreign language education (pp. 1–16). Bristol, England: Multilingual Matters.

Kouhpaeenejad, M., & Gholaminejad, R. (2014). Identity and language learning from post-structuralist perspective. Journal of Language Teaching and Research, 5(1), 199-204.

Leung, C. (2005). Convivial communication: Recontextualizing communicative competence. International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 15(2), 119–144.

Menard-Warwick, J. (2008). The cultural and intercultural identities of transnational English teachers: Two case studies from the Americas. TESOL Quarterly, 42, 617–640.

Morgan, B. (2007). Poststructuralism and applied linguistics. In J. Cummins & C. Davison (Eds.), International handbook of English language teaching (pp. 1033–1052). New York, NY: Springer.

Motha, S., Jain, R., & Tecle, T. (2012). Translinguistic identity-as-pedagogy: Implications for language teacher education. International Journal of Innovation in English Language Teaching, 1(1), 13–27.

NNEST Interest Section. (2014a). Homepage. Retrieved from

NNEST Interest Section. (2014b). Goals of the NNEST Interest Section. Retrieved from

Rudolph, N. (2013). Beyond binaries: Constructing and negotiating borders of identity in glocalized ELT. NNEST IS Newsletter, 12. Retrieved from

Selvi, A. F. (2011). The non-native speaker teacher. ELT Journal. 65(2), 187–189.

Bedrettin Yazan is an assistant professor at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa. His research interests include English as an international language, language teacher identity, collaboration between ESL and content area teachers, and sociocultural theories in second language acquisition.

Nathanael Rudolph is currently teaching at the university level in Japan. His research interests include postmodern and poststructural approaches to language, culture and identity, equity in the field of English language teaching, and the contextualization and teaching of English as an international language.


I was born in Tokyo and grew up speaking Japanese. Since my first exposure to the English language in the 1st grade, English was always my favorite subject. When I was 17, I participated in a year-long study abroad program and attended high school in rural Wisconsin, where I remained to finish high school and then the first 2 years of college. After that, I returned to Japan and completed my undergraduate work at International Christian University, where the majority of courses I took were in English though Japanese was the dominant language outside classes. I then returned to the United States for graduate studies and have been working at U.S. universities since then. In terms of my language repertoire, the two languages I use on a daily basis are English and Japanese. And if I were to use the notion of NS to describe myself, I consider myself to be a native speaker (NS) of Japanese and nonnative speaker (NNS) of English.

Here, I am using the term “native speaker” rather casually and loosely to refer to “someone who has spoken a particular language since they were a baby, rather than having learnt it as a child or adult” (Cambridge, 1995, p. 939). In applied linguistics, this type of definition of NS has been heavily challenged, particularly in relation to multilingual users and their complex relationship with languages. If a person spoke Language A with the mother and B with the father, where C is spoken outside the home, is she a native speaker of all three languages? How about Language D that she learns in school, which eventually became her strongest language? The traditional definition of NS does not adequately capture a situation like this, and scholars have tried to revise the definition so that it can better reflect reality. For example, Davies (2003) suggested some “reality definitions” (p. 214) of NSs than can be applied even to L2 users of a language. Other scholars (e.g., Liu, 1999; Brutt-Griffer & Samimy, 2001) criticized the dichotomous conceptualization of the NS and the NNS and redefined it as a continuum.

While I share their concerns and appreciate their efforts to redefine the concept, that is not where my current interest lies, because the concepts of NS no longer have a legitimate place in my thinking of ELT. I do think that it is a powerful concept. It still influences all aspects of the TESOL profession, from hiring practices to our identity construction. But it doesn’t have to be. And I’m not interested in refining the concept that I do not plan to use to describe the future of ELT or who I am. There is something that I am interested in doing, and that is deconstructing the idealization of NSs. (Kramsch, 1997), or how we associate characteristics, qualities, and abilities—such as high linguistic proficiency, rich cultural knowledge, certain appearances, or teaching abilities—to this loosely-and-vaguely-defined group of people called NSs. I find it highly problematic that some important decisions regarding hiring are made based on such associations and assumptions rather than on the actual qualifications of the person. The idealization of NSs is what I hope to challenge, problematize, and deconstruct in the next few paragraphs, using my own stories.

