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(En)Countering Native-speakerism

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Global Perspectives

Edited by

Anne Swan
Canterbury Christ Church University, UK

Pamela Aboshiha
Canterbury Christ Church University, UK


Adrian Holliday
Canterbury Christ Church University, UK

With a foreword by Professor B. Kumaravadivelu

Selection, introduction and editorial content Anne Swan,
Pamela Aboshiha and Adrian Holliday 2015
Individual chapters Respective authors 2015
Foreword B. Kumaravadivelu 2015
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(En)countering native-speakerism : global perspectives / edited by Anne
Swan, Canterbury Christ Church University, UK; Adrian Holliday, Canterbury
Christ Church University, UK; Pamela Aboshiha, Canterbury Christ Church
University, UK.
pages cm
1. English languageStudy and teachingForeign speakers. 2. English
teachersTraining of. 3. Native languageStudy and teaching.
4. Second language acquisition. I. Swan, Anne, 1948 editor.
II. Aboshiha, Pamela, 1954 editor. III. Holliday, Adrian, editor.
PE1128.A2E456 2015
428.0071dc23 2015033231

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List of Figures and Tables vii

Foreword viii
Acknowledgements xii
Notes on Contributors xiii

Introduction 1
Anne Swan, Pamela Aboshiha and Adrian Holliday
Part I Exposing the Ideologies Promoting Native-speakerist
Tendencies in ELT
1 Native-speakerism: Taking the Concept Forward
and Achieving Cultural Belief 11
Adrian Holliday
2 Researching Discourses of Culture and Native-speakerism 26
Ireri Armenta and Adrian Holliday
Part II Native-speakerism and Teachers of English
3 Rachels Story: Development of a Native Speaker
English Language Teacher 43
Pamela Aboshiha
4 Redefining English Language Teacher Identity 59
Anne Swan
5 The Influence of Native-speakerism on
CLIL Teachers in Korea 75
Yeonsuk Bae
Part III Native-speakerism and Perceptions of Identity
6 The Challenge of Native-speakerism in ELT:
Labelling and Categorising 93
Yasemin Oral
7 Constructing the English Teacher: Discourses
of Attachment and Detachment at a Mexican University 109
Irasema Mora Pablo

vi Contents

8 Interrogating Assumptions of Native-speakerism from the

Perspective of Kuwait University English Language Students 124
Ayesha Kamal
9 The Role English Plays in the Construction
of Professional Identities in NEST-NNES Bilingual
Marriages in Istanbul 141
Caroline Fell Kurban
Part IV Native-speakerism in the Academic Environment
10 The Politics of Remediation: Cultural Disbelief
and Non-traditional Students 161
Victoria Odeniyi
11 I am not what you think I am: EFL Undergraduates
Experience of Academic Writing, Facing Discourses
of Formulaic Writing 177
Nasima Yamchi
12 Perceptions of Alternative Research Writing: Conjuring up
Nostalgic Modernism to Combat the Native
English Speaker and Non-native English Speaker
Differentiation amongst TESOL Academics 193
William Sughrua

Index 209
List of Figures and Tables


6.1 Research process 95


6.1 List of common labels to describe L2 learners and migrants 98

6.2 Overview of participants 100
9.1 Nationalities of the participants 153


Native-speakerism, at once a cause and a consequence, neatly captures

the colonial character that continues to envelop the globalised profes-
sion of English Language Teaching (ELT). It has become an all-pervading
entity whose tentacles hold a vice-like grip on almost all aspects of
English language learning, teaching and testing around the world. It is,
as I have stated elsewhere,

analogous to a tap root from which all primary and secondary

roots and rootlets sprout laterally. It spreads itself largely in terms
of the importance given to matters such as native-speaker accent,
native-speaker teachers, native-like target competence, teaching
methods emanating from Western universities, textbooks published
by Western publishing houses, research agenda set by Center-based
scholars, and professional journals edited and published from Center
countries. (Kumaravadivelu, 2012: 15)

Any meaningful attempt to disrupt, and eventually dismantle, the

unfair native-speaker dominance in ELT must begin with a clear under-
standing of what native-speakerism is and how it operates.
A pernicious and persistent quality of native-speakerism is the inequal-
ity between teachers of English who speak the language as their mother
tongue and those who do not. By and large, the inequality is created by the
process of marginalisation on the part of native speakers, and sustained
by the practice of self-marginalisation on the part of non-native speakers.
Much has been written about these issues, and mostly by Center-located
professionals. What is different about this volume is that it presents the
views of practitioners from the periphery, and does so with much needed
data-based evidence. The editors deserve commendation for collecting
research projects carried out in various institutions and locations that
cover several continents. Significantly, the contributors critically reflect
on their own observations and experiences in border-crossing, instead of
merely aligning themselves with one side of the debilitating native/non-
native dichotomy that has been founded and fostered by vested interests.
Their work, nevertheless, is unreservedly grounded in a particular ideo-
logical stance that aims at replacing the concept of native-speakerism
with a genuine understanding of ELT professionalism.

Foreword ix

Although the chapters have been thematically divided into four parts,
they present an array of overlapping issues concerning native-speakerism.
Prominent among them are (a) cultural disbelief, (b) professional iden-
tity, and (c) methodological concerns. Expanding the Hollidayan notion
of cultural disbelief, and echoing an aspect of Saidian Orientalism, sev-
eral authors in this volume (particularly Holliday, Armenta & Holliday,
and Odeniyi) highlight how native speakers valorise the Self and inferi-
oritise the Other. They show how native-speaking teachers believe that
Others just do not have, and are unable to develop, the capability to
teach English well, generally attributing this incapacity to the perceived
cultural deficiency of the Other. The authors also show how this disbe-
lief continues to thrive well into the 21st century, even becoming an
everyday occurrence in the professional lives of many ELT practitioners.
The only antidote, they reckon, is to promote cultural belief in the cul-
tural contribution of all English language teachers and users, regardless
of their first language background.
A related issue addressed in several chapters (particularly Swan, Oral,
Mora Pablo, and Kurban) is the construction of professional identity in
an environment where native-speakerism thrives. These studies caution
us against the danger of pigeon-holing teacher identities in terms of
familiar categories and labels. Such a practice might lead certain aspects
of teacher identities to be falsely foregrounded while certain others get
trivialised or ignored, thereby giving us a distorted picture of teachers
professional identity. We also learn that there indeed are non-native
teachers who transcend the limitations of native-speakerism and try to
construct their professional identity based on their lived experiences
as multilingual teachers, capable of asserting the value of their local
knowledge in local contexts, and blossoming into self-determining,
autonomous individuals.
As they problematise the role of native-speakerism in the construc-
tion of professional identity, some of the contributors help us meet
interesting characters who send us sometimes subtle and sometimes
not-so-subtle messages. We meet British teachers who have no hesita-
tion in claiming that it is their birthright to teach English, thereby
readily endorsing the unearned privileges that come with native-
speakerism. We also meet British teachers who, as they get more and
more exposed and sensitised to learners and teachers of English in
other countries, recognise the ill-effects of native-speakerism, thereby
showing signs of professional and intellectual growth. We meet Korean
teachers of English who not only idealise but also idolise their native-
speaking colleagues. We meet expatriates who assume that some of their
x Foreword

learners of English in West Asia who exhibit the ability to think on their
own must have picked it up while visiting the United States. We meet
native-speaking teachers who are married to Turkish learners of English,
who, in spite of choosing to learn Turkish and live in Istanbul, continue
their spousal relationship in English, and also keep and prominently
show their English identity, primarily because of the professional and
sociocultural benefits attached to it. An important lesson we must take
away from these character studies is that marginalisation is an attribute
of the hegemonic might, whereas self-marginalisation is an attitude of
the subaltern mind.
The third overarching issue that a majority of the contributors address
directly or indirectly is the type of research methodology required to
study the impact of native-speakerism. Renowned anthropologists,
especially those who belong to, and have worked with, indigenous com-
munities have repeatedly asserted that modernist and positivist research
methodologies are least equipped to help us investigate the lived experi-
ences of Othered people. In order to uncover the hidden meanings of
the practice of everyday life of the Other, the researcher has to delve
deep into their intentions and interpretations. In such a scenario, as
Martin Nakata, a Torres Strait Islander, observes in his celebrated book,
Disciplining the Savages, Savaging the Disciplines, the lived experience of
the Other becomes

the point of entry for investigation, not the case under investiga-
tion. It is to find a way to explore the actualities of the everyday and
discover how to express them conceptually from within that experi-
ence, rather than depend on or deploy predetermined concepts and
categories for explaining experience. (2008: 215)

Treating their subjects lived experience with native-speakerism as a

point of entry for investigation, several contributors to this volume have
tried to go beyond the limitations of modernist and positivist research
design by opting for investigative techniques such as personal narra-
tives, thick descriptions, and ethnographic reconstructions. Dismissing
the notion that the researcher has to remain distant and objective,
and recognising the ideological and subjective nature of the research
process, some of the researchers have relied on their own professional
biographies as well as creative interventions to read between the lines
of their interview participants. Wisely, they have all kept in mind that
critical ethnographic research is not an experimental science in search
of law but an interpretive one in search of meaning (Geertz, 1973: 5).
Foreword xi

In attempting to search for meaning, the researchers have inevitably

found that predetermined categories and labels are hopelessly inad-
equate for their investigative purposes.
Clearly, this volume makes an important contribution to our under-
standing of the vexed and vexing issue of native-speakerism in our
field. By bringing together players from a variety of international
institutions and locations, by giving a platform to the voices from the
periphery, by collecting empirical evidence about the ground realities of
native-speakerism, and by ensuring conceptual and stylistic coherence
across chapters and authors, the editors have rendered a commendable
service to the profession. The net result has been a rich and rewarding
deconstruction of how native-speakerism plays out in the lives of par-
ticipants from various parts of the world. Hopefully, the volume will
succeed in triggering similar critical reflections among interested play-
ers, leading to sustained and collective action aimed at disrupting the
native-speaker dominance in our profession, eventually ensuring a level
playing-field for all.
B. Kumaravadivelu
California, March 2015

Geertz, C. (1973). The Interpretation of Culture. New York: Basic Books.
Kumaravadivelu, B. (2012). Individual identity, cultural globalization and teach-
ing English as an international language: The case for an epistemic break.
In L. Alsagoff, S. McKay, G. Hu, & W. Renandya (eds). Teaching English as an
International Language: Principles and Practices (pp. 927). New York: Routledge.
Nakata, M. (2008). Disciplining the Savages, Savaging the Disciplines. Canberra:
Aboriginal Studies Press.

This book came about through the shared interests of a group of PhD
students at Canterbury Christ Church University. Although many of the
group members worked and researched in countries outside UK, there
were regular meetings between the authors of this volume at postgradu-
ate conferences and the annual Cutting Edges TESOL conference at the
university. The emergence of similar themes, especially concerning the
native/nonnative speaker dichotomy, prompted the proposal to edit
a collection of chapters in which we could share our globally gathered
experiences concerning native-speakerism.
The editors are extremely grateful to the contributors who have
helped to bring this book into being, providing insights into native-
speakerist attitudes in a range of countries, with participants residing in
Australia, Korea, Kuwait, Mexico, Turkey, UAE and UK who have been
able to connect and respond to one another. The fact that a group of
PhD students and recent graduates at one university have been able to
collaborate on this theme testifies to its relevance to the field.

Notes on Contributors

Pamela Aboshiha is an internationally experienced teacher trainer

and educator and director of the MA TESOL programme at Canterbury
Christ Church University, UK. She is particularly interested in pre-ser-
vice teacher training and the integration of practice and theory in ELT.
She has published on these topics.

Ireri Armenta is a lecturer-researcher at the University of Guanajuanto,

Mexico. She teaches the BA TESOL programme and has taught English
as a foreign language extensively. Armenta has conducted several
research projects with a focus on culture-related aspects, and has pre-
sented her findings at several international conferences.

Yeonsuk Bae has taught a wide range of students in South Korea and the
UK. She was involved in creating a science textbook package in Korea,
which initiated her interests in the development of teachers thinking
and pedagogies, which reflect their personal and professional lives.

Adrian Holliday is Professor of Applied Linguistics at Canterbury

Christ Church University in the School of Language Studies and
Applied Linguistics where he co-ordinates doctoral research in inter-
national English language education and intercultural issues. He is
also Head of the Graduate School and Research Office and directs the
University research degrees programme. He has published widely in
the critical sociology of TESOL, qualitative research methodology and
intercultural communication.

Ayesha Kamal holds a PhD in Applied Linguistics from Canterbury

Christ Church University at the University of Kent. Her areas of interest
are language and identity, intercultural communication, and teacher

B. Kumaravadivelu was educated at the University of Madras in India,

Lancaster in Britain, and Michigan in the USA. He is Professor of
Applied Linguistics and TESOL at San Jos State University, California.
His areas of research include language teaching methods, teacher educa-
tion, classroom discourse analysis, postmethod pedagogy, and cultural

xiv Notes on Contributors

Caroline Fell Kurban is currently working as Director of the Centre for

Excellence in Teaching and Learning at MEF University, Istanbul. Her
teaching career spans teaching, training and managing in schools and
universities in Turkey, Austria, Japan, Taiwan, Spain and Portugal. She
holds an MSc in TESOL and PhD in Applied Linguistics.

Victoria Odeniyi works for the University of Leicester as an associate

tutor on an MA Applied Linguistics with TESOL programme. Previously
she worked as Lecturer in English for Academic Purposes (Middlesex
University), where she developed an interest in academic writing. She is
undertaking a doctorate at Canterbury Christchurch University.

Yasemin Oral is Assistant Professor of English language teaching at

Istanbul University, Istanbul, Turkey, where she teaches courses in lan-
guage teaching methodology, critical reading and thinking, and research
methods. Her primary research interests include critical pedagogies,
cultural aspects of language teaching/learning and identity and language

Irasema Mora Pablo is a full-time teacher at the University of Guanajuato,

Mexico, in the Language Department. She holds a PhD in Applied
Linguistics from the University of Kent, UK. She teaches courses in the
area of ELT and applied linguistics and has published articles and chapters
nationally and internationally.

William Sughrua holds a PhD in Applied Linguistics from Canterbury

Christ Church University at the University of Kent. He is a lecturer at
Universidad Autnoma Benito Jurez de Oaxaca in Mexico. His research
and teaching interests involve critical pedagogy, alternative academic
writing, qualitative research and reflexive ethnography.

Anne Swan has developed and taught programmes for TESOL in UK,
Italy, Japan, Malaysia, China and Australia. Her principal research inter-
est is the place of English in plurilingual societies. She has presented
and published papers at international conferences on this topic in the
UK, Mexico and Iran.

Nasima Yamchi has taught EFL and academic writing in the English
departments of various universities. As a multilingual, multicultural
teacher, she is interested in the social, political and cultural aspects of
teaching and learning languages.
Anne Swan, Pamela Aboshiha and Adrian Holliday

It is no exaggeration to write that the tyranny of native-speakerism

has dominated world-wide English language teaching discourse for
decades. Native speaker teachers have been relied upon to provide
models of teaching practices to be emulated, with pronunciation to be
faithfully copied, and they have been viewed as having methodologi-
cal approaches which epitomise the most forward, up-to-date ways of
language teaching. This scenario has produced a litany of very often
unreal expectations, qualities, skills and behaviours attributed to native
speaker English language teachers, thus creating the ideology native-
speakerism. Of course, this idealisation of native speaker teachers
of the English language has not gone unchallenged; for example:
Canagarajah (2002), Holliday (2006), Holliday & Aboshiha (2009),
Kubota (2002), Kumaravadivelu (2012), Mahboob (2010), Moussu &
Llurda (2008), and Rajagopalan (2004). Copious attempts to forefront
and problematise native-speakerism have been made, but this persua-
sive ideology, alongside its equally perturbing and insidious corollary
cultural disbelief (the Others really cant do it as well as Us), seems
implacable. In fact, in the second decade of the 21st century, native
speaker teachers continue to be hired and valued in institutions round
the world for no other reason than that they were born into an English-
speaking community. Advertisements which look more for birthright
than for ELT professional qualifications and attributes continue to
appear internationally and native speaker consultants are appointed
to advise and teach teachers from or in contexts they often have little
knowledge of, simply because English is the language of their forma-
tive years. Thus, despite the challenges in the outpouring of critiques,
we may well ask if there has there been any recognisable shift in the
practice of and belief in native-speakerism in ELT world-wide. Has the
2 Anne Swan, Pamela Aboshiha and Adrian Holliday

serious and substantial epidemic of academic texts, journal articles,

conference speeches and special interest groups devised to combat
the ideology had any effect in dislodging native speakers and native-
speakerism from their pedestals in ELT?
This volume seeks to provide insight into whether, how or to what
degree there has been a shift in perceptions about native-speakerism
at the coal-face of ELT. The volume highlights and records a number
of recent, small-scale research projects conducted by teachers in ELT
with other teachers, students and speakers of the English language. The
projects are all concerned with or relate to teachers and students views
of the tenacious concept of native-speakerism. Furthermore, in order to
capture opinions from practitioners and students of ELT in world-wide
settings, these research projects were carried out in a variety of inter-
national institutions and locations ranging from South-east Asia, to the
Middle East, Central America and Europe.
Importantly, this is a volume of chapters written by authors who
are mostly new to the field. They are teachers of English writing about
themselves and their ELT colleagues and students, or about people in
close proximity to them. It is also a volume which considers how a vari-
ety of native speaker English, away from the expected native-speakerist
norms, is used, or allowed to be used, in various settings. The native
speaker label is thus not only interrogated but also shifted dramati-
cally in its reference. Thus, from these professionals working around
the world we have collated a body of research that represents current
coal-face discourse and thinking about the present state of native-
speakerism in the field. These pieces of research continue to worry at
the tiresome, ever-present, thorny problem of the labels non-native
speaker and native speaker teacher and what meaning is attached to
these labels by practising teachers in daily professional life.
The volumes opening argument is that perpetual discussion of the
native speaker/non-native speaker issue has become so common-
place it is now the norm in ELT and can thus only be solved by those
considered subalterns themselves: it is these teachers, academics and
writers who need to raise their voices and provide solutions. This open-
ing chapter paves the way for the volume to do exactly what has been
suggested, that is for subaltern English language teachers and others
sympathetic to the cause to lay out their research, making their points
and proposals to provide solutions to minimise and eventually eradicate
the concept of native-speakerism in ELT.
This view, paying homage to Kumaravadivelu (in press), may indeed
be the way forward, despite the perturbing fact that most of the 11
Introduction 3

international studies in this volume reveal that native-speakerism and

cultural disbelief continue to exist and thrive well into the 21st cen-
tury. It is indeed sobering to read that the body of the writers evidence
from Mexico to Turkey, from South Korea to the UK and the UAE,
shows us that in many of these situations, it is plus a change, in
terms of the plaudits awarded to native speakers and the sway held by
native-speakerism. Outside the classroom, even professional association
with the native-speaker teacher is shown to have credence. In terms
of which variety of English is used, writers continue to be penalised,
marginalised and under-valued if they fail to adhere to native-speaker
English standards and norms on page and screen.
Fortunately for the future of English language teaching, the findings
of these practitioners, recorded in the chapters, reveal a not entirely
gloomy scenario. In each case we see being brought forward some way
in which native-speakerism has been tackled and whittled away at, itself
becoming that which is marginalised and irrelevant.
Thus, subsequently, those we may term untransplanted subalterns
get to raise their voices. These are writers who have stayed in their own
backyards and do not therefore rail against native-speakerism from
cosy positions in comfortable native speaker institutions. Speaking
from their busy teacher lives, they expose flaws in the ideological
stranglehold. Their chapters show how inadequate and absurd native-
speakerism and dichotomous labelling of teachers, students and writers
in ELT is, when set against the complexities of modern life and intricate
global movement. These subalterns and their colleagues highlight
the need for more open approaches, which accept and celebrate differ-
ence, rather than use it to confine professionals and a language used
Vitally, the chapters in the volume outline internationally-gathered
empirical evidence about the realities of ELT on the ground today, a
body of evidence which, it has been noted, is definitely needed. Moussu
and Llurda (2008) claim in their state-of-the-art article that there are too
many position pieces and there needs to be more evidence provided,
while Waters (2007) also declares that there is insufficient research to
support claims of cultural disbelief by native speakers. These chapters
are thus not anecdotal tales of aggrieved non-native speakers retelling
slights over the course of their careers, but painstaking, thorough pieces
of research conducted in the international settings where the author-
practitioners work. The evidence they put forward supercedes and lays
bare the situations and understandings of native-speakerism by those
working in ELT, whatever their first or second or even third language.
4 Anne Swan, Pamela Aboshiha and Adrian Holliday

Finally, in order to uncover current discourse within the realities of

the settings, authors in the volume have demonstrated and forefronted
their sensitive research methodologies, which allow deep interroga-
tion of phenomena. In a further hopeful scenario, author-practitioners
suggest that the way forward is to develop methodological approaches
which investigate fully the taken-for-granted scripts in ELT, such as
that of native-speakerism and native and non-native labelling. The
authors maintain that methodologies must allow painstaking unravel-
ling of what is deeply embedded in professional discourse, and also the
slow dismantling of how such constructions are created, in order for
frank pictures to emerge.
The book is structured in four parts. The first, Exposing the ideologies
promoting native-speakerist tendencies in ELT, firmly establishes the
theme of the book. In the opening chapter, Holliday exposes the hidden
depths of native-speakerism, which he sees as hindering the develop-
ment of any understanding of English as a multicultural language. He
describes a cultural disbelief in the abilities of teachers who are labelled
non-native speakers that maintains the superiority of the native
speaker, and laments the necessity to continue using these terms,
which contribute disturbingly to the commodification of English
teachers. He calls for a postmodern analysis of the terms, which would,
he claims, require a deeper analysis of how native-speakerism makes
use of an imagined Other to promote its values, neglecting to explore
the richness of the unrecognised cultural contribution of the subaltern
teacher. Native-speakerism is shown to be an insidious ideology which
has an alarming neo-racist foundation, and which must be combated by
subalterns with a cultural belief in who they are. Thus his discussion
effectively dismantles the native-non-native speaker dichotomy by
showing the futility of trying to limit cultural diversity in todays world,
where individuals are enriched, rather than limited, by their origins.
In the second chapter in this part, Armenta and Holliday reinforce
the view of native-speakerism as an insidious ideology, rendered all
the more dangerous by the nave attitudes with which cultural stereo-
types are accepted within ELT. By analysing the methodology adopted
by Armenta in her research, the authors emphasise the relevance of
thick description in uncovering hidden meanings. Lively discussion of
critical incidents in the research gives reliability and validity to the out-
comes. The importance of setting and thick description as part of the
research process is revealed to be crucial in going beneath face value
assumptions and consequently uncovering deceptively innocent dis-
courses pervading research methodology, and highlights the dangers of
Introduction 5

accepting cultural stereotypes. The focus on methodology, rather than

the research findings, has the effect of emphasising the pervasiveness of
native-speakerism in academic settings and thus foreshadows the later
parts of this book.
The contributors to the second part, Native-speakerism and teachers
of English, view native-speakerism from widely differing perspectives.
Aboshihas research is centred on Rachel, a British native speaker
teacher who breaks away from the native-speakerist ideology practised
by her peers and develops an understanding of professional identity
that does not rely on native or non-native labels. Other teachers in
Aboshihas group retain a view of non-native speaker colleagues as
being linguistically and culturally and professionally deficient, but evi-
dence is produced to show that they, too, may be encouraged to move
in the same direction of abandoning native-speakerism as they start to
rethink concepts of professional identity.
Swan highlights the irrelevance of native-speakerism in a variety of
South-east Asian contexts, and the importance English language teach-
ers from these backgrounds attach to professional issues rather than lan-
guage birthright. Swans research participants are non-native speaker
teachers who are studying at postgraduate level and who provide
evidence of having overcome native-speakerism in their own contexts
without having to consider the label. They have been able to do this
because they have already formed their own opinions about what the
native speaker English teacher in their midst is capable of achieving.
There is still a line drawn between native and non-native speaker
teachers, but it is often to the detriment of the native speaker. Local
knowledge and linguistic diversity, in combination, are shown to be
empowering features that allow multilingual teachers to assert a strong
professional identity.
Baes research shows another aspect of the influence of native-
speakerism. She analyses her interviews with, in particular, two South
Korean primary school teachers who were required to teach maths and
science in English. The changes they describe in their teaching as a
result of English use in the classroom reveal how established native-
speakerist beliefs can produce a complex array of feelings and influences
which teachers use to reconstruct their professional identities.
In the third part, Native-speakerism and perceptions of identity, the
focus shifts from the superficial nature of cultural labelling developed
in Part I, and the professional identity of teachers developed in Part II
to how these connect with the broader communities within which
language learning takes place.
6 Anne Swan, Pamela Aboshiha and Adrian Holliday

