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TESOL Connections (August 2010)

by User Not Found | 11/08/2011


  • To Be Proud, or Not to Be Proud: That Is the Question, by Pisarn Bee Chamcharatsri

  • A free chapter from TESOL's new book Integrating Language and Content :

    Big Ideas in Little Pieces: Science Activities for Multilevel Classes

    Association News

  • Just Off Press: Integrating Language and Content
  • Serial Publications Committee Seeks Members: Interested in working with serial publications? TESOL wants you!


  • TRC Featured Resource: Using Music to Teach Language: Need to get comfortable using music in your classroom? Look here!
  • Report: Status and trends in the education of racial and ethnic groups
  • EL/Civics lesson plans from the Northeast ABLE Resource Center
  • Policy Brief: Building capacity to promote college and career readiness for secondary-level ELLs

  • Teaching Tips: Summer school for English language learners
  • Report: DREAM vs. Reality: An analysis of potential DREAM Act beneficiaries

    TESOL Connections Archives (members only)

  • Features

    To Be Proud, or Not to Be Proud:

    That Is the Question download to PDF

    by Pisarn Bee Chamcharatsri

    Indiana University of Pennsylvania

    I left Thailand a while ago and have been pursuing my doctorate in composition and TESOL in the United States since 2006. During this time I have been exposed to a wide range of readings about the native-nonnative dichotomy. This dichotomy was somewhat new for me because I had never heard about it prior coming to the United States. During the first semester of my coursework, I was introduced to world Englishes, native-nonnative dichotomy, critical thinking, and cultural and language learning issues. I also had informal discussions both in and outside classes regarding my colleagues’ personal preferences in learning English from native- and nonnative-English-speaking teachers. Though conversations around the dichotomy often turned into animated debates, we still relied on our personal preferences because many of us were relatively new to TESOL scholarship. Interestingly, I have noticed that though the native-nonnative dichotomy issue has been extensively discussed in inner-circle scholarship, it has been underplayed in the outer and extended circles because of political, economical, societal, and historical aspects. For example, the issue of native-nonnative dichotomy is not much discussed in the teaching circles in Thailand. Often native-Thai-speaking English teachers still believe that native-English-speaking speakers are better English teachers.

    Before I share my personal experience relating to the native-nonnative binary, I believe it is important to understand some of the literature relating to the role of English language today. English is the most widely spoken and studied language in the world. Some scholars define English as “an international language” (McKay, 2002, p. 5; Seidlhofer, 1999, p. 235; Widdowson, 2003, p. 45) or as “a lingua franca” (Jenkins, 2007; Seidlhofer, 1999, p. 239). Despite the status of English being perceived as an international language or as a lingua franca, however, the ideology of “nativeness” or “symbolic violence” (Pennycook, 1999, pp. 332-333; Seidlhofer, 1999, p. 241) still prevails in English language teaching (ELT). For many nonnative speakers, it is logical to dream of acquiring the same level of language proficiency that their native counterparts have; however, this dream of becoming as competent as “them” might not be appropriate to pursue because this would mean that nonnative learners have marginalized themselves and devalued their cultures and their significant experiences (Kumaravadivelu, 2003; Seidlhofer, 1999; Widdowson, 2003).

    Many second langauge (L2) learners wish to acquire a native-like accent because they think that their accents prevent them from being considered as successful language learners (Jenkins, 2006; Medgyes, 1994; Seidlhofer, 2006). When L2 learners acquire a native-like accent, they might sometimes be perceived as native speakers by others. In the following section, I describe an incident from my own experience that illustrates this phenomenon.

    I have been working as a writing tutor at my university’s writing center since spring 2006. The writing center serves the entire university and hires both native- and nonnative-English-speaking tutors. One day a nonnative-English-speaking international student came to the center to get some help with his writing. I offered the student some feedback and comments on his paper, to which he nodded, and when I suggested that he consider revising his organization and a few awkward sentences in the paper, he followed my advice. At the conclusion of the session, he turned to me and asked, “Are you an ABC?” As I had never heard this acronym before, I asked him, “What do you mean, an ABC?” He told me that ABC stands for “American-born Chinese.” I laughed and told him, “I am not an ABC but an international student.” Upon hearing my answer, he looked puzzled and asked several questions regarding my English learning experiences: “How did you learn English?” “Did you learn English in a bilingual school in Thailand?” “How do you speak English with an American accent?” After I told him that I felt that my English was not so good. he questioned my working as a writing tutor: “If your English is not good, you cannot come to work at the writing center.” After this comment, he packed his belongings and left.

    Reflecting on this experience, I wondered if I should have been proud to be perceived as an ABC. I felt ambivalent. I admit that for a few days after that incident, I was somewhat proud of being misperceived as being a native speaker. After more than 15 years of studying English, this was the best compliment I ever had as a language learner. However, the fact was that ABC is not a part of my identity as a nonnative speaker. I was born in Thailand and studied English as a foreign language. To be perceived as a native speaker is considered a success for an English language learner and user in Thailand. As a former English teacher, I felt that I should be a model for other international students who are acquiring academic experiences/proficiencies to reassure them that they too can be successful and fluent English speakers (Matsuda, 2003).

