February 2017
NNEST Newsletter



Baburhan Uzum

Burcu Ates

Dear NNEST Newsletter Readers,

We are excited to present our February 2017 issue with a variety of feature articles and brief reports. We also added a poll question for your consideration: “What are your thoughts about the current status and usefulness of NEST and NNEST as labels for teachers’ linguistic identities?” This question is not new, and has often been debated in the NNEST circles, but we wanted to see what the larger community across the world thinks about this issue.

The feature articles in this issue cover a wide span of topics from various parts of the world. The first article, by Natalia Balyasnikova and Roza Kazakbaeva, explores language proficiency as a gatekeeper for Kyrgyz and Russian professionals in the United States. The second article, by Keith Graham, questions the usefulness of the NNEST term and concludes that the term should be maintained for the advancement of the NNEST mission of equality among all language teachers. The third article, by Seullee Talia Lee, explores the needs of NNESTs and suggests implications for TESOL programs to better support the professional advancement of NNESTs. The last article, by Gökhan Öztürk, questions the usefulness of NNEST trainers in the Turkish educational context and argues that the fallacy of NESTs as ideal ESL teachers in the 80s and 90s has now expanded to NEST trainers. Finally, for our brief reports section, Bárbara Hernandes reflects on Silvana Richardson’s plenary and explores how the plenary inspired her work on NNEST issues.

We hope that this collection of articles will help address some of the ongoing questions in the NNEST literature and will initiate productive conversations at the TESOL conference in March 2017 and beyond. We want to extend our gratitude to the contributors and reviewers involved in putting this issue together.

We welcome contributions anytime throughout the year. Please send your work in the form of a feature article (1,750 words), brief reports (book, article, and presentation reviews, 900 words), or personal accounts and reader reflections (500 words). Questions and submissions should be directed to tesolnnestnewsletter@gmail.com. Our next issue is scheduled to be released in August 2017, and we will continue to accept submissions for that issue until 30 May 2017.


Baburhan and Burcu



Natalia Balyasnikova

Roza Kazakbaeva


This article is based on a panel delivered during the 2016 TESOL convention in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. It brings together two studies that focused on the functional roles of English in the lives of two different groups: professional immigrants from Kyrgyzstan and professional English language teachers from the Russian Federation. Both studies highlight the role of English language proficiency in the marketability and self-appraisal of participants’ professional capital.

The first study was inspired by the author’s own participation in a year-long professional program in the United States. The author aimed to explore the impact of this experience on her colleagues—Russian teachers of English who have participated in professional international exchange programs, but have returned to Russia to continue teaching English. Having selected eight instructors (alumni of various study abroad programs), she conducted eight semistructured retrospective interviews, which provided important insights on the actual effects these exchange programs had on instructors’ pedagogical philosophies and practices. The second study was based on the data collected during the fieldwork among first generation Kyrgyz professional immigrants. This study focused on the functional roles of English in 30 Kyrgyz immigrants’ ability to make use of their previously obtained human capital as well as to obtain human capital marketable in their new homes.

Though different in their target groups, the findings of both studies suggest that English proficiency was a key factor in participants’ utilization of their former professional expertise and entering new professional fields in the United States. Collected narratives contest a romanticized perspective of a global marketable mobile professional community. Instead, they reveal the role of nonnative English language speaker status on the trajectories of participants’ mediation between multiple professional communities and changed assumptions about their professions.

“Your English Is Very Good, But…”

The instructors participating in this study could be classified as transnational sojourners: Due to their participation in international exchange programs, they entered into a global English language instructor community of practice. Members of this community participate in best practices exchange through webinars and trainings; they share methodological teaching materials and are often aware of global trends in English language teaching methods. Through their participation in international exchange programs, instructors who were interviewed for the study expected to enter into a global English language instructor community of practice (Wenger, 1998) and become hyper-mobile academic professionals (Kirpitchenko, 2011). They participated in best practices exchange through webinars and trainings, shared methodological teaching materials, and were aware of global trends in English language teaching methods. Interviews reveal, however, that in reality this was a romanticized view. Instead, the study suggests that these open globalized professional communities were in fact imagined, to borrow a phrase from Anderson’s (1991) work.