Orals chapter critiques the labelling and categorising of Turkish

people using and learning English in the UK. Her research provides
significant evidence for how native-speakerism has influenced trivialis-
ing labels and notions of cultural deficiency attributed to their commu-
nity. This is then connected to a broader picture of the objectification
of migrant communities. Mora Pablo also investigates labelling, with
her claim that the complexity of individual identities for teachers,
students and administrators in a Mexican university goes beyond the
native-non-native speaker designation that is often applied. She draws
on Mexicos turbulent history to show how individuals construct their
identities under the influence of political and geographical realities,
thus extending our understanding of native-speakerism beyond imme-
diate professional concerns.
Kamal looks at how teachers construct their students identities in
Kuwait and gives examples of native speaker teachers failing to delve
beneath the surface of students lives to recognise the impact of the
local context. In contrast to these native-speakerist perceptions, she
indicates how the students use English as part of their globalised identi-
ties outside the classroom.
Fell Kurban goes a step further in taking native-speakerism into the
wider community in her chapter on how Turkish and English bilingual
couples take advantage of the perceived symbolic and economic gains
to be derived from association with native speakers of English. She
also exposes some of the complex reasons binding language learning
to identity by describing how the individual circumstances of partici-
pants who have English as a first language lead them to make different
choices about how well they want to speak Turkish. In her conclusion,
she suggests that, in Turkey at least, the government may be changing
regulations affecting some of the privileges hitherto enjoyed by English-
speaking foreign residents, perhaps heralding a decline in the values
attached to native-speaker skills.
The final part, Native-speakerism in the academic environment,
with particular reference to academic writing, is distinguished from the
previous two by its focus on what is being taught rather than who is
teaching or being taught. Western approaches to writing in academic
cultures are defined and contrasted with the skills already possessed by
non traditional (Odeniyi) or non-Western (Yamchi) students, reveal-
ing a native-speakerist bias to how these students are judged.
The three writers in this part share a concern with the Othering of
non-traditional students resulting from fixed views about academic
writing. Odeniyi shows the label non-traditional itself to be yet
Introduction 7

another way of reinforcing native-speakerist tendencies. She argues for

making use of students own cultural and linguistic backgrounds in
order to empower them academically, rather than imposing an inflex-
ible and possibly unrealistic standard for the production of academic
Yamchi also explores the marginalisation of writers from diverse back-
grounds within the restrictions of Western academic writing require-
ments. Data from her interviews with Emirati students provide insights
into the preference for writing in English rather than Arabic, alongside
the acknowledgement that academic English imposes limits that they
find boring and frustrating because they are all expected to write in
the same way. Moreover, the students feel that English does not allow
them to describe aspects of their own culture, such as religion, and
show that they are indeed capable of critical thinking in referring to
lack of dialogue and mechanical learning in the tasks they are given.
Sughrua discusses alternative academic writing, characterised by a
more personalised approach to writing, and its relevance for native
and non-native English speakers. He claims that this discrimina-
tory dichotomy is rendered irrelevant if the impact of alternality
in academic writing is acknowledged across the TESOL community
worldwide. His data shows that there are limitations on the academic
writing genre that may restrict writers from the periphery in the same
way as they restrict Odeniyis non-traditional writers. He suggests
that embracing a broader definition of academic writing, such as that
defined by alternative research writing, may overcome the prejudices
of native-speakerism.
Thus all three chapters in this final part highlight the fixed parameters of
Western academic writing and relate them to the established dichotomies
of native-non-native, centre-periphery and individualist-collectivist,
showing how students from a wide range of backgrounds are hampered
in their search for an academic voice by universal native-speakerist

Canagarajah, S. 2002. Globalization, methods and practice in periphery class-
rooms. In Block, D. & Cameron, D. (eds) Globalization and Language Teaching.
London: Routledge.
Holliday, A. 2006. Native-speakerism. English Language Teaching Journal 60/4:
Holliday, A. R. & Aboshiha, P. J. 2009. The denial of ideology in perceptions of
nonnative speaker teachers. TESOL Quarterly 43/4: 66989.
8 Anne Swan, Pamela Aboshiha and Adrian Holliday

Kubota, R. 2002. The impact of globalization on language teaching in Japan. In

Block, D. & Cameron, D. (eds) Globalization and Language Teaching. London:
Kumaravadivelu, B. 2012. Language Teacher Education for a Global Society:
A Modular Model for Knowing, Analysing, Recognising, Doing and Seeing. USA: Taylor
and Francis.
Kumaravadivelu, B. (in press). The decolonial option in English teaching: can
the subaltern act? TESOL Quarterly.
Mahboob, A. 2010. The NNEST Lens: Nonnative English Speakers in TESOL.
Newcastle, UK: Cambridge Scholars Press.
Moussu, L & Llurda, F. 2008. Non-native English-speaking English language
teachers: history and research. Language Teaching 41/3:31548.
Rajagopalan, K. 2004. The concept of World English and its implications of
ELT English Language Teaching Journal 58/2: 11117.
Waters, A. 2007. Native-speakerism in ELT: Plus a change ? System 01/2007;
35/3: 281292.
Part I
Exposing the Ideologies
Promoting Native-speakerist
Tendencies in ELT
Native-speakerism: Taking the
Concept Forward and Achieving
Cultural Belief
Adrian Holliday

This chapter maintains that native-speakerism damages the entire

ELT profession as well as popular perceptions of English and culture.
It represents a widespread cultural disbelief a disbelief in the cultural
contribution of teachers who have been labelled non-native speakers.
This label not only describes a relationship with English but also
implies a cultural deficiency derived from non-Western stereotypes.
Native-speakerism also demeans native speaker teachers who them-
selves become commodities to serve an industry which is hungry for
the native speaker ideal. While the non-native speaker label may
have more neutral connotations with other languages, with respect to
English it relates to a global politics which gives it neo-racist meaning.
Although the native-non-native speaker division is well-established as
a problem, as an ideology, native-speakerism has almost disappeared
between the lines of our everyday professional lives. This is particularly
damaging because issues may appear to have been solved when in fact
they have not. Kumaravadivelu (in press) therefore argues that native-
speakerism represents an unresponsive native speaker hegemony,
against which the non-native speaker subaltern must take action.
I cannot in any way speak for the non-native speaker subaltern. My
aim is to make sense of the circumstances which create native-speakerism
and the unfortunate hegemony within our profession which thrusts
the majority of its members into the subaltern position on a daily basis.
I can do this from an insider position because I have lived the native
speaker persona throughout my career and understand much of the
detail of how the ideology operates (Holliday 2005: 6). On this basis
I argue that cultural belief a belief in the cultural contribution of all
teachers regardless of their background is the only way to remove the
prejudice which positions non-native speakers as the subaltern. It is
12 Adrian Holliday

essential to shift the problem, so that it is not the non-native speaker,

but the cultural disbelief which creates the concept of the non-native
I will begin by looking at the nature of the ideology and the cultural
disbelief which it promotes. I will then explore the wide-ranging, multi-
directional impact of native-speakerism on all parties within the profes-
sion and beyond, and how it has become domesticated as an almost
neutral phenomenon. This will be followed with a discussion of more
effective ways to research and reveal native-speakerism, and then a pro-
posal for how to achieve belief in the contribution of teachers from all
cultural backgrounds as a possible antidote to native-speakerism.
This is a difficult subject to write about because there is the necessity
to use terms, non-native speaker and native speaker, which should
not be in use at all. Inspired very much by Kumaravadivelus (forth-
coming) paper, I also find it disturbing because he identifies himself
as non-native speaker whereas I never associated this label with him
or with any of the people I know, including some of the co-authors of
this book, who use English just as well as I do, but happen not to have
been born with it as their only language. The label is highly disquieting,
but has to be used in order to seek to undo it. Cumbersome though it
may be, I therefore continue to place native speaker and non-native
speaker in inverted commas both to signal so-called and to indicate a
burden that has to be endured until the issue can be undone. The other
thing that I have tried to do throughout is to remember that these labels
are labels and not actual groups of people.

Ideology and cultural disbelief

The chapters in this book are driven by a recognition that the perceived
native-non-native speaker division within ELT stems from the ideology of
native-speakerism. A useful definition of ideology is a set of ideas put to
work in the justification and maintenance of vested interests (Spears 1999:
19). The vested interest of native-speakerism is the idealisation and promo-
tion of teachers who are constructed as native speakers as representing a
Western culture from which spring the ideals both of English and of the
methodology for teaching it (Holliday 2005: 6). This in turn derives from
Phillipsons (1992) linguistic imperialism thesis that the concept of the
superior native speaker teacher was explicitly constructed in the 1960s as
a saleable product to support American and British aid trajectories.
Cultural disbelief is central to native-speakerism because the con-
cepts of native and non-native speaker are framed as cultural. Native
Native-speakerism 13

speaker is constructed in professional texts as organised and autono-

mous in fitting with the common description of individualist cultures
of the West, while non-native speaker is associated with deficiency
in these attributes in fitting with the common description of col-
lectivist cultures of the non-West (Holliday 2005: 19, citing Kubota,
Kumaravadivelu, Nayar, and Pennycook), which are themselves con-
sidered to be culturally deficient according to a Western construction
(Holliday 2011; Kim 2005; Kumaravadivelu 2007: 15; Moon 2008: 16).
The result is a disbelief in the ability of teachers labelled as non-native
speakers to teach English with active oral expression, initiation, self-
direction and students working in groups and pairs (Holliday 1994:
16771; 2005: 44), and a deeper conviction that non-Western and
Western English cultures are incompatible.
That native speaker and non-native speaker are constructed is clear
because they are not self-evident on technical linguistic or even nation-
ality grounds. They are instead professionally popularised categories,
often with skin colour as a determining characteristic (e.g. Ali 2009;
Kubota et al. 2005; Kubota & Lin 2006; Shuck 2006). Native-speakerist
cultural disbelief is therefore neo-racist. Even though race is not an
explicit agenda in the minds of the people concerned, it rationalizes
the subordination of people of colour on the basis of culture (Spears
1999: 1112). Neo-racism is a form of racism which is implicit in but
hidden by supposedly neutral and innocent talk of cultural difference.

Widespread impact

However, the implications of native-speakerism go further than the

promotion of teachers who are labelled native speaker. Ideologies
are large, complex and far-reaching. They can travel beyond their
original borders and can be bought into in different ways and to dif-
ferent degrees at different times by a wide range of individuals. Not
all, and not only English-speaking Western professionals buy into
native-speakerism. Discrimination is evident in employment practices
and customer preference far beyond the English-speaking West, where
native speaker has become a sales icon for all types of language teach-
ing institutions and their customers (e.g. Ali 2009; Holliday 2005: 8;
Lengeling & Mora Pablo 2012; Shao 2005). There is also still a wide-
spread belief that authenticity in English lessons derives from native
speaker language and cultural content. Despite claims that English in
India has been an Indian language since independence, I met students
who were still being told by their teachers that only British English
14 Adrian Holliday

pronunciation would be intelligible (Holliday 2014); and interviews

with school students in China indicate their alienation from cultural
content in textbooks which their writers construe as native speaker
(Gong & Holliday 2013).
The vested interests of native-speakerism are therefore multidirec-
tional and can impact on a wide range of settings, as illustrated in the
chapters in this book. Native-speakerism is so much in the air in both
professional and popular circles that it provides a default and often
tacit image of English and how it should be taught against which all
parties position themselves either in resistance or compliance and
many shades in between. This is not only in teacher and student strug-
gles to construct language and cultural identity (Armenta & Holliday,
Aboshiha, Bae, Kamal, Mora Pablo, and Swan, this volume), but also
in perceptions of English and culture in Turkish bilingual families and
diaspora (Oral, Fell) and in academic journals (Sughrua, this volume).
Yazan (2014) reports how a new generation of teachers are still being
questioned explicitly and implicitly about their English because of their
names and appearance.
Kumaravadivelu (forthcoming) reports how non-native speaker
deeply and relentlessly reduces the academic and professional status
of those it labels. The examples he cites run from not allowing masters
students to participate in teaching practice in US universities, then
failing in competition with teachers labelled as native speaker when
applying for jobs, to hardly ever being in a position to open or be the
major speakers at conferences in the countries they come from, to
not being expected to author textbooks, curricula or major academic
works. Kumaravadivelu cites in detail a conference event in 2013,
which I also witnessed. The joint organisers were the EFL University
in Hyderabad, India and the British Council. However, the British
Council invited the speakers and made all their arrangements, even as
far as policy and legal matters. After winning independence from for-
eign agencies in the mid 1980s, there now seemed to be a new culture
of dependence.
This account resonates with my own account of a conference in
Egypt, almost 30 years earlier, where a well-thinking but dominant
British curriculum consultant was trying to support the voices of
Egyptian colleagues in a conference colloquium by introducing them
and giving them space (Holliday 2005: 133). The dominant position
of the British consultant was caused by his absolute inability to stand
back and just let them get on with it the pure cultural disbelief that
they were able to. Of course there might have been protestations from
Native-speakerism 15

the Egyptian colleagues that they lacked experience; but it is pervasive

cultural disbelief which will always imagine that they cannot work
things out for themselves and that we can always show them how.
Citing Gramsci and Spivak, Kumaravadivelu interprets this depend-
ency as the predicament of the subaltern not having managed to gain
a voice by extricating itself from the discourses of the Centre. He goes
so far as to decry students resisting the hegemony by critiquing native
speaker texts and scribbling their own agendas into its margins. (The
reference here is to Canagarajahs (1999: 90) account of Sri Lankan
students and American textbooks.)

The commodification of native speaker teachers

Native-speakerism is also multidirectional. Teachers who are labelled

native speaker also suffer from being treated as a commodity by being
reduced to a list of saleable attributes. They can also be caught up in
discriminatory employment practices where they are used on the basis
of a speakerhood role which bars them from the recognition and rights
of their wider professional role (Kumaravadivelu 2012: 223, citing
Widin). This commodified and confining image of the native speaker
is the main topic of Houghton and Rivers (2013b), where a number of
chapters report that expatriate teachers are employed in institutions in
Japan with less favourable contracts on the basis of a reduced percep-
tion of their roles as language models. They argue quite rightly that
the Othering of any teachers in this manner, regardless of their back-
grounds, is a matter of human rights (Houghton & Rivers 2013a). This
commodification of teachers takes place whenever they are presented
as part of the offer of educational institutions anywhere in the world,
under the heading of native speaker, in order to attract customers.
I remember very well when I was a starting teacher at the British
Council in Tehran in the early 1970s, that I wanted to be appreciated
for my training and professionalism, as distinct from colleagues who
had been employed just because they were considered to be native
It might be too tenuous to place the commodification of such teach-
ers under the heading of neo-racism. However, I think it can be argued
that this commodification is infected by the neo-racism that makes it
possible. First, being commodified will only increase the culture of blam-
ing already levelled at non-native speaker colleagues and institutions
already common amongst expatriate teachers (Holliday & Aboshiha
2009; Aboshiha, this volume). Second, it is highly likely that the native
16 Adrian Holliday

speaker label under which they are employed will incorporate the rac-
ist concept Whiteness. This sinks to the same level as being considered
a prize catch anywhere just because of ones looks or pedigree. As a
teacher in Tehran, I wanted a career, not just itinerant employment.
I should not complain, because getting employed at that time was par-
ticularly easy if one fitted the native speaker label. I did not, however,
get to teach the Shahs children because I was not sufficiently well-bred,
tall and blond.
Once a particular group of people, defined upon cultural or linguistic
grounds, are demarcated as able or unable to carry out certain tasks by
virtue of this native-speakerist imagery, an ethos of discrimination is set
up which impacts on all parties. The core precept here is imagining that
people who are labelled non-native speakers to be culturally deficient.
If this precept were removed, the whole cycle of native-speakerism
would be disarmed. It may not change institutional practices which
disadvantage foreign employees, but the native-non-native speaker
excuse would no longer be there. It would be established that there is
no cultural, professional, pedagogic or economic excuse for defining
a teachers professional worth purely and narrowly in terms of their
speakerhood, regardless of their mother tongue.
To disarm or undo this native-speakerist cycle there needs to be cul-
tural belief in all parties. This should be the beginning principle the
starting point the belief that everyone has cultural proficiency. If,
then, the professional requirements to do the job, which would include
the knowledge of English and culture, are not there, this would have
nothing whatsoever to do with prescribed national or cultural back-
ground, or with perceptions of what is the mother tongue. It needs
to be recognised that teachers who have been traditionally labelled
native speakers have much to offer by virtue of their particular and
rich experience of English. However, to counter the hegemony of the
native speaker label, such teachers, whoever they are, must be consid-
ered part of a larger group of people who have long-standing and rich
mastery of English, regardless of any idealised reference to country of
origin or birth. Here it is important to consider Rajagopalans (2012)
suggestion that one should be considered a native speaker of whichever
language one feels competent in. He says this in the intensely multilin-
gual scenario of India, where many people can have to speak a number
of languages every day, and might not feel totally competent in any
of them (Amritavalli 2012). In this sense, being a native speaker has
nothing whatever to do with the abilities to be a teacher of a particular
Native-speakerism 17

Everywhere, but invisible and between the lines

A major barrier against removing native-speakerism and achieving a

redeeming cultural belief has been the demotion of the native-non-native
speaker issue to an everyday, domestic, professional concern. This gives
the impression that cultural belief has been achieved when in fact it
has not. This domestication follows a modernist professional discourse
in which not only the ideology of native-speakerism is largely denied,
but teachers who are labelled non-native speaker and native speaker
are considered real, distinct groups whose presence and identities
are strengthened by research into their respective characteristics and
Professions base their very existence on such neutrality, which by
its nature denies ideology. This existential aspect of the ELT profession
allows a conceptual anomaly. Despite the fact that there is little linguis-
tic support for a native-non-native speaker distinction (e.g. Braine 1999:
xv; Jenkins 2000: 89), and despite the huge attention given to native-
speakerism in the literature and research (Kumaravadivelu in press),
the labels native speaker and non-native speaker continue to be an
everyday currency for talking about professional difference even though
professional organisations have moved to eradicate them. As early as
2000 the then British Institute of ELT voted to ban native speaker as a
criterion for employment; and affirmative action against such employ-
ment discrimination has been written into the constitutions of profes-
sional bodies such as TESOL (Moussu & Llurda 2008: 330). However,
this too encourages domestication by becoming a routine issue. I still
hear my British masters students telling me that discrimination on the
basis of the non-native speaker label is a thing of the past and could
not happen now. Kumaravadivelu (in press) suggests that an explana-
tion for this navety might be that the dominant voice of the profession
that considers itself native speaker simply does not consider that the
native-non-native speaker issue is a problem for them.
Another aspect of this domestication is that research into the issue has
become formalised within an objectivist mode which lends itself to the
modernist professional neutrality. The modernist view of both science and
professionalism is that it must be neutral to be efficient. Native speaker
and non-native speaker labels are therefore constructed as harmless, and
indeed useful, as long as they are employed carefully and objectively.
There is a sense that non-native speaker and native speaker are actually
real domains which simply need to be researched further. This is reflected
in the establishment of standardised acronyms such as NS and NNS that
18 Adrian Holliday

fix the labels further in the minds of researchers and publishers, and the
readers of the research, as definable and measurable entities. Hence, while
Mas (2012) study of the views of students in Hong Kong regarding their
teachers is qualitative and acknowledges race politics (2012: 281), it seeks
a quantifiable outcome. Indeed, a stated aim is to try to offset discrimina-
tion against non-native speaker teachers by establishing their perceived
advantages, and perhaps returning to the traditional view that they can
do different things to native speaker teachers. This is to a degree echoed
by the view that native and non-native speaker teachers are two differ-
ent species even though birth into either group accords no privileges for
its members (Medgyes 2012: 122), and that it is hard to empathise with
non-native speaker teachers seeking employment in a foreign country
(Medgyes 2011: 191). This equal but exclusive in difference viewpoint
resonates with the modernist view of the associated individualist and col-
lectivist cultures as devoid of ideological construction.
Kumaravadivelu (in press) argues that carrying out ostensibly objec-
tive research into the differences between the two categories of teachers
does nothing but strengthen the hegemony of native-speakerism; and
that if we are to be serious about undoing this hegemony there should
no longer be research which attempts to prove the value of teachers
who are labelled non-native speaker. Any suggestion that there may be
something to prove is only there because of native-speakerism. Nobody
would think of doing research about the value of the native speaker.

The broader underpinning of cultural disbelief

Wondering about why native-speakerism and cultural disbelief are so

difficult to move is like wondering why racism is so difficult to move.
The comparison is not a coincidence. Native-speakerism has a strong
association with a wider ranging Western cultural disbelief in non-
Western cultural realities. The now well-catalogued and established
argument here is that neo-racism is implicit within Western liberal
multiculturalism. According to a critical cosmopolitan stance, (a) such
discourses of cultural difference, though they may appear inclusive
and celebratory, in effect reduce non-Western cultural realities and
hide racism; (b) established Western discourses of culture hide and
marginalise these non-Western realities; and (c) the West maintains
an apparently caring but in effect patronising stewardship over these
imagined deficient realities (e.g. Beck & Sznaider 2006; Delanty et al.
2008; Hall 1991; Holliday 2011). Elsewhere I refer to this as a West as
steward discourse (Holliday 2013). This discourse is evident in ELT,
Native-speakerism 19

where it is argued that racism remains hidden beneath an inclusive

and nice professional veneer (Kubota 2002; Kumaravadivelu 2007). At
the same time, within the West as steward discourse, its subscribers
would convince themselves that they were protecting the non-native
speaker from having to do what native speakers are able to do.
Much of the evidence of the West as steward discourse is in everyday
talk which can easily pass unnoticed because of its between-the-lines
and apparently benign nature (Wodak 2008) and because it is levelled
at people who are labelled non-native speakers as a general comment
on their non-Western cultural status. A number of catalogued examples
capture this, though native-speakerism is not always mentioned: an
account of not being expected to understand without explanation at
an international TESOL conference, and Western university teachers
doubting the autonomy of their Kuwaiti students (Kamal, this volume),
the labelling of and associated spin on teachers constructed as native
speaker in a university in Mexico (Mora Pablo, this volume), British
teachers considering it their birthright to criticise, albeit without foun-
dation, not only the linguistic and pedagogic performance, but also the
cultural background and proficiency of their non-native speaker col-
leagues (Holliday & Aboshiha 2009; Aboshiha, this volume).

Recognising ideology and prejudice

The appreciations of the nature of native-speakerism and its spread of

influence expressed so far come from a very different paradigm to the
modernism upon which ELT professionalism is built. It requires a shift
to a postmodern paradigm (Holliday 2005; Kumaravadivelu 2012). A
postmodern research methodology engages with the power of ideology
and the deeply pervasive nature of prejudice, to recognise where native-
speakerism is present in everyday professional practice, and where
cultural disbelief needs to be converted to cultural belief. In contrast
to the modernist view, science and professionalism are not neutral, but
instead driven by ideology and constructed through discourses (Guba &
Lincoln 2005; Holliday 2007). The native-non-native speaker division is
a discourse which derives from the native-speakerist ideology.
A definition of discourse which is meaningful here is a group of
statements which provide a language for talking about i.e. a way of
representing a particular kind of knowledge about a topic (Hall 1996:
201, citing Foucault). In this respect, the kind of knowledge is projected
by the ideology. The terms native speaker and non-native speaker are
thus major features of the discourse which are employed to maintain
20 Adrian Holliday

the cultural disbelief that keeps the ideology alive. Hence, employing
the easy acronyms referred to above does indeed serve to professionally
routinise, normalise or reify the discourse until it becomes a domesti-
cated, thinking-as-usual professional routine.
A postmodern view therefore moves away from analysis of the differ-
ences between native speakers and non-native speakers and instead
looks at the ideological manner in which they and the difference
between them and the subsequent native-non-native speaker discourse
are constructed. The question is no longer what native speaker and
non-native speaker teachers are and do, but, instead, what the ideo-
logical and discoursal underpinnings of the terms are.
The evidence that a postmodern view uncovers may not be visible
to more modernist studies because it requires digging deeper than
objectivist interviews and surveys are able to. Hence, accounts of deep-
set and sustained native-speakerism and related cultural chauvinism
(Holliday 2005; Holliday & Aboshiha 2009), and the majority of studies
in this volume, rely on the researchers own professional biographies to
read between the lines of their interview participants, set within thick
descriptions which take in ethnographic reconstructions, critical inci-
dents and observation of professional life. They speak both from the
native speaker and the non-native speaker experience to show the
nature of native-speakerism and of what it is like to be a victim of it.
Fully personal accounts of being Othered as non-native speakers also
become acceptable evidence (e.g. Kumaravadivelu in press; Yazan 2014).