The first assumption I would like to challenge is the idea that if you are an NS of a particular language, you would be proficient in that language. When I was first invited to give a talk at a symposium in Japan, the talk this article is based on, the first thing I asked was if it could be in English. It wasn’t because the symposium was about English, or because the participants were multilingual (which turned out to be the case, though it was not my initial concern). I prefer to speak in English because that is my stronger language for scholarly activities. Of more than 40 publications and 50 conference presentations that I have given in the past, only one each was in Japanese, and they were the hardest to prepare for because my academic Japanese is much weaker than my academic English. My vocabulary and discourse knowledge is limited because I do not read Japanese publications or attend Japanese conferences regularly. I am not part of Japanese academic communities, where I could have learned all the subtleties of how Japanese scholars use Japanese. All of my training as a scholar has been in the United States, and in the so-called “international” community where English is accepted, or at least tolerated, so I have been sharing my work in English. Between two languages, I still feel that Japanese is stronger overall, but there are a few areas in which I am more comfortable and competent in English: scholarship is one of them.

At the same time, the fact I am writing this article in my L2 suggests that you do not have to be an NS to be a successful user of the language. Preparing a presentation or article is a complicated task, but there are many professionals who do that successfully in their L2s. There are creative writers who write in their L2s. These examples show that a person’s status as an NS does not necessarily tell us everything about the person’s language proficiency. If we are interested in the person’s language proficiency, it’s more accurate and efficient to ask him or her about his or her knowledge of the language and experience using it than asking if he or she is a native speaker of the language.

Another assumption often made about NSs is that they are knowledgeable about cultural practices in a country or community where the language is spoken. People often assume that I know everything about Japanese culture just because I’m from Japan and speak Japanese as my first language. But what’s interesting in my case is that, when it comes to knowing about the things adults do—how to pay taxes, how to make a doctor’s appointment, how to buy a house, or how to communicate with my child’s teachers—I am much more knowledgeable about “American ways.” It is so because the last time I actually lived in Japan was when I was in college, and all my postschool life and life as a parent has taken place in the United States. That alone shows that the idea that you are knowledgeable about your “native culture” is a myth.

Another illuminating example is from two summers ago, when my daughter, who was born and grew up in the United States, attended school in Japan for the first time. I had many questions about the Japanese school system these days, and my old friends who are now parents were, of course, helpful. But the most valuable resource turned out to be an American friend who had her daughter attend elementary school in Japan and the United States. Although she was not originally from Japan, she had intimate knowledge of school culture in Japan and, on top of it, she could explain it in relation to how things are done in the United States, which was my reference point. So, in this particular case, someone who was not originally from Japan was more knowledgeable about this particular type of Japanese culture than I was, and was more informative than her native Japanese counterparts, contrary to the common-held assumption that an NS of a language is a better cultural resource than an NNS of the language.

What these stories suggest, particularly in relation to hiring ESL/EFL teachers, is that using NS status as a hiring criteria is a risky way of recruiting. You may assume that candidates will come with certain qualities, but there is no guarantee that they do. What I advocate for, instead, is to define the criteria in terms of what we want our teachers to know and what they can do. If it is an academic writing class, for example, we’d probably want someone who knows enough English to write an effective academic paper and perhaps who has attended college or university in an English-speaking environment, where he or she successfully used academic English and gained some first-hand knowledge of English-speaking academic culture. And someone who knows about pedagogy of writing, ideally with a track record of being an effective L2 writing teacher. On the other hand, if it is a business English class, we might look for someone who knows and has used English in business settings. Once we start thinking about teacher qualifications in terms of what teachers know and what they can do, it becomes clear that we can skip the idea of NS status all together. It also becomes evident that not requiring “nativeness” does not mean we would settle for someone who is less than. In fact, being more precise about what we need may end up raising the bar. This “what-they-know and what-they-can-do” criteria helps us reach out directly to teachers that match our needs instead of wondering if the NS applicants actually bring all qualities we hope they do.

This article is based on the feature talk presented at Tamagawa University ELF Symposium on 28 February 2014 in Tokyo, Japan.


Brutt-Griffer, J., & Samimy, K. K. (2001). Transcending the nativeness paradigm. World Englishes, 20(1), 99–106.

Davies, A. (2003). The native speaker: Myth and reality. Clevedon, United Kingdom: Multilingual Matters.

Kramsch, C. (1997). The privilege of the nonnative speaker. PMLA, 112, 359–369.

Liu, J. (1999). From their own perspectives: The impact of non-native ESL professionals on their students. In G. Braine (Ed.), Non-native educators in English language teaching (pp. 159–176). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Native Speaker.(1995). Cambridge international dictionary of English. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.

Aya Matsuda is associate professor of applied linguistics at Arizona State University, USA. Her research focuses on the use and status of English as an international language and its pedagogical implications, and her work has appeared in several leading journals as well as a number of edited collections. She currently serves on the TESOL Board of Directors.


We are happy to report that the NNEST of the Month blog has two new members: Geeta Aneja and Madhukar, K. C. Geeta is a third-year PhD candidate in educational linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania. Madhukar is an English instructor for English the Access Microscholarship Program, a U.S. Department of State/U.S. Embassy program implemented in partnership with Nepal English Language Teachers’ Association (NELTA). You can get to know Geeta and Madhukar better by reading interviews of them in the May, 2014 (Geeta) and June, 2014 (Madhukar) blogs at

We are also at present updating the face of the NNEST of the Month blog website and revamping the visuals. We welcome volunteers to help us with this project.

