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EDITOR: Mahboob, Ahmar TITLE: The NNEST Lens SUBTITLE: Non Native English Speakers in TESOL PUBLISHER: Cambridge Scholars Publishing YEAR: 2010
Bryan Meadows, Department of English, University of Texas, Pan-American, Edinburg TX USA
In the preface, Jun Liu defines this book as marking ''the new beginning of the necessary discussion on the unnecessary divide in our profession'' (p. xii). The divide he refers to is the practice of categorizing English language teachers according to their native language status, giving rise to the two categories of Non-Native English Speaking Teachers (NNESTs) and Native English Speaking Teachers (NESTs). The distinction supports an underlying monolingual, monocultural bias to the field which disadvantages NNESTs by evaluating them not on their language and pedagogical skills but on their place of origin, first language acquisition, and physical appearance. Critiques of the NNEST/NEST divide surfaced in the 1990s. The original contribution of this volume is the concept of the ''NNEST lens'' which crystallizes the critiques of the past decades while projecting a way out of the NEST/NNEST divide. Mahboob writes that the central goal of the book is ''a step that moves the Applied Linguistics (AL) and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) profession in a direction where one's mother tongue, culture, nationality, and race do not define one's professional identity and position'' (p. xiii). The author organizes the book's chapters under five themes, paraphrased here as, (1) Theory and Ideologies, (2) Attitudes and Perceptions, (3) Strategies and Approaches, (4) NNEST/NEST Collaboration, and (5) Teaching Ideas.
'The NNEST Lens' (Ahmar Mahboob)
The first chapter introduces the NNEST lens concept and defines it as ''a lens of multilingualism, multinationalism, and multiculturalism through which NNESTs – as classroom practitioners, researchers, and teacher educators – take diversity as a starting point, rather than as a result'' (p. 1). Drawing on established literature, Mahboob sheds light on assumptions that support NS privilege in English Language Teaching (ELT), and traces the development of the NNEST movement. He next forecasts the book, identifying five organizing themes: (1) Dominant literature and ways of thinking in Applied Linguistics and TESOL; (2) Attitudes and Perceptions; (3) Ideas, strategies, and approaches relevant to all stakeholders; (4) Ways of achieving productive and effective collaboration between NNESTs and NESTs in the workplace; (5) Ideas NNESTs can adopt in their teaching.
Chapter 2, 'The Colour of English' (Mary Romney)
This chapter interrogates racial biases in ELT hiring practices. It offers an insightful critique of Kachru's influential inner-circle model by pointing to its racialized underpinnings. Kachru's model (p. 20-21) divides the English-speaking world geographically into three concentric circles: (1) inner circle (US, UK, Canada, etc.), (2) outer circle (India, Nigeria, Singapore, etc.), and (3) expanding circle (Brazil, China, France, etc.). Taking Jamaican English as a case study, the chapter advances the argument that directly linking race to language leads to faulty judgments of teachers and students, not to mention racialized hiring decisions. The author's personal experiences underscore the urgency of this issue. She reports that there is hopeful movement in the field: Kachru's inner circle model is shifting its organizing principle from geography to language expertise. This development removes an oft-cited justification for racialized hiring practices.
This chapter challenges the conventional wisdom that the NS is the only appropriate target model for language teaching. The author examines two case studies of NNSs who resist NS target pragmatic norms. Ishihara's examination is through a phenomenological lens, or an inquiry into ''the essence of a phenomenon through research participants' lived experience'' (p. 38). The case studies underscore that ELT professionals can learn much from the lived experiences of practicing bilinguals, rather than basing second language acquisition theory and practice on those of monolinguals.
Chapter 4, 'The Principles of Bilingual Pedagogy in EFL' (Ross Forman)
This chapter considers the role of students' first language (L1) in the second language (L2) classroom. In the English as a Foreign Language (EFL) situation, NNESTs share an L1 with their students -- a significant advantage often overlooked. Through case studies, the author highlights three contributions the L1 makes to L2 classrooms: (1) It is a tool to maximize L2 learning; (2) It places students in a Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) (i.e. the performance space between what a learner can do alone and what they can do with assistance) in the context of an L2 assignment; (3) It contextualizes L2 texts for students.
Chapter 5, 'Does a Good Language Teacher have to be a Native Speaker?' (Barbara Mullock)
This chapter explores the question of what makes a successful teacher in the context of English as a Foreign Language (EFL) teaching in Thailand. Surveys and interviews with English language students in Thailand found that students attribute complementary strengths to both NESTs and NNESTs. However, students did not specifically mention the NS/NNS divide in their responses. The author concludes that students in this setting appreciate an English teacher who possesses expertise in English and personal knowledge of the local community.
