NNEST Newsletter

NNEST News, Volume 7:1 (May 2005)

by User Not Found | 10/27/2011
In This Issue...
Leadership Updates Editors' Remarks

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

We are pleased to present this issue of the NNEST Caucus Newsletter. It was nice meeting most of the contributing authors of this newsletter and other Caucus members at TESOL 2005 in San Antonio, Texas. As stated by Ahmar Mahboob in the "Letter From the Chair," this year's TESOL conference featured some outstanding presentations on NNEST issues that we hope to share with all Caucus members through the newsletter. If you presented at TESOL, we encourage you to turn your presentation into a short article for the newsletter to make your voice heard among those who missed your presentation or could not attend TESOL.

In his letter, Ahmar Mahboob also addresses two major issues of concern. First, Mahboob discusses the need for and importance of addressing international students' needs in universities in English-speaking countries. Second, Mahboob addresses the growing age discrimination in our field as countries and scholarships have age limitations for candidates. These are important issues that need to be further addressed in our field, and the TESOL conference, the Caucus e-list, and the Caucus annual meeting at TESOL are excellent venues to share your ideas and concerns about them.

In the first article of the newsletter, "Enhancing the Pragmatic Competence of NNEST Candidates," Zohreh Eslami-Rasekh proposes using a learner-as-researcher approach to enhance the pragmatic competence of NNES teacher trainees. Eslami-Rasekh describes a class project in which NNES and NES preservice teachers collected authentic samples of speech acts, analyzed the data using the frameworks proposed by the literature on pragmatics, presented the information to the class, and developed a teaching unit for the selected speech acts.

In his article "Go! TESOL Goes International!" Jun Liu, one of the cofounders of our Caucus and TESOL president-elect, shares with us his vision for TESOL and his plans to make the organization more international. The three major areas that Liu discusses are (a) reaching ESL and EFL teachers around the world to ensure that TESOL is truly a global community, (b) improving member satisfaction, and (c) encouraging TESOL-related research to help improve classroom practices.

In "Misbelief: Native English Speakers as Good Teachers in Taiwan," Wen-Chi Jamie Lu narrates a personal account of her experience working at an institution in Taiwan that gave preference to often-unqualified native English-speaking teachers. Lu's story reaffirms the importance of training in becoming a qualified English teacher.

We would like to thank all the authors for their insightful contributions and we hope that their pieces inspire other Caucus members to submit an article or related news for the next issue. The deadline for submission is August 10, 2005. Make your voices heard in the NNEST Caucus Newsletter! We would also like to thank Ahmar Mahboob for his outstanding service as chair and for his unconditional commitment to and support for all Caucus activities, including the newsletter. We are sure Lucie Moussu and Karen Newman will follow the example that Ahmar and other former Caucus leaders have set.


Letter From the Chair

On double standards in graduate programs and ageism in scholarship/hiring policies
By Ahmar Mahboob, University of Sydney, e-mail: mahbooba@mail.ecu.edu

Dear fellow NNEST Caucus members:

It was wonderful to see so many of you at the energetic TESOL Convention in San Antonio some weeks ago. The Caucus was extremely visible this year with over 70 relevant sessions, including four Spotlight sessions. Among other excellent sessions/presentations, Ryuko Kubota's outstanding colloquium on Race and (Non)Nativeness in English Language Teaching received this year's East Carolina University - TESOL Award for the Best NNEST Paper/Colloquium. Congratulations Ryuko Kubota, Hyunjung Shin, Suresh Canagarajah, Lía Kamhi-Stein, Ena Lee, and Khadar Bashir-Ali! You deserve it. 

In addition to a productive conference, this was a very successful year for the Caucus for two other reasons: Jun Liu was elected president-elect of TESOL and Suresh Canagarajah was appointed the first NNES editor of TESOL Quarterly. Congratulations Jun and Suresh! I personally believe that with these changes in TESOL, the organization will embark on a journey to truly become international in its scope and reach.

