Eighty percent of English language instructors in the world are not native speakers of the language and are thus referred to as Non-Native English-Speaking Teachers (NNEST). English is actually these teachers’ second language, which sets them apart from Native English-Speaking Teachers (NEST). NNESTs are typically state school teachers in countries abroad and hold the relevant national teaching qualifications, usually with a specialization in teaching English. NNESTs at commercial language companies may be pushed to acquire even more rigorous certification.
Unfair Treatment of NNESTs
Many people believe that the ideal English teacher is a native speaker, a notion which leads to the marginalization of many properly qualified NNESTs. Many job listings will specify preference for “nativeness” (often disguised as anglophone-nationality requirements), if not outright stipulate it. Discrimination goes so far as selecting native speakers with no teaching qualifications over certified, experienced NNESTs. Colleagues and students also often underestimate the strengths of NNESTs.
The truth of the matter is that, as long as NNESTs have received certification, such as the CELTA, they are in no way inferior instructors.
In fact, arguments have been made that NNESTs are actually superior teachers because of the very fact that they have undergone the language learning process, thus know its hurdles and pitfalls. This may be particularly true when the instructor is familiar with not only English, but also the mother-tongue of the country he or she is teaching in. This obviously makes anticipating and bridging the gap between the two languages easier. Furthermore, NNESTs serve not only as teachers to their students, but also as role models.
Efforts to combat discrimination against NNESTs have been undertaken. At some universities, native and non-native English teachers now collaborate with each other, focusing on sharing their particular strengths to the benefit of all instructors and students. The Teachers of English to the Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) Inc. has created a special NNEST “Interest Section” and caucus to address particular concerns, along with issuing statements condemning NNEST discrimination and reaffirming that certified NNESTs are no less qualified than native speakers. Local NNEST support branches have also been created, such as the ones in Washington and California. In addition, a decision was made at the 2005 ASEAN conference to establish regional centers for English language training staffed by local NNESTs.