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When the ad says "native" speakers only!
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Joined: 26 Jun 2007
Posts: 3

PostPosted: Fri Jun 29, 2007 5:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"Native speaker" means absolutely nothing as long as you dont have any strong noticable foreign accent when you speak English. I have been teaching in Japan for nearly two years and I am confident that most people here absolutely cannot make out the difference between a native speaker and a non native.

They ask for native speakers but they can't even distinguish native accents let alone foreign ones. The reason is that the average student (or person) has never been abroad or around English-speakers.

Now, I have been speaking and using English since age six. There is no difference between the way I speak and the way the "real" native speakers in my counrty speak. People here as well as at home are always surprised when I tell them that I am not native. I know people who started English MUCH later than I and have what I would call an obvious foreign accent. Several of these are over here teaching in places that hire only "native speakers".

If this is true in Japan, than it is probably even truer in other countries where the students have less contact and opportunities to meet or intereact with English-speakers. There are relatively a lot of English-speakers in this country but I imagine that in other countries where there are few, schools are less choosey.
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Joined: 09 Aug 2007
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 09, 2007 10:49 am    Post subject: Is it really...? Reply with quote

It's not about how fluent you are in English both oral and written or how excellent a teacher you are...but it's a matter of your RACE!...are you brown, black, yellow...won't be hired...Tell me if it's not true! In my experience it is so prevalent in Asia...this so called 'only native speakers'. Rolling Eyes
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Joined: 25 Sep 2006
Posts: 119

PostPosted: Thu Aug 09, 2007 4:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It is true that in many countries white people stand a much better chance of getting a job and have less problems than anyone else. Prejudice is fostered by local perceptions of certain groups of people. As a country opens up to the outside world that prejudice slowly fades away. I’m convinced that globalization will eventually make the issue of native vs non native speaker a thing of the past.
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Joined: 09 Oct 2007
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 09, 2007 5:03 pm    Post subject: Academic view of non-native teachers Reply with quote

I am currently in a PhD TESOL program and my professor refuses to even use the terms "native" or "non-native" since he describes the "native speaker" in terms of bioneurological criteria. In essence, the language you are exposed to before the age of 8 is your first language. Any language learned after that point is a second language. I know this is simplifying things a little, but it is virtually impossible for a second language learner to become a native speaker.

The whole "native speaker only" is just a cover for racism and other forms of discrimination. When I taught in Korea about ten years ago, I recall a man from Louisiana (caucasian) who was sent to our hakwon because his director felt he needed training in teaching methods. There was nothing wrong with his methods - he spoke an accent that his students were not accustomed to. He was educated and quite pleasant, but his dialect was outside the perceived norm. He eventually found work at a different hakwon in Seoul.

In my current class, my professor stated that although he taught a multicultural appreciation of various world englishes, when it came down to a choice for their children, a native speaker or a fellow countryperson as an Enlgish instructor, all of the international students indicated a preference for the native speaker. So what does this mean if even educated teachers indicate such a preference? Are they also prejudiced against their own education. In informal discussions, some fellow international students indicate that native speakers are better for pronunciation and non-native English speakers are better for grammar and test preparation. It is difficult to say if this opinion is correct, but it seems to fall in line with my experiences in Korea.

I was never asked to teach a TOEFL or TOEIC prep class. I never taught writing either. Those classes were restricted to Korean teachers. I was only there to teach "conversational English," whatever that means. A fellow collegue put it this way: Americans/Canadians are there at the hakwon like trained circus monkeys. Prospective students see the advertisements claiming native speakers. They pay their tuition, buy the textbooks, and come to class. They see a "native speaker" and think, "oh how cute! He's trying to teach me something." After one or two classes, the novelty wears off and the student vanishes. I do not mean this as disrepectful to anyone involved in the above scenario. Although I went to Korea lacking a TESOL certificate, I had taken some classes in linguistics and finished a BA degree in German. I knew it would be rough going, but I survived my leap of faith and decided to make TESOL a viable career path.

