NNEST Newsletter

NNEST News, Volume 6:2 (November 2004)

by User Not Found | 10/27/2011
In This Issue...
  • Leadership Updates
    • Letter from the Chair
    • Editors' Remarks
  • Articles and Information
    • Nonnative-English-Speaking Educators: A Research Summary
    • When and How to Resolve Language Issues of Nonnative-English-Speaking Teachers-in-Preparation in TESOL Programs
    • Course Evaluations--To Read or Not Read: Is That the Question?
    • And We're Not Even Sure How to Pronounce Our Own Label!
    • WATESOL Supports the Creation of NNEST Caucus
    • About This Member Community

Leadership Updates Letter from the Chair On, for and with: Finding Room for Emancipation in Academic Research

By Ahmar Mahboob, University of Sydney, e-mail: ahmar.mahboob@arts.usyd.edu.au.

We are all lucky! Although we know that prejudices in the TESOL profession continue, we are lucky because we are part of the English language teaching profession at a time when the terms native and nonnative are being problematized, and a healthy discussion on them is evolving. This is partly possible because of the caucus and the people who worked hard to establish it. More important, it is possible because of the 1,100+ members of the caucus that contribute to it--that includes you. We are lucky to have you as a part of our NNEST family.

Although I have used the word lucky here, it is not just luck that has made this happen. Luck implies that we did not participate in bringing about this change. We did. It is the work of our members and supporters that has made it possible. The excellent presentations on NNEST issues at TESOL and other conferences and meetings as well as a growing body of dissertations, journal articles, books, and other publications have all contributed to this success. The professional quality of this work along with our organizational networking has made it possible for NNEST to be not merely a membership body, but a field of study. Today, it is common to hear or use phrases such as NNEST studies and NNEST literature. These phrases reflect the growing recognition that the literature in TESOL and related fields (including applied linguistics and second language acquisition) has had a monolingual bias (Kachru, 1994) and has been based on a native-speaker fallacy (Phillipson, 1992) and therefore needs to be reconceptualized. Thus, it is not just luck that has and is bringing about a change in the status of NNESTs, but it is the emancipatory work of the researchers involved in it.

The place for emancipation in academic work is worth some attention. Earlier last month, working on a grant application for an NNEST related project, I asked a colleague (a sociolinguist) to look over the draft. In commenting on the draft, she wrote, "You should distinguish between academic significance and societal aim/advocacy--while laudable I don't think that the latter is research." This comment really bothered me. But why? I soon realised that the comment struck me because it implied that academic research should be purely objective and descriptive and without a sociopolitical purpose. However, I thought, wasn't this view of research naïve? Can research be purely objective and apolitical? Having caught my attention, I explored this issue in recent research. I found that there has been a tradition of empowering and emancipatory work in applied linguistics. For example, using an understanding of language and the biases that it reflects and promotes, feminist linguists have for a long time shown how language is used to discriminate against particular groups and have recommended changes (see, e.g., Cameron, 1990). Not only does feminism (and other such movements) use research to encourage change, but Cameron, Frazer, Harvey, Rampton, & Richardson (1993) argue that research should be empowering. They describe empowering research as "research done on, for and with social subjects" (p. 153) [emphasis in original]. In this sense, work done on NNEST may be placed within the empowerment framework because it is done on, for, and with NNESTs.

In addition, a large body of the recent critical work also explores the inequalities in the social system and promotes change. Pennycook (2004), in describing four views of critical work, uses the term emancipatory modernism to describe this body of work. He states that the aim of researchers working with this approach is "to incorporate explicit social critique and to see one's work as overtly aimed toward trying to change inequitable social conditions and peoples' understanding of them" (p. 329). Thus, given that the NNEST literature identifies an imbalance of power between NESTs and NNESTs and suggests ways of eliminating this bias, the current NNEST literature is not isolated but rather a part of a larger critical movement.

Having put the recent NNEST literature in the framework of emancipatory modernism, I want to continue with this discussion of Pennycook (2001, 2004). Pennycook argues that emanciaptory modernism is not sufficient. What is needed is not just an understanding of the "dialectics between micro and macro relations" (p. 330), but to "embark on the ethical task not only of seeking to understand different forms of politics but also of provincializing those European frames of knowledge that have come to dominate what counts as the critical" (p. 330). I believe that in interpreting Pennycook's work from our NNEST perspective, we should engage in this problematizing practice by exploring and describing teaching practices and values that are locally developed, practiced, and valued. For a long time, we have observed that U.S. and British teaching methods and materials are not suitable in many international contexts. What we need is to document, describe, analyse, and share traditional practices that work. One example of this is Rose's (2003, 2004) work on reading and literacy development in indigenous communities in central Australia. Using a functional understanding of language, Rose has provided a theoretical structure to these local resources, practices, and traditions.

I think that it is now time for us to engage in such critical work within our own contexts. Among others, three areas of linguistic knowledge that may help us in this task are: critical applied linguistics, functional linguistics, and world Englishes. This new generation of work in NNEST studies will further unpack and unload the connotations of the terms native and nonnative and balance the power structures within the TESOL profession. It will be such work that will make the future generations of NNESTs luckier!

LATE NEWS: I just found out that WATESOL has formed a new NNEST Caucus. I would like to thank Brock Brady, Gloria Park, and all the other members of WATESOL for their hard work in making this happen. Congratulations!


