LINGUIST List 10.999

Mon Jun 28 1999

Review: Braine: Non Native Educators in ELT

Editor for this issue: Andrew Carnie <>

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  1. Mae Wlazlinski, book review: Braine's Non-Native

Message 1: book review: Braine's Non-Native

Date: Fri, 25 Jun 1999 17:43:16 -0400
From: Mae Wlazlinski <>
Subject: book review: Braine's Non-Native

Braine, George. (Ed.) (1999). Non-Native Educators in English Language 
Teaching. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers. 233 pages.

Reviewed by Mae Wlazlinski, State University of West Georgia

	Non-Native Educators in English Language Teaching comprised of 13 
chapters, significantly contributes to the scant literature on non-native 
educators of English (NNSs). It is authentic, informative, and accessible. 
As the number of non-native English language teaching graduates grows 
continuously and their presence in professional circles increases 
noticeably, the need to understand and define their place in the role of 
English teachers in an asymmetrical society where the teaching of English 
is traditionally allocated to native speakers (NSs) is more valuable than 
ever. Contributions range from personal narratives to survey and 
qualitative studies. Discussions on curriculum, standards and requirements 
in English language teacher education programs are relevant. Compelling are 
the arguments and the discussion on who qualifies to teach English. 
Outcomes of such discussions are central to the validation of non-native 
English language educators. Contributors, include well-established, as well 
as rising, scholars/writers, all non-native English language educators from 
diverse geographical origins and linguistic backgrounds. They articulate 
their concerns and their struggles, arguing sociopolitical issues and 
discussing implications for teacher education. All have very important 
messages for both NS and NNS English language academics and educators. For 
the NSs, the contributors provide insights into the needs of NNSs that 
teacher education programs must address as well as practical information 
about the implementation of such programs, the strengths that NNSs bring to 
the profession and into their classrooms, and a most important exhortation 
to examine the debilitating effects of "linguistic imperialism" and the 
"birthright mentality" in the ELT profession. For the NNSs, they might hear 
similar voices and see their own struggles and triumphs mirrored in the 
contributors' autobiographical narratives. Above all, this book brings home 
the realities of a non-native English language educator status as 
encountered in the classroom, the community, and the profession. Finally, 
this book provides an indispensable resource for L2 students, teachers, 
teacher educators, and researchers interested in non-native English 
educators, second language acquisition and research, and TESOL curriculum 
design and implementation.