Capitalising on cultural richness

The process of shifting from cultural disbelief to cultural belief requires

being positively open to the total proficiency of any cultural realities
which may not be evident because of the manner in which we have
grown used to looking at things. The postmodern view of society and
research does present us with a very different way of looking at things.
While recognising that native-speakerism is an ideology which thrives
on excluding an imagined and culturally deficient non-native speaker
subaltern, it also provides a way to dismiss the notion of cultural defi-
ciency and to appreciate the cultural proficiency and contribution of
people from all backgrounds. This appreciation of cultural contribution
comes from a number of perhaps connected sources.
In Holliday (2011) I claim that struggling for cultural belief through-
out the profession mirrors a global movement in which hitherto
marginalised cultural realities are claiming a Centre position across the
Native-speakerism 21

world. Here I follow Stuart Hall (1991), who maintains that the hitherto
excluded margins are now claiming centre stage. The critical cosmo-
politan sociology cited above also suggests huge potential for cultural
travel to cross boundaries, carrying with us our cultural experiences
with the possibility of creative innovation in new domains. A range
of postcolonial writers provide powerful narratives of how essentially
modern but non-Western characters travel culturally, either to or in
interaction with, or in resistance against the West, and employ huge
amounts of creative autonomy in doing so (e.g. Adichie 2013; Bulawayo
2013; Davidar 2002; Selvadurai 1998). The immense criticality that they
bring to new and often marginalising scenarios is in effect a de-centred
criticality which brings new and exciting perceptions of the world.
An often cited sociological model which overturns the modernist
picture of separate cultures that keep us apart is the Weberian social
action model of culture which places individuals in conversation with,
rather than being confined by, their social structures. Teachers in certain
social settings may be constrained by a range of institutional, political,
economic or other circumstances; but this does not mean that they are
culturally confined by them and do not have the potential to act when
there is the opportunity. I have devised a grammar of culture based on
Webers sociology, at the core of which are underlying cultural processes
which enable all of us to engage creatively with culture wherever we
find it (Holliday 2011: 135; 2013). The important implication here is
that the major resource that teachers bring to any educational setting
is their own cultural backgrounds and experience. This underlying
cultural competence resonates with the fairly old notion of language
learning building on the communicative competence which language
students bring with them from their existing linguistic experience
(Breen & Candlin 1980; Holliday 2005: 143).
Hence, whereas cultural disbelief has tended to frame teachers who
are labelled non-native speaker and students as somehow confined
and restricted by their collectivist cultures; cultural belief makes spe-
cial effort to capitalise on the cultural experience that people bring
with them, whoever they may be. Cultural travel in particular must be
appreciated as an immense resource because of the greater diversity of
experience it implies. The diverse experience that people bring from dif-
ferent cultural backgrounds may contribute in a variety of ways, with
the potential to change and enrich both the nature and use of English
and the way in which it is taught and learnt. This is in direct contra-
diction to the perception (e.g. Medgyes 2011: 191, referred to above)
that teachers labelled non-native speaker have most to contribute at
22 Adrian Holliday

home. Where teachers come from in no way limits them to roles at

home, but instead provides them with a rich cultural experience which
they can carry with them to enrich their contribution elsewhere. This is
demonstrated in Swans study (this volume) of what can be learnt from
multilingual teachers. At the same time, language teachers do not need
to be international travellers because linguistic and cultural diversity
can be experienced in virtually any social setting, where, in the hurly-
burly of everyday life, small culture formation is constantly on the
move (Holliday 2013). Therefore, commodifying a particular group of
teachers as native speakers makes little sense.
Teachers who may previously have identified themselves with a
native speaker model must now consider that the English which they
are teaching, and the way in which it is taught are open to a far wider
range of cultural realities which they and their students may bring from
their diverse linguistic and cultural environments. The voices of teach-
ers who have been marginalised by cultural disbelief are paramount.
One such account is Wus (2005) ethnography of Chinese teachers
informal construction of an indigenous curriculum and highly com-
municative, research-based curriculum. Other research which must
be seen as representing the norm is that which focuses on the way in
which students are able to play with English in their own terms e.g.
Clemente & Higginss (2008) ethnography of how Mexican students
appropriate, modify and redefine their use of English as a series of mul-
tilingual social and cultural, postcolonial performances, and Kamals
(this volume) ethnography of Kuwaiti university students creative use
of English in their own social communities.

New issues

I have argued in this chapter that to overcome the problems associated

with the native-non-native speaker issue requires a major paradigm-
shift in the way in which we think of teachers, students and culture.
I have accused as neo-racist and ideological the established modernist
paradigm of imagining that teachers labelled as native speaker and
non-native speaker and the cultures which they represent can be neu-
tral categories and useful as long as they are properly defined.
Cultural belief therefore requires a major re-drawing of how we all
think. My description in this chapter of how a postmodern sensibility
must recognise the ideologies underpinning the common labelling of
teachers and cultures resonates with a broader movement to critique
the common boundaries of English and its pedagogy. Examples of this
Native-speakerism 23

are moves to do away with old boundaries of English use such as ESL,
EFL, EAL, ELF and EIL, Kachrus inner, outer and expanding circles,
and of differently defined and diversely owned world English (e.g.
Kumaravadivelu 2012; Saraceni 2010). The changing and removing of
established boundaries will, however, cause difficulties for practising
teachers who depend on them for professional stability. It is not an easy
matter for teachers to recognise and get rid of their prejudices. This will
require an equally dramatic shift in teacher education and training.
There is not space here to go into current discussions concerning the
ownership of English; but as a clearly multicultural language it can only
be enriched with the other linguistic and cultural experience which stu-
dents and teachers bring to it, wherever and by whomever it is taught.

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Researching Discourses of Culture
and Native-speakerism
Ireri Armenta and Adrian Holliday

This chapter explores the research methodology employed in a study of

how a small group of 32 teachers and students of English in a university
department in Mexico construct culture, and how such constructions
feed the ideology of native-speakerism. The study was carried out by
Armenta (2014), who will be referred to as the researcher throughout. The
investigation included 24 student participants, 16 women and eight men.
The teachers group comprised one American, one Canadian and two
British nationals, along with four Mexican teachers. The construction
of culture was found to be a complex process in which teachers and stu-
dents struggled in negotiating diverse sources of knowledge, from the per-
sonal (parents and upbringing) to professional, and/or public discourses,
including those current in ELT. Rather than reporting the whole study,
this chapter will take examples from the data collection and analysis.
The ideology of native-speakerism is deeply embedded in a wide
range of ELT professional thinking and activity, as well as in popular
perception, and is at the same time often not recognised as an ideology
(Holliday & Aboshiha 2009; Kumaravadivelu 2012). It is underpinned
by nave discourses of English and culture. Therefore, when research-
ing how students and teachers construct culture they are likely to refer
to native speaker language as a taken-for-granted part of a cultural
content that needs to be learnt with English. We therefore argue that
postmodern, constructivist research methods are necessary to get to the
bottom of the influence of the ideology through the application of crea-
tive interventions by means of the use of critical incidents. As a result
of this, the participants began to reveal how images of native speaker
teachers and non-native speaker students were created.
The reason for focusing on the methodology rather than the findings
is that arriving at these findings was far from a straightforward process.
Researching Discourses of Culture and Native-speakerism 27

Goodson makes the point that even when we recount our personal life
stories we draw on scripts derived from a small number of acceptable
archetypes available in the wider society (2006: 15). From the outset
there was therefore a fear that if the participants were asked direct ques-
tions about culture, they would draw on existing, powerful scripts which
reside in common popular and professional representations of culture
connected with learning and teaching English. The initial research
question was: What are the teachers perceptions of culture? We suspected
that if simply asked what their perceptions of culture were, very likely
responses would be something like: Teaching English involves teaching
British or American culture, or perhaps, in a more critical vein, English
is more than just British or American culture. This reference to British
or American culture, even in the critical mode, would already indicate a
default positioning of ELT with native speaker cultural content. It was
felt, however, that this image of English and culture could not be left at
face value and would need to be interrogated with the participants, to
find out if their perceptions really were as simple as that.
We are not suggesting here that the teachers and students in the
study are in any way lacking in the ability to think deeply or critically
about English and culture, but that within the confines of the inter-
view they might not be likely to express deeper thoughts. It needs to
be acknowledged here that the interview is an imposition on peoples
time. The participants will have many other pressing things to do than
to engage fully with the researchers agenda, and may not be able to
fathom the researchers deeper interests. In their hurried sense-making
of what the researcher wants them to do, they will also take into consid-
eration who the researcher is. If she is a member of their profession or
one of their teachers they might well imagine that it is the established
professional or classroom scripts that she is interested in. This is not a
matter of participants telling the truth or lying, but presenting what-
ever narrative they think appropriate to the event in which they find
themselves (Miller 2011). The following conversation with a shopkeeper
illustrates the point:

A: How would you react to somebody coming to your shop to ask you
B: Depends what for.
A: She says she wants to present your case to a wider audience.
B: I would tell her something harmless and wait to see what she did
(Holliday 2007: 141)
28 Ireri Armenta and Adrian Holliday

This is, however, not quite as innocent as it looks. There is a political

dimension. The shopkeeper was expecting a researcher from the local
municipality concerning a controversy over their support for small

Influential scripts

The shopkeeper and perhaps also the researcher are very aware of where
the politics lie in this piece of research. In ELT the politics may be less
evident. It is now widely maintained, but only in some circles, that
common cultural stereotypes are gross exaggerations and may indeed
result in neo-racist depictions of cultural deficiency connected with
collectivism (e.g. Kim 2005; Kubota 1999; Kumaravadivelu 2003), and
are often generated by political interest (e.g. Hall 1991). However, we
are nevertheless all implicated in clinging to stereotypes for a variety
of complex reasons. Cultural stereotypes are deeply embedded in the
narratives and ideologies which govern how we position ourselves
globally and in the natural psychology of how we imagine Self and
Other (Holliday 2011: 131). Many of us actively conform to the nega-
tive stereotypes which are imposed upon us in order to lead an easy life
(Kumaravadivelu 2006: 22), or use such stereotypes strategically in a
play for cultural capital (Grimshaw 2010a, 2010b). Using the term cul-
ture has also been observed to be a form of power play in institutional
discourse (Angouri & Glynos 2009: 8). Especially within the ELT profes-
sion, teachers who are being interviewed may draw on the scripts which
are enforced through teacher training that differences in language and
in learning behaviour are rooted in national culture (Holliday 2005: 27,
citing Baxter). A further important factor is that we are very likely to
be unaware that we are enacting such discourses of culture, so deeply
embedded are they within the tacit, normalised fabric of our social
experience (Fairclough 1995: 36; Spradley 1980: 7).
Native-speakerism is very much connected with this in the sense
that the prejudices which are generated by this cultural politics are
often located in perceptions of native and non-native speaker
teachers and students, where the former are associated with idealised,
imagined, individualist cultures and the latter with demonised, imag-
ined, collectivist cultures of deficiency (Armenta 2008; Holliday 2005;
Holliday & Aboshiha 2009; Kubota & Lin 2006; Kumaravadivelu 2003;
Nayar 2002; Pennycook 1998). This means that not to interrogate
these concepts with the research participants would be to feed this
neo-racist preference for native speaker teachers which already has
Researching Discourses of Culture and Native-speakerism 29

considerable support at a popular level in Mexico (Lengeling & Mora

Pablo 2012) as in many other parts of the world. This is notwithstand-
ing the particular politics of the proximity with the native speaker
homeland of the US.
It is therefore apparent that the particular constructions of cultural
difference which polarise proficient individualism and deficient collec-
tivism within ELT relate very strongly to the similar constructs of native
speakers and non-native speakers.

The way forward

Especially with regard to the nativenon-native speaker issue, there has

been concern expressed about the subjective nature and lack of objec-
tive methodology of much of the discussion, which has supported an
ideological underpinning of the issue (Moussu & Llurda 2008). We,
however, take a different view and suggest that it is only when research-
ers dig deeply and use knowledge of their own narratives to recognise
the hidden prejudice in the statements of the teachers they interview
that a deep and sustained, neo-racist chauvinism toward non-native
speaker teachers is revealed (Holliday & Aboshiha 2009: 6757). The
subsequent recognition of the locatedness of the researcher within
the research setting requires an acceptance of and engagement with
subjectivity in the research process. Within this research aim it has
been important to note that established objectivist research methods
can fail to get to the bottom of things. The belief that the researcher
can remain distant and objective is now considered nave (Blackman
2007; Clifford 1986; Denzin & Lincoln 2005: 11; Gubrium & Holstein
1997). Similarly, interviews, which have been a major instrument of
the objectivist qualitative approach, do not comprise a straightforward
asking of questions and collecting answers in which research is con-
sidered a coldly rational exercise. Instead they need to be recognised
as co-constructed discourse events in which what the people choose
to say is a strategic product of how they wish to project themselves
in response to the necessary presence of the researcher (Block 2000:
758). What might be referred to as the classic approach to qualitative
research will serve these purposes. This is situated within a postmod-
ern paradigm which recognises the ideological and subjective nature of
the research process, with the researcher as an implicated participant
(Denzin & Lincoln 2000; Holliday 2007), and also recognises the ideo-
logical nature of a native-speakerism within which the research is or
has been implicated.
30 Ireri Armenta and Adrian Holliday

It was therefore necessary to reconsider the research project both in

terms of the research questions and how to address them in interviews
and perhaps beyond. In summary, we needed to consider:

How to avoid taking things at face value

How to interrogate why our participants are telling us what they are
telling us why they are doing what they are doing in the interview,
as strategic social action
How to get around established popular and professional scripts and
to get to more profound, tacit understandings
How to manage the subjective role of the researcher

A key factor to keep in mind is that it is by no means possible or appro-

priate to try to engineer what sorts of things the participants might
say. Everything they say comprises data, regardless of what strategies or
scripts they may be using.
A more realistic research question seemed therefore to be How do
the teachers and students construct culture? Culture is therefore a mov-
able, uncertain concept which is invoked in different forms for different
reasons at different times. What the researcher really wants to know is
what the participants make of culture, how they use it, and for what
reasons. This orientation fits within the constructivism implicit within
the postmodern paradigm, acknowledging that realities are socially and
ideologically constructed.

Using critical incidents

To encourage the participants to look beyond established scripts, critical

incidents were employed. These were events which touched the core of
the cultural politics of native-speakerism and which were authentic to the
participant because they had been observed within the research setting:

Incident 1: Mexican students say that the young Americans in their

textbooks are so civilised because they have credit cards and cars.
They nevertheless play with civilised by using it ironically to make
fun of their peers.
Incident 2: An American teacher tells her students they are being too
formal and connects this with a lack of self-esteem.

These incidents are poignant for a number of reasons. The first

one implies a complexity in the relationship between the students
Researching Discourses of Culture and Native-speakerism 31

impression of American culture as represented in the classroom by their

textbook and, surely, the way in which their teachers, both Mexican,
American and also British, handle this. The students perception is also
nicely problematised by their play on civilised. This links with another
study within the same setting which reveals how Mexican students
and teachers employ the labels of difference common in Mexican
society to make sense of the nativenon-native speaker distinction
between Mexican and foreign teachers (Mora Pablo 2012). The second
incident describes how an American teacher views Mexican culture
as it might be essentialised within the dominant social and profes-
sional discourse thus apparently adhering to the standard stereotype
of people non-native speakers from a so-called collectivist society
lacking the confident, individualistic self-direction which presumably
all Americans possess and which embodies the native speaker norm
which needs to be aspired to in the learning of English.
It is crucial here for the researcher to be reflexive about her own
stance relative to these incidents. She must not to jump to conclusions
about what was behind the American teachers comment. Perhaps
he was being ironic; perhaps it was one of those occasions when an
unguarded comment leapt out against his better judgement, and he
regretted it later. Perhaps he had no idea of the stereotype. If he did
mean to support the stereotype, he may well have subscribed to the
dominant view that there is nothing negative about it. Also, while both
incidents represented the ambivalent relationship between Mexico and
the United States and its relationship with native-speakerism, such a
framing of events needs to be put in its place so that meanings must be
allowed to emerge from the research rather than being imposed by the
researcher. The purpose of the incidents is therefore to encourage the
participants to struggle with their own interpretations. How meanings
regarding English and culture can emerge in unexpected ways is well
expressed in Clemente & Higginss (2008) ethnography of how students
take ownership of English on a Mexican University campus by using it
in discussions of postcolonial politics. It is nevertheless the case that
both incidents do have particular resonance because they represent the
scripts which are present with regard to native speaker superiority.
Another purpose of the critical incidents was to encourage the partici-
pants, along with the researcher, to make connections within a broader
social setting and its relationship with a wider social world in which the
cultural politics of native-speakerism are evident. The researcher in this
study shares the same professional setting as the participants. Therefore,
the fact that the critical incidents resonated so strongly with her in her
32 Ireri Armenta and Adrian Holliday

knowledge of native-speakerism may well mean that they have similar

resonance for the participants.
The researcher therefore used the incidents as introductory catalysts
in her initial interviews; and they succeeded in drawing out spontane-
ous reactions and deeper feelings among the participants. With respect
to the American teacher commenting on his students self-esteem
(incident 2), Mexican teachers and students commented that asking
for permission to enter or leave the classroom was not a sign of lack of
confidence or individuality as the foreign teacher seemed to believe.
On the contrary, it was simply a form of respect and consideration for
the teacher. This difference in interpretation led to lively discussions
about cultural values, beliefs and behaviour, and about the resistance
against discourse or beliefs that characterise Mexican people as lack-
ing self-confidence a classic marker, although they did not say this,
of the collectivist non-native speaker culture. As one of the Mexican
interviewees stated, foreigners still imagine us wearing sarapes and
sombreros, like Indians with no education. An example of another
type of prejudice is also evident here in the reference to Indians.
Stereotypes linked to Mexican people found echoes in the voices of
the foreign teachers. They were motivated to talk about stereotypes they
had heard regarding the issue of time and leisure, often quite judgemen-
tally. Being always late for class, even for exams was stated by some
teachers as behaviour which could not be tolerated in the West, with
serious consequences. A strong native-speakerist implication here was
that learning English equated with acquiring behaviour which would
be appropriate to the West. The students also responded harshly to the
extent that one foreign teacher was referred to as the Nazi teacher.
Of course this image could relate to unpopular teachers everywhere.
However, the researcher was in a position to know that this teacher did
not have this reputation. It seemed that it was only by burrowing into
this almost underground territory of cultural prejudice which could
be connected with native-speakerism that such antagonism occurred.
It was as though there had been a storing up and then a retrospective
sense making of past experience.

The significance of the social setting

The emphasis on a broader social setting is significant for the researcher

in a number of ways in getting to grips with what is being researched
and working out how to involve the participants. The setting is a kind
of place which best captures the richness of what is going on while
Researching Discourses of Culture and Native-speakerism 33

having manageable boundaries (Holliday 2007: 34; Spradley 1980: 40).

Because this setting can itself be construed as a culture, while the par-
ticipants constructions of culture are what is being researched, it is
actually an investigation of the culture in which culture is constructed.
Spradley suggests that the researcher must distinguish three fundamen-
tal aspects of the culture which is being studied cultural behaviour,
knowledge and artefacts, even though they are usually mixed together
(1980: 5).
With respect to the participants, their cultural behaviour would be
what they do with the concept of culture. This concept of culture,
which is being constructed, for the teachers thus becomes an artefact
in the sense that it is a technical term, and a piece of professional dis-
course, which can be found in textbooks, syllabi, training sessions, les-
son plans and so on. For the students it may be a topic in the syllabus.
What people say about culture is also an artefact of cultural behaviour
in the sense that it is an outward show of how they wish to present
themselves at a particular time for a particular reason. Thus, talking
about individualism or native speaker culture is a feature of the culture
in which the talking about individualism or native speaker takes
place. This does not mean that the culture is particularly individualist.
Thus, when foreign teachers say that Mexican student behaviour will
be inappropriate in Western society, this is a cultural statement on their
part but does not mean that Western culture is like that if indeed it
could ever be described at all.
Understanding that she is researching the culture in which construc-
tion is an activity rather than the culture which is being constructed
helps the researcher to understand a critical point about the research
findings. The findings are not information about native speaker
and non-native speaker culture reported by the participants. Instead
they are what can be learnt about the process of constructing this
information the process of constructing native-speakerism.
Cultural knowledge would be what the participants know about culture.
This is a particularly important point because culture is an entity with
which they must be familiar in their lives outside the profession. They
live the full complexity of culture every day, but probably quite tacitly;
and therefore this needs to be drawn out; and one wonders how far
this might be the same as or different to their construction of culture.
This is not just a matter of having travelled and experienced different
cultures. Indeed, such experience may result in no more than enforc-
ing stereotypes. It is instead a matter of being aware of how culture
works everywhere in everyday life. Therefore, while the teachers in
34 Ireri Armenta and Adrian Holliday

the study were experienced cultural travellers, it was the students who
demonstrated the possible antidote to native-speakerism a propensity
to engage with potential cultural conflict in their English course and
with foreign teachers.
It may be the case that the critical incidents helped the students to
externalise their cultural knowledge and to offer some more creative
and critical cosmopolitan constructions of culture which transcend
essentialist lines, where there is a belief in being able to engage with
culture wherever it can be found (Holliday 2013). Incident 1 contrib-
uted here by drawing attention to how the students took the potentially
alien, presumably native speaker credit card culture and stamped their
identities on it by playing with the concepts. They knew already how to
turn threat into irony and banter from their own everyday experience.
It may be the case that the critical incidents helped the students to
externalise their cultural knowledge and to offer some more creative
and critical, cosmopolitan constructions of culture which transcend
essentialist lines, where there is a belief in being able to engage with
culture wherever it can be found. Incident 2 contributed here by draw-
ing attention to how the students countered the potentially alien,
presumably native speaker assumption of superior self-confidence
with a robust affirmation of their local identity and classroom tradi-
tions. Likewise, the students were seen to contest national stereotypes
through the assertion of the primacy of the individual; or, as they put
it, people are not cultures.

Cautiously entering the field

The social setting is also a cultural space in which the researcher must
carry out fieldwork in a close relationship with the participants. In
co-constructive research it is all the more important for her to form
an appropriate relationship with them, especially as she is a familiar
member of the community but with a different researcher role. The
researcher must deal with all the responses to his or her presence
(Spradley 1980: 48).
Spradley explains how the qualitative researcher must enter the field
with great care. The classic ethnographic research cycle is important
employing a strategy of progressive focusing so that, as far as pos-
sible, both questions and answers must be discovered in the social
situation being studied (Spradley 1980: 29, 32). The researcher thus
ideally begins by looking around, searching for clues, and then focus-
ing as issues emerge. In the case of interviews this means moving from
Researching Discourses of Culture and Native-speakerism 35

interview to interview, from conversation to conversation, building

experience and working out better prompts and questions as one pro-
ceeds. Furthermore, other forms of data may emerge as important as
this process develops. This is very far from the objectivist model referred
to earlier, which would support the notion of separate participants
which the researcher meets oneby-one for separate interview events.
In this research project the researcher had to adapt these principles
to her own situation. It was not possible to enter the field for the first
time because she had already worked and carried out research there on
a previous project. It was based on this prior experience that she had
already decided that she would observe classes, but applying this care-
ful judgement because she felt that these might be a location where
she could see the acting out of the way in which teachers constructed
culture, and also to interview students, who could express a further
dimension of the teachers views. The researcher had therefore to make
use of her own personal, cultural, linguistic and professional history to
gain a deeper understanding of the participants, and, indeed, of herself
as a professional in a wider world (Roulston 2011). What was crucial
was that she was prepared to take each engagement with classroom and
interview as it came and was prepared to let them take her in directions
she might not have thought of.
She therefore observed all eight teachers she intended to interview.
By the second round of class observations she had accustomed teachers
and students to her presence. Furthermore, she had noted students who
seemed to be open and outgoing and seemed willing to express their
opinions. She then approached them outside the classroom to set up
interviews. By the second round of observations she had also collected
material which she turned into more critical incidents. These were used
in the interviews besides the others she had prepared from her previ-
ous experiences. New critical incidents were also volunteered by the
participants as they engaged with those introduced by the researcher.