Moving on from conference matters, there are two issues that I would like to briefly discuss here. Both these issues need greater attention and I'm sure that our newsletter editors will love to hear your voice on them.

The first issue that I would like to raise here is my concern with double standards in higher education. Some of you might be familiar with an e-mail that I sent out earlier this year on the NNEST listserv which described the ethical and academic conflicts that many North America, Britain, and Australia (NABA) -based universities need to consider. A growing number of international students (mostly nonnative English speakers) are being admitted to M.A. and Ph.D. programs in language education or applied linguistics/TESOL but are not being catered to. According to my observations and the responses that I received from around the world, it appears that international students are often seen as cash cows. Though they bring in the money, they are considered peripheral in terms of the focus/scope of the program. They are also not always expected to perform at the same level as do local students and there is a sense that their quality of work is of less concern (to the program) because they will return to their countries after graduating. I find these double standards unethical and troubling. Instead of identifying and catering to the specific needs of these international (nonnative) students, many programs find it convenient to stick to the old curriculum and practices. It is sad to see that though it is the money that international students bring in that keeps many such programs sustainable, the needs of these students are trivialized. In TESOL and applied linguistics, these needs include (among other things) modeling of various teaching methods rather than only discussing them from a theoretical perspective; providing strategies and techniques used to adapt the theories discussed in diverse (and sometimes challenging) settings; and, at times, helping nonnative English-speaking graduate students develop their (academic) language proficiency. I believe that the Caucus and its members need to take active steps to redress these concerns. Teacher educators need to critically reflect on how they monitor and meet the needs of their international students, and students need to become more vocal about what they expect from their programs. This year a couple of presentations at the TESOL convention highlighted some of these issues and outlined ways in which some of our colleagues are dealing with them (e.g., Lía Kamhi-Stein's and Zohreh Eslami-Rasekh's colloquia), but we do need more work on this. I welcome our members to carry out research and take initiatives and share their concerns/solutions.

The second issue that I would like to raise here is something that I have been aware of for many years but that came into focus during one of the between-session conversations at the TESOL convention this year. A colleague working in an EFL context (who prefers to remain anonymous) told me a story of a bright energetic person who wanted to do her Ph.D. in applied linguistics. Although she qualified on all academic counts for a scholarship (and had relevant professional experience), she was told that her country does not grant scholarships to anyone over 35. Because she did not have personal resources and was counting on the government scholarship to support her Ph.D., her dreams were shattered. In another case (in a different country), a person was sent to the United States to do a Ph.D. with an understanding that he will join the faculty of a national university on his successful return. Well, just as he was finishing, the government passed a law refusing people over 35 new government jobs. So, this individual, although earlier promised one, was left without a job. As I heard these stories, I was deeply moved. Although this does not directly relate to the Caucus, it is a concern that many of us who come from developing countries share. There is a growing ageism in our field as manifested in these countries' policies. The question is what, if anything, we can do regarding this. Whereas it is understandable that governments want to invest in people who are young and will contribute to the profession for a certain amount of time, how wise is it not to let older (promising) individuals compete for scholarships? Are people who are 30-plus not able to contribute to the profession? On the other hand, people who are in their early 20s and who are sent out to do a Ph.D. often do not have sufficient (if any) professional experience. Does this lack of professional experience impact the quality of their research work? How? And how can we as applied linguists/TESOL professionals raise awareness on this critical issue? Again, I welcome our members to share their views/ideas regarding this.

As I end this letter, I would like to thank all of you for giving me an opportunity to lead the Caucus for the past couple of years. These years have been an exciting time in my life and I have found my work with the Caucus really rewarding (both personally and professionally). As I move into the background, I am very happy to pass on the leadership to some very competent colleagues: Lucie Moussu will be the chair of the Caucus this year and Karen Newman will work with her as the chair-elect. I am confident that that the energy that they will put into the Caucus will make us all proud(er) to be part of this wonderful community.