Chapter 6, 'Empowering Nonnative-English Speaking Teachers in the Classroom' (Sibel Tatar & Senem Yildiz)
The authors explore NNEST self-perceptions in the context of a real-world problem: hiring practices that work against NNESTs in Turkey. A content analysis of interview, focus group, and observational data highlights NNEST strengths: (1) Knowing the local students; (2) Knowing what it is like to study an L2; (3) Using a shared L1 as a strategic pedagogical tool. Also, an interesting finding was that students who saw successful NNESTs developed positive attitudes toward their efficacy.
Chapter 7, 'The ''Who's Worth More?'' Question Revisited: MA TESOL Practicum Host Teachers' Perceptions of NES and NNES Teacher Trainees' (Ekaterina Nemtchinova)
While plenty of studies report on student attitudes about NNESTs, this chapter addresses the perspectives of ELT teacher trainers, something less-understood in the literature. Surveys of teacher trainers in the US found that mentor teachers make little differentiation between NNEST and NEST trainees. Mentors treat both as novice teachers with skills to develop. The surveys did find that respondents credit NNESTs with a greater awareness of multiculturalism but also noted that NESTs can build such awareness with experience.
Chapter 8, 'Appraisal of Native and Non-Native English Speaking Teachers' (Caroline Lipovsky & Ahmar Mahboob)
This study adds a unique dimension to our understanding of student perceptions by applying appraisal analysis to student narratives. Appraisal analysis provides a means for not only capturing student evaluative attitudes but also the linguistic construction of those attitudes. Analyses found that students used a range of means to express negative evaluation (e.g. negation of a positive term, explicit comparisons) and that not knowing students' L1 is a double-sided issue for both NNESTs and NESTs. The chapter concludes that students recognized the individual strengths of NESTs and NNESTs and therefore did not express a clear preference either way.
Chapter 9, 'Strategies to Prepare Teachers Equally for Equity' (Leslie Barratt)
This chapter articulates a ''strategy bank'' for teacher trainers to evaluate and correct monolingual bias in their approaches. Without these strategies, future teachers are doomed to repeat the status quo. Intended to help student teachers develop a critical awareness of the criteria used to evaluate English language teaching, the strategies include: awareness raising strategies, discourse inclusion strategies, equity management strategies, and professional development.
Chapter 10, 'Coping Strategies for NNES Teachers' Development' (Ana Wu, John Liang, & Tünde Csepelyi)
After recognizing some of the typical challenges unique to NNESTs in the ELT field, the authors offer practical and candid advice to NNESTs for successful entry to the profession. Step one is about getting started, including developing a positive self-image and extending intercultural friendships. Step two is about getting prepared, including starting informal networking and confidently sharing learner insights. Step three is about stepping out into the real world, including getting involved with the professional community and broadening as well as deepening expertise.
TESOL graduate programs do not allow for NNESTs who need more time to develop academic and linguistic abilities. To rectify this situation, the authors offer strategies and suggestions for training in the classroom: (1) Provide opportunities for role-plays, simulations, and supervised practical training; and (2) Use class time to raise awareness of pragmatic competence and strategies. They propose that TESOL programs must help NNESTs develop the linguistic competence they will need to be effective instructors.
Chapter 12, 'Students' Evolving Perspectives on World Englishes, Non-Native English Speakers, and Non-Native English Speaking Teachers Based on a Graduate Course' (Rebecca L. Oxford & Rashi Jain)
This chapter recounts a graduate course wherein student teachers engaged with their own attitudes and were able to alter their perceptions about the place of NNESTs in the global context. By the close of the course, students reported feeling more educated about their own stances that unfairly discriminate against NNESTs. The authors intend for this chapter to inspire similar courses, because while students may not entirely buy into the NS fallacy, hiring practitioners often do.
Chapter 13, 'Collaborative Teaching of EFL by Native and Non-Native English-Speaking Teachers in Taiwan' (Wen-Hsing Luo)
Taking the ELT market in Taiwan as a backdrop, this chapter explores NEST/NNEST collaborative teaching arrangements. Based on teaching observations and interviews with teachers, the author concludes that good collaborative teaching involves: respect, equality, flexibility, language, empathy, collaborative culture, and time and knowledge (i.e. REFLECT). Drawing on these findings, the author then proposes a general model for collaboration, which includes four central components: (1) Lesson planning; (2) Collaborative teaching; (3) Monitoring; (4) Collaborative reflection.