    Matsuda (2003) discussed the issue of perceived inequality in native-nonnative positions regarding the “positive-native/negative-nonnative binary” (p. 15). The argument posits that native speakers or nonnative speakers with native-like fluency will be in a better position than nonnative speakers. With regard to my personal experience as a writing tutor, I think this specific student’s misperception of me as an ABC affected the tutoring session. He might have accepted my suggestions without hesitation if he had continued to think I was a native speaker. I might have been perceived as someone who has authority in giving feedback on international students’ writings. This might explain his reaction and puzzlement toward my nonnative identity as a writing tutor when I answered his questions.

    At present, I still work at the writing center. From time to time, my native-English-speaking colleagues at the writing center ask me for a second opinion on linguistics and grammatical issues while they tutor students; as Medgyes (1994) pointed out, the advantage of being a nonnative speaker is that nonnative speakers have better metalinguistic awareness than do their native counterparts. This might be one of the reasons that some nonnative-English-speaking international students perceive me as a native English speaker. Since the incident, I always identify myself as a nonnative speaker of English to my nonnative-English-speaking international tutees. I was wondering how different our interaction might have been if that international student had known prior to the consultation that I was a nonnative English speaker. How would the tutoring session have gone differently? What made the student believe that I could be an ABC? Was it my “accent”? Was it my role as a writing tutor? Was it the way I responded to his writing? I am still left with lingering confusions and questions, which, I now realize, have not been answered after all this time.

    As discussed earlier, English has gained its status as an international language, as a lingua franca, as a foreign language. A number of studies that recognized the issue have been published (Bamgbose, 1998; Bhatt, 2001; Bolton, 2006; Kachru, 1992; Medgyes, 1994). I believe that in order for us to overcome the native-nonnative dichotomy, however, publishing, conferencing, and presenting on the dichotomous issue alone might not be enough. I believe that actions that can help in solving this issue should start at the individual level; each of us needs to add our nonnative voices to everyday conversations by taking action such as correcting the nonnative stereotypes in conversation or creating awareness of the native-nonnative dichotomy among scholars.

    Note: I would like to thank the NNESTIS editor team and John L. Reilly for their constructive comments to improve this article.


    Bamgbose, A. (1998). Torn between the norms: Innovations in world Englishes. World Englishes, 17 , 1-14.

    Bhatt, R. M. (2001). World Englishes. Annual Review of Anthropology, 30 , 527-550.

    Bolton, K. (2006). World Englishes today. In B. B. Kachru, Y. Kachru, & C. L. Nelson (Eds.), The handbook of world Englishes (pp. 240-269). Malden, MA: Blackwell.

    Jenkins, J. (2006). Global intelligibility and local diversity: Possibility or paradox? In R. Rubdy & M. Saraceni (Eds.), English in the world: Global rules, global roles (pp. 32-39). London: Continuum.

    Jenkins, J. (2007). English as a lingua franca: Attitude and identity . Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

    Kachru, B. B. (1992). Models for non-native Englishes. In B. B. Kachru (Ed.), The other tongue: English across cultures (2nd ed., pp. 48-74). Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

    Kumaravadivelu, B. (2003). Critical language pedagogy: A postmethod perspective on English language teaching. World Englishes, 22 , 539-550.

    Matsuda, P. K. (2003). Proud to be a nonnative English speaker. TESOL Matters, 13 (4), 15.

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

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

    Pennycook, A. (1999). Introduction: Critical approaches to TESOL. TESOL Quarterly, 33 , 329-348.

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

    Seidlhofer, B. (2006). English as a lingual franca in the expanding circle: What it isn't. In R. Rubdy & M. Saraceni (Eds.), English in the world: Global rules, global roles (pp. 40-50). London: Continuum.

    Widdowson, H. G. (2003). Defining issues in English language teaching . Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

    Pisarn Bee Chamcharatsri is a PhD candidate in composition and TESOL. His research interests include critical approach in ELT, world Englishes, creativity in multilingual writers, voice and identity in writing, and native-nonnative dichotomy.

    This article first appeared in the NNEST Interest Section Newsletter, March 2010, Volume 11, Number 2. To read the entire newsletter, click here .


    This chapter is from Integrating Language and Content ,

    by Jon Nordmeyer and Susan Barduhn, TESOL Classroom Practice Series

    Free Chapter:

    Big Ideas in Little Pieces:

    Science Activities for Multilevel Classes

    by Ann K. Fathman and Patricia A. Nelson

    download to PDF

    My middle school science classes contain English learners from more than 10 countries as well as native English speakers. In these mixed-ethnicity and -ability classes, my goals must include the development of skills in language as well as science. I have found that students at all levels can learn the big ideas in science if the content is divided into small pieces and assessment allows students to express their understanding in a variety of ways. (Patricia, science teacher)

    One of the biggest challenges facing teachers in sheltered, mainstream, and content area classes is designing activities that benefit students at different ability and language proficiency levels. Hands-on experiences in science can help English language learners (ELLs) at all levels learn about science while developing language and literacy skills (Fathman & Crowther, 2006). Research suggests that instruction that integrates science and language development objectives and experiences can meet the unique needs of ELLs (Echevarria, Vogt, & Short, 2008).