So, what does this all mean? I agree that there are many hurdles in this field. As long as inner circle English countries have a monopoly on teaching materials and the illusion of superiority, "non-native" teachers will need to prove themselves again and again. It is sad.
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Lee Hobbs
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Joined: 08 Dec 2005
Posts: 137
Location: TheGulfCoast

PostPosted: Thu Oct 11, 2007 3:51 am    Post subject: Re: Academic view of non-native teachers Reply with quote

Sean wrote:
The whole "native speaker only" is just a cover for racism

Interesting word your professor coined there..."bioneurological." I wasn't aware that neurology couldn't be biological (or, that TESOL linguistic studies now operate in that field) . Does the "bio" prefix indicate something else I'm missing?

The racism allegation you bring up is especially disturbing/problematic when "native" or L1 speakers of the English language [i.e., those who learned English from age 0 to age 8] in either the United States, Canada, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Australia, India, or anywhere else on the planet for that matter, hail from possibly every ethnicity under the sun.

If racism in the "native-speaker-preferred hiring obstacle" is really the issue at hand, which "races" then--to use another outdated, pseudoscientific concept of human categorization--are being discriminated against exactly, and which ones reside in the so-called "acceptable" native-speaker category?

Is the remedy simply a matter of re-educating school owners who seemingly know very little about the very subject their businesses engage in or is it just a problem of a highly misinformed and highly prejudiced customer-base (that the business owners apparently cave in to)?

Very interesting topic you've brought up. Thanks for your contribution,


Lee's blog is still available, however, here:
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Lee Hobbs
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Joined: 08 Dec 2005
Posts: 137
Location: TheGulfCoast

PostPosted: Thu Oct 11, 2007 4:01 am    Post subject: Bioneurologically Speaking... Reply with quote

Lee Hobbs wrote:
Interesting word your professor coined there..."bioneurological."

As an afterthought to my own post, I just googled "bioneurological" to see what came up. Looks like a plethora of new work is being done in this field, including some by NASA. Well, you learn something new everyday!


Lee's blog is still available, however, here:
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Joined: 21 Jul 2008
Posts: 185
Location: Central Saudi Arabia

PostPosted: Fri Aug 22, 2008 4:07 am    Post subject: Re: Native Speaker Reply with quote

carlitos wrote:
3 masters degrees, a PHD and working at a community college? Confused what the hell happened there...... Confused

.....The reason they want a Native Speaker it's because they have problems understanding someone that speaks clearly, imagine someone that speaks English with a big Jamaican accent... I guess, "Native Speaker" to them means someone that has no strong accent. same as when my thai wife tells me she wants sandwich bread without the "frontiers", she means without the crust...

Oooh Oooh!! I know what happened!! He applied for a job at a (CA NY TX WA IL AZ CO FL GA) community college where an MA degree is as common as dirt!!!! They also treat applicants the same way!!
Razz Confused 8)
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Joined: 22 Oct 2009
Posts: 7

PostPosted: Sun Nov 22, 2009 9:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote


I am an American "native speaker"..(whatever.)
Last night I was watching TV, some stupid reality show.

The host (a "native speaker") said, "...behind me on the tables is some boxes with your names on them."

I think the whole "native speaker" requirement is another "-ism." Wink
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Joined: 23 Nov 2009
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 23, 2009 4:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

(1) I can forgive a second-language learner for mistakenly pronouncing "pronunciation" but I find it offensive to see an English teacher misspell the word. This highlights the importance of training and qualifications over the "native speaker" characteristic.

(2) Being from Canada, I must point out that--as of 2006--more than half our population was not even born in Canada. Language abiltiy is an important qualification for admission to Canada as an immigrant, but obviously, not every Canadian speaks English with "native" proficiency, even if they entered Canada from an "English-speaking" country.

(3) Many more "native speaking" people speak English with an accent than without. Given this reality, it is unfair to expose second-language learners only to "neutral" or "standard" English voices. There are only perhaps 30 million "standard" voices in the English-speaking world, and more than a billion who speak English fluently, with some kind of accent, including most Americans. Second-language learners who only hear "standard" voices will have a lot of difficulty understanding "native speakers" from countries such as Jamaica, Nigeria, The Philippines or India, for example.
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Joined: 27 Dec 2009
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 27, 2009 3:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I find this discussion very informative.