	Chapters in Parts I and II focused on personal histories and literacy 
biographies. Here, the contributors delineated the challenges to their 
legitimacy, competency, and credibility as English language educators 
because they are non-native speakers. As they argued sociopolitical issues, 
they speak directly to all non-native educators who similarly find 
themselves marginalized and often discriminated against in the profession 
that they trained for. Amin (chapter 7) urges that unspoken assumptions 
about who is a valid ESL teacher which is inextricably tied to the larger 
societal issues such as power relations, distribution of scarce resources, 
 and social status of language users be addressed and delineated, hopefully 
to facilitate the legitimacy of non-White teachers.
	In chapter 1, Jacinta Thomas makes use of her own experiences to 
illustrate how the "native language fallacy" undermines her credibility as 
an English language practitioner. She exposes the covert and overt 
discriminatory practices against NNSs like herself. In hiring practices, 
NNSs regardless of qualifications are excluded in favor of NSs. In ELT 
organizations, there is lack of visibility or absence of representation of 
NNSs, e.g., academic journals, executive boards, etc. In classrooms, NNSs 
are condemned without trial, so to speak by students. Thomas describes how 
she is rejected outright by students who judge her qualifications by the 
color of her skin. This resonates with other NNS teachers' experiences 
which undoubtedly leave one insecure, powerless, and debilitated. NNS 
academics certainly share the pain of Thomas who writes: "This makes me 
apologetic, nervous about my ability to succeed and even lead to a kind of 
paranoia born of experience" (10). She adds, "The same type of uncertainty 
follows me as I encounter some of my NS colleagues and as I enter every 
class. It is my baggage" (10). Thomas also complains about the 
misconception/assumption of lower grading standards for non-native 
students, hence undermining the accomplishments of NNSs, both students and 
Finally, Thomas points out the unique perspective that NNS teachers bring 
to their classrooms: "They've not only recognized but have experienced how 
high the stakes are when an individual struggles to acquire, not just any 
language, but a language of immense power. Having been there, we cannot 
only empathize with the students but share our stories as well" (12).
	In chapter 2, George Braine exposes several factors to the 
uneveness of the playing field for NS and NNS. Whereas academic materials 
and resources in ELT training are easily accessible to EL academics, teachers,
and students in North America, whereas positions of power in editorial boards 
and professional organizations normatively belong to NSs, NNSs in the 
periphery countries suffer from lack or scarce good quality resources, and 
have very slim chance to publish in Center journals (a requirement for 
professional advancement) which are governed by NSs' rules. As Braine 
points out, it is ironic that the affirmation of diversity and 
multiculturalism brought by NNS students into NS classrooms, is not 
extended to NNSs teachers who are penalized for the same reason. Braine, 
like Thomas, exposes the exclusionary preference for NSs over NNSs 
regardless of training and education as evidenced in his experiences being 
discriminated against because of his minority NNS status.
	In chapter 3, Ulla Connor focuses on how to help ESL writers like 
herself and provides practical writing strategies. Through literacy 
autobiography which is a means of sharing one's recollection of 
childhood memories about learning to read and write, and in her 
case, my recollections dealt with the struggles and triumphs of 
writing in English as a second language" (29), she 
demystifies competent writing. She recalls personal events and 
describes conditions that have contributed to her development as a 
competent and confident writer of English. She describes how her fierce 
determination to master the principles of rhetorics and to succeed as an 
academic writer made her seek writing assistance and soak in lessons in 
style, content, and language from successful academic L1 writers persist 
ently and continuously. She extols the virtue of collaboration in writing 
and publishing with L1 mentors and colleagues.
 In chapter 4, Xiao-ming Li challenges the explicit or implicit assumption 
that a non-native English teacher has a questionable cultural and 
linguistic identity and professional credibility. On the contrary, she sees 
her outsider status as a source of authority than an indication of 
incompetence (51). Citing evidences from her own life, she has convincingly 
argued that non-natives are "compensated with a larger richer repertoire of 
pedagogical, linguistic, and cultural knowledge that only 
between-the-worlds residents are privy to" (44).
	In chapter 5, Claire Kramsch and Wan Shun Evan Lam examine the role 
textuality plays in the native non-native relationship and the effect 
written language has on the development of a learner's social and cultural 
identity. They explain that instead of using writing as a means to 
socialize the non-natives into the ways of standardized natives, the 
written language can offer the opportunity to express human thoughts and 
feelings that non-native speakers have experienced particularly acutely. 
Through journal writing, reflections and diary writing about their 
relationship with native speakers using English, non-native speakers are 
offered what Kramsch and Lam call the "textual identities of the third 
kind experience" allowing "a sense of security that the written medium 
provides non-native speakers" (71).
	In chapter 6, A. Suresh Canagarajah questions gatekeeping practices in 
employment in a country whose graduate programs in TESOL benefit from large 
enrollment from many countries. He argues that the notion of the ideal 
teacher of English as a native speaker is a lame rationalization for the 
hidden economic, ideological, and political motivations which are congruent 
with the maintenance of a societal power structure that has historically 
subordinated minority groups. Inversely, as Cavanarajah cogently discusses, 
non-native speaker teachers bring irrefutable pedagogical and linguistic 