Cameron, D. (1990). Demythologizing sociolinguistics. In J. Joseph & T. Taylor (Eds.), Ideologies of language (pp. 79-93). London: Routledge.

Cameron, D., Frazer, E., Harvey, P., Rampton, B., & Richardson, K. (1993). Ethics, advocacy and empowerment in researching language. Language and Communication, 12(2), 81-94.

Kachru, Y. (1994). Monolingual bias in SLA research. TESOL Quarterly, 28(4), 795-800.

Pennycook, A. (2001). Critical applied linguistics: A critical introduction. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Pennycook, A. (2004). Critical moments in a TESOL praxicum. In B. Norton & K. Toohey (Eds.), Critical pedagogies and language learning. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Phillipson, R. (1992). Linguistic imperialism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Rose, D. (2003). Reading and writing factual texts at Sobantu (video). Sydney, Australia: Faculty of Education, University of Sydney.

Rose, D. (2004). Sequencing and pacing of the hidden curriculum: How indigenous learners are left out of the chain. In J. Muller, A. Morais, & B. Davies (Eds.), Reading Bernstein, researching Bernstein (pp. 91-107). London: Routledge Falmer.


Editors' Remarks

By Silvia Pessoa, Carnegie Mellon University, e-mail spessoa@andrew.cmu.edu, and Fabiana Sacchi, University of Texas at Austin, e-mailfsacchi@mail.utexas.edu.

We are pleased to present to you our first coedited issue of the NNEST e-newsletter. We hope that you find this issue as informative and insightful as we do.

In his "Letter From the Chair," Ahmar Mahboob discusses the emancipatory and empowering nature of research on NNEST issues. More specifically, Mahboob points out the positive changes that this kind of research has brought about in the TESOL field and situates NNEST studies as part of a larger critical movement. The letter finishes with a call for TESOL professionals to continue to pursue studies on NNEST issues from a critical perspective.

In her article, "Nonnative-English-Speaking Educators: A Research Summary," Lía Kamhi-Stein reviews the literature on NNES educators and identifies three phases in the research: (a) self-perceptions of NNES educators, (b) credibility of NNES educators, and (c) the meaning of the label NNES educatorand other perceptions of NNES educators. Kamhi-Stein also describes the areas of interest within each phase and provides an extensive review of the work that has been done within each area.

In "When and How to Resolve Language Issues of Nonnative English-Speaking Teachers-in-Preparation in TESOL Programs," Soonhyang Kim proposes a two-way approach to resolve NNEST language-related issues. Her recommendations include having a language component in teacher education programs and having open discussions about NNEST issues within each program.

In "Course Evaluations--To Read or Not to Read: Is That the Question?," Fu-An Lin shares her experience dealing with negative student evaluations and what she has done to overcome the frustration caused by one of her students' comments. Lin also raises the issue of the usefulness and validity of the comments students make in their evaluations.

We would like to thank Brock Brady, our electronic list co-coordinator, for his two contributions on NNEST Caucus updates. First, Brady raises the issue of whether the label NNEST should be pronounced /nə/- NESTor/Ɛn/-NEST, encouraging caucus members to share their opinions about this on the list. Second, Brady announces WATESOL's support for the creation of a NNEST caucus within the affiliate. Congratulations to Brock Brady and Gloria Park for all their work to make this happen!

We would like to thank all the authors for their insightful contributions, and we would like to encourage other members to submit an article or related news for the next issue. The deadline for submission is March 10, 2005. We hope to see you at the 2005 TESOL convention in San Antonio!

Articles and Information Nonnative-English-Speaking Educators: A Research Summary

By Lía Kamhi-Stein, California State University, Los Angeles, e-mail lkamhis@calstatela.edu.

As we all know, over the past few years, there has been increased interest in issues related to nonnative-English-speaking (NNES) educators in the TESOL field. Since 1996, after Braine's (1996) seminal colloquium at The 30th Annual TESOL Convention, interest in issues related to NNES educators and their classrooms has been reflected in the publication of more than 50 refereed articles, this newsletter; over four dissertations (e.g., Inbar, 2001; Maum, 2003) and five masters' theses (e.g., Cheung, 2002; Liang, 2002), and the publication of two edited volumes (Braine, 1999; Kamhi-Stein, 2004). As I reviewed the literature on NNES educators, I was able to identify three phases of research, with each phase focusing on different areas of interest. In this article, I will attempt to identify the different phases and describe the areas of interest within each phase.1

The first phase of the research focused on the self-perceptions of NNES educators. Extensive research in this area investigated NNES educators' self-perceptions of their language skills in relation to their perceived instructional practices and provided information on the relationship between self-image and teachers' perceptions about teaching and learning (e.g., Amin, 1997; Medgyes, 1983, 1994; Reves & Medgyes, 1994; Brutt-Griffler & Samimy, 1999; Tang, 1997).

The second phase of the research explored the credibility of NNES educators. This work, in the form of qualitative studies and autobiographical narratives, mainly focused on visible minority NNES educators and the extent to which their minority status may affect their students' perceptions about their "authenticity" (or lack of thereof) as English language educators (e.g., Amin, 1997, 1999; Braine, 1999; Thomas, 1999).