Interconnection and personal knowledge

Once the principle of the research setting has been taken on board,
rather than thinking of separate interviews, the potential interconnect-
edness of the data becomes a powerful resource. An important discipline
here is personal knowledge (Holliday 2007: 109; 2010). This is not insider
knowledge of the particular place where the research is taking place,
but of life in general. Therefore, in this study, the researcher knows
from experience of life that things are more complex than what a single
36 Ireri Armenta and Adrian Holliday

explanation might offer. She must therefore search around for clues in
the wider corpus of data. Regarding how culture is constructed, she also
knows what it is like to construct culture differently at different times,
and to employ these constructions strategically and creatively. This
knowledge might lead her to make other sorts of interventions (Holliday
2012), by, for example, directly asking the question, Have you ever found
yourself in a difcult situation where you have found it strategically useful to
say something about who you are which might not be strictly true? It is amaz-
ing how many people nod with recognition when this sort of question
is asked. Personal knowledge is thus what we know about the world,
but when we are thinking about it in a disciplined manner. Another
discipline helping us here, which is commonly written about with
regard to qualitative research, is making the familiar strange, or trying
to think differently and freshly, or looking at things as though one is a
stranger (Holliday 2007: 10 267, 34). In the case of the researcher in our
study this meant being able to stop thinking like a teacher, being able to
recognise familiar professional scripts as discourses, and also being able
to work with her participants, standing outside familiar discourses and
speaking beyond their scripts. This powerful and very necessary inter-
relationship between our own realisations and those of our participants
is expressed well in this brief exposition of auto/biography as:

The interrelationship between the constructions of our own lives

through autobiography and the construction of others lives through
biography. We cannot, in a sense, write stories of others without
reflecting our own histories, social and cultural locations as well as
subjectivities and values. (Merrill & West 2009: 5, citing Stanley)

In a very broad sense the researcher was required to step outside of

herself in the course of the study, putting aside the familiar in order
to delve into the participants constructions of culture. This became
particularly evident in the researchers analysis of the participants dis-
course concerning the formal and informal forms of address present in
the Spanish language. The researcher was obliged to consider linguistic
distinctions without the conditioning provided by her native language,
viewing the phenomenon as an outsider.

Thick description

Looking at the research project in this way helps one to look forward to
what the analysis will be like. Spradley states that analysis is a search
Researching Discourses of Culture and Native-speakerism 37

for patterns, and that you must discover the patterns that exist in your
data (Spradley 1980: 85). What Spradley suggests, along with all quali-
tative researchers who understand the power of the research setting,
is a holistic treatment in which the emerging patterns or themes relate
across all the data (e.g. Thornton 1988). Looking at the data holistically
allows a conversation between all the different types of data. Hence, by
interconnecting classroom observation and interviews with both teach-
ers and students, the researcher was able to look into the deep culture,
its complexities, and the struggles and challenges it represented. This
meant that, with regard to critical incident 2, regarding asking permis-
sion, it was not about observing that students ask for permission to go
out to the bathroom, but rather the values and assumptions that under-
lie those actions. In the broader social setting it was known that being
late for class was what teachers and students quite generally struggled
with because of the timing of classes, with little connection with non-
native speaker cultural deficiency.
The principle of interconnecting data in this way is thick description,
which is considered the keystone of good qualitative research. Whereas
a thin description simply reports facts, independent of intentions or
circumstances, a thick description, in contrast, gives the context of
an experience, states the intentions and meanings that organized the
experience, and reveals the experience as a process (Denzin 1994: 505).
In this research project, the thin description would have produced the
ready-made scripts about culture discussed at the beginning of this
chapter. Employing thick description enabled the researcher to engage
with her participants in a conversation between a number of interre-
lated things:

Core data, comprising interviews with teachers and students and

observations of classroom behaviour
A wider domain, comprising the researchers experience of profes-
sional life and the researchers general experience of life
Interventions into the relationship between the researcher and her
participants by introducing them to critical incidents.

We have only managed to scratch the surface with regard to the rich
data that was collected; but the brief examples we have provided show
that the teachers and students deeper feelings about culture and its
relationship with a broader, complex politics of native-speakerism have
been broached. We hope that we have been able to demonstrate with
this small example from the research project how such richness can
38 Ireri Armenta and Adrian Holliday

be obtained. It is significant that the researchers engagement with the

participants as members of a social setting in which they are intercon-
nected with other people and events, connects with her own subjective
experience, and allows meanings to emerge from the manner in which
she engages. It is also important to reiterate that there is nothing spe-
cial about this creative qualitative approach, as it falls centrally into
an established research practice. It is our conviction that it is simply
not possible to move forward in our understanding of the social and
political dimensions of native-speakerism unless we leave behind the
positivist strictures of what pretend to be objectivist approaches. We
will finish with a note from Clifford Geertz (1993: 6), that it is the
researchers intent that makes it all work, in that it is not techniques
and received procedures, that define the enterprise, but the quality of
the intellectual effort.

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Part II
Native-speakerism and
Teachers of English
Rachels Story: Development
of a Native Speaker English
Language Teacher
Pamela Aboshiha

Rachel and the community

Rachels story is about one teacher, who, in a study of a small com-

munity of British native speaker teachers of English (Aboshiha 2008),
stood out as conceptualising her professional identity differently from
her colleagues. This chapter charts Rachels trajectory from ethnocentric
practitioner to aware, international professional and attempts to record
the reasons for this development.
It is such a community as Rachels, of native speakers with a
knowledge of language, cultural learning, pragmatic and paralinguis-
tic abilities so well imprinted that the membership is real and
fixed (Davies 2004: 433), that has traditionally enjoyed world-wide
employability and recognition in the English language teaching (ELT)
profession. Indeed, according to a plethora of writers, such native
speaker teachers appear to have attained an almost mythical status in
ELT (Alptekin 2002; Canagarajah 1999; Holliday 2005; Kubota 2002;
Mahboob 2010; Moussu & Llurda 2008; Nayar 1994; Pennycook 1994;
Phillipson 1992; Rajagopalan 2004) to the point where the term native
speaker is now imbued with an ideology far exceeding simple informa-
tion about linguistic ability. In the literature, the label and its associated
discourse are seen to reflect not just the language proficiency of the
native speaker but a litany of opinions, practices and prejudices which
have developed into a deep rooted and extensively referred to ideology
and, as Holliday notes, (2006: 385) the term native speaker has a very
real currency within the popular discourse of ELT.
With this tenacious, commonplace ideology in mind, I undertook
a study of a small community of native speaker British teachers,
including Rachel, in order to investigate these teachers professional

44 Pamela Aboshiha

self-images in ELT where they are recorded as being privileged and fted.
However, ELT is also a profession where academic texts repeatedly sug-
gest that the dominance and influence of the native speaker is waning,
as English extends its ownership and old norms are no longer appli-
cable (Canagarajah 2005; Crystal 2003; Graddol 2006; Jenkins 2000;
Kirkpatrick 2007).
The study of these teachers also included finding out the extent
to which the native speaker community viewed their non-native
speaker teacher counterparts, because in following Davies (op.cit.)
argument, identity or membership of a community must include what
one is different from, that is not being a non-native speaker (Davies
2004: 434).

What the study of the community revealed

The study took place over 18 months and data was gathered from
multiple interviews conducted in the United Kingdom, with seven
experienced and well-qualified British English language teachers, as
well as from e-mail exchanges between myself, the researcher and the
participants, and field-notes. All the participants had a minimum of 15
years teaching experience working in a variety of institutions in a wide
number of international settings. They had at least Diploma-level quali-
fications, some had Masters and some were English language teacher
trainers. In other words, it was reasonable to conclude that these teach-
ers regarded ELT as a long- term profession.
The data collected from these native-speaker teachers revealed prac-
titioners who saw their professional identity and value to world-wide
ELT institutions as deriving primarily from their British birthright
(Walelign 1986: 40) and educational background. For example:

So they [the foreign learners and institutions] appreciate people

[us British teachers] with a wider breadth of knowledge and depth
of education coming and using the language. We bring a certain
amount of cultural imperialism but it created the depth of thought
that most people have in terms of their education. If the success
stories are in Britain and America then why would they [the host
country] want teachers from India or Pakistan?

The native speaker teachers in the community also insisted they had
superior language proficiency and classroom pedagogy compared to
their non-native speaker teaching colleagues. I recounted, with regards
Rachels Story 45

to perceptions of language proficiency, that the teachers in the study

felt they provided rich and complex language for the students. What is
more, they believed they were the guardians of nuance. There were,
too, countless disparaging remarks from the native speaker commu-
nity about non-native speaker teachers lack of linguistic ability. One
person said: Basically, their English teachers couldnt speak English,
stating baldly a view that the teachers themselves had little command
of the language. Another, commenting on why he did not adopt a par-
ticular course book, said:

Because I thought non-native speaker teachers would have problems

with it. I felt they would have had difficulty because they didnt have
the book of things like grammar structures to hold on to. I think a
non-native speaker teacher has a big problem with a course based on
a functional syllabus rather than one based on a structural syllabus.

The native speaker teachers also praised their own pedagogical approach
to the classroom, criticising counterparts: Native speaker teachers tend
to have a different kind of methodology where they are more encourag-
ing, not creating anxiety, actually lowering anxiety. They [the native
speaker teachers] dont walk into the classroom and create more anxiety,
which is a Japanese teachers way of dealing with their pupils.
Indeed, the study revealed how, apart from confidence built on
birthright, pedagogical practice, language prowess, the native speaker
teachers self-image of superior professional identity in the field of ELT
was consistently reinforced by this oppositional stance to their non-
native speaker counterparts. For example, when talking about an edu-
cational system which was not British, a teacher commented: Its fairly
old-fashioned the entire educational system. They [the non-native
speaker teachers] are not trained to think and work things out for
themselves in any subject at school. The status of the native speaker
teacher in this small community was thus reinforced by similarly overt
comments, alongside many more couched denials of the linguistic and
pedagogic abilities of non-native speakers in the field.
A final identity marker of this particular native speaker community
was unease and scepticism about the writings of academia, both in
terms of what literature could offer English language teachers as class-
room practitioners and, notably, academias relentless problematisation
of the continuingly superior role of native speakers, despite the fact
that English is a worldwide lingua franca. The study records diatribes
about the lack of usefulness of academic writing to teachers such as
46 Pamela Aboshiha

Academia bubble, babble, sounds good but doesnt actually work;

Academics have to justify their salaries; Cant they say things simply,
its just meaningless stuff for the sake of it. Ive read the paper. There
are a lot of words and paragraphs but it doesnt really say much. When
would I ever use this? Why cant we have something that is useful in
the classroom. Moreover, the study concluded that the native speakers
in the community were far from any serious engagement with the idea
that non-native speaker teachers might have a pivotal role to play in
the changing English language teaching landscape. I noted:

Daily discourse amongst language teachers and educators subtly

contributes to the continued belief in the superiority of the native
speaker English language teacher. The native speakers seem to be
revealed as thinking that non-native speaker teachers have their
place but also that this place is not central to the teaching of English
around the world. Non-native speakers are seen as supporting and
smoothing the path for the native speaker teacher. Their role appears
to be as mediators of culture when situations become complicated. It is
also to translate when the native speaker cannot, and to explain the
grammar of two languages when the native speaker usually cannot.

The superior native speaker: the inferior non-native speaker

This study of the professional self-perceptions of the native speaker
English language teacher therefore provided a portrait of a community
of teachers who continued to view themselves as possessing superior
educational backgrounds, linguistic ability and pedagogy compared to
their non-native speaker colleagues. These factors, it appeared, legiti-
mised and maintained their native speaker privilege internationally,
both in their own eyes and in terms of the institutions they worked for.
With regards to the literature of their profession, they demonstrated
quite obstinate resistance towards the notions being put forward of any
change in their valued status of native speaker and appeared to find
nothing of relevance to their daily work in academic texts. These latter
appeared as a separate endeavour to the practice of classroom teaching.

Renegotiating professionalism

The beginning
Only one of the teachers in the community, Rachel, emerged as relying
on birthright, language proficiency and educational background as
markers of professional identity less heavily than her colleagues. And
Rachels Story 47

it was also Rachel who ultimately saw herself as more aligned, in terms
of professional challenges, to her non-native speaker counterparts, as
well as more interested in and less dismissive of the literature than the
rest of the studied community. However, this position was not where
Rachel began. She, too, demonstrated a similar profile to the other
teachers in the group at the outset when she noted about her own
institution and the native speakers it employed: I believe that [in this
country] my institution carries quite a lot of weight the reason they
come to my institution is that it is much better to be studying here,
implying better to study with native speaker English teachers than in
the national institutions. Rachel reiterated this concept when she gave
a list of what she understood to be the criteria for employment in her
institution. I commented on the list:

It is worth noting that the first item on her list is identity, which to
my mind is shorthand here for white and educated in an English
speaking country or coming from an English speaking country.
Certainly as another EFL teacher myself I recognised the unspoken
discourse. Indeed, the first items on Rachels list are not qualifica-
tions or teaching expertise and in fact these are the final items on
the list.

Rachel also revealed that a national of the country where she was work-
ing might be acceptable as a teacher employee in her institution but,
tellingly in terms of native speaker privilege, only if the person had
emigrated at an early age and had English as a first language. She, too,
like the other teachers, criticised the educational system of the country
she was working in as conventional, set and rigid, everythings eyes
down. Finally, when asked about reading publications which advocated
less native speaker dominance in the field of ELT and seemed to offer
some insights into classroom practice, she said: That is almost like a
new idea, that is sorts of academic theories I havent read a lot about,
thereby positioning herself comfortably alongside her native speaker
However, unlike the rest of the teachers in the community, over the
duration of the study, Rachel eventually revealed herself as a native
speaker teacher who wanted to engage with the literature, discuss,
investigate and reflect and to make changes to how she conceptualised
her professional identity. Her journey provided a blue-print that I saw as
important and hopeful in the development of the demonstrably ethno-
centric native speaker teachers in the study. These teachers, whatever
48 Pamela Aboshiha

their protestations, urgently needed to occupy different professional

spaces which encompass more complex understandings of their role, as
the global use of English and international migration increase. The new
reality of English and the diversity of classrooms it is taught in, require
cooperation and collaboration amongst all language teachers in order to
provide richer learning environments (Mahboob 2010). What then were
the factors that enabled this one teacher in the group, Rachel, to move
some useful distance from her colleagues in moulding a professional
identity more suited to current and future exigencies?

Motivating individuals, appropriate teacher development and

intellectual engagement
The first factor that seemed to provide a catalyst for her trajectory was
the presence in Rachels professional life of motivating individuals and
her conscious uptake of the challenges and opportunities these people
offered. Indeed, the arrival of two new line-managers in Rachels insti-
tution not only provided a mature, relevant impetus for teacher devel-
opment but, through this development, they also became conduits to
literature of the field. I wrote about her new enthusiasm:

Rachel said the arrival of the new Director of Studies has been so
beneficial for her. Shes phoned me each Sunday to tell me about
whats going on in her institution. She told me that if shed done the
first interview [for the study] now, it would have been quite differ-
ent. She said they hadnt considered theory for a long time and now
theyre suddenly looking beyond the grammar syllabus with this new
Director and his new Assistant. Theyre having what she calls inter-
esting training sessions, talking about these issues and discussing
Thornburys (2003) Dogme article.

And then, in a later interview, she explained further:

This year we had a new Director, somebody who has more informa-
tion about pedagogy, more interest in the activity of teaching even
though hes a manager Hes primarily concerned with what were
doing in the classroom. He has quite a lot of respect for teachers.
And so it was suggested right from the beginning of the year that we
could work on unpacking, any particular issues we wanted to ques-
tion. There was a concerted effort from the top and in our Teacher
Development sessions to open up, unpack, all were doing. Also
the person who came as Assistant Director was also interested, so
Rachels Story 49

I suppose there were two people coming in who had similar views,
similar desires, impetus to change things. I dont know to what
extent I wouldve come the route Ive come this year if it hadnt been
for that.

The contrast between the first and later interviews with Rachel was
marked. In the latter, following the arrival of new line-managers, she
spoke eagerly in lengthy stretches of fluent discourse about new insights
gleaned from literature and practical classroom experiences she could
relate to her reading. She was interested, aware of what was going on
and confident. She was up-to-date and critically aware. She mentioned
issues being written about and discussed in texts and papers and was
genuinely involved with the ideas she spoke about.
Moreover, during the year Rachel not only had the stimulus of new
pedagogically and theoretically involved line-managers but had also
asked me (the researcher) to send her other articles, titles of books
and she would then e-mail her reactions to what she had read or tel-
ephone to talk about things she was reading from the discussions in
her institution.
Interestingly, I noted often that the issues Rachel spoke of related to
some of the topics of my original interview, that is the possibility of a
changing role for the native speaker teacher as ownership of English
shifted with less emphasis on native speaker serendipitous attributes
of birthplace and pronunciation to the consequent emerging impor-
tant role for the non-native speaker teacher. It seemed, thus, that the
line-managers who had suggested experienced teachers delve into what
they were interested in, rather than presenting predetermined devel-
opment sessions, and who had provided literature for teachers had
caused Rachel to begin a quite serious investigation into her practice.
In fact, I observed how her awoken interest in literature began to take
her in new directions. I would argue, therefore, that the presence of
influential individuals, who it seems had agendas to develop their own
professional identities, very much acted as a catalyst for Rachels invest-
ment in a changing vision of herself as an EFL teacher. She became less
dismissive of and more eager to engage with the issues being raised in
the literature.
This reconceptualisation of professional identity, which was theoreti-
cally integrated and inspired by her new interests, also caused Rachel to
begin to conduct workshops herself with teachers in her institution. She
phoned after one of the workshops she had given and said: Thank you,
this all came about from those ideas you threw at me. What I said in
50 Pamela Aboshiha

the workshop was a big statement about who I am and where Ive come
from; I was thinking about how much Ive learnt since you started
doing the study.
Her reconceptualisation of her role was in contrast to the others in
the community. These other teachers had neither had the stimulus of
line-managers with resultant enlightened bottom-up teacher develop-
ment, nor had they continued to correspond in the same depth or as
frequently with me as Rachel had. This professional/personal interac-
tion with a researcher appeared to have motivated Rachel, too. It was
not just that she would comment that something was interesting and
perhaps talk about it for some time, as her other colleagues would.
Rachel did more. She acted on the initial interest and began to investi-
gate the literature we spoke about and use it to reflect on in her classes.
To me this indicated that she had begun to try to make an investment
in a new native speaker identity, which relied less on the fortunes of
birthright, pronunciation and education and more on professional
knowledge and awareness of current issues in the field of ELT.
In further development she decided to give more workshops at confer-
ences. These were planned to be about her journey through teacher devel-
opment over the months. She continued to talk about Dogme (Thornbury
2003), Paolo Freire and ideas of critical pedagogy, as well as Exploratory
Practice (Allwright 2003) and how reading around these subjects and
these authors had helped her see connections to her work. She spoke ani-
matedly about her ideas and what she wanted the teachers to take away
from the workshops: I want the teachers just to start to reflect on who
they are and why they are doing what they do and what their roles are.
It seems, then, that both the instigation of enlightened academic
management willing to allow self-directed teacher development, in
contrast to the prosaic, top-down teacher development reported by her
colleagues in the study, as well as the stimulus of a researchers agenda
acted as powerful conduits to Rachels uptake of the challenges of deliv-
ering workshops and her desire to embed new understandings into her
classroom practice. Interestingly, as well, she acknowledged that the
line-managers openness meant that she was not alone in her staff room
in developing as a teacher:

The option to try new things was open to everyone and I think part
of our development work was to feed back to one another about
what wed done and a lot of people had been doing different things.
I think it would be true to say it had become more open pedagogi-
cally, become more vibrant, more stimulating.
Rachels Story 51

Repositioning as a classroom researcher

Rachels changing view of her understandings of English language
teaching seemed also to be linked to the fact that she had begun to see
her classes as opportunities for research, rather than problem areas,
and this was due to her new engagement with literature. I observed
that many of the difficulties and negativity the native speaker teach-
ers had expressed in the first interviews in terms of the literature not
relating to the reality of classroom problems or to everyday practice,
appeared minimised by Rachel in later correspondence. This seemed
to derive from her exploration of the literature, particular literature
that she herself had decided to read. In this Rachel had found a way
in which she could research her own work, rather than become sub-
merged and dispirited by the daily problems of the classroom. For
example, speaking about Allwrights work on Exploratory Practice
(2003) she stated:

Thats when I found [an article] to be quite useful, particularly from

someone in Turkey who was building on Exploratory Practice from
Dick Allwright. It was just the notion that there may be puzzles,
there may be little questions you have so you could perhaps go into
looking at those issues. I had three questions: how can I make the
experience of being in the classroom more meaningful for me, how
can I become more inspired, how can I do a better job? I went back
with renewed zest and because I got the idea that I wanted to observe
more instead of being totally overwhelmed by my own anxiety of
whether I am teaching properly.

So given this idea that I wanted to explore things a bit more, I just
observed. I just sat and watched. This is very often the situation you
have here. Very often, there are these chaotic, uncontrollable classes
that may disintegrate towards the end of the year and youre looking
to parents and youre looking to someone to help you to find tech-
niques, to help you with this unsolvable situation and it happens
to me and to other people. So it just seemed appropriate that one
should take that and use it in the notion of this Exploratory puzzle.

It seemed here that the classes Rachel would have seen as stressful chal-
lenges previously, were no longer as exhausting and caused her far less
anxiety. The reading of literature and managing to relate it to the classes
she was teaching, created a new and calmer professional perspective. In
thinking of herself as a researcher, she saw the classroom as a site for
52 Pamela Aboshiha

exploring other possibilities and seemed able to see teaching and learn-
ing more objectively.

Teacher training: minimising difference and finding sameness

However, the crucial factor uncovered by the study in promoting a new,
more professional view of English language teaching for the native
speaker teacher was a further challenge for Rachel. She was asked to
research, design and implement a training course for secondary teach-
ers. It was a short, 24-hour, intensive course entitled English today, how
many varieties?, which encouraged Rachel to re-visit ideas in the litera-
ture she had previously read about and uncover her classroom practice
further. When she talked about this experience of designing a teacher
training programme and delivering it she said:

I dont think that my general teaching in the classroom would have

allowed me so many insights into what is English, the English I teach,
the English the non-native speaker teachers teach. And the reason
I think it was so, excuse the language, empowering both for them [the
teachers she taught] and me is it fits into and feeds back into thoughts
about teaching, learning, the classroom, methodology etc.

I dont know if it is easier for me to think about, over the year,

what happened with regard to classroom ideas, classroom practice,
classroom research, as that really is my main task, and the teachers
course was somehow apart, although as I say it was really important.

She continued:

First of all I have an immediate reaction to the notion of theory in

the sense that I have been reading Pennycook and the Sri Lankan
author, Canagarajah, and Jennifer Jenkins. These were all con-
nected with producing this course. Its ten years since I did my MA
and I suddenly found that I had to write the course [the teacher
training course] and then I tried to remember what Id learnt and
find what material I could take in. So I devised the course and went
in to teach the course and I found the subject, the whole notion of
Jennifer Jenkins questioning the third person singular, just the fact
she questioned it - reading, listening to Kachru interesting. So from
these moments of learning, writing and then discussing, quite a lot
came out. I think the whole notion of questioning the ownership,
the very fact that I was able to present the three concentric circles
Rachels Story 53

from Kachru and say to them that there are more L2 speakers in the
world than L1 and then go into the Graddol and ask them what will
happen to English. It just gave them food for thought.

The last day we looked at David Hills stuff from Turkey and the whole
notion of native and non-native teachers and should we just be look-
ing at the nature of the professionals? Has this person any idea about
teaching? Rather than Is this person a non-native speaker?

What Rachel says here in the last lines demonstrated how she gained
increased inspiration and insights from the literature and the issues it
brought to the fore. Her need to interest and involve the teachers on
the training course in order to help them expand their understanding of
ELT had pushed Rachel to herself occupy another professional space. It
appeared that, with her query Has this person any idea about teaching?
she had begun to think about all English language teachers irrespective
of their first language and their need to know about teaching and the
macro-context of English in the world, rather than relying their birthright,
language proficiency and education as their main professional markers.
In fact, the comments that followed Rachels implementation of the
development course indicated her openness to detachment from place
and language as identity markers. She seemed willing to acknowledge
the new ownership of English and also not to be so concerned about
native speakerness. It seemed that Rachel had begun to see English lan-
guage teachers in terms of teaching skills, knowledge and understand-
ing classrooms and their broad contexts. Here, too, instead of classifying
the teachers as others because they were non-native speaker teachers,
Rachel seems to have begun truly to share professional ideas with them
in some meaningful way and focus on teaching English rather than
where the teachers come from and what they sound like.