Instructors’ narratives revealed that, though their arrival to the United States was preceded by a competitive selection process, upon arrival nonnative-English-speaking teachers (NNESTs) were often reduced to being spokespersons about all things Russian. Their expected expertise centered on Russian national holidays and stereotypical cultural traditions. Very few participants were able to contribute to the development of curriculum and materials or ESL activities in their host institutions. Participants also reported a lack of diversity in interaction and lack of true professional exchange. More often than not, professional development programs were structured as a one-way teaching of nonnative speaking newcomers about the “best ways to teach English” and lacked an ecological understanding of future possible implementations of suggested methods. For these professionals, their experience in the United States effectively returned them to the position of a language learner and less experienced instructor, and it reinforced their nonnative speaker status.

Byram and Alred (1993) argue that negative experiences of residence abroad are often hidden because they are seen as a personal failure. This study confirms that the experience of academic mobility is not always positive. The descriptive narratives show that even when the stay in the host country was temporary, many teachers did not experience immediate entrance into the professional community of practice and that their language expertise was not always valued as such.

English Language Proficiency in Human Capital Utilization and Transformation

The findings of the study revealed that being highly educated professionals seemed to have had significant effects on participants’ language learning as well as their integration processes in the United States, although not in the direction one might expect. This is because upon their arrival, they found themselves unable to utilize the human capital they had previously acquired because of the lack of one important element of human capital: language. This led, at least temporarily, to an unanticipated social and professional decline.

The analysis of the narratives demonstrated that participants’ lack or limited knowledge of English drastically impacted their employment rates and resulted in significant changes to their occupational and professional status. Upon their arrival in the United States, all participants found that their knowledge of English was not enough to gain employment in their professional fields. Therefore, in order to survive in a new economic reality, they had to take whatever jobs they could find. Most often the jobs available to them were those requiring minimal knowledge of English, such as manual labor positions. As a result, participants who were once experienced, valued, and respected white-collar professionals had to become construction workers, housewives, janitorial workers, baby-sitters, elderly caregivers, or shelf stockers. For these professionals, employment in these kinds of jobs was both physically and psychologically painful. It took years for them to accept or internalize this lowered status in their new homes. They felt a strong sense of loss and often spoke of both the loss of their dignity and identity as a professional and their general feelings of alienation. Only five out of twenty participants were able reenter their original professional fields after immigrating to the United States, and only two were able to regain the same professional niche they had had in their home country (Kyrgyzstan).


The results of both studies suggest that level of English proficiency tremendously affected participants’ professional statuses. In the case of Kyrgyz professionals, the perceived or limited knowledge of English acted as a gatekeeper, stopping them from utilizing the capital they had obtained prior to immigration. Only after knowing or learning enough English, some of the participants, but certainly not all, were able to find employment in their previous professional fields or to enter new professional fields competitive in the U.S. labor market. In the case of the Russian teachers, NNEST status prevented validation of their linguistic and professional capital in the United States. For this reason, many of the teachers were reduced to assistant positions or pushed out of the community altogether. Studies such as the two highlighted in this article reveal the role of language proficiency in restricting professionals’ access to established communities of practice.


Anderson, B. (1991). Imagined communities: Reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism (Rev. ed.). London, England: Verso.

Byram, M., & Alred, G. (1993). Paid to be English. A book for English assistants and their advisers in France.Durham, England: University of Durham School of Education.

Kirpitchenko, L. (2011). Academic hyper-mobility and cosmopolitan dispositions. Journal of Intercultural Communication, 27, 1–14.

Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning, and identity, New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Natalia Balyasnikova is a PhD candidate in TESL at the Department of Language and Literacy Education, University of British Columbia. Her research focuses on the experiences of senior citizens learning English as an additional language in community-based settings. She writes about her studies and work in her blog.

Dr. Roza Kazakbaeva is an English faculty member with the University of Central Asia’s Undergraduate Preparatory Programme. She holds a PhD in TESOL and composition from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She is trained in teaching and curriculum methodology by Seneca College, Canada.