The third phase of the research, more recent in time, has dealt with two distinct topics: (a) the meaning of the label nonnative-English-speaking educator(e.g., Hansen, 2004; Inbar, 2001; J. Liu, 1999, 2004); and (b) others' perceptions of NNES educators. Research on the meaning of the label, although in its beginning stages, has shown that the label is complex and does not capture the range of language learning experiences and professional preparation of visible and invisible minority NNES educators (Hansen, 2004; J. Liu, 2004; Pasternak & Bailey, 2004). The label has also been found to have no relevance in multilingual or multicultural communities such as the European Community, where the teacher is perceived to be an intercultural speakerwhose language status contributes to the teachers' added "value" (Seidlhofer, 1999, p. 242; Velasco-Martin, 2004).

Research on others' perceptions of NNES educators has focused on students' and administrators. In relation to students, research has dealt with NNES teacher accentedness and teacher pedagogical skills. Work on teacher accentedness has shown that (a) familiarity with and exposure to particular NNES teachers may play a more important role in the development of students' attitudes toward them than does the teachers' accentedness in English (Kelch & Santana-Williamson, 2002; Liang, 2002; Moussu, 2002); (b) students may not be able to distinguish between a native- and a nonnative-English-speaking teacher "with a high degree of accuracy" (Kelch & Santana-Williamson, p. 62); and (c) students do not perceive accentedness/pronunciation in English to be a criterion for "the ideal English teacher" (Liang, 2002, p. 72).

Research on NNES educators' pedagogical skills has focused on different student populations and settings; therefore, generalizations need to be taken with caution. Granted these limitations, findings suggest that (a) both native-English-speaking (NES) and NNES educators are perceived as good teachers and that regardless of the setting in which English is being taught, students can learn English just well from both groups (Cheung, 2002; Mahboob, 2004; Moussu, 2002); (b) ESL/EFL students seem to favor studying listening, pronunciation, and speaking from NES rather than NNES teachers (Kelch & Santana-Williamson, 2002; Lasagabaster & Sierra, 2002, Mahboob, 2004) although, as shown by Kelch & Santana-Williamson, ESL students are not always capable of distinguishing a native from a nonnative speaker; and (c) NES teachers are perceived to be more knowledgeable than their NNES counterparts in the area of culture and intercultural communication and less knowledgeable than their NNES peers in the area of grammar (Cheung, 2002; Kelch & Santana-Williamson, 2002; Lasagabaster & Sierra, 2002; Mahboob, 2004; Moussu, 2002) although, length of U.S. residence has been found to be related to comfort when teaching grammar (Kamhi-Stein, Aagard, Ching, Paik, & Sasser, 2004).

Research on administrators' attitudes toward NNES educators has produced only one empirical study, and this study was designed to investigate the weight that intensive English program (IEP) administrators give to various hiring criteria (Mahboob, Uhrig, Newman, & Hartford, 2004). The study showed that the majority of program administrators investigated considered "native English speaker status" (p. 115) an important hiring criterion (59.8% of the respondents considered the criterion at least "somewhat important") and that the presence or absence of NNES educators in a given IEP could be explained by three hiring criteria, including "native English speaker status," "recommendation" and "teaching experience" (p. 115).The study also showed that the more importance program administrators gave to the "native English speaker" criterion, the fewer the number of NNES teachers employed in their programs.

Work on language teacher preparation and NNES educators has, to some extent, mirrored the work done in relation to NNES educators and self-identity. Specifically, several studies and descriptive articles have explored the self-perceptions and socialization processes of NNES teachers-in-preparation enrolled in North American language teacher preparation programs. This line of work has shown that while the self-perceptions' of NNES teachers-in-preparation may be affected by their nonnative status and, in some cases, by their lack of teaching experience, teachers-in-preparation are aware of their strengths and implement a variety of strategies designed to help them succeed in their studies (e.g., Brinton, 2004; Brutt-Griffler & Samimy, 1999; Kamhi-Stein, 2000a; Lee & Lew, 2001; J. Liu, 1999; Morita, 2000; Pessoa & Sacchi, 2002).

Apart from the work on the self-perceptions of teachers-in-preparation, the literature on language teacher preparation has reported on a variety of initiatives designed to enhance the education and status of NNES teachers-in-preparation enrolled in North American and EFL language teacher preparation programs (e.g., Brady & Gulikers, 2004; Kamhi-Stein, 2000b; Lee, 2004; D. Liu, 1999; Matsuda & Matsuda, 2004; Samimy, 1999; Brutt-Griffler & Samimy, 1999), although much more work needs to be done, particularly in relation to EFL settings. These initiatives, reflecting current thinking in language teacher preparation, emphasize a number of ideas: that professional preparation should promote the creation of communities in which native and nonnative English speakers collaborate and draw on their mutual and complementary strengths (de Oliveira & Richards, 2004; Matsuda & Matsuda, 2004); that language proficiency is only one aspect of professional preparation (Bailey, 2002; Brady & Gulikers, 2004; Pasternak & Bailey, 2004); and that language teacher preparation programs should help all future educators, regardless of their language status, develop both declarative knowledge and procedural knowledge (Bailey, 2002; Pasternak & Bailey, 2004).