 



Articles and Information Enhancing the Pragmatic Competence of NNEST Candidates

By Zohreh Eslami-Rasekh, Texas A&M University, e-mail: zeslami@tamu.edu

One area where international TESOL students' needs have been overlooked is their lack of the English proficiency required for success in their future teaching (Liu, 1999). Although most of these students possess a commendable knowledge of English, particularly of English grammar, they may not have the pragmatic knowledge needed for effective and appropriate communication. As Medgyes (1999) contends, for nonnative English speakers in TESOL (NNESTs) to be effective and self-confident professionals, first they have to have high proficiency in the language and language training in preservice education should be a matter of paramount importance. Murdoch (1994) contends that a "high level of English language proficiency" is "the most valued aspect of a non-native English teacher's competence" (p. 253). In a survey he conducted, trainees ranked language improvement as the most important component, higher than methodology and linguistics. Similarly, in my TESOL methodology courses, at the beginning of each semester, it is typical to hear comments from students on their perceived lack of English language proficiency and their hope to increase their ability to use English during their stay in the United States. Examples like the following are not atypical.

I am____. My English is very weak. I am ashamed to say that I have been an English language teacher in Japan for 8 years. I am here to continue my studies in ESL. My goal is to increase my knowledge and to improve my English.

Along the same lines, Berry (1990) reports on a questionnaire he conducted with two groups of secondary school English teachers in Poland, asking them to rank the components of methodology, theory (language learning and teaching theories), and language improvement according to what they thought they needed most. For both groups, language improvement was ranked as the most important. Lange (1990) rates language competence as the most essential characteristic of a good teacher. Likewise, Britten (1985a, 1985b) maintains that an excellent command of English is a major selection criteria and a good predictor of NNEST success-a make-or-break requirement.

Pragmatic competence is one of the vital components of language proficiency that needs to be considered in ESOL teacher education programs. Unfortunately, available teacher education sources on ESL methodology and assessment typically include chapters on how to teach and assess the four major language skills but lack a focus on the pragmatic aspects of language. Biesenback-Lucas (2003) maintains a lot of NNEST candidates feel insecure about their pragmatic competence. They also believe that TESOL teacher education programs do not train them in teaching pragmatic dimensions of the language.

Research into the pragmatic competence of adult foreign and second language learners has demonstrated convincingly that learners in general have limited pragmatic competence (Fukushima, 1990). In addition, research has further shown that grammatical development does not guarantee a corresponding level of pragmatic development (Bardovi-Harlig & Dörnyei, 1998). The findings strongly suggest a need to have a pragmatic focus in order to promote pragmatic competence development. Assuming that language improvement should be incorporated into existing courses and not treated as a separate course, in the following section I will present the strategies I have used to foster the pragmatic awareness and competence of NNEST candidates in my ESOL methodology course. The strategies used can both foster NNEST candidates' awareness of the pragmatic dimension of language use and increase their expertise in teaching pragmatic aspects of the language.

Several techniques can be used to raise the awareness of students in relation to speech acts. The two major techniques I have used are presentation and discussion of research findings on different aspects of pragmatics and a student-discovery procedure based on students obtaining information through research, observations, questionnaires, and/or interviews.

I used presentation/discussion techniques to have teacher candidates present information from research on pragmatic issues to the class. The information gained through discussion/presentation of research findings helps students develop some awareness on pragmatic features in their L1 and L2. Both native and nonnative teachers need to do a review of the literature to be able to present the findings. Although native English speakers in TESOL have native speaker intuition, they do not possess the conscious metapragmatic knowledge about the communicative acts in their language. Therefore, it is vital for both NES and NNES teacher trainees to familiarize themselves with research findings regarding language use.

The learner-as-researcher approach was used to encourage teacher trainees, both native and nonnative, to work collaboratively and collect authentic samples of speech acts of their choice; read research in pragmatics and language teaching/learning; analyze the data based on the proposed frameworks of different speech acts in the literature; present the findings to the class; and, at the end, develop a teaching unit for teaching the specific speech act investigated.