The work of this blog is a group effort. Each month one of us is responsible for creating and posting an interview. But we welcome suggestions on who to interview, and we would be happy for any readers to send us questions for interviewees. And, of course, we invite all readers to send comments after they have read the interviews.

If you are new to the NNEST Interest Section of TESOL, you might not know about the purpose and the history of the NNEST of the Month blog. The purpose of this blog is to provide another way for people interested in NNEST, World English, and English as an international language (EIL) issues to read about these issues as discussed by professors and advanced graduate students who are doing research and teaching classes related to these issues, or administrators who are sensitive to NNEST applicants of positions for teaching English. Guessing that many of our readers are young NNESTs or nonnative MA TESOL students, we ask questions which encourage the interviewees to explain how they dealt with problems of confidence and identity when they were younger and establishing themselves as teachers or professors. Reading our blog interviews is also a way for young scholars and teachers of all ages to learn about the latest research related to NNEST, World English, and EIL issues, so we ask interviewees questions to elicit information about their recent research and to provide references to the latest research. However, we try not to make our interviews too academically heavy, so we try to keep a balance between questions about interviewees’ research and those about their everyday lives.

The NNEST of the Month blog is 9 years old. This June, we posted our 100th interview! Amir’s interview of Enric Llurda was the very first interview, posted on 25 August 2005. Chia-Ying took over the role of interviewer in May 2006, and she posted interviews for the next year. Then Ana Wu took over the duties of the blog, and she transformed our blog into the state-of-the-art form you see today. Not only did Ana begin to interview such leaders in the field of linguistics and applied linguistics as Noam Chomsky, Henry Widdowson, Claire Kramsch, Robert Phillipson, Tove Skuttnab-Kangas, George Braine, and Suresh Canagarajah, but Ana also started to ask very insightful questions based on the interviewees’ published articles and books.

For 4 years, from April 2007 to March 2011, Ana did all the work of the blog including searching for interviewees, reading the published work of these interviewees, writing insightful and perceptive questions, editing and proofreading the interviews, and finally posting them. She did this each month for 4 years without missing a single month! That’s 47 straight months without a break! After a perusal of these interviews, you can see that their quality is indeed very high.

Our procedure for choosing new interviewers is rather formal. People who want to volunteer are asked to submit a sample of their writing, such as a published article or a paper written for a class. Then we have a group “interview” using Skype with the applicants.

The next edition of the NNEST Newsletter will feature articles by the interviewers of the NNEST of the Month blog. We hope you will be interested in learning more about our blog then.

Terry Doyle was an ESL instructor at City College of San Francisco for over four decades. After retiring to Oregon in 2013, he remains interested in NNEST and EIL issues and hopes to contribute more to these fields. He has been an NNEST of the Month blog team member since 2008.

Personal Accounts


It goes without saying that the EFL (or ESL) industry is dogged by discrimination and prejudice against nonnative-English-speaking teachers (NNESTs), or as Medgyes (2001) elegantly put it, an “unprofessional favoritism,” which often leads to discriminatory hiring policies. This is confirmed by several studies (e.g. Moussu, 2006 and Clark & Paran, 2007) and can be easily observed by visiting – one of the most popular services for English job seeking teachers. On average, over 70% of all job ads advertised there are for native-English-speaking teachers (NESTs) only—yes, I did actually count them. This figure is even worse in some countries, e.g. Italy, South Korea, Spain, where it is almost impossible for a NNEST to be invited to an interview, let alone getting a job. For example, on Griffin’s (2014) blog, which focuses on English language teaching and teacher development, you can read his blog post about the appalling inequality suffered in Korea not only by NNESTs, but also by those NESTs who do not fit the profile

Such favouritism toward NESTs has been prevalent for decades, leading in turn to a situation where NNESTs have and are often a priori judged as not only linguistically, but also instructionally inferior to their NEST counterparts (Maum, 2003), despite the fact that some scholars suggested the abandonment of the notion of inherent superiority of the native speaker model a long time ago (e.g., Paikeday, 1985; Davies, 1991). Many qualified and experienced NNESTs are treated with clear disregard for their abilities. As Albano (2014) wrote:

“I was a bush-league teacher because NEST had conversation, vocabulary lessons whereas I had just to “press play” on a recorder. I had to give my students listening exercise worksheets and just press play and stop. I even had the keys of the exercises!”