Although the work summarized in the previous paragraphs has provided much needed information about NNES educators, one of its limitations is that it has tended to treat native and nonnative speakers as having absolute characteristics (a point made by J. Liu, 1999; and Pasternak & Bailey, 2004). Therefore, it is imperative that future work account for potential individual differences among NNES educators (just as there is research focusing on different types of language minority students, there needs to be research focusing on the different types of NNES educators)2. At the same time, future research needs to move beyond issues of self-perceptions of language proficiency and, instead, deal with other issues, including but not limited to language teacher preparation, actual English language competence in relation to curriculum delivery in different language settings and at different instructional levels (currently, the focus of funding by the TESOL International Research Foundation; see Inbar & Gagne, 2003; Kamhi-Stein & Mahboob, 2003; Saito, 2003), administrators' hiring practices in EFL and ESL contexts, NNES teacher retention, and so on.

The past few years have allowed us to develop a better understanding about NNES educators. I have often stated that prior to 1996, NNES educators were a nonissue in the TESOL field. In contrast, now they are a topic of interest, not only for nonnative English speakers but also for native English speakers. It is to be expected that this interest will only grow and result in publications that will inform teachers' instructional practices that will ultimately contribute to enhancing the learning experiences of EFL and ESL students.


Amin, N. (1997). Race and the identity of the nonnative ESL teacher. TESOL Quarterly, 31(3), 580-583.

Amin, N. (1999). Minority women teachers of ESL: Negotiating White English. In G. Braine (Ed.), Non-native educators in English language teaching (pp. 93-104). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Bailey, K. M. (September, 2002). Declarative knowledge, procedural knowledge, and the varieties of English we teach. NNEST Newsletter, 4(2), 1, 3-5.

Brady, B., & Gulikers, G. (2004). Enhancing the MA in TESOL practicum course for nonnative English-speaking student teachers. In L. D. Kamhi-Stein (Ed.),Learning and teaching from experience: Perspectives on nonnative English-speaking professionals (pp. 206-229). Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.

Braine, G. (1996). In their own voices: Nonnative speaker professionals in TESOL. Colloquium presented at The 30th Annual TESOL Convention, Chicago, IL.

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

Brinton, D. M. (2004). Nonnative English-speaking student teachers: Insights from dialogue journals. In L. D. Kamhi-Stein (Ed.), Learning and teaching from experience: Perspectives on Nonnative English-speaking professionals (pp. 190-205). Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan Press.

Brutt-Griffler, J., & Samimy, K. (1999). Revisiting the colonial in the postcolonial. Critical praxis for nonnative-English-speaking teachers in a TESOL program. TESOL Quarterly, 33, 413-431.

Cheung, Y. L. (2002). The attitude of university students in Hong Kong towards native and non-native teachers of English. Unpublished master's thesis, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, People's Republic of China.

de Oliveira L.C., & Richards, S. (2004). Collaboration between native and nonnative English-speaking educators. In L. D. Kamhi-Stein (Ed.), Learning and teaching from experience: Perspectives on Nonnative English-speaking professionals (pp. 294-306). Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan Press.

Hansen, J. G. (2004). Invisible minorities and the nonnative English-speaking professional. In L. D. Kamhi-Stein (Ed.), Learning and teaching from experience: Perspectives on Nonnative English-speaking professionals (pp. 40-53). Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan Press.

Inbar, O. (2001). Native and non-native English teachers: Investigation of the construct and perceptions. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Tel Aviv University, Israel.

Inbar, O., & Gagne, G. (2003). Language proficiency development of non-native English-speaking teacher candidates: A comparative case study of two teacher preparation programs in Canada and Israel (in progress). Retrieved August 23, 2004, from http://tirfonline.org/AboutTIRF/pages/2003SRG.html#Dr.Ofra

Kamhi-Stein, L. D. (2000a). Looking to the future of TESOL teacher education: Integrating Web-based bulletin board discussions into the methods course.TESOL Quarterly, 34(4), 423-456.

Kamhi-Stein, L. D. (2000b). Adapting US-based TESOL teacher education to meet the needs of nonnative English speakers. TESOL Journal, 9(3), 10-14.

Kamhi-Stein, L. D. (Ed.). (2004). Learning and teaching from experience: Perspectives on Nonnative English-speaking professionals. Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan Press.

Kamhi-Stein, L. D., Aagard, A., Ching, A., Paik, A., & Sasser, L. (2004). Teaching in K-12 programs: Perceptions of native and NNEST practitioners. In L. D. Kamhi-Stein (Ed.), Learning and teaching from experience: Perspectives on Nonnative English-speaking professionals (pp. 81-99). Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan Press.

Kamhi-Stein, L. D., & Mahboob, A. (2003). The relationship between teachers' English proficiency and curriculum delivery in EFL settings and settings where English is an institutionalized language (in progress). Retrieved August 23, 2004, from http://tirfonline.org/AboutTIRF/pages/2003SRG.html#Dr.Lia

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

Lasagabaster, D., & Sierra, J. M. (2002). University students' perceptions of native and non-native speaker teachers of English. Language awareness, 11(2), 132-142.

Lee, E., & Lew, L. (2001). Diary studies: The voices of nonnative English speakers in a master of arts program in teaching English to speakers of other languages. CATESOL Journal, 13(1), 135-149.

Lee, I. (2004). Preparing nonnative English speakers for EFL teaching in Hong Kong. In L. D. Kamhi-Stein (Ed.), Learning and teaching from experience: Perspectives on nonnative English-speaking professionals (pp. 230-250). Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.

Liang, K. Y. (2002). English as a second language (ESL) students' attitudes toward non-native English-speaking teacher' (NNESTs') accentedness. Unpublished master's thesis. California State University, Los Angeles.