    In this chapter, we give suggestions for planning, presenting, and assessing thematic science lessons for ELLs in multilevel classes. We focus on a standards-based physical science unit and describe sample activities from it. These hands-on activities incorporate strategies for scaffolding for language and inquiry at different proficiency levels. Multiple assessments provide clear feedback and allow students flexibility in demonstrating their understanding.


    This inquiry-based unit has been successfully used in teaching science concepts and developing language skills for ELLs in a middle school setting. The theme of the unit, a rocket-building activity, is commonly a part of science curricula. But the focus given to language development activities and assessment in this unit makes it appropriate for sheltered science as well as language development classes and for students at all proficiency levels.

    Science lessons focusing on themes, or big ideas, can engage students irrespective of language ability or background. Inquiry-oriented science activities provide countless opportunities for students to develop academic language, oral communication, and literacy skills. In inquiry-based science, students regularly do the following:

    • read and follow instructions on data sheets
    • listen to, understand, and interpret information given orally
    • participate in cooperative learning groups in which information is shared
    • speak to explain their point of view about a subject
    • write journal entries, reports, and narratives related to their science investigations

    (Thier, 2002)

    In this unit, students use all of these language skills as they plan, participate, and report their findings. Science content can be adapted for all levels of proficiency using strategies that focus on connecting with students, encouraging collaborative learning, and scaffolding for science and language (Carr, Sexton, & Lagunoff, 2007; Dobb, 2004; Douglas, Klentschy, Worth, & Binder, 2006). In this unit, activities are organized according to the 5E instructional model: engage, explore, explain, elaborate, evaluate (Bybee, 2002a). Students are encouraged to observe, question, gather data, propose explanations, and communicate results—activities that provide opportunities for developing language and literacy skills.

    Curriculum, Tasks, Materials

    The entire unit described here takes a number of weeks, but we describe only a few of the activities and strategies that have been especially beneficial for ELLs. All activities require students to use new language for the unit (scientific vocabulary, sentence patterns, language functions), both orally and in writing, through class and group discussions, planning sessions, investigations, and reporting.

    For the main activity, students experience Newton’s Laws of Motion through constructing and launching bottle rockets (water rockets). It is easy for all students to see that an object at rest stays at rest when the rocket remains on the launcher until a force is applied to move it. By physically pumping air into the bottle rocket, students can feel when the pressure is high inside the bottle and see that the rockets travel higher when they achieve greater air pressure on the gauge.

    Language development is a key objective in the unit. Key academic language is introduced in a variety of ways. Students describe rockets and stages in notebooks; then they write their ideas, impressions, and conclusions on the whiteboard; and finally they take formal notes on the three laws. A preview-review strategy is used daily by introducing vocabulary and content in context using support materials (e.g., realia, visuals) and reviewing and explaining the language and content at the end of the lesson using the support materials.


    The curriculum is based on the Science Content Standards for California Public Schools (California Department of Education, 2003) for Grade 8. The language objectives are adapted from Standard 4 of the PreK–12 English Language Proficiency Standards (TESOL, 2006), which address goals for students at all grade levels. These standards outline behaviors that ELLs should attain in reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Figure 1 displays some sample science and language standards for this unit. We integrated the science content standards for the unit with the language behaviors for Grades 6–8 (ages 11–14) in order to create language objectives.

    Classroom Organization

    Lab group–oriented science activities facilitate the development of skills in language as well as science. Grouping decisions may vary depending on students and activities, but for this activity multilevel lab groups are successful and give ELLs daily opportunities to develop social and academic language with the help and modeling of students who are more proficient in English. Lab group photographs and interesting facts about students are put up as a bulletin board display. Students enjoy looking at their pictures, and this is an important show of respect for each student and a way for everyone to learn about each other’s backgrounds.

    Members of lab groups are given specific responsibilities to encourage cooperation

    and individual accountability.

    • The principal investigator is responsible for knowing the protocol, making sure all jobs get done, and reporting to the class.
    • The recorder is responsible for writing all data accurately and writing group observations.
    • The timer watches the clock and makes sure the experiment is completed in a timely fashion.
    • The materials manager gathers and puts away all of the supplies.

    Lab responsibilities alternate between members of the group each week so that everyone has a chance at each post.

    Tasks and Materials

    This unit is divided into five stages based on the 5E model (Bybee, 2002a). Each stage encourages participation by all students and supports ELLs in learning both language and content:

    • Engage: The teacher starts by creating interest, encouraging student questions.
    • Explore: The students work together, ask questions, observe, record, test predictions.
    • Explain: The teacher guides the students in explaining concepts.
    • Elaborate: The teacher guides the students in applying concepts and skills in new situations.
    • Evaluate: Teacher and students assess learning.

    To read the rest of this chapter, download the PDF for free.

    To purchase this book, Integrating Language and Content , go to the TESOL Bookstore.