Fortunately, the tide has been changing. It turns out that in many countries, hiring or advertising for a particular mother tongue is illegal. As I wrote in a previous article for the NNEST Newsletter: “a European Commission Communication from 11.12.2002 (COM (2002) 694 final) states that “advertisements requiring a particular language as a ‘mother tongue’ are not acceptable.” (Kiczkowiak, 2014). Some important teaching organisations such as TESOL (2006) and The Association of British Columbia Teachers of English as an Additional Language (2014) have also decided to issue anti–discrimination statements condemning hiring practices based on mother tongue. Finally, many renowned ELT professionals have also decided to speak out against the discrimination of NNESTs. For example, Harmer wrote, “I wholeheartedly support the aims of [TEFL Equity Advocates] – the ending of discrimination against more than 96% of the teachers of English in the world. Or maybe 98%…..or more…”

So why does the problem persist?

Many recruiters quote the indestructible market demand. Still, I have yet to see a single study which would show that students have a clear preference for NESTs. On the other hand, there is abundant research (e.g., Benke & Medgyes, 2005; Lipovsky & Mahboob, 2010) which proves that students appreciate the qualities of both groups and have no clear preference for either. More specifically, Kelch and Santana-Willamson (2002) highlight that students put emphasis on clear and intelligible pronunciation. Mullock’s (2010) results highlighted pedagogical skills and language proficiency.

So if you are a recruiter and you are reading these words, I suggest asking your students about their preferences rather than jumping into unfounded and prejudiced conclusions.

If there is a “market demand,” I think it has been artificially—albeit perhaps not willingly—created by the industry itself. For years, the industry presented and advertised NESTs to students as the only and the ultimate panacea for all their language ills. Students had few opportunities to have classes with qualified and proficient NNESTs; having such classes, as Cheung (2002) and Moussu (2006) showed, makes students much more positive towards NNESTs. Clearly, being a NEST became tantamount to success and good teaching.

Consequently, I feel we all need to pluck up the courage to say we have misled our learners. Both NESTs and NNESTs can be equally good teachers.

With this in mind, in April this year I started a campaign to advocate equal professional rights for NESTs and NNESTs by setting up a website, TEFL Equity Advocates, and a Facebook page. Some of the main objectives of the campaign are sensitising the public to the problem of discrimination of NNESTs, encouraging recruiters to adopt a more egalitarian hiring model, encouraging the key players in the industry to get involved, and giving hope and support to all NNESTs and NESTs who have suffered discrimination.

While NNESTs (and indeed some NESTs) are still at a clear disadvantage when it comes to looking for a job (Clark & Paran, 2007), as pointed out above, there is a feeling within the industry that a more egalitarian hiring model should be adopted. This feeling was very well expressed by Taylor (2014):

"I have no desire to live in a world where nationality, size, race, sexuality and gender are the yardsticks by which our employability is measured. I would rather be judged by my ability, experience and qualifications equally against anyone else who wishes to apply for the same job."

I hope that TEFL Equity Advocates can encourage other NESTs, recruiters, and teaching associations to speak out for equity within the industry, and to support their NNEST colleagues.

So yes, I feel there is hope and that the future will be a more equal one. And I am convinced that all of us have the responsibility to speak out against the discrimination.

As a student—please judge your teachers by how well they teach you and how much you have learnt with them, not by their nationality. Be wary of schools who sell their courses by flaunting having only NESTs. Trust schools who value high qualifications of their teachers, regardless of where those teachers are from.

As a recruiter—please don’t let prejudice and stereotype take over your hiring policy. Rather than choosing the best candidate, you might actually be doing a disfavour to your business in by willingly depriving yourself of a vast number of qualified, experienced, motivated and proficient NNESTs.

As a NEST—please let your NNEST colleagues know you’re on their side. Support a more egalitarian teaching community where we are all judged by our teaching skills, not by prejudice.

And as a NNEST—please don’t let anyone bully you into thinking you’re inferior. As Taylor (2014) beautifully put it:

"The tide is turning, slowly, but it’s turning. In the future you will have more rights and be more respected by an industry in which you are the backbone. And this is the point that needs to be remembered - they are many, many more of you than there are of me. You have the power, so use it. I just wish more of you realised that."

Join the TEFL Equity Advocates campaign. Stand up and speak out for our teachers’ rights.



Benke, E., & Medgyes, P. (2005). Differences in teaching behaviour between native and nonnative speaker teachers: As seen by the learners. In E. Llurda (Ed.), Non-native language teachers: Perceptions, challenges, and contributions to the profession (pp. 195–216). New York, NY: Springer.

Cheung, Y. L. (2002). The attitude of university students in Hong Kong towards native and nonnative teachers of English. Unpublished master’s thesis, The Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Clark, E., & Paran, A. (2007). The employability of non‐native‐speaker teachers of EFL: A UK survey. System, 35(4), 407–430.