strengths to the profession. By linguistic principles, such as (1) all 
languages and dialects are of equal status, (2) accents and pronunciation 
are only surface features of one's language competence, (3) a language can 
have several variants, in this case, world Englishes, the superiority of 
the native speaker is a fallacy. Besides, the argument native teachers make 
good teachers does not have any pedagogical basis. On the contrary, studies 
have shown that non-native teachers because of their second language 
learning experiences prove to be sensitive and responsive to the affective, 
linguistic, and academic needs of their students. Also promoted by their 
second language experiences is the development of a high level of 
metalinguistic awareness that lends well to sound teaching strategies. 
Canagarajah posits that what can certainly benefit students and the 
profession is flagrantly ignored for the economic and political 
entrenchment of the native speakers, mainly the dominant majority group.
	Canagarajah also exposes the reality in the ELT employment in the 
Periphery where native speakers also reign supreme. When standards are set 
by native speakers and latest developments in teaching methodologies and 
materials are exported to the Periphery, there is a great chance that they 
are not relevant to the existing conditions in the Periphery ELT 
enterprise. With all the inequities caused by the native speaker fallacy, 
Canagarajah asks to debunk the fallacy and clamors for "free competition, 
open sharing of products and ideas, open employment prospects for both 
Center and Periphery ELT professionals" (88).
 In chapter 7, Nuzhat Amin explains that to be referred to as a non-native 
speaker of English is disempowering as an ESL teacher because "the 
referrent of the ESL classroom is the (White) native speaker" (96) and the 
"White accent" as the constructed norm. Worse is the case of non-White 
minority immigrant women who by dominant group's standards are more 
unauthentic because they speak English with "nonstandard accent", they are 
non-White, and they are women -- all of which put them in subordinated 
position. Amin, through her experience and those of the 5 minority 
immigrant teachers in her research, describes how ESL students' biases and 
attitudes towards minority ESL teachers retard, if not hinder them, from 
making progress in their profession. Amin poses that students with 
established biases against non-White minority teachers continually judge 
and adversely compare them with White teachers. Referring to existing 
literature, Amin uses narratives of non-White teachers who describe how 
they are continuously challenged by questions students ask to snare them 
into making mistakes or acknowledging insufficient linguistic knowledge in 
order to discredit them.
 In chapter 8, Masaki Oda contends that the power wielded by native speaker 
teachers of English is unjustifiably strong even in EFL settings. In the 
case of JALT, the TESOL affiliate in Japan, where one expects that it is 
more efficacious to maintain a bilingual policy in administration, 
information dissemination, conferences, everything leans towards exclusive 
use of English. This is no surprise considering that 100% of the members of 
the highest decision-making body are NSs. Oda disputes the unspoken 
expectation for members to have an advanced level of English proficiency, 
so they can access materials and programs, partake of the opportunities for 
professional advancement, or participate in the day to day affairs of an 
organization whose membership includes EFL, French, and Japanese as a 
second language teachers. The organization's exclusive support of English, 
according to Oda, bolsters the false superiority of the native speaker 
teacher which contradicts common sense and educational research findings 
that NNS teachers are experts of the local culture, understanding tacit 
assumptions in terms of expected behaviors that NS may not be privy to or 
do not care to validate. As such, they are likely to be more effective in 
the classroom.
 Findings from empirical research provide insights into practical concerns 
of NNS teacher-trainees and what all these imply for teacher education is 
cogently discussed by contributors in Part III of the book.
 In chapter 9, Keiko Samimy and Janina Brutt-Griffler describe a TESOL 
education program that offers a graduate seminar in which NNS students read 
about and discuss issues related to NNSs in the profession. They report on 
the results of a study that further examines the NNS and NS teachers 
dichotomy by asking: do the participating teachers recognize or acknowledge 
the difference and to what do they attribute the difference. The 
quantitative results show that participants acknowledge the differences in 
teaching styles but in no way are NNS inferior in knowledge and skills from 
the NS. They point out that the issue is not to make NNSs like the NSs. 
Instead, they suggest that teachers should be trained to be effective 
teachers regardless of their NNS status. The question according to them is 
"How qualified is the individual as an EFL teacher?" which shifts the 
emphasis from who you are to what you know. They propose that in TESOL 
methodologies, more emphasis should be placed on the multidimensionality 
and expertise than on nativeness or authenticity and that a special course 
or seminar needs to be added to the existing curricula in order to discuss 
specific issues and concerns related to ELT professionals from diverse 
cultural and linguistic backgrounds. Such a course would benefit both NS 
and NNS TESOL graduate students.
	In chapter 10, Lia D. Kamhi-Stein reports the scarcity of information 
regarding how teacher preparation programs incorporate curricula related to 
non-native professionals in the field. She stresses the responsibility of 
NNS teacher educators to "become agents of curriculum change" (157). 
Through a cross-curricular intervention program that she has developed, 
Kamhi-Stein believes that teacher educators in TESOL programs can 
significantly influence the power structure in the TESOL profession. 
Specifically, her program includes integrating NNS issue-related research 
and discussion activities throughout the curriculum (e.g., NNS issues 