A private site of reconstruction

However, despite what I believed was Rachels progress in beginning to
change her professional identity and despite her opinion that others in
her staff room were also moving towards some new understandings, she
expressed a note of caution with regard to sharing some of her altered
perspectives on her role. She said that she was glad there are some peo-
ple around who can come up with all this theory because it gives me
something to think about. On the other hand, Rachel admitted how
careful she would need to be in communicating some of her opinions to
colleagues for fear of upsetting them. She gave as an example her ideas
54 Pamela Aboshiha

about what she was reading, especially in terms of the changing owner-
ship of English. She said:

I think, as a teacher, it would be very difficult to think about shar-

ing them. I can share them here with you because I know you. But
in terms of talking about this in a group of teachers, I dont know to
what extent I would come out with this to what extent Id need
to know that the people Im talking to are firmly in my camp and
are interested in what Ive got to say and have the same views on
theory, so that I could talk about cultural politics, so that I might be
able to talk about Paolo Freire, so I might be able to mention the fact
that teaching English is not a neutral activity but to what extent
I would go out and talk to anybody beyond the people I closely work
with and closely identify with. I mean I can think of some people who
wouldnt be construing their role this way. I cannot really imagine talk-
ing through some of this stuff in some of the staff rooms or the staff
meetings that we might have. There are some people there who I think
would be very conservative and wouldnt want to know any of this.

Thus, despite what I saw as the trajectory of Rachels professional

development, through the stimulus of motivating line-managers, read-
ing literature and an opportunity to be responsible for other teachers
development herself, combined with a positive, aware sloughing off
of the ethnocentrism that characterised her initial comments, there
remained a wariness with regard to revealing too much about the new
understandings she was embracing. Even at the end of the study, Rachel
still quite firmly believed that her opinions might not be readily accept-
able to some of her native speaker teaching colleagues and that some
teachers would find her views radical.

A reconstructed native speaker teacher

Thus Rachel, of the small group of native speaker English language

teachers studied, managed to begin to forge a different professional
identity. The first influence in this change were professionals who were
motivational in their own quests to develop the learning community in
which Rachel found herself for a period of time. This enlightened pro-
fessional support over one year and being part of a professional learning
community, in regular touch with others who were developing their
own professional identities further, was what the other respondents in
the study seemed to lack.
Rachels Story 55

The second, intertwined factor was reading the literature of the pro-
fession. Rachel began to view classrooms as areas for research, rather
than sites of struggle. She also realised from the literature that the
global shift that was moving English away from native speaker inter-
pretations. Finally, the last influence derived from her work with her
non-native speaker counterparts, appeared to be a growing ability to
minimise individual difference and maximise professional commonali-
ties. Rachel saw that working with other colleagues was only other in
terms of their personal identities of language and origin but the same
in terms of their professional identities as teachers of English. Rachel
was able to appreciate these teachers as English language teaching col-
leagues, tussling with the same ELT issues as she was, rather than as
non-native speaker teachers and in some way or ways inferior to her
native speaker self. This enabled Rachel to reconstruct herself, based
on professional knowledge and not an identity based, more personally,
on a fortuitous place of origin, language of birth and having a British
education. Woodward comments that globalisation could lead to the
detachment of identity from community and place (1997: 16) which,
while seen by Woodward here as a negative phenomenon, in the case of
the sample of native speaker EFL teachers in the study could perhaps
be positive. Detaching her professional identity from her British birth-
right and educational background is exemplified in another comment
from Rachel about her young learners classes in the country where she

I very much dont want to come down to assert that Im British

and thats not how I would do things. I want to understand why
things are going wrong and what support there is for the kids who
arent fitting in and what the safety net is. I encounter this kind of
problem in all my classes The challenges from students but I try
not to let it escalate. I try to defuse it so we dont get into those kinds
of situations where everyone is just getting angrier and angrier. But
its probably like that in a lot of British schools, so Im not using that
the fact that maybe British education is different. I dont know if it
is, Im going to try to work with this system first.

With this comment Rachel has manoeuvred a U-turn on her initial

comments about the educational system within which she is teaching
and here is making a genuine attempt to understand how an other
system works. She indicates a willingness to try to work with the sys-
tem and within it as an insider, or as much of an insider as she can be.
56 Pamela Aboshiha

Rachel seemed to be attempting in both her work with the secondary

school teachers and in her work with the young learners to re-negotiate,
as far as she can, the border between difference and sameness, thus
adopting the wisdom of Gilroy, who says: We should try to remember
that the thresholds between sameness and difference are not fixed, they
can be moved (1997: 303).
It seems then, in making such an investment in becoming a more
aware and theoretically informed English language teacher, Rachel has
become engaged in a major reconstructive endeavour (Giddens 1991:
75). Thus, she seems to have the potential to rebuild a new and reward-
ing professional identity. Giddens also reminds us how this is possible
by saying:

What the individual becomes is dependent on the reconstructive

endeavours in which she or he engages. These are far more than just
getting to know oneself better: self-understanding is subordinated
to the more inclusive and fundamental aim of building/rebuilding a
coherent and rewarding sense of identity. (ibid: 75)

Thus, in Rachels case, she continued to explore her views and appeared
no longer to inhabit an overtly articulated oppositional space with aca-
demics, but to see their writing instead as an aid to helping her solve the
struggles of the classroom. Neither did she, latterly, demonstrate the often
unhappy, frustrated professional dilemmas of her other native speaker
colleagues in the small community investigated, who railed both against
academics and non-native speaker counterparts. As time passed Rachel
was no longer wedded to place and language as markers of her profes-
sional identity and, importantly, did not appear to be fighting to retain
those as the mainstays of her self-construction as an EFL teacher, but
was healthily divorced from them. She had, it seemed, over the course
of the study in which she was involved, broken with the past and begun
to abandon the old natural order as far as she could. In other words,
Rachel demonstrated how a possible identity for an international English
teacher, rather than a native speaker English language teacher, might
profitably evolve in the globalising world as English increasingly becomes
a planetary tool. Rachel, too, was fitting the model that Giddens describes
in his work on the globalising tendencies of modern institutions and the
profound transformation these are having on personal activities:

The individual must be prepared to make a more or less complete

break with the past, if necessary, and to contemplate novel courses
Rachels Story 57

of action that cannot simply be guided by established habits. Security

attained through sticking with established patterns is brittle, and at
some point will crack. It betokens a fear of the future rather than
providing the means of mastering it. (1991: 73)

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Redefining English Language
Teacher Identity
Anne Swan

This chapter produces evidence to show how English language teachers

globally are defining their professional identities according to features
which do not involve native-speakerism but which emerge from profes-
sional beliefs about their teaching, understanding their students needs
and understanding the role of English in their contexts. The global
spread of English has been acknowledged to affect the dominance of
so-called native-speakers who have needed to accept that the English
language does not belong to them exclusively and that non-native
speakers have an increasingly important role in how the language is
used and taught. I have used the term multilingual in preference to
non-native in this chapter because it can embrace all teachers, regard-
less of native-speakerhood. My data, collected from informal interviews
with 15 teachers of English from seven countries, shows how indi-
vidual teachers prioritise and define professional issues with a level of
confidence which is not marred by native-speakerism because they are
practising in contexts which they own. Hence the relevance of native-
speakerism is diminished by an understanding of how English fits into
the local context.
Firstly, practitioners own reminiscences about their learning experi-
ences are presented as evidence of the strengths they acquired through
learning English as a second or subsequent language. These memo-
ries reveal how a knowledge of context underpins the development
of teaching approaches. The example of Communicative Language
Teaching is drawn on to show how a centre-based concept may be
adapted to suit environments for which it was not originally intended.
In contrast to this externally imposed methodology, examples of what
may be termed practical aspects of everyday teaching, such as materials
and translation, are discussed to highlight the role of the local teaching
60 Anne Swan

environment in influencing teaching approaches. Important features of

professional identity, such as local knowledge and linguistic diversity,
emerge to dominate teaching practices. Finally, opinions about the role
of foreign teachers in non-English speaking countries are reviewed in
the light of comments from teachers native to those countries. To pre-
serve anonymity, participants are identified according to nationality,
number of participants of that nationality, and gender. Hence Thai1f
refers to a female participant from Thailand, who is distinguished from
other Thai females by adding a number to her nationality and gen-
der. The countries represented are China, India, Indonesia, Singapore,
Thailand, The Philippines and Vietnam.

Memories of early learning

People have been teaching languages quite successfully even in pre-

modern communities from pre-scientific times. These are the teach-
ers still working in the remote corners of the world in small village
classrooms often meeting under trees in farms and fields away from
the eyes of the professional pundits of the centre. The English teach-
ers are village elders, parents and priests who may often possess only
a smattering of English. Some of them dont have any advanced pro-
fessional training (other than a post-high school training). I am not
ashamed to say that it is such a charismatic rural teacher in Sri Lanka
who initiated my own learning of the language which has sustained
me to this point of earning a doctorate in English linguistics and
serving in the faculty of an English department.
(Canagarajah 2002: 140141)

Canagarajah here captures the influence of early learning experiences,

which may operate independently of any approved training or method.
These aspects of local learning and teaching are seldom valued, yet they
often provide a solid foundation for the acquisition of knowledge. Early
learning experiences, moreover, are acknowledged to be important for the
development of teacher cognition (Borg 2003). When asked about their
English learning experiences, my participants recalled features which can
be seen to have influenced their professional development, especially in
terms of showing how they took control of their language learning expe-
riences. For most participants, the starting point was enthusiasm:

And I guess personally I love language I love Chinese and I love

Chinese literature and I guess this love of literature and language
Redefining English Language Teacher Identity 61

itself is transferred to English because its also a language I also want

to just be good at. (Chin1f)

A sense of achievement was important and sometimes this was due to

the teacher:

I still remember that I enjoyed grammar because my teacher, now

my colleague, my teacher really he taught the grammar well, OK?
I liked the way he taught us, maybe because my achievement was
good so I felt that I liked it at that time yes, but not speaking
I cant speak well I couldnt speak well so I didnt feel happy with
my achievement. (Indo1f)

Being good at English, as might be expected, was an important part of

many reminiscences and in some cases, there were comparisons with
other languages:

I didnt have any grounding in English really. Before I started primary

school. And that is something that you know I could never really fig-
ure out why I had you know why it came somewhat easy to me
erm, you know thats something i could never really understand but
I remember being good at both languages and I still remember that
I won the book prize when I finished primary school in English and
Tamil. I mean if it wasnt for this, for the rewards I probably wouldnt
remember any of it thats why Im highlighting to you thats what
stands out. (Sing2m)

In other cases, it was enough to be good at English without necessarily

knowing what future purpose it might serve:

I dont know but for myself I liked English and I think being good
at English will benefit me in some way (yes) at that time I dont
know if English will give me a better chance to get a job or not.
I knew that it I can take advantage of learning English in some ways
in some point of time but I didnt know. (Thai5f)

Sometimes English was instrumental to other interests. The following

reminiscence highlights pleasure in reading, regardless of the language:

When I was 11 or 12 I cant remember unfortunately my father

passed away when I was 11 he died in 1987 so the library was a
62 Anne Swan

15 or 20 minute walk away and I remember walking to the library all

the time spending time there and borrowing books and I remem-
ber very clearly reading and I used to read a lot of books many,
many books in English many books in Tamil so that became
always fiction It was the story more than anything else. I wanted
particularly I didnt have a goal in mind when I was reading
didnt think I didnt have in mind something like oh I wanted to
improve my English or improve my Tamil no, it was certainly not in
my mind at all, it was more, Im interested in reading as a pleasurable
way of passing the time I enjoyed it, you know and it was as much
to read. (Sing2m)

It could be conjectured that other events, such as his fathers early

death, led Sing2m to immerse himself in books. The pleasure of discov-
ering books, however, goes beyond cultural background and is a glob-
ally shared memory of childhood. Being bilingual gave Sing1m a wider
choice of reading material and switching from one language to another
was something he did not have to think about and, as a child he was
apparently under no particular pressure to improve his language skills;
his choice of language was subject to choice of what he wanted to read.
Thai5fs first response to the question of what early memories she had
of learning English was I loved it, loved it! In fact, as her skills devel-
oped, her motivation led her to search for new strategies. For example,
making the most of visitors, whatever the topic of conversation, was
perceived to be valuable:

I think for most I met while I was in university with native speakers
when you know, theres some group, or exchange group when there
were Christian groups they came to the uni canteen and we could
talk with them they told us about Jesus or something I talk with
them. If they are native speakers I talk with them. (Thai5f)

Whether she was interested in the topic of conversation or not, Thai5f

was willing to engage with English speakers for the purpose of practising
her speaking. Likewise, there were opportunities in places popular with
tourists in Vietnam:

I spent time walking in the tourist areas and catching the tourists and
talking and sometimes having funny experiences you know that
tourists can sometimes be cautious you know if you say can I talk to
you a while? tourists think there must be some kind of trick. (Viet1m)
Redefining English Language Teacher Identity 63

Viet1m obviously became familiar with tourist ways in his home city, to
the extent of finding a way of dealing with tourists reluctance to engage
with locals. These two examples, in Thailand and Vietnam, show an
ability to exploit native speakers, whether missionary or tourist, indicat-
ing a degree of control which does not depend on native speakers, but
which, on the contrary, allows the learner to make use of the native
speaker resource. This same ability to exploit native speakers as a learn-
ing resource will be seen in the discussion of foreign teachers, below.
Memories of language learning thus show the richness and value of
contextual experience. This important background is being considered
by researchers such as Hayes, who has expressed the aim of contributing
to an increased understanding of teachers lives within their specific
social contexts in order that the knowledge base of TESOL in its multi-
ple professional realisations might be expanded (2010: 58). In describ-
ing their learning experiences, my participants provided information of
their specific social contexts, including family background and oppor-
tunities for speaking practice. Hayes has, furthermore, outlined the
importance of exploring these perceptions by presenting research which

aims to make a case for further research into the careers of NNS
English teachers in order that the full richness and complexity of
teaching and learning of English in the widest possible variety of
socio-educational contexts can be revealed and compared. (2009: 84)

This variety will be considered in the next section, where examples

from a range of interpretations of Communicative Language Teaching
in diverse contexts are compared as teacher participants describe what
CLT means in their contexts.

Communicative language teaching

Because Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) emerged as a key

concept in my data, being frequently referred to without my eliciting
it, it is a fitting example to illustrate how local, contextual influences
operate to alter Centre-developed methodologies. The growing num-
ber of contexts in which English is being taught include a majority
where there is little use of English outside the classroom, and thus
one of the founding assumptions of CLT, that there are communica-
tive opportunities for using the language, is thwarted. The difficulty in
successfully adapting the methodology may lie in a preference for the
weak version, with its insistence on oral skills and the banning of the
64 Anne Swan

first language in the classroom, for most participants, hallmarks of their

perception of CLT. The strong and weak versions of CLT have been
described by Holliday (1994):

Whereas in the weak version the term communicative relates more

to students communicating with the teacher and with each other
to practise the language forms which have been presented, in the
strong version, communicative relates more to the way in which
the student communicates with the text. By this, I mean that the
student puts her or himself in the position of the receiver of the text,
in communication with the producer of the text reconstructing the
language strategies used. (1994: 170)

Kumaravadivelu summarises the objections raised against CLT in a

number of countries, as presenting a classic case of a centrally pro-
duced pedagogy that is out of sync with local linguistic, sociocultural,
and political particularities (2006b: 172) claiming that a meaningful
pedagogy cannot be constructed without a holistic interpretation of
particular situations (ibid: 171). These particular situations are best
dealt with by those who have lived in them and pedagogy thus comes
back to local considerations, as these comments from China illustrate:

English teaching in China is foreign language teaching conducted

in a Chinese way, while in the West it is native or second lan-
guage teaching conducted in a western way. Such different ways
of teaching are embedded in social, political, philosophical and
cultural differences.
(Du 2005: 94, citing Pennycook)

Viewed in this light, the insistence on versions of CLT devised in

Western countries for students learning in English-speaking contexts
becomes even more difficult to accept, to such an extent that in coun-
tries as large as China there is disagreement over its appropriacy. Hu
refers to the diversity of teaching contexts in China to justify his recom-
mendation that:

Rather than impose CLT or for that matter any particular meth-
odology on teachers, a more rational and productive stance is to
encourage them to adopt an eclectic approach, and draw on various
methodological options at their disposal to meet the demands of
their specific teaching situations. (2005: 67)
Redefining English Language Teacher Identity 65

Imposing a method developed in an English-speaking context on teach-

ers working in non-English speaking contexts can cause severe frustra-
tion, as Viet1m learnt when working with colleagues in Vietnam:

Yeah another important point that I just want to mention here

is that the CLT with the focus of developing the communicative
competence was initiated in an English speaking context but in
my context, its not an English speaking context, so that is a very dif-
ferent context, as I know when I talk with the teachers. (Viet1m)

On being introduced to CLT, it seems that Vietnamese teachers recog-

nise its value but are not sure how they can make such an approach
relevant in their contexts:

They can see that CLT is the good one but they do not see whether
the student needs, that kind of competence because the majority
of the students secondary school or maybe lower secondary school
students come from the rural or mountainous areas where they do
not have any opportunities to communicate with foreigners and
they learn English for what they learn English to pass exams so at
that time they whether the student needs communicative compe-
tence or not is not recognised or mentioned. (Viet1m)

A clear contrast is expressed here between the ideology of CLT (devel-

oped in an English-speaking context) and the local examination-
oriented context, making it difficult for teachers to accept a method
which has no relevance for the examinations their students need to
take. Viet1m sees the problems faced by teachers thus:

Um, the real, the environment where they teach. And the ideologies
of the approach on the matter that they should apply. Um, I think
the biggest one is the [teaching] students do not have the environ-
ment to practise speaking English. (Viet1m)

Moreover, the mismatch between what the student teachers have been
taught, and what they have to face in their teaching environments is
not, it seems, sufficiently addressed. Not only do their students need
to pass examinations which do not involve CLT, but also there is little
opportunity for the development of oral communication skills, seen as
the main thrust behind CLT.
66 Anne Swan

In the Philippines (also discussed in Swan, 2013), drawbacks to the

introduction of CLT were also noted:

Yes, but when, when the class was changed a bit when they started
introducing communicative language teaching for example, you
know, and weve had meetings on this several times and weve talked
about communicative language teaching and how in these courses
the students should be given more opportunities to communicate
more speaking, you know with each other more speaking with
peers, more writing activities, etc. But not all the teachers are really
into communicative language teaching mainly because they feel the
students are not ready for it. Mainly because they feel they need to
learn more about grammar before they can start communicating so
theres a whole debate around that. (Phil1f)

Reactions recorded here recall what may be expected from any tradi-
tionalist core being faced with a new approach: the feeling that more
grammar is needed suggests a traditional bias. However, the Filipino
teachers are not operating in a western context and they may there-
fore feel that, in addition to being asked to embrace a new teaching
approach, they are being asked, possibly, to abandon practices that are
part of their own educational culture, which is bound to be different to
the Western cultural setting of CLT. Consequently, these teachers judg-
ments of what students may be ready for cannot easily be interpreted
by someone from outside their context, i.e. from a Western setting.
Participants understanding of their students needs was related to a large
extent to their use of CLT methodology, as discussed above. Hence some
of the criticism of CLT was a result of lack of appropriate contexts for stu-
dents to develop their oral communication skills. Considering the Chinese
context, similarly to Viet1m, above, in his concern with the Vietnamese
context, Chin4m was doubtful of how far CLT should be prioritised.

I think English in China has to be practical how to accept or we

have to face the fact that it is hard for learners to have access to
English language environment and we have to accept the fact that
in comparison with learners reading and writing ability maybe lis-
tening and speaking are relatively weak If we accept that reading
is still the major channel for learners to access English we have to
base the training of listening and speaking on the basis of reading
because reading is to some extent the focus of language input with
Redefining English Language Teacher Identity 67

this input we could consider how to improve listening and speaking

abilities. (Chin4m)

Here there is reference to the difficulty of accessing an English language

environment and a way of dealing with this issue is proposed, namely
to use reading as the basis for developing listening and speaking skills.
Viewing a wholly communicative approach as not matching the needs
of Chinese students, Chin4m wishes to provide them with a strong
basis in reading before exposing them to what he considers to be lim-
ited listening and speaking opportunities (cf. Swan 2013).
In addition to the exterior difficulties of implementing CLT in con-
texts for which it was not originally designed, the methodology can
be stressful for teachers who question it, not only because they feel
inadequate to teach the skills required but also because they doubt
its effectiveness. The Chinese governments official approval of CLT
has put pressure on Chinese academics, as demonstrated in Tsuis nar-
rative study of Minfang (2007). In Minfangs stories it is not English
language which is at issue, it is the attitudes towards the teaching of
English displayed by Minfangs colleagues and how he is influenced
by them. In her study, Tsui has taken CLT away from its Western
origins and explored its transfer to a Chinese context. Proficiency
in English and proficiency in Cantonese seem to have been the two
equally important pre-requisites for success for Minfang when he
entered university. The next step entailed acceptance of CLT, for
which Minfang felt repugnance, having a strong belief in traditional
methods. He described the teaching style as soft and unrealistic and
was sceptical about the basic assumptions of CLT. It was soft because
the linguistic points were not made entirely explicit in the communi-
cative activities.
Students could finish a host of activities without knowing how these
activities were related to the language system and what was learned.
It was unrealistic because it required the teacher to have pragmatic
competence. Minfang pointed out that most of his teachers had never
interacted with native speakers of English, had never gone overseas,
and had never found themselves in a situation where they had to
use English for daily interaction. It was therefore unrealistic to expect
them to evaluate the appropriateness of utterances and communica-
tion strategies. Moreover, he felt that these activities carried underlying
cultural assumptions which required students to assume different per-
sonae if they were to participate fully. For example, instantaneous oral
68 Anne Swan

participation in class required students to express opinions spontane-

ously without careful thinking.
Whether or not one agrees with Minfangs reasoned critique, it
exhibits a deeply-felt antagonism towards CLT which is partly cul-
tural and personal and partly based on logical reasoning. Logically, it
seemed unrealistic to expect teachers who had never used English with
native speakers to teach students how to do so while culturally, the
method contradicted Chinese tradition, which does not favour spon-
taneous speech in the classroom. On a personal level, Minfangs own
background and beliefs seem to have made it hard for him to respond
positively to CLT. This combination of factors was unique to Minfang
but the inflexibility of his institution made it impossible for him to
voice his disagreement. The dilemma in this scenario seems to lie in
the imposition of a foreign method on an institution whose employees
are given no choice. The favour accorded to the foreign methodology
represents a kind of officially-sanctioned cultural cringe which over-
rides local beliefs. In addition, the situation is made more complex by
Minfangs own experience and attitudes, which are given no space and
create great personal conflict. Some of these issues, then, relate to pro-
fessional identity, which is a strong theme in Tsuis article. Her research
is also an important illustration of a teaching issue being dealt with
on a personal, individual level. I have included it here to balance the
exterior, institutional perceptions of teaching issues with the interior,
personal struggles and reflections that characterise all truly professional
endeavours. My data also contains reflections by multilingual teachers
on methodologies available to them. Their comments contribute to an
understanding of individual reactions to particular educational and
cultural contexts. Minfangs objections, moreover, resonate with those
articulated by Chin4m, above.

The value of contextual knowledge

Academic writing
Sharing their students cultural and educational environments has,
overall, given participants insight into their learning needs in a variety
of ways. Having a common first language also enables a clear perception
of student needs, as in Viet1ms understanding of his students writing.
He believes they have difficulties:

Because of the concept of how to write and what to write what

is considered as the right kind of writing. Academic writing is one
Redefining English Language Teacher Identity 69

example of what is different from Vietnamese students writing

certain requirements and even when they have learned the technical
things its not something they can write and that naturally they can
produce in the way that they have learned but theyre often influ-
enced by the way that they have done for so long, linguistically and
culturally. (Viet1m)

Although a great deal of research has been done on academic writing

(e.g. Canagarajah 2005, Sughrua, and Yamchi, this volume), a knowl-
edge of the linguistic and cultural background, and the experience of
having travelled the same journey, allow for clearer contextual under-
standing of what needs to be achieved. Viet1m claimed that he used
English at a more academic level than he did Vietnamese and he was
therefore in an excellent position to understand the linguistic and
cultural chasm that must be bridged by students wishing to study in
English. By distinguishing between what he did normally in Vietnamese
and what he needed to do professionally in English, Viet1m indicates a
sophisticated understanding of the place of each language, and of the
necessary skills related to that place.