Using the learner-as-researcher approach, the students observed a particular speech act in natural conversations to find authentic samples of speech acts from their own environments. They acted as researchers and ethnographers and were able to find realistic information on how speech acts function in the particular environment where the students find themselves.

Some of the groups decided to do a cross-cultural investigation of the rules and patterns of language and social behavior in NNESTs' home countries as compared to the host country in which they are studying. Finally, they worked in groups to write, practice, and present their findings orally to the class.

Through the process of researching speech acts and doing cross-cultural comparisons, students were able to bring and share examples of cross-cultural miscommunications. Examples of potentially problematic interactions that evidence some sort of pragmatic peculiarity were shared and discussed with class members. These discussions will likely lead to intercultural awareness and understanding.

By integrating pragmatics into the ESL methodology course, native and nonnative teacher candidates became coresearchers, read the relevant literature on a particular speech act of their choice, observed and recorded native speaker data, and compared it with the L1 data of NNESTs. The learner-as-researcher approach in developing pragmatic competence is likely to cultivate autonomous learners adept at formulating and testing hypotheses about speech acts in English and other languages.

One of the student groups, for example, focused on apologizing, which allowed the whole class to observe the strategies and linguistic means by which this speech act is accomplished. For instance, the students examined what formulaic language is used and what additional means of expressing apologies are employed, such as explanation, offer of repair, and promise of forbearance (pragmalinguistics). Also, students analyzed the contexts in which various ways of expressing apologies are used. By focusing students' attention on relevant features of the input, students can make connections between linguistic forms, pragmatic functions, their occurrence in different social contexts, and their cultural meanings. NNESTs are thus guided to notice the information they need in order to develop their pragmatic competence in their L2 (Schmidt, 1993). The goal is to make students sensitive to the multifunctionality of utterances in language use and the importance of context in interpreting and using language. Students notice that, for example, bare apologies (e.g., I'm sorry) seem to be rather infrequent, realizing that based on the seriousness of the offense in the situation (e.g., being late for an important meeting for the second time), the intensity of the apology and the number of supportive moves may change. Thus, just the apology head act is not enough and explanations, accounts, offers of repair, and so on may be needed. Through data collection and data analysis, students become aware of appropriate ways of apologizing in a variety of contexts and of different supportive moves to use for mitigating and making the apology more sincere depending on the participants' relationship in terms of social dominance and distance. Students realize that any given utterance can have many functions and that context is essential for interpreting the speaker intent. For example, "I'm sorry" does not always function as an apology. It may show sympathy or be used to get somebody's attention, among other meanings. This is, perhaps, the core of speech act theory and, undoubtedly, a vital component of pragmatic competence that both native and nonnative speakers should be aware of. 

Another positive outcome of this approach was that students had to use the community outside the classroom as a resource for collecting data. The NNES students were given a good reason to establish contact with speakers of English. As many learners often stay within the community of learners like themselves and shy away from seeking contact with target language speakers, this approach is likely to facilitate the learners' process of joining the community outside the classroom.

Activities of this kind will equip students with analytic abilities that they can apply in future language learning and teaching. Activities used fostered collaboration between native and nonnative English-speaking students and promoted more opportunities for noticing language use.

For professional development of teacher trainees, I have encouraged the students to present their findings at conferences and academic gatherings. Students presented the results of their projects in a presentation entitled "Speech Acts and Potential for Miscommunication" during international awareness week at Texas A&M University. Several of the students also presented their projects during the 9th Annual Educational Research Exchange organized by Texas A&M University.

In closing, I would like to emphasize again the need to include a focus on language proficiency in our teacher education programs. Teacher education programs need to provide opportunities for future teachers to improve not only their linguistic competence but also their pragmatic competence. Also, these preteachers must be provided with opportunities to improve their skills in teaching structural as well as functional aspects of the language. Activities suggested in this paper are one step toward meeting this goal.