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: Erlbaum.

Liu, J. (1999). Nonnative-English-speaking-educators. TESOL Quarterly, 33(1), 85-102.

Liu, J. (2004). Confessions of a Nonnative English-speaking professional. In L. D. Kamhi-Stein (Ed.), Learning and teaching from experience: Perspectives on Nonnative English-speaking professionals (pp. 25-39). Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan Press.

Mahboob, A.(2004). Native or nonnative: What do students enrolled in an intensive English program think? In L. D. Kamhi-Stein (Ed.), Learning and teaching from experience: Perspectives on nonnative English-speaking professionals. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.

Mahboob, A., Uhrig, K., Newman, K., & Hartford, B. (2004). Children of a lesser English: Status of nonnative English speakers as college-level ESL teachers in the United States. In L. D. Kamhi-Stein (Ed.), Learning and teaching from experience: Perspectives on nonnative English-speaking professionals (pp. 100-120). Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.

Matsuda, A., & Matsuda, P. K. (2004). Autonomy and collaboration in teacher education: Journal sharing among native and nonnative English-speaking teachers. In L. D. Kamhi-Stein (Ed.), Learning and teaching from experience: Perspectives on Nonnative English-speaking professionals (pp. 176-189). Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan Press.

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

Medgyes, P. (1983). The schizophrenic teacher. ELT Journal, 37(1), 2-6.

Medgyes, P. (1994). The non-native teacher. London: Macmillan.

Morita, N. (2000). Discourse socialization through oral classroom activities in a TESL graduate program. TESOL Quarterly, 34(2), 279-310.

Moussu, L. (2002). Nonnative English speaking teachers: The opinion of their students. Unpublished master's thesis. Brigham Young University at Provo, UT.

Pasternak, M., & Bailey, K. (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: The University of Michigan Press.

Pessoa, S., & Sacchi, F. (2002, September). The impact of being a nonnative-English-speaking teacher in the ESL classroom: A pilot study. NNEST Newsletter: The newsletter of the nonnative English speakers in TESOL caucus, 4(2), 10-11.

Reves, T., & Medgyes, P. (1994). The non-native English speaking ESL/EFL teacher's self-image: An international survey. System, 22(3), 353-367.

Saito, T. (forthcoming). Exploring nonnative-English-speaking teachers' experiences in teaching English at a U.S. university. Unpublished doctoral dissertation (in progress), University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ.

Samimy, K. K. (1999). Seminar for nonnative speaker professionals. Retrieved July 9, 2003, fromhttp://nnest.moussu.net/articles/samimy.html

Seidlhofer, B. (1999). Double standards: Teacher education in the expanding circle. World Englishes, 18(2), 233-245.

Tang, C. (1997). On the power and status of nonnative ESL teachers. TESOL Quarterly, 31(3), 577-580.

Thomas, J. (1999). Voices from the periphery: Non-native teachers and issues of credibility. In G. Braine (Ed.), Non-native educators in English language teaching (pp. 5-14). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Velasco-Martin, C. (2004). The nonnative English-speaking teacher as an intercultural speaker. In L. D. Kamhi-Stein (Ed.), Learning and teaching from experience: Perspectives on nonnative English-speaking professionals (pp. 277-293). Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.

  1. This article does not intend to present a comprehensive review of the literature focusing on NNES educators. Instead, it is designed to highlight the work completed within each of the areas of interest identified in this article.
  2. The fact that initial work on NNES educators tended to look at them as having absolute characteristics was to be expected, given the dearth of information available on NNES educators. Once general information became available, researchers began to distinguish NNES educators from one another.

When and How to Resolve Language Issues of Nonnative-English-Speaking Teachers-in-Preparation in TESOL Programs

By Soonhyang Kim, The Ohio State University, e-mail kim.1259@osu.edu.

For nonnative-English-speaking teachers to be good models for second language learners, how much language proficiency should we have? How proficient is good enough? How can we improve our language proficiency to be more confident English teachers?

These questions reflect widely spread concerns regarding required English language proficiency among nonnative-English-speaking teachers-in-preparation (hereafter NNES teachers-in-preparation) in TESOL programs in English-speaking countries (see, e.g., Liu, 1999). Questions like the above were often raised by the NNES TESOL graduate students, including myself, in the two courses I took about NNES professional issues at The Ohio State University. To some extent, most NNES students felt empowered and saw their potential contributions as NNES teachers validated by class readings and discussions on nonnative-English-speaking teachers (NNEST)-related issues (Kim, Kasai, & Lee, 2004). However, there was a perpetually unanswered question: How proficient is good enough to be a qualified English teacher?

Despite concerns among NNES teachers-in-preparation, most teacher training programs do not accommodate their needs as language learners, focusing heavily on pedagogical training. Without open discussion of language issues during the teacher preparation period, NNESTs are not likely to ever have the opportunity to openly deal with these issues. In this article, I underscore the importance of explicit discussion of NNES teachers-in-preparation language proficiency in the English language teaching (ELT) field, and I propose a two-way approach to resolving the issue in TESOL programs to improve second language (L2) proficiency and to increase the confidence of NNES teachers-in-preparation.

Rationales for Addressing Trainee Language Issues for NNES Teachers-in-Preparation

There has been some discussion on the strengths and contributions of NNESTs to the ELT field. However, little discussion has occurred regarding the language proficiency of NNES teachers-in-preparation. Issues of language proficiency should be openly discussed in ELT for several reasons.