Teaching materials
Comments on teaching materials often included regret that the mate-
rials available were not appropriate to the local context. Phil1f, for
example, is aware that some teachers may not be sufficiently concerned
about adapting foreign materials. She goes on to give an example of
how local knowledge is invaluable to the successful adaptation of for-
eign materials. She mentions the need to tread carefully with classes of
both Muslim and Christian students, recalling an incident which had
raised religious sensibilities to dangerous levels:

Like I remember that erm, this probably wont this probably

doesnt mean anything to you but theres um, a point in our city
when the Muslims were really fighting for independence yeah, yeah
and some articles are not very sensitive to this sort of thing these
issues, yeah. (Phil1f)

Furthermore, there is a perceived need to incorporate current local

thinking into teaching themes, so that English can be seen to embrace,
rather than stand outside of, local values:

Right now were really trying to encourage not just in the university
but in basic education were really trying to encourage nationalistic
70 Anne Swan

themes themes that deal on values for example so those are the sort
of things that are encouraged but also different kinds of themes like
family, friendship, and in English 101 class for example theyre even
trying to incorporate things like technology I mean you can talk
about technology, you can talk about the world you can talk about
different cultures, you can talk about different countries that sort
of themes are fine. (Phil1f)

However, she sets limits to what she believes Filipinos will tolerate:

Because I think I would still consider Filipinos in general as being

conservative maybe not as conservative as the Middle East but not
there are still themes you never talk about sex for example thats
just something that you dont talk about. (Phil1f)

Phil1f here displays important local knowledge which would ensure an

approach to English teaching consonant with her context an under-
standing of overall themes dominating her society and a sensitivity to
what topics would be tolerated. Such awareness contributes to what
Canagarajah has called Resisting Imperialism in English Teaching
(1999) because it reduces the impact of an alien culture. English is not
seen an instrument of political or cultural change but rather, as a way
of enhancing knowledge, in particular with respect to technology, or
promoting values considered important in Filipino culture.

Choosing an appropriate method

With a similar regard for matching content to local issues, Viet1m
described an example of adapting both topic and method:

Sometimes I help the students to translate but I always make it clear

to the students both kinds of students who learn English as com-
pulsory course and English as a specialization, that translation, when
you learn reading for example, so we have to develop certain skills
to do reading so when you are doing the reading at that time, so
translation is forbidden, never translate because (Yes in those cases
you wouldnt) yes but in other cases OK, I remember one case we
talked about development project in a third world country and we
talk about the sound of the frogs development, yeah when they
bring the logging and they take the land from the people in develop-
ment projects and then they clear out all the crops so people do not
hear the croaking any more, or their music, something like that OK
Redefining English Language Teacher Identity 71

really similar to the situation in Vietnam and we ask the students

to translate so the translation at that time we focus on how to use
discussion the knowledge of grammar of English, vocabulary to
understand the meaning and when we have done it they meet to
apply the information they have got to Vietnamese, in the way that
Vietnamese people have it cannot be like word for word translation
it becomes, its not Vietnamese any more OK in this way we use
translation, the translation is a whole, I would say science but you
should not always apply translation into, I would say reading, or
doing the listening or something. It means that I still use translation
in my class for a very clear purpose. (Viet1m)

The two important points arising from this example concern, firstly,
the choice of content and, secondly, the use of translation as part of the
method. The content an article on an environmental issue illustrates
a strong local connection with the disappearance of croaking frogs as
their habitat is destroyed and takes the language learning activity into
students lives more profoundly than a commercially produced textbook.
The translation activity derived from the text is developed in such a way
that the students are able to think about how the language works. In
fact, Viet1m has used translation to show the differences in the struc-
tures of English and Vietnamese a relevant activity when teacher and
student share a first language. Making use of translation in this way has
allowed Viet1m to exploit an often overlooked strength the bilingual
knowledge that he shares with his students. The use of the first language
enables him to point out how English translated into Vietnamese word-
for-word is not Vietnamese any more and from there it is a straight-
forward step to infer the reverse process for English. Learning how
languages are structured is in this way made comprehensible through
contrast with a known linguistic system and could be argued to reinforce
linguistic identity, thus counteracting native-speakerist supremacy.

Attitudes to foreign staff

In terms of how the multilingual teachers in my study viewed foreign

teaching staff, less merit is attributed to their teaching skills than to
their value as native speakers of English able to provide models of the
target language. Thus their popularity seems to result from their useful-
ness in teaching oral skills and their knowledge of cultural aspects of
English. Chin3f claims this advantage for foreign teachers: They like
to talk. This is the first priority! (Chin3f). All the Chinese participants
72 Anne Swan

gave this as the first reason for employing foreigners and it is also the
main reason in Thailand and Indonesia. Hence the superior teaching
skills which many native speaker teachers pride themselves on possess-
ing (Aboshiha, this volume) are given scant recognition.
As a result of this fondness for talk, Chin3f goes on to claim that her
students in fact make considerable progress through interaction with
foreign teachers and become more enthusiastic about seeking her help
to develop their oral skills (cf. Swan 2013):

They have improved a lot. Improved a lot from talking to interna-

tional teachers, international students and through their preparation
work they like to do so. Some students often ask me to give them
assignments like the oral test, the oral English or role play or any-
thing else. (Chin3f)

Indo1f also asserted the popularity of foreign staff at her institution:

And some students from other countries English is not their native
language but they speak English as well. They like- the students in
some classes who were not taught by the foreigners they really
wanted to be taught by foreigners. (Indo1f)

According to these opinions, the reasons for employing foreigners are

somewhat superficial, as there is no mention of important professional
skills, simply the intrinsic ability of a native speaker to speak their own
language and model it for others.
Participants were frequently disillusioned with foreign teachers lack
of grammatical knowledge. Thai3f preferred to ask her local colleagues
to answer her questions, but was happy to rely on native speakers to
explain cultural factors: Very helpful to explain about culture I dont
ask them about grammar they just say, its like that (Thai3f). This is
in contrast to the knowledge of local teachers: Some Thai teachers are
very good and I ask them every time.
Comments of this nature show the control exercised over foreign
teachers by their hosts, who have formed opinions about the benefits
to be gained from employing them. They also resonate with my own
experiences of working in Japanese universities, where my role, even as
a senior lecturer, was to teach oral skills and I was not invited to run
classes for graduate teacher trainees on a regular basis, despite having
expertise in that area. The native speaker role thus turned into a lim-
ited one as, although I was always treated with deference, there was no
Redefining English Language Teacher Identity 73

attempt to involve me in aspects of teaching that did not require so-

called native speaker linguistic skills.
The ideology of native-speakerism seems to have gained little ground
in many non-English speaking background countries. In Thailand
and China, for example, local staff assigned roles to visiting native
speaker teachers which would be beneficial to their institutions. As seen
above, knowledge of culture and spoken idioms were seen as the main
strengths of foreign teachers. There was no obvious recognition of supe-
rior teaching ability. It is possible to suggest two main reasons for this
attitude. Firstly, my research participants were on familiar territory: they
had worked their way up to positions of responsibility in their institu-
tions, which they knew well. They were therefore able to perceive issues
of adjustment which visiting teachers might experience from within a
particular cultural framework and, as a consequence, suggest remedies.
Secondly, comfort with the local environment gave these multilingual
teachers a degree of power. Thai1f, for example, recalled responding
to calls from foreign staff at 2am with requests for emergency assis-
tance. This background role of carer could be argued to confer a level
of authority easily transferable to the professional situation. In these
circumstances, native speakers were not perceived as threatening. The
world of the multilingual teacher, then, is well populated with native
speakers but they are not necessarily seen as the dominant side of a
dichotomy. Rather, they are welcomed into local environments to fulfil
a specific purpose and local teachers are very capable of judging how
well they do so, as when Chin1f and Thai3f claim that they do not teach
grammar well. Their teaching roles seem to be clearly delineated, so that
they provide support in ways that local institutions deem appropriate.


What emerges most strikingly from this study is the absence of a sense
of inferiority or self-marginalisation expressed by participants work-
ing in their own countries. In these portrayals of lived experiences,
multilingual teachers have revealed how the evolving sense of their
own professional identity has given them the confidence to assert the
value of their local knowledge. They have shown a remarkable ability
to exploit native-speaker skills for their own needs, as well as those
of their students. They have also established limits to the skills they
consider valuable. Further research in this area might helpfully reveal
levels of confidence and self-assurance which to date have not been
sufficiently recognised. Moreover, abandoning a preoccupation with
74 Anne Swan

native-speaker skills would enable all parties involved in a particu-

lar teaching context to re-evaluate the needs of the learners they are
supposed to concern themselves with. A more focused appreciation
of the skills and knowledge which well qualified teachers can contrib-
ute, by virtue of their individual, unique backgrounds, described by
Kumaravadivelu (2012) as Personal knowledge would enhance under-
standing of how languages can most effectively be taught because it
would encourage teachers to draw on these backgrounds to help their
learners make sense of the language learning experience. The value of
managing contexts and methods in a globalising world needs to be
acknowledged as one of the greatest strengths of multilingual teachers.

Borg, S. 2003. Teacher cognition in language teaching: a review of research on
what language teachers think, know, believe and do. Language Teaching, 36:
Canagarajah, S. 2002. Globalization, methods and practice in periphery class-
rooms in Block, D., & Cameron, D. (eds) Globalization and language teaching.
London: Routledge.
Canagarajah, S. (ed.) 2005. Reclaiming the Local in Language Policy and Practice.
London: Erlbaum.
Du, H. 2005. False alarm or real warning? Implications for China of teaching
English. Journal of Educational Enquiry, 6/1: 90109.
Hayes, D. 2009. Learning language, learning teaching: Episodes from the life of
a teacher of English in Thailand. RELC Journal, 40: 83101.
Hayes, D. 2010. Duty and service: Life and career of a Tamil teacher of English in
Sri Lanka. TESOL Quarterly, 44/1: 5883.
Holliday, A. 1994. Appropriate Methodology and Social Context. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.
Hu, G. 2005. CLT for China: An untenable absolutist claim. ELT Journal, 59/1:
Kumaravadivelu, B. 2006. Understanding English Teaching. New Jersey: Erlbaum.
Kumaravadivelu, B. 2012. Language Teacher Education for a Global Society: A
Modular Model for Knowing, Analysing, Recognising, Doing and Seeing. USA: Taylor
and Francis.
Swan, A. 2013. Putting the learner in the spotlight: Future directions for English
teachers. Iranian Journal of Language Teaching Research, 1/3: 6377.
Tsui, A. 2007. Complexities of identity formation: A narrative inquiry of an EFL
teacher. TESOL Quarterly, 41/4: 6576.
The Influence of Native-speakerism
on CLIL Teachers in Korea
Yeonsuk Bae

This chapter presents data which produces evidence about how native-
speakerism is subconsciously embedded in the mind-set of two Korean
elementary school teachers. The concept of native-speakerism which
was coined by Holliday (2005, 2006) is a useful term to look into the
world where English is used, while carrying around the culture of the lan-
guage in use. In particular, Holliday (2006)s explanation of the belief
that native speaker teachers present a Western culture from which
spring the ideals both of the English language and of English language
teaching methodology (385) is useful to understand the experiences of
two Korean teachers. As native-speakerism is largely context-depend-
ent, it is important to be aware of the contextual information to better
understand how native-speakerism is perceived in the given context
(Nomura and Mochizuki 2014: 1).
As Phillipsons (1992) well-known concept of linguistic imperialism
states, the concept of the superior native speaker teacher was constructed
in the 1960s in the parts of the world where English was commercialised.
However, even in the earlier days in Korea, this concept of superior native
speaker had been largely constructed among Koreans, as South Korea was
provided with various aids by the western countries after the Korean Civil
War in 1950. In particular, financial aid from America to the poor who
barely had the basic necessities of life seemed to contribute significantly to
the construction of the concept of superior native speaker. Consequently,
Koreans felt that they became superior if they used English to communicate.

My participant teachers and I

The motivation for this study initially came out of my own experience
working as an English teacher in Korea and being part of the team
76 Yeonsuk Bae

writing the science textbook packages for the content and language
integrated learning (CLIL) pilot project in which my participant teachers
were involved. While I was working in this text development project,
I had difficulty producing the materials due to my lack of knowledge
not only of scientific content but also of scientific vocabulary in English.
Consequently, my main concern became how elementary school teach-
ers were going to teach science in English using the materials provided,
as they were mostly not trained as English teachers and I evidenced from
the seminars that some of them were barely able to speak in English.
The data for this study was collected over three years from open-
ended interviews conducted in South Korea with two teachers,
Kyungduk and Heungjin. Both of them had more than ten years of
teaching experience as elementary school teachers including three
years of CLIL involvement. This government-funded CLIL project was
piloted throughout the nation from 2008 to 2010 for three years. The
teachers involved in the project were largely allocated to the duty just
before its implementation, without having been provided with much
pre-training. Before embarking on the first data collection in November
2009, I had worked as an English teacher in one of the English summer
camps in Canterbury in July and August 2009. The reason for applying
for this job was that I wanted to prove myself as an English teacher.
I always longed to speak like an English native speaker. Also, I think
there was a desire to meet others expectations, which assumed that
the English teacher who had a Masters degree from the UK would be a
proficient English user. This became a great pressure on me. I acknowl-
edged the fact that there are many areas I could not freely discuss,
such as politics and science, but I wished to be fully knowledgeable
about everything in English. I did not much care about not knowing
Korean words, but I did mind not knowing English words. If a native
speaker were to be defined as a person who could make complete use
of his or her mother tongue, I would not be a Korean native speaker.
Despite this recognition, I could not be free from my obsession with
English. Therefore, I needed a powerful means of appreciating my own
skills to convince me I could be a confident English teacher. Working
at the summer camp in England mostly with English native speakers,
teaching students from Spain, Austria, Italy, France, China and Japan,
was an unforgettable and invaluable experience for me. Even though
I did not completely get over my obsession with English, I became
confident, not so much as an English speaker, but much more as an
English teacher.
The Influence of Native-speakerism on CLIL Teachers in Korea 77

There were two main reasons I became confident as an English

teacher, which I believe are related to the recognition of others. Firstly,
despite my initial worries about students attitudes to and perception of
me as a non-native English teacher, I did not feel any resentment from
them about having me as a teacher. I thought students coming from
other countries to the UK to learn English would expect to have an
English native teacher with proper appearance. My Asian appearance
made it all too obvious I was a non-native English teacher. However,
it did not take much time to realise that it was only my own image of
an English native speaker that was causing me this anxiety, because
the students seemed not to care about it. Actually, they quite liked
me as a teacher, and the students evaluation of me was very positive.
Furthermore, one of the parents, who is Spanish, even asked me for
private lessons for my students older sister and brother. In addition, my
lesson was once observed by the staff from the head office, and I got a
very positive appraisal, not only for my English ability but also for my
teaching techniques, so-called learner-centred, that have frequently
been constructed and packaged as superior within the English speaking
West (Holliday 2006: 385).
These experiences of receiving recognition from others, here from a
native speaker in particular, enhanced my self-esteem considerably,
not only as a teacher but also as me, myself, in a situation in which
I felt severely challenged. With this extra, rather satisfying experience
of being a non-native English teacher in the UK, on top of being an
English teacher and textbook writer in Korea, I started my journey of
data collection, and I met the two teachers who shared their unexpected
but valuable stories of being non-native English teachers in the same
context, where their own self-esteem was challenged.

I was talking with a native speaker

Kyungduk, an experienced elementary school teacher in her mid-30s,

was involved in the project for three years from 2008 to 2010. However,
it was not a voluntary participation but an imposed duty. Particularly
for Kyungduk, it was a tremendously challenging task. She did not
have any interest in teaching English and had been building her
career as a social studies specialist. Most of all, as she acknowledged,
her English proficiency level was very low and not enough to work
on the project. Inevitably, Kyungduk showed the strongest negative
reaction to the new English teaching approach. These emotions of
78 Yeonsuk Bae

resistance and frustration were caused by fears about her own English

I told my supervisor I cannot speak English. I cannot teach in

English. It would be never possible for me to teach in English. I told
her this many times. (Kyungduk)

Kyungduk further commented on her inability in English, recounting

her feeling at the moment she first observed the model lesson of CLIL
conducted by a colleague, who was proficient in English, as follows:
I cannot teach these things. What I cannot even read, how I could
teach them (Kyungduk). The lesson Kyungduk observed was about the
solar system, and she did not even know the meanings of the words
written on the board. She was principally overwhelmed by the English
language itself, showing the intensive anxiety about her efficacy, saying
I cannot teach and that she cannot even read.
The CLIL pilot project was introduced at short notice, so she initially
had to work on improving her English on her own in order to be ready
to teach content in English and to overcome the anxiety. She had con-
sequently taken on the following two approaches, including hiring a
native speaker:

To be honest with you, when I was assigned for CLIL, I questioned

myself what was the fastest way to improve my English, particu-
larly to open up my mouth, because I did not have any basics in
English. I had been thinking and decided to find a native speaker.
I started up with taking an online speaking course for three months
from December to February, and I was able to get hold of very basic
English speaking ability like hi, hello. Then, I started a private les-
son with a native speaker. It lasted for six months from February to
August. This was my personal effort to be prepared. After having a
lesson for 6 months with a native speaker, I was able to speak some
English. Then, I started to become confident, because I was talking
with a native speaker. As I had confidence, I was able to speak English
confidently. (Kyungduk)

This extract shows her immediate reaction to the assignment of the new
curriculum, which she had strongly resisted participating in. In spite of
her initial resistance, she swiftly moved onto finding a fastest way to
improve her English, and so to be a proper teacher, with the knowledge
The Influence of Native-speakerism on CLIL Teachers in Korea 79

required. It could be said that she was seeking the fastest way to regain
the image of authority that she felt had been undermined by her per-
ceived lack of English knowledge.
What is interesting here is Kyungduks perception of a native
speaker. She considered hiring a native speaker would be the quick-
est way to enhance her English speaking level from what she thought
of as nothing, placing high value on them in terms of English lan-
guage learning. This perception will be discussed in the following sec-
tion when describing her position in the classroom. Furthermore, she
emphasised because I was talking with a native speaker as the rea-
son for her increasing confidence in English, in an assured voice. Thus,
regardless of the level of communication in terms of such knowledge
of English as grammar and vocabulary, the mere fact that she was
able to communicate with a native speaker seemed to give her
satisfaction, which led to her having confidence in English. It could
be said that she identified a native speaker with someone who pos-
sessed the knowledge and power she aimed to acquire. Consequently,
communication in English with the knowledge-possessor allowed her
to identify herself with the native speaker, who she considered to
have the power.

Two of my students are native speakers!

Embracing feeling vulnerable, which was caused by her perceived lack

of English proficiency, she takes the courage to position herself as an
adequate teacher figure:

On the first day, I did greetings in English to my students. My

English is not excellent, but literally I talked to them in English at an
elementary level. Students stared at me with their eyes wide open in
surprise, as the teacher was speaking in English. (Kyungduk)

Fully acknowledging her insufficient English proficiency, she stood as

a teacher in front of her students, proudly speaking in English. It was
a very basic level of English, but the fact that she stepped out of her
fear of not being able to speak in English is significant. She at least
succeeded in being seen as a teacher who could speak English, by giv-
ing her students a surprise. This attempt at positioning herself as an
adequate teacher from the very first day could indicate her strong desire
to sustain the power and authority in the classroom, in particular as the
source of knowledge, built through her career.
80 Yeonsuk Bae

Despite Kyungduks bravery, she encounters the moment when she feels
she has to abandon her sustained position of a teacher and accept what
is manageable in order to teach CLIL:

Last year, there were two native speakers in my class. They lived in
America before and were able to speak native-like English already.
Thus, it was really hard for me to speak English in front of them.
I am not good at English. The thought of not being able to speak
English has really stuck in my mind. I was so scared to speak English
even word by word while these two natives were attending my class.
I spent some time being really scared of it at the beginning, however
I suddenly came up with this thought. They are native English speak-
ers anyway and I am not. Then, why should I be afraid of them?
I thought if I break through this fear, the rest of the students will do
also. So, I said in front of the whole class to these two natives, Please
correct me if I make mistakes, and to the rest of the class we cannot
speak English like them here in Korea. Lets learn English from them.
I broke through the fear by myself by saying this. After that, I was
free from this fear and the students as well since they were intending
to get help. (Kyungduk)

In describing this incident, she calls her proficient English speaking

students native speakers. In terms of speaking the language, native
speakers are considered the most perfect speakers of the language, and
in terms of teaching English, native speakers are the ones who are sup-
posed to be teaching non-native English speakers, not the other way
around. The image of native speaker, for her, is also to be found in
the previous section, when she was seeking the optimal way of learn-
ing English in a short period of time. Since she was also having private
English lessons taught by a native English speaker when she experienced
this incident, it was likely that she put those students in a higher posi-
tion, considering them as teachers, which reflected her own experience
having lessons from a native English speaker as a learner of English. In
other words, at the moment she named them native speakers, she may
already have been considering them as teachers, even though she had
not realised it at the time. If this were the case, it would have had the
expected consequence of giving power in the classroom as a teacher to
the students. Although she did not specifically mention them as teach-
ers, these two sentences Please correct me if I make mistakes, and Lets
learn English from them could be seen as the evidence for perceiving
them as teachers of English.
The Influence of Native-speakerism on CLIL Teachers in Korea 81

Considering this sociocultural perspective towards the group of

Korean teachers who tend to be socially well-respected and thus have
authority, her decision to give her power as a teacher to the students
also may imply the changes from her self-concept as a teacher and the
most knowledgeable person in the class, who always gives right answers
to students, to the person who is willing to accept help from the stu-
dents who are more knowledgeable than her.
Having native-like English speaking students in her class, and the
feeling of fear caused by this, became the driving force of the develop-
ment of her self-concept as a teacher and the position of power in the
classroom. Also, she not only developed her self-perception as a teacher,
but she also transformed her teaching practice actively following these
What is significant here is that she seems to extend and apply the
image of a native speaker to Koreans who can merely speak like a
native speaker to her. In reality, the two students she described as
native speakers were just ten-year-old boys who sounded adequate to
be addressed as a native speaker. In spite of acknowledging this fact,
she seems voluntarily to hand over her power, even accepting them
as superior than her. This can be seen as self-marginalisation, which
Kumaravadivelu (2006: 22) refers to as the way in which the periphery
surrenders its voice and vision to the centre and they knowingly or
unknowingly, legitimize the characteristics of inferiority attributed to
them by the dominating group.

I am not an English major

Interestingly, Kyungduks reaction to a superior native speaker seems

to be slightly distorted when dealing with colleagues who are English
majors or are proficient in English. Kyungduk, who specialises in social
studies, with an MA in that subject, made a significant comment on
her positioning as a CLIL teacher by othering herself from the predomi-
nant English-major teachers, referring to we and they. Due to the
vulnerability that developed from her concern about her own English
proficiency in the situation of high anxiety and fear discussed earlier,
she closed herself off from the group of English specialist teachers,
or even proficient English users in a rather defensive and protective

The aim of the project is to promote students fluency in English.

In my case, because I am not fluent in English, I constantly reduce
82 Yeonsuk Bae

my speaking in lessons. I constantly elicit students speaking. On

the other hand, if teachers are fluent in English, they speak a lot in
English. Just like some teachers speaking a lot Korean, which means
they are confident about the lessons. Then, students have no choice
but being passive. However, CLIL is not about teachers showing off
their English proficiency, or students only listening what teachers
say. But if English becomes the base, this situation always happens.
The next problem of having English base is that these people have
a lot of knowledge about English. Then, they tend to teach the les-
son in English using all the knowledge they have and therefore the
sentences they make can be difficult, especially vocabulary they use,
in many cases. On the other hand, people with short of English base
or no English base like me cannot use difficult words and sentences.
Thus, the words and sentences are easy. Certainly, I think, there is
a difference. I think making a perfect sentence is not important but
having students open their mouth to speak in English by any means
is important whereas people with an English major, of course, think
making a perfect sentence is important and the structure of English
is important. As they can see structure, sentences, vocabulary and
singular or plural of English, whereas to us, these are important, but
opening students mouth is more important by giving more chances
or speaking. Also, if the base is about science and math, students
learning of this content should be satisfied simultaneously. We may
understand students better because we do not have English base.

This extract shows very interesting conceptualisation and positioning

of herself as a non-English-major teacher who was teaching English,
in comparison with English-major teachers or teachers who are fluent
in English, working as English specialists. She contrasts English base
with subject base, here referring to the subject of science, which she
was teaching in English. She referred to the group of English special-
ists as teachers with English base and English major and constantly
estranged herself from this group of teachers, even calling them they,
while calling the group she perceives herself to be included in us. To a
certain extent, it could be said that she showed an antagonism towards
the English specialists, criticising their excessive speaking in lessons,
which could prevent students from having more chances of speaking,
saying CLIL is not about teachers showing off their English proficiency
or students only listening what teachers say. According to the theory of
the defended self, by Holloway and Jefferson (2000), this splitting of
The Influence of Native-speakerism on CLIL Teachers in Korea 83

people into groups of we and they, namely splitting between people

like Kyungduk (subject base) and the others (English base), locates bad
in people who are not her kind, whereas her kind, including herself,
can be seen as good. Therefore, this splitting could unconsciously serve
to protect Kyungduks self in her situation by locating the professional
responsibility in the centre. A similar case of splitting us and them is
found in the discourse of Roger (see, e.g., Holloway and Jefferson 2000).
At the same time, she appears to attempt to justify herself as a suit-
able teacher for teaching CLIL, even better than the English specialists.
She contrasts the level of English used by two groups of teachers in the
classroom and the focus they put on the linguistic elements of English
versus students speaking. Interestingly, she mentions that she puts
more value on students speaking, although she is aware of the impor-
tance of the linguistic elements of English. Along with the previously
mentioned aspects, her comments on the content of the subject, here
science and math that should be adequately dealt with in CLIL, might
imply that she perceives herself as a better teacher than the other group,
one who understand[s] students better due to the lack of English base.
This better understanding of students might be reflected in her own
experience as an English language learner, sharing the difficulties of
learning English with them.
The other interesting point is that she refers to teachers who speak a
lot in lessons in Korean as having confidence about the lessons, and
presents herself as a person who speaks less in English in the classroom.
This might reflect her lack of confidence in teaching CLIL to a certain
extent, although she justifies her position as discussed above.
Kyungduks positioning herself in the group of the non-English
majors, othering herself from the group of English specialists, seemed
to continue in the following year, however she appeared to have more
control of her teaching with the increased confidence:

Since I have gained confidence in English, I speak more in English

in class. When I speak more, the lesson continues well with the
increase in my English talk. I can control my speaking on my own.