For the last two decades, there has been a discussion of the status of native-English-speaking teachers (NESTs) versus nonnative-English-speaking teachers (NNESTs) within the English teaching community, both within English-speaking countries such as the United States and internationally. The original purpose of this discussion was to highlight the inequity that NNESTs face with hopes of giving them equal recognition for the talents they bring to the field as well as equal access to teaching positions. However, researchers have recently questioned the dichotomy, challenging the usage of terms such as NEST and NNEST as too narrow and not representative of the diverse group of practitioners in the field. In this paper, I argue that the NNEST movement can still benefit from the usage of the terms and that the further expansion of identity profiles, while useful research, may not help advance the movement.

The Beginning of the NNEST Movement

Throughout the history of English language teaching, it was long maintained that English was best taught only in English and only by a native English speaker. As a result, a large population of teachers who were nonnative speakers but earned high proficiency in English were seen as second-rate and marginalized, receiving lower benefits if even able to secure a job at all. To fight this discriminatory tradition, the NNEST Caucus was created during the 1996 TESOL convention, thus beginning the NNEST movement for equality in English language teaching. The NNEST Caucus gave teachers who had been long marginalized a voice. With this voice, the caucus established four goals:

  1. to create a non-discriminatory professional environment for all TESOL members regardless of native language and place of birth;

  2. to encourage the formal and informal gatherings of non-native speakers at TESOL and affiliate conferences;

  3. to encourage research and publications on the role of non-native speaker teachers in ESL and EFL contexts; and

  4. to promote the role of non-native speaker members in TESOL and affiliate leadership positions. (Kamhi-Stein, 2016, p. 183)

With the exception of the first goal, the movement has been successful over the last two decades (Kamhi-Stein, 2016), and NNESTs have seen much improvement in their status. However, there is still much more work to be done.

Challenging NEST/NNEST Identification

In the September 2016 TESOL Quarterly, two authors, Aneja and Ellis, call to rethink or eliminate the usage of the terms NEST and NNEST for defining teacher identity. Aneja (2016) uses “narrative portraits” to show how terms such as NEST and NNEST do not always work to explain identity. In one such portrait, Mark, an African American, shares how even as a teacher born in the United States, he has faced challenges being accepted as not only a native English speaker but also as an English teacher due to the dialect used in his community. Aneja’s (2016) example shows that though Mark may fit the textbook definition of NEST, his reality is starkly different. Another example is the portrait of Neha, a woman raised in Mumbai. As a person who learned English growing up in a natural way, she defined herself as a NEST. However, when coming to the United States for graduate school, she realized that her accent made those around her classify her as an NNEST. These two portraits call into question the definition of an NNEST.

In a second argument against usage of the terms, Ellis (2016) attempts to move the conversation away from a native/nonnative identity and toward a focus on language learning experiences. Based on her previous research, Ellis (2016) suggests, “previous language learning experience of both NESTs and NNESTs was a much more useful and powerful contributor to teacher identity and professional beliefs than their native or nonnative status per se” (p. 598). Her current research documents her collection of linguistic biographies from teachers working in seven different countries and shows that despite having NEST status, which is often considered monolingual, many NESTs are plurilingual. From these findings, Ellis (2016) calls for the recognition of all plurilingual TESOL teachers, not just NNESTs, and the values that their linguistic achievements bring to the field.

NNEST as a Term for a Movement Is Still Relevant

Aneja (2016) and Ellis (2016) present convincing arguments of how TESOL practitioners are often not accurately represented by the classifications of NEST and NNEST. Both pieces of research are valuable contributions to the literature on English language teacher identity. However, their calls to throw out the term NNEST seem premature when considering the movement’s current standing.

After nearly two decades of advocating, NNESTs still face discrimination in the English teaching job market. Mahboob and Golden (2013) found evidence of discrimination in hiring practices while surveying 77 advertisements from East Asia and the Middle East. Their findings indicate that 88% of the ads either required being a native speaker or a specific nationality. Ruecker and Ives (2015) found further evidence of discrimination toward NNESTs in their survey of 59 recruiting websites in China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand. The survey revealed that “the ideal candidate is overwhelmingly depicted as a young, White, enthusiastic native speaker of English from a stable list of inner-circle countries” (p. 733).