I am a qualified English teacher holding an MA in TEFL and has been in the profession for more than 15 years now. Unfortunately I wasn't lucky enough to be born in any of the English speaking countries, rather, on the contrary, I am from Eastern Europe, Hungary, which is one of the less privileged parts of the world, well of Europe anyway (could be worse though - at least I"m white Smile - that was an ironic remark). My English is near native level as was voiced by my British born ex-employer. The funny thing is that somehow I have developed a strong American accent so British people tend to think I'm an American first. Americans figure I must be Canadian or something because I do sound like a native speaker but after a time they become a bit suspicious... Anyway I find myself very frustrated about this native speaker thing because I consider myself a competent professional and a good speaker of English, yet, I am being discouraged from pursuing an international career just because I was born in Hungary, my native language is Hungarian and I was educated at a prominent, but - what a shame - Hungarian university. So should I lie about my origin to get myself an interview where I can impress employers? Because my CV in itself will not very likely impress them (???). Even the MA may be a problem as I have no CELTA or DELTA qualifications Smile Well, I really wouldn't like to do that. Do you guys have any idea how I could go about this? Any experience of/about/with Eastern Europeans trying to get around this issue? Any help is welcome, really. I'm looking for some empowerment too.
My other "problem" is, to be honest, that I wouldn't like to go to Asia - people say I shouldn't have problems finding a job there - (now reading the above posts I'm not so sure anymore). I'd rather stick with Europe, or go to America.
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Joined: 25 Dec 2009
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 28, 2009 1:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am writing because here in China the 'native English speaker' tag is a major selling point to attract students. Language instruction is big business these days, and both the employers as well as the foreign teachers know that full well...

But why have we arrived at this in the first place? As Canuckophile so eloquently put it on page one, bottom: By dumbing down!

If 500 million parents want their child to be exposed to a 'native American English speaker', you have to wonder: How did so many individuals form one uniform opinion?

This is only possible through brainwash, and both the Chinese as well as interested foreign parties are equally responsible for it. It means 500 million individuals are NOT MAKING EDUCATED decisions! They are deciding like lemmings following their lead lemming!

I can't really rationalise on the Asian, i.e. Chinese (and Korean, Japanese) acceptance of 'native speakers' but I can see why the 'natives' themselves are trying to (successfully) keep this turf to themselves.

You only need to read adverts praising the miraculous effects on your employment prospects of having a TEFL Cert obtained in just four weeks, give or take two! Whom do they target? Native speakers, of course.

But it is not 'native speakers' that have an adequate track record (say, as teachers of other subjects, or as translators or linguists, possibly with a non-native background). No, many explicitly state 'no teaching experience required'; some even promise 'no college degree needed'.

Did someone say 'dumbing down'? This shows how devalued the language instructor position has become in the eyes of the Usanian public! I don't know if Brits are made similar promises but I would be rather surprised if that was the case.

So the 'native English speaker' label actually translates as 'native American English speaker'. I have no beef with that as such; what I think is leading to a disservice to English learners is that the requirement for any teacher to be qualified and to be highly educated is not adequately recognised in the 'native English (or American English) speaker' label.

In fact, the commercially marketed TEFL Certs are targeted at 'native speakers' that, and I quote here from a flyer, are "Ready for a change?"
It goes on to say:
"Whether you are a complete beginner or you already have some teaching experience, a TEFL qualification is the ticket for the journey of your life."

Backpackers. Globetrotters. Slow nomads.

I am not disparaging backpackers. I am juxtaposing 'backpackers' to the idea of hiring TEACHERS. Are 'teachers' just people like you and I? Or aren't teachers people with special skills acquired and honed in dedicated courses and training?

And that is why I want to hold up a candle for the many non-native posters in this thread: You had to prove yourself to a rather rigorous and discriminating (in more ways than one) criteria. You have to acquire a competency that 'native speakers' never have to test because it is assumed they are competent in their mother tongue.