First, there is no doubt that one of the essential, and possibly most important, characteristics of language teachers is having a high level of language proficiency. Language teachers need to be equipped with sufficient English proficiency to be good models of language learning for their students. Accordingly, an excellent command of English is one of the most important characteristics of qualified English teachers in many hiring practices(Liu, 1999; Medgyes, 1999).

Second, many NNES teachers-in-preparation and NNES professionals report suffering from an unnecessary level of emotional stress caused by language issues, which is detrimental to their confidence as teachers (Horwitz, 1996). Although many NNES teachers-in-preparation have a good command of internalized L2 knowledge (linguistic competence), they may have difficulty using this knowledge in different contexts (language proficiency). This is due to many interacting factors affecting their performance (Liu, 1999). Without explicit discussion of language proficiency issues during teacher training and efforts to resolve the issues, NNESTs may never have the opportunity to openly deal with these issues.

For example, I interviewed international faculty and teaching assistants (TAs), to gather baseline data to write a teaching handbook chapter for international faculty and TAs (Kim, 2002; see chapter 5: "Second Language Anxiety and Coping Strategies"). During those interviews, several NNES professionals expressed their language-related issues. Once they obtain an academic position, they hesitate to share their language-related concerns in public because of institutional expectations. The point is that these language-related concerns should be acknowledged, considered, and overcome during the preparation period.

Consequently, without an explicit discussion on language issues, NNEST issues will always remain unresolved and incomplete. It is clear that language proficiency is a significant characteristic of language teachers and a seemingly big concern among them. Without resolving the issue, NNES teachers-in-preparation are not likely to feel empowered as English teachers. As Widdowson (1994) argues, without more in-depth discussion and pedagogical suggestions in reference to NNESTs' language proficiency, the recent positive movement toward nonnative teachers remains just a "token gesture"(p. 389). This needs to be supported by "an enquiry into matters of pedagogicalprinciples which bring sociopolitical concerns and professional standards into alignment (p. 389)."

A Two-Way Approach to Resolving Language Issues in TESOL Programs for NNES Teachers-in-Preparation

I propose a two-way approach to resolving language issues in TESOL programs NNES for teachers-in-preparation. One is to incorporate language training components into TESOL programs to improve L2 proficiency of NNES teachers-in-preparation. Another is to provide open discussion opportunities to increase their L2 confidence.

L2 Proficiency Improvement

I argue that preservice teacher education programs in English-speaking countries need to expand their educational responsibility to NNES teachers-in-preparation beyond pedagogical training. Language training does not seem to be considered by institutions to be a major educational responsibility even though there is a growing number of NNES teachers-in-preparationin TESOL programs (Liu, 1999).

Language improvement componentscan be incorporated into a course "without diluting the quality of the program and without creating much work for the instructors involved" (Liu, 1999, p. 206). For example, Liu had students use their own language samples for their instructor and classmates to critique in a required phonetics/phonology course. Liu also urged his NNES students to collect data in research projects by interacting with other people and various types of media besides books to strengthen their language skills.

Such incorporation of language training elements into existing courses can be an effective way for TESOL programs to provide more language training even when they do not have enough room in the curriculum to create an independent language course. Furthermore, these curriculum incorporations can be an effective and efficient way for NNES teachers-in-preparation (who may have difficulty finding time to practice their language skills) to improve their language skills (Kim, 2002). Another important advantage is that these practices provide pedagogical and language training at the same time. Taking responsibility for their own language improvement within the curriculum helps NNES teachers-in-preparation become more aware of their own language learning process and the language learning process in general, helping them become better teachers.

Another way to incorporate language training components into preservice teacher education programs is to offer an advanced English class tailored specially for NNES teachers-in-preparation, focusing on both pedagogical and language training (K. Samimy, personal communication, March, 2003). This would be another opportunity for NNES teachers-in-preparation to gain confidence in their English skills. There are only a few courses customized for highly advanced English speakers like NNES teachers-in-preparation, outside of courses for international teaching assistants (ITAs). As advocated by Liu (1999), "although international teaching assistants clearly merit our attention, NNES TESOL students deserve equal, if not greater, concern because they are our would-be colleagues whose work will, in turn, affect hundreds of thousands of ESOL students around the world" (p. 198). Such courses may be offered as an independent course through TESOL programs or in collaboration with ESL programs. For example, an advanced English class offered in Fall 2003 at the Spoken English Program, the language and pedagogy training unit for ITAs at the Ohio State University, is a model that could be adapted by TESOL programs (S. Sarwark, personal communication, February 24, 2004).

L2 Confidence Building

In addition to language training, TESOL programs need to provide a place for NNES teachers-in-preparation to openly discuss NNEST-related issues, especially language issues, to gain self-confidence and to improve their self-image as teachers. Their valuable contributions should not be underestimated because local NNESTs are in the best position to understand their local students and assess the effectiveness of pedagogical approaches and materials for their local context (McKay, 2002). Low confidence in English language proficiencycould negatively affect the teaching ability of NNESTs who are otherwise highly qualified to teach (Kim, 2002).

Open discussion could make NNES teachers-in-preparation aware that their perceived "linguistic handicap" might be their "most valuable asset" (Medgyes, 1999, p.178) and not view their "mother tongue as a problem" but "as a resource" (Kamhi-Stein, 1999, p. 147). Most important, such open discussion may raise their "collective awareness" (Samimy, 2000, p. 5) of their linguistic, pedagogical, and political issues related to NNESTs.