The above studies prove that despite the NNEST movement’s efforts, few gains have been made in terms of equal employment. Given that such blatant discrimination still exists, the NNEST movement still needs to remain unified in the fight. Part of this unification may mean using a consistent term—NNEST—to discuss the marginalized group as a whole, despite the term’s inconsistency to classify individuals within the group, as Aneja (2016) points out. However, rather than call for the discontinuance of the NNEST term, it may be better for the movement to call for an expansion of the term. Aneja’s (2016) research identifies two practitioners who consider themselves NESTs but are seen by others as NNESTs and, therefore, less valuable to the field. Further research should focus on the identities of professionals such as those profiled in Aneja’s (2016) work and call for the inclusion of them in the NNEST advocacy movement.

As for Ellis’s (2016) call to retire the NEST/NNEST terms and focus on NESTs and NNESTs being plurilingual, the call seems largely irrelevant in terms of the NNEST movement, and perhaps even counterproductive. The movement has never been about the qualified NEST who already enjoys unquestionable access to language teaching jobs around the world. Rather, the movement is about the disregarding of NNEST qualifications in favor of an unqualified or less qualified NEST. While Ellis (2016) is right in advocating for the recognition of plurilingual multicompetencies, and research in teacher identity should be continued, such research should be kept separate from the NNEST movement as the movement may be better served by first recognizing that country of origin should not be seen as a negative quality in English language teaching.


The NNEST movement has certainly come a long way in the two decades it has been active, yet the movement is not complete. NNESTs still face discrimination regularly within the field and are made to feel unworthy of the teaching positions they are seeking. While teacher identity research is important, it should be kept as a separate field in order to not diminish the efforts of the movement. The term NNEST has been found faulty in characterizing individuals. However, the term still holds value in representing and advocating for the large population of marginalized teachers it represents. Calls for disuse of the term should remain on hold until the movement achieves its goals of equity for all English language teachers.


Aneja, G. A. (2016). (Non)native speakered: Rethinking (non)nativeness and teacher identity in TESOL teacher education. TESOL Quarterly, 50, 527–596. doi: 10.1002/tesq.315

Ellis, E. M. (2016). “I may be a native speaker but I’m not monolingual”: Reimagining all teachers’ linguistic identities in TESOL. TESOL Quarterly, 50, 597–630. doi: 10.1002/tesq.314

Kamhi-Stein, L. D. (2016). The non-native English speaker teachers in TESOL movement. ELT Journal, 70(2), 180–189. doi:10.1093/elt/ccv076

Mahboob, A., & Golden, R. (2013). Looking for native speakers of English: Discrimination in English language teaching job advertisements. Voices in Asia Journal, 1(1), 72–81.

Ruecker, T., & Ives, L. (2015). White Native English Speakers Needed: The Rhetorical Construction of Privilege in Online Teacher Recruitment Spaces. TESOL Quarterly, 49(4), 733-756. doi: 10.1002/tesq.195

Keith M. Graham is currently the professional development coordinator for a private bilingual school in New Taipei City, Taiwan. He holds a Master’s of Education in international literacy from Sam Houston State University. His interests include NEST/NNEST issues, educational technology, and EFL teacher training.


As a nonnative-English-speaking teacher (NNEST), I used to suffer from a perceived inferior identity as a second-class citizen in English language teaching (ELT) communities.* I frequently felt that as a teacher who had learned English, I would never be as effective as the native-English-speaking teachers (NESTs) who were blessed to acquire their language. This negative professional self-image was compounded by my experience growing up in South Korea, where the status of NESTs was greatly privileged. I witnessed that the legitimacy of an English teacher was often decided in the frame of the NNEST/NEST binary.

Yet this unequal treatment did make sense to me because I also positioned myself as inferior to NESTs. However, the situation changed during my master’s program in the United States. I was introduced to the concept of multicompetence. I came to know that I could bring in-depth knowledge and rich experiences to my class by being an NNEST. On top of that, I found theoretical frameworks in identity research that could explain various symptoms that I had been experiencing. I realized that my imagined identity was striving to become a NEST—an unattainable goal—and thus I saw myself as deficient. Only then did I grasp the very nature of identity in one’s language learning trajectory, which is context dependent and ever shifting (Norton, 2000). I also became aware of the underlying ideologies of my imagined identity that were associated with power inequality issues surrounding the English language. Since then, I have chosen another, better imagined identity option: to become a multilingual who can appreciate her multicompetence as an ELT professional. This identity transformation brought a revolutionary change in my personal and professional development. As all this happened throughout my master’s program, I truly appreciated the enormous support from the faculty members and colleagues, as well as our curriculum that focused on destabilizing the existing dichotomy between NESTs and NNESTs.