vis-a-vis theories of L2 acquisition, teaching methodologies and curriculum 
design, and cultural and social factors of L2 development) as well as 
promoting sociopolitical consciousness through involvement of 
teacher-trainees in outside-the-classroom advocacy projects. These 
experiences prepare teacher-trainees for situations that they may encounter 
in their professional lives and for opportunities to turn their 
nonnativeness from problem to resource.
 In chapter 11, Jun Liu discusses the results of his qualitative study on 
 NNS teachers' self- perceptions either as NNSs/NSs in relation to their 
students' perception of them as ESL professionals and how this perception 
impacts their ESL students from two points of view: theirs and those of 
their students. For example, teachers do not favor the NNS/NS dichotomy in 
classifying them as ESL professionals. Teachers perceive the dichotomy as 
disempowering, i.e., indicative of unequal power relations (certain groups 
are being subordinated and excluded), sole proprietorship, and an 
inadequate classification system to describe their multilayer and 
multidimensional attributes. Variability in teachers' birthplace, first 
language learned, skin color, age of arrival in the U.S., degree of 
nonnative accent, levels of English proficiency, degree of bilingualism, 
etc. makes self-classification to either NNS or NS too limiting. 
Understandably, these teachers favor a "more objective and realistic NS-NNS 
continuum configuration than a sharp NNS/NS dichotomy because it also 
implies a process in moving toward one side or the other ..." (174-5) and 
reduces, if not obliterates, the superiority ascribed to nativeness. 
 Finally, Liu hopefully concludes that "If we perceive all ESL 
professionals on a NNS-NS continuum, then it is competence and professional 
growth that will define their professionalism." (175).
 In chapter 12, Peter Medgyes staunchly argues for the distinction between 
native and nonnative teachers of English and what he considers the 
linguistic and cultural competence of the native speakers that nonnatives 
can only work towards. Medgyes identifies vocabulary as an area that 
evidences the clear dissimilarity between NS and NNS teachers. Relating 
personal anecdotes, he describes how his attained "native-like" or "near 
native" competence in English vocabulary only has proven his "incompetence" 
or "inferiority" to native speakers. In view of this, he criticizes the 
lack of language improvement courses in NNS teacher preparation programs, 
particularly in EFL settings, like Hungary where exposure to NS models is 
limited and interaction with them few and far between. He argues that EFL 
professionals, trained or in-training, can better serve their students if 
they have better command of the English language in addition to their good 
grasp of teaching methodologies.
 I agree with Medgyes in demanding from EFL professionals an excellent 
command of English, but his stringent standard of assessing native 
competence in terms of vocabulary is not completely realistic nor 
objective. In fact, even in ESL situations, setting a standard may 
certainly lead to problems. For instance, not all native speakers of 
English fully understand local expressions from one geographical region to 
the next, so like NNSs, they too will feel inadequate and unprepared. This 
brings to mind my quandary in terms of setting parameters of acceptability 
in language use. What guidelines should be given to pre-service and 
in-service NS teachers in designing vocabulary lessons for ESOL students 
and whose standards should they base their selection on? How dogmatic or 
prescriptive can a language teacher educator be? Resolving these issues is 
not easy for several reasons: (1) linguistically, it is not correct to 
teach one variety of English as the standard because it suggests others are 
substandard, (2) some ESL professionals, trained or in-training, cling to 
the idea that their students and perhaps themselves will not travel outside 
of a 40 miles radius, making learning another variety (the standard) 
impractical and irrelevant.
	In chapter 13, Dilin Liu makes a strong case for the urgency of TESOL 
programs to address the special needs of NNS students/teachers in countries 
outside of North America, Britain, and Australia (NABA). Liu reports that 
"...of the students enrolled in NABA TESL/TESOL teacher education programs, 
close to 40% are NNSs. Most of these students will in due course return to 
their home countries to teach" (197). He explains that NNS TESOL students 
have needs different from those of NSs, therefore creating " a gap between 
what they learn abroad and what they face in their teaching back home" 
(197). Liu points out that program designers should realize that 
methodologies important for teachers in NABA countries may be impractical 
or ineffective in non-NABA countries because of significant socioeconomic 
and cultural differences (200). Besides, English language students in 
non-NABA countries may have different reasons for learning English and many 
would have acquired high literacy skills in their native language by the 
time they begin studying English. Therefore, Liu stresses the need for 
TESOL programs to: (1) teach NNS student/teachers how to use English 
idiomatically and (2) promote sociocultural competence to help both NNS and 
NS teacher-trainees understand deep sociocultural beliefs and values 
underlying surface speech behavior.

About the Reviewer: Mae Lombos Wlazlinski, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor 
at the College of Education, State University of West Georgia, where she 
teaches undergraduate and graduate level courses in TESOL, educational 
research, and action research. Her research interests include social and 
psychological factors of bilingualism, language shift, second language 
acquisition, successful teaching practices in multicultural and 
multilingual classrooms, non-native English teachers' successful 
instructional strategies, and processes of language teacher education.

Mae Lombos Wlazlinski, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Middle Grades and Secondary Education
State University of West Georgia
Carrollton, GA 30118 USA
FAX 770 836 4643
770 836 6564 (0)
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