Chapter 14, 'Strength Through Difference: Optimizing NNEST/NEST Relationships on a School Staff' (Jan Edwards Dormer)
This chapter explores NEST/NNEST collaboration, not in the classroom, but in the workplace as professional colleagues. Based on interviews and observations at two school sites in Brazil and Indonesia, the author identifies two areas in which collaboration can be cultivated. For teacher training, workplaces can encourage collaborative workshops, and for teacher interaction, schools can use strategic scheduling in order to cultivate time for NNEST/NEST collaboration. This chapter advocates a workplace where NEST/NNEST collaboration draws out the best from both positions, which is a potential benefit for all school stakeholders.
Chapter 15, 'Using Corpora for Language Enhancement, Teaching and Research' (Dilin Liu)
This chapter presents practical ideas for NNESTs to apply corpus linguistics to teaching and research. After covering the basics of corpus linguistics, the author offers practical advice, grouped into four categories: (1) Lexicogrammar (e.g. patterns in word collocations); (2) Register variation (e.g. ascertain frequency ratios of specific phrases); (3) Principles (e.g. groupwork/specific tasks); (4) Research (e.g. approach corpora as teaching resources).
Chapter 16, '''With a Little Help from the Corpus'': Corpus Linguistics and EFL Teaching' (Monika Bednarek)
Similar to the previous chapter, this author's purpose is to introduce readers to corpus linguistics and to survey its multiple applications to the NNEST's classroom. The author presents a list of suggested applications of corpus linguistics, including: (1) Investigating learner errors in order to make instruction more efficient; (2) Using corpora like a NS resource for those NNESTs who do not have personal access to NSs; (3) Comparing L1/L2 cognates. She closes with helpful resources and ideas for developing classroom assignments.
This is a welcome volume with thought-provoking and practical ideas for addressing the NNEST/NEST divide, a long festering issue in the ELT profession. This volume is successful in articulating an agenda for conscious change in the field. It calls for ELT practitioners at all levels (e.g. teachers, program directors, teacher trainers) to critically reconsider their assumptions and to make practical adjustments in how they engage with the profession. Such action can lead to the field conquering its silenced paradox: a monolingual bias in a field dedicated to cultivating multilingualism.
There are many outstanding aspects to this volume. One is its reader-friendly, applied perspective, which serves its central aim to spur critical reflection and subsequent action. The volume offers actionable ideas for everyone (e.g. instructors, administrators, teacher trainers) and leaves each reader with little excuse to not implement at least one change immediately. Second, many of the chapters are written through the first-person voice of experienced NNESTs, something that adds to the book's compelling message. This is a very appealing way to read these kinds of reports, especially because these ideas are intended to immediately influence practice.
While there are commendable strengths to the volume, there are a few points of apparent weakness. The book excels as an agenda for practical avenues out of the NS paradigm and represents a strong statement of advocacy for the NNEST lens. What feels to be lacking, however, is sufficient coverage of the theoretical grounding necessary to support that advocacy. The book seems to take the arguments for critical transformation (i.e. the NNEST lens) as pre-supposed. Thus, one imagines that this book will have the greatest impact on the already-converted. With a more in-depth and extensive justification of the NNEST lens, the book could also win over its skeptics.
Also, apart from the preface and opening chapter, the editor's voice is largely absent from the book's discussion. One can imagine that important points could be crystallized if the editor's voice were more prominent (e.g. section introductions, concluding chapter). His voice would have been welcomed, for example, to mitigate one question that developed in this reviewer's mind during reading. Several chapter contributions report that students/teacher trainers either do not consciously differentiate between NNESTs and NESTs or they recognize the complementary strengths of both. This sort of finding undercuts the book's calling, which is to raise awareness about the biases that work against NNESTs. This raises the question: If people involved in ELT already recognize the unique strengths that NNESTs bring to the classroom, what is the need for the NNEST lens? What one infers is that the NEST/NNEST issue is never cut and dry and that there are no simple, quick answers. This is one example of where the editor's voice could lead the reader through such questions and doubts.
Still, this volume offers an inspiring invitation to an honest and candid dialogue among all ELT professionals. Further studies will augment what Mahboob et al. have established with this volume. In the coming discussion, one anticipates learning how the NNEST lens accords with related critiques of the applied linguistics status quo (e.g. Intercultural Education, Heritage Language Education, Generation 1.5 Students, Poststructuralist Identity, among others), all of which are areas that share intuitive links with the NNEST lens.
''The NNEST Lens'' is a look ahead to what the profession could look like if we put multilingualism at the center of what ELT is all about. This reviewer anticipates the positive impact this volume will have on a collective movement in that direction.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Bryan Meadows is an assistant professor of applied linguistics at the
University of Texas, Pan-American. His research interrogates the role of
nationalism to shape language learning/teaching practices at all levels.
His primary method is ethnographic critical discourse analysis of formal
language classroom settings. He owes much gratitude to Steven Randall
(University of Arizona) and to the Linguist List editorial team for their
comments on earlier drafts of this review.