NNESTs are likely to suffer from lack of confidence in their language proficiency, regardless of its level. They can gain confidence as teachers by recognizing that language is not the only factor affecting their qualification as teachers(Kim, 2002). As Widdowson (1994) argues, "real proficiency is when you are able to take possession of the language, turn it to your advantage, and make it real for you" (p. 384). They should take ownership of English and should not be trapped in an inferiority complex(see Braine, 1999).

Open discussions can be provided in the classroom and beyond their programs through conferences or by professional organizations such as the TESOL NNEST Caucus and its electronic list. Possible models for such courses include Samimy's two independent courses on nonnative speaker issues mentioned above and the cross-curricular approach proposed by Kamhi-Stein (1999). These and other alternatives should be vigorously explored.

In short, taking into consideration the increasing number of language learners and NNESTs around the world, NNES teachers-in-preparation concerns about their own language proficiency, the possible negative impact that low confidence could have upon their teaching, and the expectation of a high level of English proficiency in hiring practices, language issues for NNES teachers-in-preparation should be explicitly addressed in TESOL programs in English-speaking countries. This would improve NNEST's L2 confidence as they work on their L2 proficiency and would empower them to be confident and well-qualified English teachers.


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

Horwitz, E. (1996). Even teachers get the blues: Recognizing and alleviating language teachers' feelings of foreign language anxiety. Foreign Language Annuals, 29, 365-372.

Kamhi-Stein, L. (1999). Preparing non-native professionals in TESOL. In G. Braine (Ed.), Non-native educators in English language teaching (pp. 145-158). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Kim. S. (2002). Second language anxiety and coping strategies. In S. Kim (Ed.),

Teaching in the U.S.: Handbook for international faculty and TAs, Faculty and TA development, The Ohio State University. Retrieved February 25, 2004, fromhttp://www.osu.edu/education/ftad/Publications/InternationalHandbook/TitlePage.html

Kim, S., Kasai, M., & Lee, J. (2004). Addressing NNST confidence in TESOL programs.

Poster session presented at The 39th Annual TESOL Convention, Long Beach, CA.

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.

McKay, S. L. (2002). Teaching English as an international language. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Medgyes, P. (1999). Language training: A neglected area in teacher education. In G. Braine (Ed.). Non-native educators in English language teaching (pp. 177-195). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Samimy, K. (2000, March). A seminar on nonnative speaker professionals: An exploration. NNEST Newsletter, pp. 1, 5-7.

Widdowson, H. G. (1994). The ownership of English. TESOL Quarterly, 28(2), 377-389.

  1. "A Seminar on Nonnative Speaker Professionals," in spring 2002 (see Samimy, 2000) and "Teaching English as a Foreign Language," in spring 2003.

Course Evaluations--To Read or Not Read: Is That the Question?

By Fu-An Lin, University of Texas at Austin, e-mail flin@mail.utexas.edu.

"I think since ESL classes is for students which English is their second language, it is so necessary to have an professional instructor who can pronounce English words and verbs well. Since she had problem in speaking English fluently."

The quote above is taken verbatim from a student evaluation of the advanced ESL class I taught at a community college in spring 2004. Although I still appreciate her spending time giving me feedback, typing up her exact words just now has been a painful reminder of the diffidence and self-doubt that I experienced strongly on the day I received the results of my course evaluation.

Compared with this particular student, the others in the class gave feedback that seems easier to digest and was more helpful. They did not question my professionalism or my nonnativeness but focused on my teaching and pointed out the problems with my attempt to introduce as many concepts as possible every time we met on Saturday, the fast pace of class, and other issues of course structure. It would be, and actually has been, rather futile for me to speculate on what has contributed to the differences in student comments within this class or across the ESL classes that I have taught as a NNEST in Texas. However, the strong and negative evaluation from one single student has definitely triggered some reflection on the reality of NNES professionals.

The discussions on world Englishes (Kachru, 1988) and English as an international language (McKay, 2002) along with the voices of NNESTs (e.g., Braine, 1999) have made many NNESTs recognize the validity of the English varieties used by their colleagues. Learners, however, have been slower to recognize this validity, as evidenced in many of the stories told by fellow NNESTs. And for NNESTs, it might take only one harsh student to alter self-perception, if not to turn the world upside down, even just temporarily.

The idea of foreign language anxiety (Horwitz, 1996) had not really applied to me as a language learner or teacher before. Like Matsuda (2003), I was proud to be a nonnative English speaker and was confident in my linguistic skills. I am still proud and quite confident, but my pride and confidence have been dampened by the words of one student and the thought of teaching English, for a while at least, invoked insecurity and anxiety.

Some of my NES colleagues have told me that they, too, would receive negative comments that did not match those of other students or their own experience, and they would discard such cases. Others even have suggested disregarding the results of evaluations entirely because they feel such evaluations offer inadequate help for improving their teaching. Their words did make me feel better about my student's comment. Nevertheless, I soon reverted to a state of self-doubt because I thought the idea of treating student negativity as marginal might not apply in the same way to me, a NNEST.