Nevertheless, the fact that I was personally and professionally multicompetent did not necessarily mean that I was a prepared English teacher. Although I embraced the new identity option, I felt something was still missing for me to be a proficient English teacher. It was especially obvious to me that my native-English-speaking colleagues had more advanced English language skills than I had. Yet, when I shared my concerns that my perceived English proficiency was not high enough to be an effective teacher, people seldom seemed to think it was true or a “big deal.” For most people who had an awareness of native-speakerism issues, talking about a NNEST’s English proficiency could be sensitive. Those people had tentatively made an effort not to view each English teacher in the frame of the NNEST/NEST binary. In this context, I was considered a multicompetent English user and teacher that had expertise in unique skills.

This general—unconditionally supportive—atmosphere toward NNESTs made me wonder if my feeling of deficiency as an efficient teacher was indicative that I was still experiencing the NNEST complex. However, I found that other NNESTs with multicompetent identities experienced similar dissatisfaction in terms of their English proficiency. In many cases, I found that there was consistent incongruence between teachers’ self-evaluated language proficiency and their desired level of language proficiency. Other researchers demonstrate that this discrepancy often leads NNESTs to lack self-esteem and confidence as English language teaching professionals (Mahboob, 2010). This phenomenon is inevitable. A lack of English proficiency causes negative self-images in NNESTs, even after their identity transformation as multicompetent selves/teachers, because having an excellent command of English is a fundamental qualification for all ELT professionals.

The problem is that this urgent need of many NNEST students in TESOL programs has not been properly addressed. Most TESOL programs only focus on professional preparation, not on the language development of NNESTs (Mahboob, 2010). In many studies on NNESTs, it is well shown that only a few TESOL programs have addressed linguistic needs of NNESTs and have focused more on enhancing NNEST students’ explicit knowledge of English grammar (e.g. Liu, 1999). Designing TESOL courses that foster the grammatical knowledge of TESOL students may benefit NESTs who have not been taught how their mother language actually operates; however, in many cases such courses do not meet the needs of NNESTs. NNESTs, especially those from the expanding circle countries, often have a well-established foundation of English grammar already. It is imperative that NNESTs work more on procedural knowledge of English. Nonetheless, most TESOL programs overlook this unique situation of NNESTs.

Many TESOL programs lack awareness of the linguistic development needs of NNESTs, and this is also problematic. In current TESOL programs in the inner circle countries, I found that there has been a binary division of attitudes towards NNESTs: Programs view them either as second-class citizens or multicompetent teachers whose legitimacy should not be questioned any longer. Recently, the latter perspective has been gaining popularity in second language acquisition and TESOL. We have seen an active movement in reconceptualizing English teachers’ legitimacy regardless of their places of birth and in deconstructing native-speakerism in TESOL (Selvi, 2014). Nevertheless, research has not recognized the lack of practical support for NNESTs in line with multilingualism. Much has been written about both language training for language teachers and NNESTs’ identities as multicompetent professionals. Yet no mainstream research that I came across in either area has taken the step of linking them together.

I do believe that TESOL programs can grow significantly to help NNESTs improve their language proficiency as well as their professionalism. To do this, they should place a greater emphasis on linguistic development in the core curriculum of the programs. Pasternak and Bailey (2004) suggest a number of ways to support NNESTs in TESOL programs, such as providing EAP courses, including a learner-training element in program orientations, and designating an academic advisor to each and every student. Shin (2008) also provides some examples for TESOL programs, such as designing English courses that aim to address the specific needs of NNEST students. She also insists that NNEST students should be offered language support outside and inside the classroom throughout the programs. As an example, on-campus employment or volunteer opportunities are good ways to provide NNEST students with authentic input in diverse contexts. The NNEST Lens: Nonnative English Speakers in TESOL (Cambridge Scholars Press; 2010), edited by Mahboob, introduces several resources supporting NNEST students’ language proficiency and contends that English courses for NNEST students in MA TESOL programs should not be separate, but integrated into other existing courses being taught in the programs.