Gaining confidence in English affected Kyungduks teaching in class.

She was able to increase the amount of speaking English, which made
her feel the lesson continues well. In other words, she seemed to show
contentment in the lesson, in which she was able to produce an increase
in English speech. Considering her fear and concern about the lesson
84 Yeonsuk Bae

at the outset of the project, which was mainly caused by the perceived
lack of English proficiency, it could be said that gaining confidence in
English contributed to the attainment of self-efficacy in teaching.
In addition, an interesting point here is the way she justified her
own increased speaking in English in the lesson, saying I can control
my speaking on my own (strongly emphasising the word I). Contrary
to her criticism of the specialist English teachers, who she felt often
spoke too much in class, thus depriving the students of the opportu-
nity to speak, she seemed to believe she had the capability to adjust the
amount and the level of English as appropriate for the lesson, confi-
dently making a comment.
Interestingly, here she indicated herself as I in this extract rather
than we when describing and comparing her teaching practices with
those of the English specialist teachers, referred to as they. It could
suggest that although she was able to say that confidence in speaking
English had been achieved, she still seemed to perceive herself as some-
one with a lack of knowledge in English, by not including herself in the
group they. Also, she seemed to build her own professional identity,
gradually moving away from both groups: we and they. This might
mean that to a certain extent she overcame the initial fear and anxiety
by gaining confidence in English, and therefore there was no need to
protect herself from the others as strongly as she had done previously.
The other interesting aspect identified from the conversation with
Kyungduk could be called the self-defence of avoiding criticism, which
allowed her, to a certain extent, to be mentally free from criticism about
her English proficiency:

I am not an English majored. Other teachers are tied to the com-

ments like You have been to trainings for English, You are an English
major. You have studied a lot of English, and etc., whereas I do not
have any English background. Thus, when people doubt my English
ability, I could say that I do not have an English background.

Her expression I do not have an English background could be seen as

providing her with a useful defence against any potential criticism of
her English language skills, a defence that she also sees as liberating in
comparison with teachers who have majored in English. As of February
2011, she had been teaching CLIL for almost three years. Her general
ability with a new teaching method, in terms of her English profi-
ciency and teaching skills, had presumably been developed through the
The Influence of Native-speakerism on CLIL Teachers in Korea 85

training she had attended and her teaching over three years. In other
words, she was excellent enough to give a lecture on CLIL at a teacher-
training centre of the local educational authority. In addition, she said
I am the history of CLIL in Korea (Kyungduk) in one of the CLIL ses-
sions at the training centre. Nonetheless, she was still securing herself
in the territory of those with a non-English-major background, saying
I do not have an English background instead of I did not have English
background. She seemed to use her non-English-major background as a
means of being psychologically free from criticism. As she was an out-
sider in terms of her academic origins, she could be free from the limits
and boundaries of the academic field. On the other hand, she drew on
her background as a means of praising herself for her accomplishment,
and this may be the reason why she could call herself the history of
CLIL in Korea. This positioning can be seen as a form of self-defence,
to push away perceived professional shortcomings which could cause a
feeling of vulnerability (Kelchtermans et al. 2009). Kyungduk, who has a
strong orientation towards social studies, referring to herself as a teacher
with a subject base, seems to put herself in the position of contradict-
ing the teachers with an English base, showing a certain level of antago-
nism. It seems to me that Kyungduks attitude of self-marginalisation
towards English native speakers is extended to the group of people who,
she considers, have a certain level of connection to English.

I intend to be friendly, kind and cheerful!

Heungjin, a very experienced primary school teacher in her mid-40s,

was also involved in the CLIL project for three years from 2008 to
2010. Although she did not have any English language-related quali-
fications, she had worked as an English teacher for a couple of years
before the start of the project. Heungjins description of her attitude in
CLIL lessons started with laughter, but she demonstrated that she was
projecting the image of a friendly, kind and cheerful teacher.

When teaching CLIL, I intend to be friendly, kind and cheerful. Why

do I need to do it? I feel like I need to show my liking of English learn-
ing from myself. The most important thing is if I force myself to do a
lesson displaying my unwillingness, then students do not desire to do
it either. Students are interestingly good at sensing what I show from
my facial and body expression rather than my words. Thus, I need to
show I am enjoying myself. Also, I should demonstrate I am happy to
use English. (Heungjin)
86 Yeonsuk Bae

She seemed to feel abashed by the fact that she deliberately tried to
project an image of being friendly, kind and cheerful in CLIL lessons.
She even strived to show that the image of her enjoying herself, being
happy to use English, was presented so that her students could share it
with her. Because of her professional experience as a teacher, she seemed
to be certain of the beliefs she held. However, she said to feel like to
share the image rather than mentioning the theories that she drew on
for it. The answer to this question seemed to be getting clearer for her as
the conversation between us progressed. She narrated her experience of
encountering the chance of using English native teachers first names:

In English, I dont think it is compulsory to apply the same concepts

as we do in Korean and I have been thinking about this. You see,
English teachers and other foreigners who we encounter are not very
formal and they call each other by their first names. It makes me feel
like we are friends. In the previous training I attended, I met this
person for the first time and told me to call him by his first name. So
I did it. When we had lunch together, we used each others names
openly, which made me wonder if we were friends. This kind of feel-
ing comes together when I speak in English. Look at the children.
When they come to me they have to call me teacher. However,
when native English teachers first introduce themselves, they mostly
say their names. Thus, when students greet the native teachers, they
call them by their name like hi Karen hi Billy. They feel pleased. By
using their foreign teachers names students see them more as friends
than teachers. There is no reason they feel small. I think this kind of
tendency comes along with English teaching. (Heungjin)

What appeared to strike her is the foreigners attitude of not being

formal and the feelings of friendship that using their names inspired
in her. In Korea, there is a tendency for people to define their relation-
ships with others by social status, especially by age, and address them
accordingly. For example, teachers like Heungjin and Kyungduk would
be addressed as teacher by their students, as it would be considered
inappropriate for students to address teachers by their names. When
it comes to assessing a relationship by age, the older person, even by
only a years difference, expects to be respected by the younger, and
is called with a certain title, indicating their seniority. In addition
to the use of titles, a certain formality of language is also expected.
Consequently, the use of first names and informal language tends to
be restricted to those of a similar age group and no matter how close
The Influence of Native-speakerism on CLIL Teachers in Korea 87

they are, the older usually is not referred to as a friend, but a senior.
Therefore, to Heungjin, who had previously not had much contact
with native speakers, this experience of using first names may have
been a critical moment for her in getting to know some part of the
culture of English-speaking countries, making her feel as if she were
like a friend with the native speaker, despite the differences in their
social status and age. From this, she appeared to conclude that the stu-
dents must perceive their native English teachers, who insist on their
students calling them by their first names, unlike Korean teachers, as
friends, which may result in the students feeling more relaxed and at
ease when meeting them. Also, it could be said that this experience
has influenced her reducing her perceptions of the power and status of
a teacher and, to a certain extent, may have resulted in her being less
formal and authoritative.

It is hard to get angry in English!

Besides, this experience of being a student in training sessions influ-

enced the way she interacted with students when she encountered
situations in which students should be scolded:

I also sometime think why it is caused, but it is hard to get angry in

English. To put it in an easier way, getting angry in English is really
hard and I dont know how to get angry in English. I have never seen
the English lessons where teachers get angry in English. The lessons
are conducted in a way of always being pleasant and vibrant, encour-
aging students saying Lets do it. I have never seen English teachers
who say do it properly, you know what it will be consequences if you
do not right. Havent we?

Heungjin also questioned herself from time to time about the reason
she did not get angry at students. During the conversation, the reason
she came up with was that she found it hard to get angry in English
because she had never observed English lessons in which teachers got
angry with students. Her comment was surprising to me, because she
had obviously had experiences of having English lessons in her school
days. From my experiences of being a student in Korea under a similar
educational system, having English lessons was not much different
from the normal subject lessons in terms of teachers attitudes. Most
of the English lessons were goal-oriented and focused on achieving a
higher score rather than actually improving English proficiency. Having
88 Yeonsuk Bae

shared a similar experience of school days, it was clear to me that the

English lessons she was referring to in the conversations were not those
of school. Instead of relying on her experiences as an English learner
at school, it appears to me that she had been building a separate image
of an English teacher as the dominant masquerade of smiley faces and
perpetual pleasantness decorating the veneer of native-speaker English
teachers (Rivers 2013: 76). This image she was holding as a teacher
seemed to have been influenced by the lessons she had observed for
the purpose of teaching English. In particular, the CLIL method was
completely new to her, and one she had not had a chance to observe
as a student. That is to say, what Lortie (1975) refers to as the appren-
ticeship of observation (61), which is the way she had been taught,
was not the one she could rely on for her teaching. Consequently, the
model classes she had observed in her teacher training seemed to have
significantly influenced her teaching, especially her perception of CLIL
teaching that is, how CLIL should be.
In addition, Heungjin presented two representative ways of managing
students learning in the classroom. One, in a lesson in English, is Lets
do it, and the other, in a lesson in Korean, is seen as Do it properly.
You know what it will be consequences if you do not right. She was
demonstrating the different approaches of managing students learning.
What is interesting here is that she was showing different attitudes to
students according to the language she was using. This experience of
code-switching is commented on by Heungjin as follows:

There is something uncomfortable because of it Today I had a

CLIL in the sixth class. I was severely scolding students in the fifth
class (big laughter) then suddenly Hi [big laughter]. Anyway, I was
embarrassed. However, what else I can do? I do not know why.
Am I accustomed to it, like a habit? (Heungjin)

What is significant here is that Heungjin shows that she changes her
code of teaching between the normal subject lessons and CLIL les-
sons. Although she felt uncomfortable and embarrassed when she
encountered the situation of changing her code from a Korean teacher
to a CLIL teacher, she seemed to allow herself a reason to present her-
self as friendly, kind and cheerful in CLIL lessons. Interestingly, these
images were not imposed by the authorities, but developed by herself,
which can be evidenced from her saying I do not know why. Am
I accustomed to it, like a habit? She was questioning herself the reason
why she changed the teaching code. Another interesting aspect that
The Influence of Native-speakerism on CLIL Teachers in Korea 89

Heungjin experienced in teaching CLIL was the feeling of excitement.

She reflected with a very excited voice:

First of all, I am thrilled. It must be my personal preference. Personally,

I am excited about teaching students in English. Therefore, the feel-
ing of anger disappears by itself. (Heungjin)

Although Heungjin ascribes the feeling of excitement to personal pref-

erence, this feeling of being thrilled, even banishing her anger, caused
in the classroom, is noticeable. It can be seen that she personally likes
to speak English, and most of all she gets satisfaction from doing most
of her teaching through the medium of English. This could be seen as
the reflection of the social trend of proficient English users being highly


In this chapter, I have tried to show how native-speakerism is employed

in non-native speakers discourse to idealise the image of native
speakers and also to deconstruct cultural beliefs about native and
non-native speakers, which are very complex. Kyungduk shows an
acknowledgment of the superiority of native speakers, without con-
sidering her own considerable skills and experience, while Heunjin
seems to benefit from a belief that the native speaker teacher has a
friendlier, more laid-back classroom approach, which she contrasts
with the Korean tradition. Perhaps she can be said to be using native-
speakerism to her advantage, because she seems to feel released from a
more restricted classroom approach. Therefore, she is making good use
of her beliefs about native speaker classroom approaches to feel happier
about her own teaching.
In summary, both these teachers, particularly Kyungduk, would have
benefited from being able to develop an understanding of the role
of English in their programmes without having recourse to a native-
speakerist ideology. Although their increased use of English had a posi-
tive effect on their professional confidence, they could have progressed
faster by being encouraged to focus on the purpose for which they were
teaching in English to ensure that their students had international
access to advances in science and mathematics. This goal does not
require native-speaker competence, as many native-speakers them-
selves would be lacking the level of knowledge required in this field.
Their stories provide another strong case for removing the ideology
90 Yeonsuk Bae

of native-speakerism from the global practice of English Language


Holliday, A. 2005. The struggle to teach English as an international language. Oxford:
Oxford University Press.
Holliday, A. 2006. Native-speakerism, ELT Journal, 60(4), pp. 385387.
Holloway, W. and Jefferson, T. 2000. Doing qualitative research differently: Free
association, narrative and the interview method. London: Sage.
Kelchtermans, G., Ballet, K. and Piot, L. 2009. Surviving Diversity in Times of
Performativity: Understanding Teachers Emotional Experience of Change
in Schutz, P. A & Zembylas, M. (eds), Advances in Teacher Emotion Research:
The Impact on Teachers Lives. Dordrecht, Heidelberg, London and New York:
Springer, pp. 215232.
Kumaravadivelu, B. 2006. Dangerous Liaison: Globalization, Empire and
TESOL in Edge, J. (ed.), (Re)locationg TESOL in an Age of Empire: Language and
Globalization. London: Palgrave, pp. 126.
Lortie, D. 1975. Schoolteacher: A sociological study. Chicago: University of Chicago
Nomura, K. and Mochizuki, T. 2014. Native-Speakerism Perceived by Non-
Native-Speaking Teachers of Japanese in Hong Kong, Paper Presented in the
2nd International Symposium on Native-Speakerism, Saga University, available
Phillipson, R. 1992. Linguistic imperialism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Rivers, D. J. 2013. Institutionalized Native-Speakerism: Voices of Dissent and Acts
of Resistance in Houghton, S. & Rivers, D. (eds), Native-Speakerism in Japan:
Intergroup Dynamics in Foreign Language Education. Clevedon: Multilingual
Part III
Native-speakerism and
Perceptions of Identity
The Challenge of
Native-speakerism in ELT:
Labelling and Categorising
Yasemin Oral

This chapter emerged out of a larger qualitative study that explored

the intersections of issues of identity and English language learning/
use with 19 Turkish participants residing in Britain. It was primarily
motivated by my own journey of English language learning and the
role it has played in the ongoing construction of my identities, of who
I am, from my own point of view, which was later spurred academi-
cally by the recent explosion of interest in Applied Linguistics (AL) in
theorising and researching the complex relationship between the mul-
tiple identities of language learners/users and their social contexts of
Informed by poststructuralist theories of identity, the descriptive
framework regarding the social contexts of second language learn-
ing was initially adopted from the work of Block (2007). Yet, the very
facilitating role this framework played during the research design stage
created an emergent difficulty in accounting for the data, which was
too messy to fit into those categories/labels that are used to describe lan-
guage learners/users and the so-called socio-cultural contexts they are
situated in. I realised that I viewed my informants as primarily learners
of English who were all situated in Britain but embedded in different
specific socio-cultural settings such as migrant and study abroad. Yet,
against the backdrop of data which manifested not only the multiple,
dynamic and multi-faceted make-up of identity at an individual level
but also considerable variety and flux even within the categories, I was
compelled unexpectedly to reconsider those categories/labels to be able
to further pursue the complexity in the data.
In this regard, the concept of native-speakerism, advanced by Holliday
(2005), has provided a sound footing on which to problematise the cat-
egorising of second language speakers/users under the broad label of
94 Yasemin Oral

second/foreign language learners. Concerned with the ideological and

political effects of the prevailing modernist dichotomy of native/non-
native speaker on the ways we think about and talk about English teach-
ers in English language teaching (ELT) and AL, Holliday (2005, 2013)
has already uncovered the various facets of the notion of deficiency
imputed to the latter construct in the dichotomy as regards the label-
ling of teachers. Yet, the ideology of native speakerism is not limited to
the labelling of teachers; its effects extend to include the non-native
speaker learner (Holliday 2005, 2013). It is from this background that
this chapter builds a discussion of the ways these categories/labels of
the language learner and of their contexts of learning are inadequate to
capture the flux and complexities permeating them, with the ultimate
aim of adding to the literature on native speakerism by rather focussing
on how we think and talk about learners than teachers, primarily from
an identity perspective.
The recent line of theorising and researching the language learner as
having a complex social identity that must be understood with refer-
ence to larger, and frequently inequitable social structures (Norton
Peirce 1995:13) has offered a new position to make sense of and con-
ceptualise the second-language speaker/user by starting, not from the
native speaker, but from the identities they create for themselves in a
second language, which overall seem to transcend the native-speakerist
thinking. Elsewhere, several problems with employing such categories/
labels have already been reported (Block 2010; Duff 2012; Freed 1995).
In a recent survey of identity and second-language acquisition (SLA),
Duff (2012), for instance, highlights the always partial, incomplete, sub-
jective, and situation-dependent nature of labelling on the premise that
people have a variety of social roles and identities, not all of which may
be relevant or salient at the moment of description or easily captured
in a few words.
Yet, what is important for the purpose of the present study is the
ways these categories/labels might prevent us from gaining a deeper
understanding of the second language speaker/user through their
trivialising, homogenising, stabilising and thus decomplexifying effects,
especially in cases when these labels and categories are applied by the
researchers to the accounts of self-descriptions generated by the partici-
pants. Based on a discussion on the ways these categories/labels gloss
over a multitude of complexities permeating what they are meant to
portray, this purpose is to show how this new line of thinking about
identity research might still, albeit indirectly, get caught up with the
negative effects of native-speakerism in its pursuit of developing a new
The Challenge of Native-speakerism in ELT 95

conception of the relationship between the language learner/users

complex social identity and the larger social context in which they are


This study aligns with a postmodern, qualitative research paradigm.

Figure 6.1 represents the research process I have been through and the
iterative, interactive and cyclical architecture of its various components.
The first period of the research process entailed both a theoretical
and methodological literature review, whereby I focused on both the
theory of identity and methodological perspectives regarding identity
research while at the same time familiarising myself with the field in
order to locate the potential participants of the study. During and after
this stage, the actual fieldwork where I conducted my first interviews
and observations started. The data for this study have derived from
semi-structured interviews conducted with 19 Turks who were living in
England at the time of the study, field notes including my observations
and informal conversations, alongside my own experiences, which

Literature review Fieldwork

P - primary sources on - entering the field
r identity
o - finding the participants
g - previous research on - developing D
r identity and language relationships
e learning/use
- negotiating the a
- readings on qualitative interviews
i inquiry & identity - developing interview a
v research questions n
e a
- conducting interviews
Research diary I
- problematising initial y
f assumptions & s
o reflexive practices i
c s
u - revising i. questions
Theoretical triangulation
i - further readings on social
n context
g Data-source triangulation
- readings on migration,
transnationalism, study Fieldwork in London
abroad, etc.
- previous research reports - negotiation of post-
on Turks in the UK interview relationships

Figure 6.1 Research process

96 Yasemin Oral

mainly appear here in the form of descriptive accounts and extracts

from transcribed interviews.
In line with the principles of the postmodern research paradigm,
I also recognised that any reality I have observed in this study would
be a reality constructed by my participants words, perceptions, actions,
reactions, experiences and ideas, and of course by my own understand-
ing and interpretation of their contributions and accounts. Therefore,
I kept a research diary which provided me with a reflexive stance that
made me aware that I was shifting between the roles of a researcher and
an English-speaking Turk in England, like my participants. This aware-
ness regarding my own orientations, expectations and identities in turn
helped me not only to deal with them throughout the research process
but also to problematise and refine my theoretical and methodological
assumptions and understandings.
After an initial period of data collection, however, as the excerpt from
my field notes below shows, I started to experience shifts in my initial
perceptions, especially regarding the relationship between identity
issues and the so-called contexts. I came to the realisation that my asso-
ciation of each of my participants with a certain context, such as study
abroad or migration, might lead me to impose certain features on them
since their very definitions suggest particular assumptions and precon-
ceptions regarding the cases they contain. There were also instances in
which I felt none of the existing categories in fact fitted with the experi-
ences and realities of some participants.

It is so difficult to categorize the social make-up of the participants

settings. Most of the categories available in the literature do not
seem to capture the complexity of their reality. For instance, those
Turkish adult students who were in England for one year to study
English. Because their language learning process is considered to
be not limited to the classroom are they ESL students? Or the term
immigrant, it is very problematic. There are very different types of
immigrants; second-generation immigrants, as the literature calls
them, who were born here but their parents immigrated to the UK.
Or those people, who seem to be best categorized as adult third-
culture kids who arrived UK at a very early age and spent most of
their life here. I feel like it is important both to have at least an initial
understanding of their situation so that I can decide on my interview
questions which would primarily relate to their uniqueness and
to go beyond these categories and capture as much complexity as
possible. (Field Notes)
The Challenge of Native-speakerism in ELT 97

Consequently, I found data-source triangulation, which involves the

comparison of data relating to the same phenomenon but deriving from
the accounts of different participants differentially located in the setting
(Hammersley & Atkinson 2007: 183), to be a useful means of pursuing
these issues further. To this end, I (1) revised the interview questions
in ways that would allow for more complexity and (2) extended the
setting of my research to a second city, London. A second strategy
that I adopted in this regard was what Denzin (1989) calls theoreti-
cal triangulation, that is, approaching data with multiple perspectives
and theories in mind for the purpose of achieving broader and deeper
understanding of data at hand and/or supporting or refuting findings.
Accordingly, I expanded the scope of my literature review to include
different models of social context, as well transnationalism, migration
and previous research reports on Turks in the UK.
Regarding the data analysis, it should be noted that I tried to make
sense of data from the very beginning of the data collection process to
ensure an ongoing dialogue between collecting and analysing data. The
data analysis, which entailed working with both the sound files and the
transcribed texts, was primarily inductive. Following Holliday (2007,
2010), I began the data analysis listening to the interviews and reading
my field notes multiple times and went on with identifying ideas and
themes that emerged from the data and coding them accordingly to be
able to see the patterns and trends; then, on the basis of themes identi-
fied, I constructed the arguments. At this stage, I should also acknowl-
edge the role of my own experiences, reflections and ideas developed
in this process, as well as my reading of the relevant literature/previous
work; I have used all of this as resources to make sense of data.

Key questions

Various broad settings in which SLA occurs are usually characterised on

the basis of the functional roles and domains of use of the L1 and L2
(Siegel 2003: 178). In this regard, one of the most common classifications
of social contexts in SLA has been the acquisition of English as a second
language (ESL) and as a foreign language (EFL), or dominant L2 settings
and external L2 settings (Siegel 2003: 179). Yet, today, at best, it is well-
established that the ESL/EFL dichotomy fails to distinguish between
English as a second language when it is the dominant language in a
basically monolingual setting and when it is an institutional language in
a multilingual setting (Siegel 2003: 180). What is more, the dichotomy
has usually been based on a macro-level structural analysis of contexts of
98 Yasemin Oral

learning which focuses on them as a whole and sees their sociocultural

and sociohistorical aspects as given, while treating aspects of identity
as straightforward, easily categorised, static individual variables which
might hinder or facilitate language learning processes. Therefore, it has
been severely criticised on the premise that it essentialises language-
learning-related identities of learners. Overall, such superficial represen-
tations of learners and their language-learning-related identities have
been problematised on the grounds that they tend to downplay the
many social identities of learners that might emerge as salient, and deny
the role of their interlocutors at the micro level and the macro-level
socio-historical and socio-cultural factors that interplay therein (Duff
2012). The traditional distinction between natural language learning
associated with ESL contexts and instructed language learning associ-
ated with EFL contexts has accordingly been severely challenged with
the findings of the studies, which disconfirm and/or negate the basic
assumptions and principles of natural language learning (Norton 2000).
As the currency of the terms ESL learner and EFL learner has
declined due to the issues discussed above, a wide range of labels has
been offered, not only to provide greater clarity for the reality they are
meant to portray but also to overcome the problems associated with
the previous terms. In a similar vein, a plethora of terms has appeared
to represent the growing diversity and plurality of migrant experiences.
Table 6.1 is an illustrative, albeit not exhaustive, table which lists some

Table 6.1 List of common labels to describe L2 learners and migrants (adapted
from Block 2010; Buckingham & de Block 2010; Duff 2012; Vertovec 2009)

Terms to describe language Terms to describe migrants in

learners in the SLA literature: the literature on migration and

interlanguage speakers classic migrants

limited (English) proficient speakers expatriates
heritage-language learners economic migrants
generation 1.5 learners skilled migrants
bilinguals forced migrants
multilinguals undocumented
advanced L2 users migrants
multicompetent speakers transmigrants
lingua franca speakers/users cosmopolitans
third culture kids
asylum seekers
The Challenge of Native-speakerism in ELT 99

of the common terms that are used to name language learners and
migrants in the literature.
It is clear from the list in Table 6.1 that the field has moved beyond the
dichotomous labelling of ESL/EFL learners and in turn has expanded to
include a variety of terms describing them. Yet, two key questions remain.
Is it ever possible for postmodern researchers of identity to develop an
all-encompassing terminology of labels which would sufficiently portray
those experiences and realities characterised by plurality, multiplicity
and flux without being trapped within the positivist, modernist mindset
which suggests that those categories can relate to real, naturally-occurring
domains? Does this diversity of labels/categories imply the rejection of the
native-speakerist notion of deficiency attributed to the language learner?