References

Bardovi-Harlig, K., & Dörnyei, Z. (1988). Do language learners recognize pragmatic violations? Pragmatic versus grammatical awareness in instructed L2 earning. TESOL Quarterly, 32(2), 233-262.
Berry, R. (1990). The role of language improvement in in-service teacher training programmes: Killing two birds with one stone. System, 18(1), 97-105.
Biesenback-Lucas (2003). Preparing students for the pragmatics of e-mail interaction in academia: A new/forgotten dimension in teacher education. TESOL Teacher Education Interest Section Newsletter, 18(2), 3-4. 
Britten, D. (1985a). Teacher Training in ELT: Part 2. Language Teaching 18: 112-128.
Britten, D. (1985b). Teacher Training in ELT: Part 2. Language Teaching 18: 220-38
Fukushima, S. (1990). Offers and requests: Performance by Japanese learners of English. World Englishes, 9, 317-325.
Lange, D. L. (1990). A blueprint for a teacher development program. In J. Richards and D. Nunan (eds.).
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.
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.
Murdoch, G. (1994). Language development provision in teacher training curricula. ELT Journal, 48(3), 253-265.
Nunan, D. (1989). Designing Tasks for the Communicative Classroom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Schmidt, R. (1993). Consciousness, learning and interlanguage pragmatics. In G. Kasper & S. Blum-Kulka (Eds.), Interlanguage pragmatics (pp. 21-42). New York: Oxford University Press.

Zohreh Eslami-Rasekh is an assistant professor of ESL teacher education at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. Dr. Eslami-Rasekh has more than 10 years of experience in ESL/EFL teacher education both in the USA and overseas. She has publications in the area of ESL teacher education, cross-cultural pragmatics, pragmatics and language teaching, and intercultural communication.


Go! TESOL Goes International!

By Jun Liu, The University of Arizona, e-mail: junliu@email.arizona.edu

It was 2:30 a.m. on January 12, 2005, in China when I received a call from the TESOL Central Office informing me of the TESOL election results. I was pleasantly surprised and not surprised when I learned that I was the incoming TESOL president-elect. I was surprised because I will become the first nonnative English speaker in TESOL to be TESOL president-elect in TESOL's recent history. I was not surprised to learn that our TESOL membership has faith in electing an NNEST to be their president, which marks an era in which NNESTs and NESTs alike have equal 
opportunities to lead the association as well as the profession.

I have to confess, though, that such an understanding does not come easily. It has taken TESOL a long time to elect an NNEST as their president. I am not bragging, but I am truly delighted that we have come together and our association has made a step further toward being international!

Feeling pressured and proud, I am sharing with you, my NNEST colleagues, my vision as your TESOL president-elect.

As the first nonnative English-speaking president-elect in TESOL's recent history, I will focus on three major areas pertinent to TESOL today as a profession as well as an association. First and foremost, I will continue to promote TESOL to reach ESL and EFL teachers in every corner of the world to ensure that our association is truly a global community. I will support efforts to implement new TESOL governance models to empower members to take leadership roles in the affiliates, interest sections, caucuses, committees, and beyond. TESOL's current demographics show that almost 80 percent of our members are U.S.-based. In order to make TESOL international, we have to be aggressive in expanding our international membership. One way to do this is to lower membership fees so that those in developing countries who are eager to join us can afford to be one of us without too much financial restriction. Now that we have an electronic TESOL membership structure, we should all participate in an international membership drive. Each affiliate outside the United States should consider it a priority to empower themselves and to enlarge their TESOL membership. TESOL certainly should welcome those efforts and provide a reward mechanism to make it happen. My vision of TESOL in 2007 is that we will have seen a steady increase of our international membership and can then plan to hold a future convention outside the United States.