But is language competency key to being an efficient and successful teacher? Or is it one of several keys?
The language teacher who is 'at home' in more than one language is more competent than the monolingual teacher. He or she has acquired, possibly in just a few years, near-native competency in two or more languages whereas the monolingual teacher has no personal insight or experience in how people acquire a second language.

The latter may explain why viewing videos these days is more common in classrooms than studying literature. Many monolinguals seldom read novels or even a decent newspaper. If the teacher prefers watching movies to reading fiction then what can we expect from students?

Again, I wish to stress that I do not want to offend anyone. I do want to say, though, that language teachers should not shy away from teaching grammar (why do Chinese and American teachers conspire to ban foreign teachers from teaching 'substantial' subjects such as grammar?) and literature.

And that is what many non-native speakers of English are more than willing to do. Right guys?

And here last but not least la piece de resistance: Did you know that there are more non-native speakers of English than native speakers?

It's time to hire more teachers. From among non-native people.
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Joined: 04 Jan 2010
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 04, 2010 2:55 am    Post subject: Discrimination is disappearing Reply with quote

I've lived abroad for more than ten years,and a number of my colleagues have come from The Phillipines, Singapore, France, and South Africa.

In China, the weeding process begins with a phone call to test the applicant's voice. What most employers seek is a "standard American accent," which is a well modulated, non-twangy radio voice. From what I've experienced through friends who've been turned down at that point, a foreign accent does not necessarily deter employers from moving forward. Actually, they want to avoid any extremes in patterns that would make listening a strain for students.

Some Americans have strong local accents second language learners find unattractive and easily misunderstood. My suggestion is that you market yourself as an American citizen with an MA and open the doors for an opportunity to get that initial telephone interview.

I tell my students that English is unique because it invites diversity - use that as your selling point, and smile!
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Joined: 29 Jul 2006
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Location: Beijing

PostPosted: Tue Apr 20, 2010 6:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

All of you need to consider one thing--most Asians, and a lot of people in other parts of the world, don't speak English correctly, nor do they read or write English correctly. When one considers who is teaching in these places you will discover the answer. In-country nationals who either don't speak English or speak English badly, and TESL certificate holders who really haven't had teaching courses that taught them to understand what learners don't know and how to correct that problem. As I work in China I can tell you that the Chinese don't speak English verbs correctly; they don't pluralize nouns correctly; they don't use articles (a, an, the) correctly, and they simply speak Chinese with English words. These are serious problems and only correctly trained teachers can address those problems and try to correct them. All the other need to get out of the business of teaching. They are damaging the learners. That's what teachers call "a crime." Get some real training through a credentialling program at a university. Bob
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 25, 2010 8:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am from the Philippines with 10 yrs experience in teaching, with a masters, with TESOL and other English training. My chance to have worked in an international school in Manila was my stepping stone to have found an ESL position in China.Though I am lucky to have come here, I am still looking for better opportunities but...Yes it is true, Chinese employers are racists. Every time I receive a reply, they would say "your resume is very impressive but our clients want native teachers". I wish they would call me on the phone to hear my accent. I feel bad being disqualified for not having blond hair and blue eyes. I feel bad that employers know nothing about their criteria to hire teachers. I wish their steps would be: interview and actual demo for them to decide who to hire. They always look up to the whites though they are not degree holders, who just come to China as back packers. They speak the language of their mother tongue but with a lot of grammatical errors.Their class management is poor /boring because they don't know the strategies of how to teach and how to manage a class situation but still Chinese employers treat them as GOLD. I think employers should also be well educated !
.ESL teacher China
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 25, 2010 10:47 am    Post subject: I do think they are silly... Reply with quote

Koreans are also stupid in a way... They come to the Philippines to study English with the most qualified Philippine English teachers. Same situation happens on the Online teaching businesses. A lot of language schools are catering for huge numbers of Koreans to study English with Philippine teachers, but when they hire teachers to work in their country, they only accept the whites and those with blue eyes? It's funny but somewhat silly! It's very obvious that racial discrimination still exists. I am working with my Korean manager but we work online because I am never qualified to step their land in a couple of months.The only possible way for me to be welcomed as a legal worker there is to be married to him so I could change my nationality and wouldn't belong to the group of discriminated races. He, he, he!
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