Above all, this practical support should take place within NNESTs’ transforming experience as multicompetent individuals. Otherwise, the effort in language development may only serve NNESTs’ undesirable and impossible imagined identities as native English speakers. TESOL programs thus need to carefully design curricula that are well balanced between enhancing language proficiency and providing new identity options for NNEST students; neither of these goals should be undermined. Only then, as NNESTs embrace their multicompetent identities and become better prepared professionals, will TESOL courses be able to maximize NNESTs’ positive development.

*I advocate that the ultimate purpose of using the terms NNEST and NEST is “to put our finger on the problem” (Selvi, 2014, p. 596). Therefore, although I acknowledge that the binary terms NNEST and NEST do embody a negative connotation of nonnative-English-speaking teachers, I decided to use these terms in this article in an attempt to foster active discussions surrounding issues of the NNEST/NEST dichotomy. 


Liu, D. (1999). Training non-native TESOL students: Challenges for TESOL teacher education in the West. In G. Braine (Ed.), Non-native educators in English language teaching (pp. 197–210). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates

Mahboob, A. (Ed.). (2010). The NNEST lens: Nonnative English speakers in TESOL. Newcastle upon Tyne, England: Cambridge Scholars Press.

Norton, B. (2000). Identity and language learning: Gender, ethnicity and educational change. Essex, England: Pearson.

Pasternak, M., & Bailey, K. M. (2004). Preparing nonnative and native English-speaking teachers: Issues of professionalism and proficiency. In L. D. Kamhi-Stein (Ed.), Learning and teaching from experience: Perspectives on nonnative English-speaking professionals (pp. 155–175). Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.

Selvi, A. F. (2014). Myths and misconceptions about nonnative English speakers in the TESOL (NNEST) movement. TESOL Journal, 5(3), 573–611.

Shin, S. J. (2008). Preparing non-native English-speaking ESL teachers. Teacher Development, 12(1), 57–65.

Seullee Talia Lee is a lecturer in the English Department at Yanbian University of Science & Technology in Yanbian, China. She received her master’s degree from SIT Graduate Institute, the United States. Her research interests lie in issues related to (in)equality in TESOL and second language teacher identity.


Language teacher education and training has been central to ensuring the quality of language teaching and learning (Wright, 2010). With the growing recognition of English as an international language, this centrality of teacher training has been one of the primary concerns of the English language teaching discipline. For the last two decades, the field has made big efforts in both theoretical and practical levels to respond to this issue, and these efforts have led to the emergence of a relatively independent literature; second language teacher education (SLTE).

In SLTE, research has focused on how teachers learn to teach with a special emphasis on the following three stages. The first stage is the apprenticeship of observation, which states that before starting a teacher education program prospective teachers have already constructed certain conceptualizations on how to teach by observing their past teachers (Borg, 2006). The second stage is the preservice education, which is regarded as the core of a teacher's learning process. The final stage is the in-service teacher education in which teachers engage in several practices such as reflective teaching, action research, and trainings that contribute to their professional development.

In the last few years, Turkey, an English as a foreign language (EFL) context, has seen an increased interest in the third stage: in-service teacher education. Nationwide conferences, colloquia, and seminars in which Turkish nonnative-English-speaking teachers (NNESTs) share their research and teaching experiences are being organized by the groups and organizations that are specifically formed to promote such events. Also, training sessions, which are meant to improve specific teaching skills and are organized in more compact ways at the institutional level, are usually given by native-English-speaking teacher trainers (NESTTs) who are invited by publishing companies. As an experienced NNEST and a novice academician, I conducted a study a few months ago focusing on the perceptions of Turkish EFL instructors working at universities regarding such trainings; some of the findings of this study made me question the competency of NESTTs in Turkey and the relevance of trainings provided by them.