A very important factor in our membership drive is what we can actually offer to them. I believe that TESOL is an association for all its members and therefore, I am keen on working with the board and the central office as a whole to enhance our responsiveness to the membership needs and improve member satisfaction. I will also support the development of financial resources to help expand member services and to assist with increasing TESOL's membership worldwide. To sustain TESOL or any association, financial stability and steady revenue generation are the two key elements. But we have not been very successful so far as we were not adventurous enough to embark on development outside the TESOL world. As what we do is to produce highly competent English speakers whose first language is not English, those companies and corporations that hire successful speakers of English as a second or foreign language should appreciate what we do and therefore be our potential donors. TESOL's involvement with for-profit companies and organizations, such as publishers, computer software companies, and private foundations, should be our target for revenues. I think TESOL should be open to these possibilities and generate revenues to benefit our member services and to make our members happy and feel proud of being TESOLers. Member satisfaction is also a testimony to what we can offer in terms of professional services, ongoing support, and mentoring mechanisms beyond conventions, symposia, journals, and publications. I want to listen to members' input and work on improving membership services with the board and the central office.

Third, I will focus on strengthening the academic and professional rigor of TESOL's conventions, symposia, and services as well as encourage all types of TESOL-related research that can be synthesized and disseminated to help improve classroom practices. Over the past few years, TESOL has tried to reach out to other professional organizations and associations to find commonalities and explore areas of mutual interest. The colloquium on TESOL and AAAL connections featured at the 2004 TESOL Convention is one example. I believe there are many more such connections out there that TESOL can learn and benefit from. Meanwhile, we have to understand our own strengths and weaknesses as a professional association. For instance, research is one of the six focal areas in TESOL's strategic plan, and yet the types of research and the purposes for doing research could be different from those in other associations. We want to look into the connection between what we find out from our studies and their implications in classroom practice. Because our association consists of a lot of classroom researchers and practitioners, we should feel proud that we care about the dissemination of our research findings into our classrooms, and we should feel challenged if our research has nothing to do with our classroom practice. We call ourselves applied linguists, and sometimes we call ourselves classroom-based teacher researchers. These labels will become meaningless if what we do does not have any bearing on our practice. As we know, TESOL's Task Force on Research has already put together a comprehensive research agenda to identify the areas of research we have done, the pertinent issues within each area of research, the available Web sites for research foci, and the list of journal publications within our areas. The next step is to determine and decide a trajectory research agenda in each area and between areas that need to be done in the next 5 to 10 years to further our understanding of the topics of interest. Part and parcel of this task is also to strengthen the links between theoretical underpinnings and practical considerations, and to position ourselves in the overall research areas among all related fields. Although individual researchers are engaging themselves in different kinds of research and are making contributions to their respective fields, having a comprehensive research agenda will put us in a position to create the future.

Being a TESOL president is not easy as it takes a tremendous amount of time and energy to do the job, and to do it well. I am fully aware of the workload ahead of me in the next few years. But I will find my job more rewarding if our members resonate my perspectives and contribute to the joint endeavor to realize our vision. As I was one of the founders of NNEST together with George Braine and Lia Kamhi-Stein in 1998, I have found my experiences working with and for NNEST extremely rewarding. I believe that NNEST is a group that truly has the international perspective and desire to see TESOL go global and international. As a Chinese working in the United States and as a Chinese-American working in China, I often encounter different understandings and expectations of TESOL from members and nonmembers. I think it is always good to be in the box and outside the box interchangeably to get the real perspectives. I am once again encouraged to embark on this journey to lead the association as an NNEST, and I want to thank you for your continued support and your trust in me. I truly look forward to working with you and other TESOL members in the years to realize our common dreams.

Let TESOL be truly international!

Jun Liu is associate professor in the English Department at University of Arizona. He is cofounder and past chair of NNEST. After having served on the TESOL Board of Directors for three years (2001-2004), he is now TESOL president-elect (2005-2006).


Misbelief: Native English Speakers as Good Teachers in Taiwan

By Wen-Chi Jamie Lu, California State University, Los Angeles, e-mail: Smilejamie103@yahoo.com.tw

Taiwan is a small island that can be hard to find on a world map. It is, however, a paradise for foreigners who want to take a rest on their journey through Taiwan and make money as English teachers. As English is now considered an international language, many Taiwanese parents send their children to learn English at the earliest possible age. The government promotes learning English starting from elementary school, and thus there is a huge demand for English teachers, or "qualified" English teachers. There is, however, the misbelief that foreigners, or native speakers of English, are always better English teachers.