Davies, A. (1991). The native speaker in applied linguistics. Edinburgh, Scotland: Edinburgh UP.

Griffin, M. (2014). Tentative thoughts and more on race in hiring practices in Korea. Retrieved from

Kelch, K., & Santana-Williamson, E. (2002). ESL students' attitudes toward native- and nonnative-speaking instructors' accents. CATESOL Journal, 14(1), 57–72.

Kiczkowiak, M. (2014). Non-Nativity Scenes. Retrieved from:

Lipovsky, C., & Mahboob, A. (2010). Appraisal of native and non-native English speaking teachers. In A. Mahboob (Ed.), The NNEST lens: Non native English speakers in TESOL (pp. 154–179). Newcastle, England: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Maum, R. (2003). A comparison of native-and nonnative-English-speaking teachers' beliefs about teaching English as a second language to adult English language learners. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Louisville.

Medgyes, P. (2001). When the teacher is a non‐native speaker. In M. Celce‐Murcia (Ed.),Teaching English as a second or foreign language (pp. 429–442). Boston, MA: Heinle & Heinle.

Moussu, L. (2006). Native and non-native English speaking English as a second language teachers: Student attitudes, teacher self perceptions, and intensive English program administrator beliefs and practices. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Purdue University. Retrieved from Dissertations and Theses database (AAT 3251666).

Mullock, B. (2010). Does a good language teacher have to be a native speaker? In A. Mahboob (Ed.), The NNEST lens: Non native English speakers in TESOL (pp. 87–113). Newcastle, England: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Paikeday, T. (1985). The native speaker is dead! Toronto, Canada: Paikeday.

Taylor, J. (2014). Why I wish I was a non-native English speaker. Retrieved from:

TESOL International Association. (2006). Position statement against discrimination of nonnative speakers of English in the field of TESOL. Alexandria, VA: Author. Retrieved from

Albano, L. (2014). nNEST: Bush league teachers? I don’t think so.

The Association of British Columbia Teachers of English as an Additional Language (2014). BC TEAL position statement against discrimination on the grounds of nationality, ethnicity or linguistic heritage. Retrieved from:

Since doing the CELTA in 2007 and then graduating with a BA in English philology, Marek has taught English in six different countries and is currently based in Wageningen, Holland, where he has set up his own language business: Polish Your Languages.


In early 2011, I began working as a professor in the department of English in a university in west-central Japan. Soon after arriving, I met and became friends with Miwa,1 a fellow faculty member. Our conversations first related to where we had completed our studies and where we had worked in Japan and abroad prior to working in our present department. As our friendship grew, we shared accounts of our ongoing negotiation of translinguistic, transcultural, and transnational identities, both personal and professional.

As time progressed, I sensed a critically-oriented connection with my colleague regarding challenging the discourses of the native speaker (NS) construct, the NS fallacy, and native speakerism. We both believed that glocal discourses of identity have interacted within Japanese society and ELT in the Japanese context, to construct the “idealized NS” of English as Western, Caucasian, and largely male (e.g., Kubota, 2002), and that English language education therein has conceptualized and prioritized the linguistic and cultural knowledge of this idealized NS. As we chatted in early 2013, we noted that space for non-Japanese NNESTs is largely nonexistent in ELT at the university level in Japan. This, we gathered, was due to the fact that these individuals are viewed as neither NSs of Japanese nor English. In addition, we noted that space for NSs, who do not fit constructions of the idealized NS, has been limited and/or eliminated.

By 2013, I was conceptualizing native speakerism as more than the construction of the idealized NS of English. I came to believe that in concert with such constructions, the nature of Japaneseness has been simultaneously essentialized as well,2 limiting and/or eliminating different ways of being and/or becoming Japanese (Willis & Murphy-Shigematsu, 2008). Thus, within Japanese society and ELT in Japan, space for innovation (the creation of new ways of being), and incorporation (something or someone can become “Japanese” or an “owner of English”) has largely been limited or eliminated. As a result, Japanese teachers of English and native speakers of English deemed “worthy” of participation in education are largely confined within essentialized categories and corresponding roles (e.g., Houghton & Rivers, 2013). These categories and roles may relate to how a teacher can and/or should behave both within and beyond the classroom, and what they can or cannot and should or should not “know” and “do.” This, I asserted, approached apprehending how conceptual and practical space for non-Japanese NNESTs and NESTs who did not fit the NS construct has been sociohistorically limited and/or eliminated in Japanese ELT at the university level.