The study was a qualitative one carried out through semistructured interviews, and the participants were asked to elaborate on their experiences and opinions of these NESTTs. Some of the quotations shared below, which are from different participants for different trainers, were quite striking and expressed complete dissatisfaction with the competency of the NESTTs:

“It was writing [sic] on his CV that he was a graduate of [a] marketing department, and now working as a teacher trainer. For God’s sake, no one knows how he became a teacher trainer. I am sure it is because he is a native speaker….The only thing I definitely know is that a person whose major is marketing can teach me nothing about classroom management.”

“I can understand that he has worked in South or East Asia for years because he is a native speaker. Being a native speaker might be attractive in such places but not in Turkey, at least for me. Having worked in all these places as a teacher does not make him a trainer here because the context is totally different….What he tried to teach us was too superficial.”

More important, there were a lot of similar statements in the interview data. The existence of such dissatisfaction made me think about the notion of NESTTs training NNESTs in Turkey, and I think these participants are right. In all my experiences with these NESTTs in plenary speeches, trainings, or short talks, the situation was almost always the same. They come to the stage with a smiling face, utter a few Turkish words to look sympathetic, and start with some funny pictures on their slide show, but when it comes to the content of their speech, there is almost nothing meaningful. There is usually nothing new or innovative in their slides. It might be that their previous speeches were relevant or enlightening in other contexts, but what they present to us never goes beyond teaching the things that we already know. When I presented these findings in a recent conference in Turkey, I noticed that most of the practitioners were aware of this fact. However, NESTTs are highly preferable among decision and policy makers in Turkey. For example, a recent report outlining the state of English in the Turkish higher education system has been published by the British Council upon the demand of the Turkish Higher Education Council; interestingly, the supervisor of the project was a NESTT. As an EFL teacher, I should ask this question: Don’t we have a Turkish NNEST trainer or academician who is more familiar with our own context and could have supervised this project?

I would like to finish this brief report with my personal thoughts, which, I believe, will create some awareness among NNEST practitioners who might share the same ideas. In one of his recent articles, Cook (2016) uses an ironic title, “Where is the native speaker now?”, and highlights how the tendency toward native speakerism and native-speaker norms fell down through the years. Accordingly, we no longer see NESTs much in Turkey though they were quite popular in the 80s or 90s. Along with the NESTs, the quality and relevance of the books based on native-speaker norms are also being questioned. In other words, what I am trying to say is that “English: The Industry” (Mahboob, 2011) has lost its power in two important markets and is currently trying to open new ones, one of which is NESTTs for NNESTs. No matter what their major is, NESTTs are seen or presented as competent individuals to train NNESTs in Turkey; being trained by them is regarded as prestigious and such trainings are regarded as potential areas to invest in—merely because of their native language. However, I would like to point out that the competence of these trainers and the relevance of their training sessions should be questioned, and the notion of NESTTs as ideal trainers should not be exaggerated. Otherwise, in-service teacher training in Turkey turns out to be only a market for this industry, commercialization of English language teaching, and unfortunately we will not be able to educate our teachers as much as we expect.


Borg, S. (2006). Teacher cognition and language education. London, England: Continuum.

Cook, V. (2016). Where is the native speaker teacher now? TESOL Quarterly, 50, 186–189.

Mahboob, A. (2011). English: The industry. Journal of Postcolonial Cultures and Societies, 2(4), 46–61.

Wright, T. (2010). Second language teacher education: Review of recent research on practice. Language Teaching, 43, 259–296.

Gökhan Öztürk, PhD, has been teaching English for about 10 years and is currently working as an instructor at Afyon Kocatepe University, Turkey. His research interests are language teacher cognition, in-service teacher training, and novice teacher experience.



For most of my career, the issues surrounding nonnative-English-speaking teachers (NNESTs) in the English language teaching (ELT) industry never affected me. I started teaching at age 17 in a small local school in my hometown, São Paulo, and from there, moved to bigger and better schools, especially after finishing my postgraduate degree in resources for English teaching. Before I moved to Ireland, I was employed by one of the best language schools in Brazil for 2 years, where I found myself working mostly with fellow Brazilians, just like in the other language schools. Classes for the most advanced levels were allocated to native speakers of English, but, at the time, that didn’t bother me: I had good job security, many responsibilities, and quite a decent salary.

When I came to Ireland, the plan was not to establish myself here long term. I wanted to travel for a little bit, experience Europe, and go home after a year. However, life is full of surprises, and 3 years later I saw myself still in Dublin and enrolled in an MA course in TESOL at one of the best universities in the country.