From 2000 to 2002, I taught at various "Bu-Xi-Bans," or private English institutions. In my workplace, there were usually 10 nonnative English-speaking teachers whose first language was Mandarin and three native English speakers with no training in teaching. To teach at these institutions, the Taiwanese teachers had to major in English at the university, while my native English-speaking colleagues were from a variety of majors such as history, economics, or computer science. Some of them were even college students on summer vacation at the time. Though the native English speakers taught their own classes, the Taiwanese teachers were required to attend the classes taught by the native English speakers and some nonnative English-speaking teachers worked as the native English speakers' teaching assistants (TAs). Sadly, when we worked as TAs, our salary was only a quarter of what the native English speakers received. In addition, when nonnative English-speaking teachers actually taught their own classes, their salary was half of what the native English speakers received. Moreover, nonnative English-speaking teachers were responsible for communicating with parents, and their teaching practices were constantly evaluated.

My concern is not only about the unfair salary but also about the value of and the importance given to untrained native English speakers. As mentioned above, there is a big demand for English teachers in Taiwan and most of the time, parents choose a private institution based on whether it has native English speakers or not. One of the reasons parents prefer native English speakers is their "perfect" pronunciation. It is true that native English speakers may know how to correctly pronounce words, but they do not necessarily know how to teach pronunciation. For example, once when one of my students mispronounced swimming as sinming, my U.S colleague repeated the right pronunciation again and again in front of the whole class. I saw all of my students getting confused and the one who mispronounced the word blushed in embarrassment. Because my native speaker colleague was the teacher for the class, I could not step in and explain how hard it is for Mandarin speakers to appropriately pronounce two consonants together. Afterward, when I checked the students' pronunciation in my own class, I realized my students were combining the sound /s/ and /w/ into /symbol for news/ (like she) and were mispronouncing swimming as shiming. I then realized they were trying to imitate the sound modeled by the native English speaker teacher. It was clear that my students needed the practice, but they could have done better if the teacher had, for example, described the sound and how to articulate it, instead of just repeating it. Therefore, in my own class, I explained the two sounds by using the symbols of Chinese pronunciation, drew the shapes of the mouth on the board, and helped the students to break down the syllables of the word as s-wim-ming. This helped my students to learn how to articulate their mouths and to pronounce the word swimming appropriately.

The belief of many Taiwanese parents is that their children can learn English naturally and speak like native speakers of English when taught by native English speakers. This may be accomplished in some cases, but as my example above shows, learning from untrained teachers may also have a negative impact on students' learning experiences. As explained in much of the NNEST literature (e.g., Kamhi-Stein, 2004), being a native speaker is not synonymous to being a good teacher.  Teaching a language does not only require teaching the language itself; it requires the integration of many fields of knowledge. A language educator needs to be informed about second language acquisition theories in order to implement appropriate teaching methodologies and assessment for learners. Because teaching a language is a profession that demands linguistic, psychological, and sociocultural knowledge, training is essential. Teaching a language is not about perfect pronunciation. It is a profession that demands much training for both native and nonnative speakers of English teachers.

Reference
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.

Wen-Chi Jamie Lu is a MATESOL candidate at California State University, Los Angeles. Currently, she is studying for her comprehension exam and constructing her personal Web site at www.englishhelpers.com/jamie.



Announcements Book Announcements

Braine, G. (Ed.) (June 2005). Teaching English to the World: History, Curriculum, and Practice. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.  

Kamhi-Stein, L. (Ed.) (2004). Learning and Teaching from Experience: Perspectives on Nonnative English-Speaking Professionals. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.

Llurda, E. (Ed.) (2005). Non-Native Language Teachers. Perceptions, Challenges and Contributions to the Profession. New York, NY: Springer.



About This Community About the 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, 2005-2006

E-mail nnest@tesol.org

Chair: Lucie Moussu 
Chair-Elect: Karen Newman
Newsletter Editors: Silvia Pessoa and 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.