During this period, Miwa and I discussed how critically-oriented binaries (NS/NNS and NEST/NNEST) fail to apprehend individuals’ complex, dynamic negotiation of personal and professional identity (e.g., Menard-Warwick, 2008). We challenged the conceptual account of native speakerism (Holliday, 2005) as a universal, uniform regime of truth (Foucault, 1984), flowing from the West and from global ELT into contexts around the world, privileging native speaker teachers and marginalizing nonnative teachers, thereby shaping a common “NNEST” (and NEST) experience. Miwa and I instead argued for postmodern and poststructural attention to the origin, construction, and perpetuation of discourses of identity that attempt to define borders of “inside” and “outside” being and becoming within society and ELT therein, as well as to the agency individuals assert in negotiating borderland spaces of identity (Anzaldúa, 1987).3 Our discussions led us to attend a conference together, where I was presenting with a panel of Japan-based researchers who were self-described postmodern, hybridized beings; linguistic, cultural, ethnic, national, and academic border crossers. The presentations focused on panel members’ ongoing negotiation of personal and professional identity, and the fluidity of privilege and marginalization we experienced as professors in our respective universities. When I prompted Miwa for feedback later, she simply stated that the accounts of border crossing, shared by the panel members, did not resonate with her own. Shortly thereafter, I would come to understand the significance of her response.

In mid 2014, Miwa and I embarked on writing a co-constructed account of our experiences negotiating borders of identity in our department, for publication. Our efforts stalled, however, during our attempts to conceptualize space, or the lack thereof, for being and becoming. As in my earlier presentation, I contended that my negotiation of identity in the department involved the fluid intertwining of privilege and marginalization, due to essentialized categories of “NS of English” and “NS of Japanese” located therein. I asserted that I had been afforded space and created space for agency within the department, while at the same time experiencing personal and professional pushback from those who perceived my border crossing as a threat to their linguistic and cultural authority derived from essentialized categories of identity and role. My colleague argued that she had experienced no pushback, however, and that she believed she had, in fact, been hired to serve as a linguistic, cultural, and academic border crosser by the university.

As we chatted about the paper, I felt confused: hadn’t we agreed that space for innovation and incorporation in our community, in terms of new ways of being and becoming, was greatly limited or eliminated? Why did she not, for instance, consider the division of duties and the allotment of courses in the department along the lines of “Japanese” and “NS of English” a form of resistance to her “unhindered” border crossing? Why didn’t she link our problematization of a lack of space for non-Japanese NNESTs and nonidealized NSs of English, to the limitation and elimination of space for agency in the department?

Miwa’s answer was simple: that was how she framed her experience negotiating identity in the department. In addition, whereas I chose to conceptualize “hypothetical” borders in the department, along with those I had negotiated, Miwa chose not to do so. In other words, if she had not negotiated a border, it did not exist. We concluded that synthesizing our stories would have stripped both Miwa and me of the power of voice. Stripping us of voice would defeat the purpose of attempting to apprehend the complexity of discourses of “inside” and “outside” and “us” and “them” in our context. This was what had bothered Miwa at the conference. I realized that I had invited Miwa to step into a conceptual trap wherein I was actualizing the very same categorical essentializations of identity and experience, for better or worse, I had sought to deconstruct. And so I reflect, learn, and push on.

1Miwa is a pseudonym.

2An essentialized view of culture and “being” posits the following: We can define “pure” and “impure” in terms of culture and identity. We can therefore define “inside” and “outside”: what is “us” and what is not (e.g., Willis & Murphy-Shigematsu, 2008).

3Holliday (2013) revisits his earlier formulation of native speakerism, arguing for a postmodern approach to identity and approaching equity in ELT.


Anzaldúa, G. (1987). Borderlands/la frontera: The new Mestiza. San Francisco, CA: Spinsters/Aunt Lute.

Foucault, M. (1984). The Foucault reader (P. Rabinow, Ed.). New York, NY: Pantheon.

Holliday, A. (2005). The struggle to teach English as an international language. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Holliday, A. (2013). Native speaker teachers and cultural belief. In S.A. Houghton & D. J. Rivers (Eds.), Native-speakerism in Japan: Intergroup dynamics in foreign language education (pp. 17–28). Bristol, England:Multilingual Matters.

Houghton, S. A., & Rivers, D. J. (2013). Native-speakerism in Japan: Intergroup dynamics in foreign language education. Bristol, England:Multilingual Matters.

Kubota, R. (2002). The impact of globalization on language teaching in Japan. In D. Block & D. Cameron (Eds.), Globalization and language teaching (pp. 13–28). London, England: Routledge.

Menard-Warwick, J. (2008). The cultural and intercultural identities of transnational English teachers: Two case studies from the Americas. TESOL Quarterly, 42, 617–640.

Willis, D. B., & Murphy-Shigematsu, S. (2008). Transcultural Japan: At the borderlands of race, gender and identity. New York, NY: Routledge.