One of the topics discussed throughout the MA TESOL program was NNESTs and how this terminology should be replaced by something else—not to mention the importance of discussing the fact that there is still prejudice against NNESTs in the ELT field. My interest in this subject increased as I read articles and books in the area and took part in online forums that debated it through short posts and comments. I realized there is a whole world out there exploring this matter and trying to end discrimination against individuals who are marginalized due to their national origin.

When looking for jobs in Dublin, I noticed that a few ads came with the dreaded “native speaker” requirement in their descriptions—that was when I decided to dig deeper and get even more involved. As it turns out, at the time the IATEFL 50th edition was happening in Birmingham and that is where Silvana Richardson’s plenary, titled “The 'Native Factor', the Haves and the Have-Nots,” took place. Silvana holds an MA in teacher education and has worked in ELT for more than 25 years, as well as having trained teachers all over the world and speaking regularly at events such as IATEFL.

This plenary certainly inspired TESOL professionals all over the world. Suddenly, tweets, blog posts, and texts surfaced on the Internet. It seemed like not only were NNESTs interested in talking about this subject, but also NESTs. The ELT field seems to follow a trend where certain topics or views gain popularity over a period of time, and perhaps it was time to bring the discussion of native and nonnative teachers back to the table. The dichotomy between them, the discrimination, the native-speaker fallacy, students’ views—everything was there, ready to be (re)explored and demystified (again), starting with the term “nonnative” itself. According to Silvana’s plenary, what are we even emphasizing when we describe ourselves as a “non” something? It is not a legitimate term anymore. Also, she showed through solid academic studies in ELT that most times, students do not seem to prefer a NEST, even though recruiters might use that as an excuse to perpetuate their discriminative hiring practices.

I had already been thinking about doing my master’s thesis on a topic related to NNESTs, but seeing the impact of Silvana’s plenary was the deciding factor for me: I wanted to know more about the TESOL market for NNESTs in the city where I live now, the capital of Ireland.

Literature focused on NNESTs in Ireland is lacking, and I realized there was a gap I could explore. My research aim was to find out what NNESTs’, students’, and recruiters’ perspectives on NNESTs were and what the relationship and importance placed on NESTs was when it comes to hiring practices.

I take this subject very close to heart, and it was encouraging to see the results of my research, which shows that students in Dublin do have a slightly higher preference for NESTs, but most of them do not object to having a nonnative speaker as a teacher. In terms of specific skills, such as the teaching of vocabulary, culture, and pronunciation, NESTs tend to be favored, whereas for areas such as grammar and strategies, students demonstrate no preference towards either NESTs or NNESTs.

Regarding hiring practices, 60% of schools in the city hire NNESTs, and the most important criterion to Irish recruiters is not nativeness, but rather teaching qualifications, followed by educational background, performance in the interview, and teaching experience.

All in all, Silvana Richardson’s 2016 plenary turned out to be extremely inspirational, interesting, and crucial for my career, and I hope this brief report can spark similar interest in NNEST issues in those reading it.

Bárbara Hernandes has worked in the ELT industry for more than 10 years, primarily based in her home country, Brazil. In 2013 she relocated to Ireland and in 2016 finished her MA in TESOL. Her research interests include the use of students’ first languages in the classroom, language acquisition, and NNESTs.



Do you have some thoughts on the status of nonnative English speakers in TESOL (NNESTs)? 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 NNESTs? 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 issues are welcome:

Feature Articles (1,200–1,750 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 guidelines 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 all the titles in capitals;
  • list a byline (author’s name, affiliation, city, country, email, 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: Burcu Ates and Baburhan Uzum at tesolnnestnewsletter@gmail.com


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.

Website: http://nnest.moussu.net/

NNEST Newsletter Mission Statement


The NNEST Newsletter is the official newsletter of the Nonnative English Speakers in TESOL Interest Section (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, and
  • providing resources to NNEST IS members as well as TESOL members in general.


NNEST readers often ask about how to respond to discriminatory job advertisements. Please find a list of resources and template responses on how to respond to such postings on the NNEST-IS website, in the right column.