NEST privilege: IATEFL 2016 “The Native Factor”

I am white, blonde, have blue eyes and was born in London. So for me, I look at the NNEST issue from a very privileged point of view. There’s no use saying I can be wholly empathetic, I can’t. I can be sympathetic, but will never know what it is like to apply for a job as an English teacher as anything but a privileged white native English speaker.

So, here are a few reflections on the IATEFL plenary by Silvia Richardson and I’ll follow this up with a separate blog post with my students’ responses to whether they would prefer a NEST with one year of experience or a NNEST with twenty years of experience.

  1. We need another term for non-native English speaking teacher.

I personally would like to just use qualified and experienced or not and just dump the whole concept of NNEST vs NEST.

  1. The native speaker is the best model

I’ve lived abroad for 20 years, have a weird mixed Australian / American / London accent, and due to spending more time with learners than anyone else, I often say ‘apartment’ instead of ‘department’. I would not be able to model current language or dialectal changes in any English-speaking country, e.g. vaping. So am I the best model?

  1. The native speaker is the ideal teacher. I am not a native speaker therefore I am not the ideal teacher.

This a misconception. It’s all about skills, rapport and training. As a teacher trainer, I’ve seen this again and again, watching the NNESTs out-teach the NESTs.


I obviously want to give myself the best chance to get the job I want, so the fact that everyone I’ve worked for has only recruited NESTs has helped cut worthy competition.

The people I really want out of my teaching pool are unqualified and inexperienced people who teach because they want an extended holiday and equate NES to NEST.

The NES who believes they can teach because they are lucky enough to have English as their mother tongue are surely more dangerous for the elt profession.

That’s my two cents.

Click here to see the session and to download the slides.


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