Nathanael Rudolph is currently teaching at the university level in Japan. His research interests include postmodern and poststructural approaches to language, culture and identity, equity in the field of English language teaching, and the contextualization and teaching of English as an international language.


In re-envisioning the direction of language teacher education in the global context, it has become important to consider TESOL from postnational and postcolonial perspectives (Kumaravadivelu, 2012). This shift has become important as we recognize English as a powerful medium for engaging in the process of dialogizing for mutual understanding on the international platform. It is no doubt important for ESOL teachers to recognize a country’s history and relationship to the English language, understand this with a sense of critical consciousness, and approach teaching English as an international language informed by a “socioculturally sensitive pedagogy” (Alsagoff, McKay, Hu, & Renandya, 2012).

There appear to be at least two tensions residing within the notion of teaching English as an international language. One tension is the debate over which English should be taught, and the second is the tension between the dichotomous, often heated debates over what constitutes nativeness and nonnativeness. A perspective that is often neglected within this latter dichotomy is the perspective of the growing number of English-speaking individuals raised in transnational, international, and hybrid cultural contexts, who may fit into neither category as English speakers.

In this account, I problematize the notion of nativeness in an era of World Englishes from my perspective as a global nomad, or third-culture individual. Global nomads (McCaig, 1994), or third-culture kids (Unseem & Unseem, 1967), have grown up in a host culture, but identify with neither their home nor the host culture, often creating a culture that is uniquely their own (Pollok & Van Reken, 2009). In my case, English was the societally preferred language as it was seen as a tool to pave ways for future educational opportunities and social mobility.

As an Indian national, born and raised in Japan and having attended an English-medium international school there, I was exposed to a multitude of World Englishes through daily negotiations of meaning. Teachers in this school spoke a variety of Englishes including American English, British English, Irish English, Russian English, Korean English, Chinese English, Japanese English, Filipino English, and Indian English. And within each of these varieties of spoken English, there was a full spectrum of accents and the notion of “nativeness” did not bear relevance here. Focusing on meaning took precedence over accent or syntactical and lexical differences. The English spoken within this school became one with unique characteristics and structures, shared by all within this small international school, nested within a Japanese community, housing students spanning the seven continents.

In my professional identity as an ESOL teacher of 20 years and as a TESOL faculty member, training future ESOL teachers both internationally and within the United States, I was often confronted with the question, “I hear an accent. Where is it from?” My response was often, “I can’t really say.” I came to understand over time that the English I speak is a blend of all of the World Englishes to which I was exposed as a child, and it does not seem to bear any resemblance to any one type of English or native or nonnative category. In essence, it is all and neither at the same time.

Given the growing number of English speakers around the world who share this type of experience in relation to the English language, it has become imperative for teacher educators to reconsider the question of what constitutes a global English speaker as we move toward the paradigm of teaching English as an international language.


Alsagoff, L., McKay, S. L., Hu, G., & Renandya, W. A. (Eds.). (2012). Principles and practices for teaching English as an international language. New York, NY: Routledge.

Kumaravadivelu, B. (2012). Language teacher education for a global society: A modular model for knowing, analyzing, recognizing, doing, and seeing. New York, NY: Routledge.

McCaig, N. M. (1994). Growing up with a world view: Nomad children develop multicultural skills. Foreign Service Journal, 9, 32–39.

Pollock, D. C., & Van Reken, R. E. (2009). Third culture kids: The experience of growing up among worlds. Boston, MA: Nicholas Brealy.

Useem, J., & Useem, R. (1967). The interfaces of a binational third culture: A study of the American community in India. Journal of Social Issues, 23(1), 130–143.

Sarina Molina serves as an assistant professor and coordinator of the MEd in TESOL, literacy, & culture at the University of San Diego. She has worked with English learners both within the United States and in international contexts. Her research interests include teacher development in TESOL, transnational language teaching, and issues related to native/nonnative teachers and workplace equity.

Announcements and Information


NNEST IS Newsletter Call for Submissions

Do you have some thoughts on the status of nonnative English speakers in TESOL (NNEST)? Have you done some preliminary studies on any NNEST-related issues? Do you have personal stories to share that are related to NNEST issues? Do you have some helpful tips for other nonnative English speakers in TESOL? If you do, please consider submitting an article to the NNEST Newsletter for consideration.

Submission Guidelines
The following types of submissions on topics related to NNEST (nonnative English speakers in TESOL) issues are welcome:

Feature Articles (1200–1500 words) related to teacher education, research, professional development, program administration, and sociocultural issues.

Brief Reports (600–900 words), such as book reviews, reports on conference presentations, and papers.

Personal Accounts (500–700 words) related to NNEST issues.

Announcements (50–75 words) of forthcoming presentations and meetings on issues related to NNESTs as well as forthcoming articles and books on issues related to NNESTs.