So, to avoid future instances of unproductive self-doubt or self-deprecation, should I simply ignore the results of course evaluations? In spite of scholars' criticism of the validity of students' evaluations (e.g., Marsh & Roche, 1997; McKeachie, 1997), such complete avoidance would not be productive, either. After all, even though criticism is hard to deal with, once one overcomes the immediate mental obstacles or feelings of insecurity, there just might be messages underlying the criticism that prove to be valuable and constructive.

Although I am still trying to figure out the good and constructive in my student's comment, I have come to realize that the ultimate goal of teaching is student development and that it is important for teachers to have realistic self-knowledge. Thus, the question concerning students' evaluations is not one of reading or not reading, but rather about whether to adopt avoidance as a strategy to maintain self-confidence. But as NNESTs, we ought to rationally evaluate and believe in our professionalism, qualifications, and abilities. So when we read course evaluations, we need to treat discrepancies as mere discrepancies, take whatever we see as potentially helpful for us to better serve our students, and not let negative student comments weaken our decision to be language teachers.


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

Horwitz, E. (1996). Even teachers get the blues: Recognizing and alleviating language teachers' feelings of foreign language anxiety. Foreign Language Annals, 29, 365-372.

Kachru, B. (1988). Teaching world Englishes. ERIC/CLL New Bulletin, 12 (1), 1-8.

Matsuda, P. K. (2003, September/October/November). Proud to be a nonnative English speaker. TESOL Matters, p. 15.

Marsh, H. W., & Roche, L. A. (1997). Making students' evaluation of teaching effectiveness effective: Critical issue of validity, bias, and utility. American Psychologist, 52, 1187-1197.

McKay, S. (2002). Teaching English as an international language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

McKeachie, W. J. (1997). Student ratings: The validity of use. American Psychologist, 52 (11), 1218-1225.

And We're Not Even Sure How to Pronounce Our Own Label!

By Brock Brady, American University, e-mail bbrady@american.edu.

A recent inquiry to the NNEST Caucus from a TESOL Central Office staff member raised the question of how NNEST should be pronounced (and we all know that you can only say "non-native-English-speaking-teacher" so many times in a conversation before your jaw gets tired!).

Two pronunciations that seem to come up frequently are /nə/- NEST and /Ɛn/-NEST. A flurry of e-mail exchanges between long-time caucus members seems to suggest that within TESOL itself, there has been something of a traditional preference for /Ɛn/-NEST, with Jun Liu being suggested as a possible source.

This brings up grammatical concerns because if you choose the /Ɛn/-NEST variant, you need to preface it with an; whereas /nə/-NEST would be prefaced by a (thank goodness we don't have to worry about it being count or noncount!).

What do you, the members of the caucus, think? Should it be /Ɛn/-NEST, or /nə/- NEST, and should the NNEST Caucus establish a formally recommended pronunciation or should we acknowledge diversity, accept both versions, and see which alternative takes hold naturally and spontaneously over time (now we get to see if you're a prescriptivist or a descriptivist)?

Cast your vote. Go to the electronic list, at mailto:nnest-l@lists.tesol.org (visit http://www.tesol.org/getconnected if not already subscribed), and tell us all which options you prefer and why, and the e-list coordinators will tally the results and let you know the outcomes.

Technical note: The symbols represented in this article may not display equally in all browsers or e-mail programs. Graphical representations of the two pronunciations follow below.

NNEST pronunciations.




WATESOL Supports the Creation of NNEST Caucus

By Brock Brady, American University, e-mail bbrady@american.edu.

The Washington Area TESOL affiliate (WATESOL) membership has overwhelmingly agreed to the creation of a Nonnative English Speaking Teacher (NNEST) Caucus within the affiliate. Of those affiliate members who responded to the survey (online and by mail), more than 96% supported the creation of an NNEST Caucus in WATESOL. Membership in the caucus will be voluntary and free of charge. Native-English-speaking teachers (NESTs) will be warmly welcomed in the caucus. Some goals of the caucus will be to:

  • acknowledge and support our NNEST members
  • increase awareness of common NNEST needs and strengths
  • build collaboration between NNESTs and NESTs
  • heighten awareness so as to respond to prejudice and bias against NNESTs
  • support research on NNEST issues

Brock Brady and Gloria Park presented a session to introduce the audience to NNEST issues and to set up the organization of the caucus at the WATESOL Fall Convention, on Saturday, October 9, 2004.

If you are interested in the e-mail discussions that occurred with those who had doubts about the creation of the caucus, seehttp://www.american.edu/tesol/NNESTDebate.pdf.

If you would like to read comments that survey respondents volunteered (which are primarily in support of the NNEST Caucus), go tohttp://www.american.edu/tesol/NNESTsMemberComments.pdf.


About This Member Community Nonnative English Speakers in TESOL Caucus (NNEST)

The Nonnative English Speakers in TESOL Caucus was established in October 1998 to strengthen effective teaching and learning of English around the world while respecting individuals' language rights.

NNEST Leaders, 2004-2005

E-mail nnest@tesol.org

Chair: Ahmar Mahboob
Chair-Elect: Khalid Al-Seghayer
Newsletter Editor: Silvia Andrea Pessoa
Newsletter Coeditor: Fabiana Sacchi

Web site: http://nnest.moussu.net/

Member discussion list: Visit http://www.tesol.org/getconnected/ to join NNEST-L, the open discussion list for NNEST members, or visithttp://lists.tesol.org/read/?forum=nnest-l if you are already an e-list subscriber.