Readers' Thoughts (500 words). This section gives you the opportunity to share your reactions to and thoughts about articles published in our newsletter.

We also welcome submissions in the following categories:

  • Research-in-progress (600–900 words) publishes short reports of ongoing research of interest to NNESTs.
  • Research notice-board (up to 300 words)publishes short statements concerning research in progress.
  • Innovative practice (up to 500 words) publishes short accounts of innovative classroom practice by frontline practitioners.

All submissions need to
  • be formatted using Microsoft Word (.doc);
  • be carefully edited and proofread and follow the style guide lines in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, Sixth Edition (the APA manual);
  • include a short teaser (no more than 50 words) and a two-to-three sentence author(s) biography;
  • have the title in all capitals;
  • list a byline (author’s name, affiliation, city, country, e-mail, and author photo); and
  • contain no more than five citations.

Also, all figures, graphs, and other images should be sent in separate jpg files.

The specifications for the author photo are:

  • a head and shoulder shot
  • jpg file
  • width = 120px and height = 160px
  • clear, clean, professional photo that is appropriate to the article

For more details, please visit the Newsletter section of the NNEST IS website.

Please send any queries and/or your submissions to: Bedrettin Yazan and Nathanael Rudolph at

TESOL Awards and Grants

TESOL recognizes its exceptional members by offering various awards, many of which are available for our IS members. For information on TESOL Awards and Grants that you might consider applying for, visit the TESOL website.

NNEST Resources

Are you looking for interesting resources for nonnative-English-speaking teachers? If so, you should visit the Resources section of our NNEST IS website.

Don’t forget to check out the bibliography on nonnative English-speaking teachers!

Find nonnative and native speakers of English who share interests in NNEST, teaching English, and World Englishes issues, visit the blog.

Also, if you know about other relevant resources (e.g., websites, publications, press releases, tips) that could be posted in this section, we encourage you to share this information with us by contacting the web manager, Ogie Udambor Bumandalai. Help us keep this list very useful by including current and comprehensive information.



About the Nonnative English Speakers in TESOL Interest Section (NNEST-IS)

The Nonnative English Speakers in TESOL IS was first established as a caucus in October 1998 to strengthen effective teaching and learning of English around the world while respecting individuals' language rights. A decade later, in July 2008, it became an interest section.

The major goals are

  • to create a nondiscriminatory professional environment for all TESOL members regardless of native language and place of birth,
  • to encourage the formal and informal gatherings of nonnative speakers at TESOL and affiliate conferences,
  • to encourage research and publications on the role of nonnative speaker teachers in ESL and EFL contexts, and
  • to promote the role of nonnative speaker members in TESOL and affiliate leadership positions.

Membership is open to all interested TESOL members, both native and nonnative speakers of English alike.


NNEST Newsletter Mission Statement

The NNEST Newsletter is the official newsletter of the NNEST IS. The purpose of the NNEST Newsletter is three-fold: to inform, to inspire, and to invite. First, the newsletter informs NNEST-IS members about issues, developments, and activities that are related to the professional status of nonnative English speakers in TESOL and related professions. Second, the newsletter inspires current and prospective NNEST-IS members by providing stories of successes and struggles of NNEST professionals as well as of students, colleagues, and administrators who may be native or nonnative speakers of English. Third, the newsletter invites NNEST-IS members to share information, insights, and experiences related to NNEST issues.

The primary audience of the NNEST Newsletter is the members of the NNEST-IS. The IS members are native and nonnative speakers of English from various geographic and institutional contexts. They are teachers, researchers, and administrators as well as graduate students at various stages of professional development. All of them are interested in and concerned about issues surrounding the professional status of nonnative English speakers in TESOL. The audience also includes potential members of the NNEST-IS who wish to gain insights into the NNEST-IS and its activities.

The NNEST Newsletter contributes significantly to TESOL by addressing issues that affect a significant portion of TESOL members: nonnative English speakers. To native English speakers in TESOL, the newsletter offers resources for understanding and addressing NNEST issues in ethical, effective, and informed ways. In order to enhance its appeal to native-English-speaking (NES) members and to facilitate mutual understanding between native English speakers and nonnative English speakers, the newsletter seeks to increase submissions from native English speakers in the profession. It also seeks to further raise the awareness of the issue of diversity by encouraging submissions that address how NNEST issues interact with issues faced by other interest sections.

Because NNEST issues affect all members of TESOL directly or indirectly, the NNEST Newsletter will continue to contribute to the overall mission of TESOL by

  • promoting a better understanding of the status of nonnative English speakers in TESOL
  • prompting the discussion of NNEST issues among all TESOL members
  • providing resources to NNEST-IS members as well as TESOL members in general