Findings and answers

In what follows, these two questions will be addressed respectively. To be

able to answer the first question, I turn to my data as they relate to the
categories/labels of the second language learner and their contexts of
learning. In this regard, it should be noted that Second Language Identities
(Block 2007), with its explicit focus how identity is a key construct in
different ways in different second language learning contexts (2007: 1),
is the monograph which in the first place influenced the present study
by providing a descriptive framework regarding the social contexts of
L2 learning as a tentative but viable starting point. While broadly defin-
ing context as the physical location of language learning as well as the
sociohistorical and sociocultural conditions that accompany that physi-
cal location (ibid 4), Block speaks of three main contexts: adult migrant,
study abroad and foreign language. He defines the adult migrant context
as the SLL context of millions of people who have moved to a new
cultural and linguistic environment in search of work, political asylum
or even a better quality of life (ibid 5), the foreign language (FL) context
as the context of millions of primary school, secondary school, univer-
sity and further education students around the world who rely on their
time in classrooms to learn a language which is not the typical language
of communication in their surrounding environment (ibid) and the
study abroad (SA) context as involving university-level FL students in
stays of one month to two years in length in countries where the FL is
the primary mediator of day-to-day activity (ibid 6). The following table
introduces some background information about the participants of this
study as a backdrop for a discussion of how difficult it might be to cat-
egorise them and their social contexts (Table 6.2).
100 Yasemin Oral

Table 6.2 Overview of participants

Participant Age Gender Marital Occupation Duration of

status in UK residence in UK

Ahmet 28 Male Single Student at 18 months

language school

Irfan 29 Male Married Student at 18 months

language school
Yasin 26 Male Married Student at 18 months
language school
Tamer 29 Male Single Student at 18 months
language school
Mahmut 21 Male Single Undergraduate 14 years
Fatih 21 Male Single Erasmus student 1 year
Azmi 21 Male Single Undergraduate born in UK in 1990,
student moved to TR in 1996,
back to UK in 2004

Ilke 30 Female Single Professional 1 year in 2005 for

(international MA & now 6 months
Zehra 30 Female Single Academic/ 8 years
Feryal 29 Female Single Professional 18 months
Eylem 28 Female Married PhD student 2 years
Deniz 27 Male Married Professional 2 years
Toros 32 Male Single MA student 2 years
Sedef 26 Female Single Waitress (has MA) 4 years
Merve 26 Female Single MA student 13 months
Daghan 24 Male Single MA student 18 months
Yagmur 28 Female Single Professional 4 years
Elif 33 Female Married Housewife About 10 years
Semih 35 Male Married Waiter (has MA) About 10 years

Note: Each participant has been given a pseudonym to protect their identities.

One major difficulty emerged right at the beginning since there was
no category for those participants who were in England primarily for

language learning purposes, as they put it. For instance, both Irfan
and Tamer were in Canterbury to study English for 18 months at the
time of the study and they were attending the same language school.
Traditionally, they could be named as ESL learners who learn English as
The Challenge of Native-speakerism in ELT 101

a second language in an English-speaking country. As is implied above,

what is conventionally assumed to make this kind of language learning
process different from foreign language learning processes is mainly
what happens outside of the classroom, where students are supposed
to have access to fluent speakers of English. However, confirming the
findings of Norton (2000), the data shows that their language learning
experiences are primarily dependent on the classroom environment
and they have only limited access to fluent English speakers outside the
classroom, as the following account demonstrates:

There isnt much difference between learning English here and in

Turkey. There arent many speaking activities we could do outside
the classroom. Naturally it would be the same in Turkey but anything
other than that would be on your side there. I could even say the
fact that we cant go to Turkey for a year is itself a source of stress,

trouble. (Irfan)

Therefore, there is no category of social context which would account

for their cases. Another difficulty relates to the case of so-called
immigrants. For example, Mahmut, who could be categorised as an
immigrant, had come to England at the age of six and had been living
there since then, with regular contacts with Turkey. He doesnt perceive
himself as an immigrant; England is home to him and English is his
first language although he said he acquired it outside his home as his
parents were not able to speak English fluently, and he accordingly
wanted to conduct the interviews in English since, as he mentioned,
he could express himself in English better than he could in Turkish.
Azmi is another example, who could be named a second-generation
immigrant who was born in England but whose parents immigrated
to the UK. Zehra was another difficult case to categorise. She came to
England for political and religious reasons and is now pursuing an aca-
demic career there and has a great sense of belonging to England, more
than she has to Turkey. Feryal is another example; she came to England
for professional purposes following a job offer from a London-based
international company although she had a very high-ranking position
in the Turkish branch of the same company. Semih is another example;
he had come to England about ten years before in order to receive an
MA degree and then stayed there and ended up working as a waiter.
I particularly focused on different examples because although all these
people can be categorised under the label of immigration, their experi-
ences are far from homogenous.
102 Yasemin Oral

I will now shift the focus to the functional roles and domains of use
of Turkish and English in each context as offered by the data. First of
all, though, it is necessary to distinguish the wider contexts of lan-
guage learning and use considering where the participants are located
in England. England, as the widest context, obviously implies that the
participants are located in settings where primarily English is used as
a means of communication. However, there are significant differences
between the two cities, Canterbury and London, where the participants
of this study are located. First, in London there is a huge population of
Turks. The estimated number of Turkish speakers in London is nearly
74,000, which makes the Turkish language the fifth most widely spo-
ken language after English. (Thomson et al. 2008: 6). Further, there
are also certain neighbourhoods where the Turks live together; thus,
the Turkish community in London is often considered to have a strong
sense of community. Yet, this does not suggest a homogenous Turkish
community; behind some general demographic characteristics is a lot
of inner diversity based on ethnic, religious, ideological, social-class
and generational issues. On the other hand, Canterbury is a city where
the majority of the population is British, most of the non-British popu-
lation are students and there are no neighbourhoods where Turks live
Given this introductory information, as regards the so-called ESL stu-
dents, there are often at least a few Turkish students in each class, which
usually results very quickly in close friendships. Furthermore, other
students who are also learners of English are often not considered to
be part of the community who would help them improve their English
by the participants. Most of the participants reported that they had
imagined a language classroom before coming to England but what they
really experienced was quite different from what they had expected. All
of the members of the classroom community, apart from the teacher,
felt they were newcomers to the English language and to the classroom
community, in contradiction to the communities they had imagined
prior to their arrival. Therefore, they didnt invest in those members of
the classroom they didnt try to extend their friendship beyond the
classroom, for instance, because this wouldnt help them gain access to
their imagined communities. The communities of practice they imag-
ined themselves to be part of were constituted of native-speakers of
English. This then seems to have resulted in increased non-attendance
and non-participation, namely de-investment. Most of them mentioned
that they had imagined achieving native-speaker mastery at the end of
their stay in England but soon realised that it was an unattainable goal.
The Challenge of Native-speakerism in ELT 103

When we look at the role of English in their social lives, despite the
variety in reasons and instruments, most of them were mainly socialis-
ing with the other Turks. For those who were at relatively older ages,
and professionals, the symbolic and material resources they associated
with their professions seem to have been higher than those they asso-
ciated with the English language. So, the maintenance of their profes-
sional relations and of exchange of knowledge and opinions to do with
their professions was far more important than the opportunities to prac-
tise English, especially outside the class. Furthermore, while spending
most of the day in the classroom, the remaining time was also devoted
to family and friends back at home through various means (Facebook,
Skype) as they didnt want to ruin those relations due to the awareness
that they would eventually go back.
For the others who were relatively young and university graduates,
their emotional and practical needs resulting from their leaving their
familiar and immediate social networks seem to have outweighed their
concerns for practising and using English outside the classroom. Yet, it
is also crucial to note that, even for those whose investment in English
was greater, there were obstacles that denied their access to the commu-
nities of practice outside the class. There were, however, a few cases who
managed to gain some access to those networks with various purposeful
efforts, as is evident in the following extracts:

I didnt hang out with the Turks though. What did I do then? I was
staying in the dormitory at the beginning so I tried to create links with
the people I met. I did unconditional favours, for instance, without
waiting any return I opened up a Facebook account I didnt have
one beforehand, because you meet people but if you dont create any
links and get closer you cant become friends. All of my Facebook
friends are the ones I have met here, none of them is Turkish. I dont
add Turkish friends Now I have friends of all sorts, Welsh, American,
Nigerian, Greek. We go out together or sometimes travel. (Tamer)

I contacted some charities. They had a special type of programme so

I went and cooked Turkish meals a few times. I thought it could be a

good chance to meet some people and make friends. (Irfan)

On the whole, in addition to the classrooms, for most of the ESL

participants, the settings where they mainly communicated in English
were their daily encounters, which included performing everyday tasks
such as shopping, visiting the doctor, and going to the bank. When we
104 Yasemin Oral

look at the contexts of immigration, despite the variety of emergent

cases, I focus here on the two main ones while acknowledging the
inner-divisions mentioned above. The first one represents the experi-
ences of the Turks who live in Turkish neighbourhoods and run their
own businesses there. In this case, the workplace and social life practices
of most participants are carried out mainly in Turkish, and they mainly
socialise with the other Turks in their neighbourhoods. In addition,
except for such reasons as visiting a doctor and banking, most of their
daily encounters also include Turks. Thus, the role of English in their
lives is very limited. The second case is where the participants do not
live in Turkish neighbourhoods and work in a variety of non-Turkish
workplaces or offices. These different living and working conditions
seem to provide them with a greater access to the communities of fluent
English speakers. However, this doesnt mean that language learning
and use is not an issue in their lives, as the following extract illustrates:

Interestingly, English was one of the problems, especially at the

beginning. In fact I studied in an English-medium university and was
using English a lot for work before I came here but the language we
use in Turkey and the one here is quite different. Or rather, maybe
its not different but this is what you think! So it is very worrying.
You always think about if I am using the right word or what if Im
not fluent enough and when you are that worried you cant express
yourself well enough. Then, especially in the first few months, I was
very silent, more reserved about speaking than I used to be. (Feryal)

The foregoing analysis and problematisation suggest a number of

preliminary arguments: first of all, such labelling of second language
speakers/users as learners in the first place, especially when employed
a priori, might lead to foregrounding, if not essentialising, partici-
pants language-learning-related identities and thus backgrounding
some other aspects of their identities as I, rather than the participants
themselves, was naming and defining their context and its features.
Furthermore, by categorising certain participants under the same con-
text label I was assuming a certain degree of homogeneity among the
participants categorised under the same labels, but that wasnt neces-
sarily the case. Therefore, those labels I used for context were always
partial and incomplete and had the potential to prevent me capturing
the complexity and diversity in their realities and experiences. For
instance: adult immigrants, in Blocks study, are described as people
who must make a new life mediated by a new culture and language.
The Challenge of Native-speakerism in ELT 105

Yet, as I presented in the first case of the immigrant participants of my

research, what some of the immigrants experience in these contexts did
not necessarily prioritise the second language/second culture-mediated
identity work.
In his own study, Block (2007) concludes with three main points
concerning how identity work varies across different social contexts:
Block (2007: 2012) maintains that, first, it varies as regards the extent
to which it actually takes place, claiming that while FL contexts do
not afford many opportunities for L2-mediated identity work, the adult
migrant context, the naturalistic setting, does. Second, when L2 iden-
tity work takes place, there is a good deal of variability as regards the
aspects of identity that emerge as salient. Third, L2 identity work varies
according to the macro-level forces that extend beyond the immediate
context of learning. Overall, the methodological approach adopted and
the resulting findings acknowledge the complexity involved in identity
work at the micro level of individuals with an interactional perspective
realised through the exploration of the interplay between the immedi-
ate context and the larger social factors influencing them. Yet, when
the analysis extends to a meso level whereby those individuals are por-
trayed to represent, in a sense, certain communities, such as Spanish-
speaking Latinos (see Block 2006, 2007), it risks backgrounding and
thus trivialising the ways these communities might be divided by other
identity categories such as gender, ethnicity, religion and social class
back at the micro level.
Thus, I argue overall that categorising and labelling might lead
to certain aspects of participants identities being highlighted while
some other aspects, which might play a crucial role in defining their
experiences, could be trivialised. It further runs the risk of depicting
those individuals as groups, albeit sub-groups constituting a larger
one, and thus homogenising them under certain labels despite the
potential variation in other facets. Another risk of categorising is that
they might direct the researcher to interpret participants experiences
and identities in particular ways, thereby stabilising them, although
the ways in which people think and feel about them may change over
time. Therefore, those labels and categories cannot refer to naturally-
occurring, self-evident units. For identity research, which is particularly
sensitised toward revealing the multiple, fluid, potentially contradictory
and constantly renegotiated nature of identity, categorisation seems to
be an ill-suited analytical approach. Such categories, as bordered con-
structs, tend to obstruct thorough exploration and understanding of the
intricacies and the cross-relations governing the reality they are meant
106 Yasemin Oral

to portray, due to the certain assumptions and preconceptions they

might suggest and, in turn, decomplexify.
So far I have drawn on my data to discuss the trivialising, homogenis-
ing, stabilising and decomplexifying effects of categorising/labelling in
an attempt to answer my first question, Is it ever possible for postmod-
ern researchers of identity to develop an all-encompassing terminology
of labels which would sufficiently portray the experiences and realities
of language learners/users without being trapped within the positivist,
modernist mindset? In what follows, I will address the second question
which is concerned with if the current diversity of labels/categories
implies the rejection of the native-speakerist notion of deficiency
attributed to the language learner/user. The answer derives from the
current literature, which suggests positive evidence of its maintenance.
Primarily, as Cook (2002: 4) notes, the term second language learner is
problematic as it implies that the task of acquisition is never finished,
and then it is demeaning to call someone who has functioned in an
L2 environment for years a learner rather than a user. Moreover,
recent studies have largely revealed that students resist pregiven iden-
tity labels as these labels are predominantly associated with gaps in
language proficiency (Faez 2011: 381). Costino and Hyon (2007), for
instance carried out a qualitative study with nine students with varying
relationships with English and with varying residency statuses. They
found that students perceived identity labels including native English
speaker, non-native English speaker, ESL speaker, English language
learner, ESL student, multilingual, and bilingual to exist primarily in
relation to strong or weak language ability, and no consistent pattern
emerged as to which residency group affiliated with which labels.
Similarly, Ortmeier-Hooper (2008) argues that such terms as ESL and
Generation 1.5 are often problematic for students since they mask a
wide range of student experiences and expectations. Likewise, Benesch
(2008) makes a case that the label of Generation 1.5 is surrounded by
discourses of partiality which are grounded in a monolingual, mono-
cultural ideology despite the counter-discursive evidence showing that
self-described generation 1.5 learners do not see themselves as partial.


In effect, researcher-identified analytical categories have usually been

part of broader processes of inductive theorising, especially in qualita-
tive research. However, categorising/labelling, in postmodern identity
research, seems to serve as a means of decomplexification of learner
The Challenge of Native-speakerism in ELT 107

identities that are characterised by plurality, multiplicity and flux.

Consequently, it in a way contradicts with the very nature of the
construct that identity research seeks to uncover. At the same time,
these identities become susceptible to the negative effects of the mod-
ernist view of labelling, which primarily underpins native-speakerist
The significance of these problems becomes more evident when
viewed together with radically different forms of postmodern globalisa-
tion which have brought about increasingly atypical communicative
and social settings.

This new context, featuring transnational affiliations, diaspora

communities, digital communication, fluid social boundaries, and
the blurring of time-space distinctions has created an urgency
to understand acquisition outside homogenous communities.
(Canagarajah 2007: 924)

Such new realities prevent us from focusing on societies and com-

munities as a whole and thus from describing any context in terms of
homogeneity, stability and determinancy.
While it is apparent that postmodern identity research has offered a
new way to think about and view the second language speaker/user, if
we want to truly move beyond offering new labels/categories in place
of the native-speakerist dichotomy of ESL/EFL learners, we really do
need to question these categorising/labelling practices, which seem
to prevent postmodern identity research from countering a hidden
native-speakerism, despite its great potential, and seek to develop a
new language to talk about the language speaker/user which would fit
well with poststructuralist identity theories. This requires, I would like
to claim, a close scrutiny of such categories/labels as migrants and
study abroad, which might serve to consider them as real, naturally-
occurring and definable groups/contexts devoid of social and ideologi-
cal construction, just like the terms native-speaker and non-native

Benesch, S. 2008. Generation 1.5 and its discourses of partiality: A critical
analysis, Journal of Language, Identity and Education, 7/34, 294311.
Block, D. 2010. Problems portraying migrants in Applied Linguistics research,
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Block, D. 2007. Second Language Identities (London: Continuum).
108 Yasemin Oral

Block, D. 2006. Multilingual Identities in a Global City: London Stories (New York:
Palgrave Macmillan).
Buckingham, D. & L. de Block 2010. Global Children, Global Media: Migration,
Media and Childhood (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan).
Canagarajah, S. 2007. Lingua Franca English, Multilingual communities, and
language acquisition, The Modern Language Journal, 91/Focus Issue, 923939.
Costino, K. A. & Hyon, S. 2007. A class of students like me: Reconsidering
relationships among identity labels, residency status, and students prefer-
ences for mainstream or multilingual composition, Journal of Second Language
Writing, 16, 6381.
Denzin, N. 1989. The Research Act: A Theoretical Introduction to Sociological Research
Methods, 3rd Edition (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall).
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of Second Language Acquisition (London: Routledge), pp. 410426.
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dichotomy, Critical Inquiry in Language Studies, 8/4, 378399.
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Constructing the English Teacher:
Discourses of Attachment and
Detachment at a Mexican
Irasema Mora Pablo

This chapter explores the understandings of the ELT (English Language

Teaching) profession and the multiple issues involved in how people are
seen as or not as native/non-native. It is based on a study conducted
with Mexican, American and British teachers who work at a university
in central Mexico. Using a narrative approach, I present a description
of how a particular community of teachers and students, in a univer-
sitys language department in central Mexico, use identity, ethnicity
and labelling to deal with the native/non-native debate. Issues, such
as the political Mexican-American relationship, physical appearance,
pejorative terminology, and accent, emerged from the data as factors
determining the participants personal and professional identities. The
participants discourses of attachment and detachment reveal how they
feel at times close to Mexico or the profession, but at other times are
perceived as not being part of the community, no matter how many
years they have been living in the country or how many years they have
taught English.
The shared tense history between Mexico and the United States can
be traced back to 1845, with the Mexican-American War, in which
Mexico lost half of its territory to what today is the South-western
United States (Velasco 2004). Since then, concepts such as territory,
border and space have suffered changes throughout the years. This
socio-political relationship has evolved in different aspects of students
and teachers lives, and they are open about their feelings and attitudes
towards the country and the English language. This is sometimes stig-
matised as the language of the United States and they tend to label not
only the speakers of the language, but the country and the actions that
the closest neighbour has taken in different affairs.

110 Irasema Mora Pablo

The native speaker or non-native speaker labels are worthy themes

of research, particularly in an EFL (English as a Foreign Language) con-
text. In this chapter I will always place native speaker and non-native
speaker in inverted commas, following Hollidays (2006) acknowledge-
ment, in recognition of their ideological construction (385). They are
contested terms, belonging to a particular discourse and ideological
construction. They are products of an ideology which tends to place
the non-native speakers in an inferior position. These discourses of
native-speakerism can produce realities of exclusion, discrimination
and rationalisations for intervention and cultural correction (Kabel
2009: 17). Native-speakerism needs to be seen in our everyday practice
and, as Holliday mentions The impact of native-speakerism can be seen
in many aspects of professional life, from employment policy to the
presentation of language (Holliday 2006: 386).
Related to these positions and realities is the concept of identity.
As Skeggs (2008) states: Identity is simultaneously a category, a social
position, and an effect (11). Kidd (2002) defines knowing who one is
as having a sense of similarity with some people and a sense of differ-
ence from others. In current sociological terminology, the Other is a
concept used to refer to all people the Self or We think of as slightly
or radically different. This immediately brings about a dualism which is
inevitably oppositional, as Kidd (2002) suggests:

Them are not Us, and We are not Them. We and They can
be understood only together, in their mutual conflict. I see a group
as Us only because I distinguish another group as Them. The two
opposite groups sediment, as it were, in my map of the world on the
two poles of an antagonistic relationship. It is this antagonism which
makes the two groups real to me and makes credible that inner
unity and coherence I imagine they possess. (203)

In ELT, Otherness can involve the superiority of one group over

another, the subordinate, but this is essentially in relation to ethnicity
and language, which appear to be pivotal factors in the creation of the
professional identity and therefore the image of the native speaker
English language teacher.

Narrative enquiry

For this study, I followed a narrative enquiry approach and relied on

semi-structured interviews. The main idea was to explore how teachers
Constructing the English Teacher 111

felt in relation to their counterparts and also to see how they con-
structed their image as English teachers. At an initial stage, I used semi-
structured interviews, but soon I discovered that they were taking on a
different shape. The interviews appeared more like live casual conversa-
tions between two people. Suddenly, what I was hearing became a story.
It is important thus to acknowledge that these narratives are re-shaped
co-constructions between the researcher and participants. All of this is
situated in a constant dialogue of mutual self-disclosure.
Narrative enquiry can be defined as a conscious and on-going con-
struction of a narrative of oneself or someone else (Bell 2002; Clandinin &
Connelly 2000). This is certainly a dynamic approach, where partici-
pants in research uncover and understand their own life experiences
and those of others. Nakamura (2002) mentions that: Narrative enquiry
is about building public expression of personal understanding of the
events, experiences, and people in our professional lives (117). In the
area of education, narratives are used so that teachers can talk about
their professional lives (Clandinin & Connelly 2000; Goodson 1997).
There are substantial claims made about the value of narrative enquiry
for teachers in both the theoretical and empirical literature on language
teacher education. Barkhuizen (2008) points out that: As opposed to
focusing on only one or two isolated variables in a particular context,
stories include many factors linked together, and the process of making
sense of the stories means unravelling this complexity (232233).

Teachers and students in the study

My entrance to the research setting was relatively easy because I was

part of the staff of the Language Department of a large public university
in central Mexico. Ten teachers participated in the study. Seven teach-
ers were considered as native speakers of English, since five of them
were born in the United States and two in the United Kingdom. The
other three teachers were Mexican and they all considered themselves
as non-native English speaking teachers. Initially, the native English
speaking teachers fell into the job because of their condition of being
native speakers. They were hired even though they had never had
the experience of teaching English as a foreign language. On the other
hand, the Mexican teachers were hired because they had a BA degree in
English teaching and they were considered qualified to do the job. Also,
14 students from different levels of English participated in the study.
All participants signed a letter of informed consent and I have used a
pseudonym for each participant to protect their identity.
112 Irasema Mora Pablo

Giving labels

Gero (fair-skinned)
A first contribution to the way teachers perceived themselves and oth-
ers was the use of descriptive phrases when defining the English speak-
ers. For example, Daniel, a Mexican teacher who has worked in the
Language Department for more than 20 years, evidences his use of a
particular word in Spanish to classify all of his foreign colleagues.

A gero is any foreigner for me tall, blond, blue eyes, typical

foreigner I use this word without thinking of a particular national-
ity However, Im very careful while using it. I use it even with the
geros if I see they dont feel offended.

Here it is important to note that the word gero means fair-skinned,

blond or white. The word gero indicates a high status, not only in
terms of defining a foreigner, but in any social situation in which inter-
actions are taking place among people from different skin colours. As in
many other countries, Mexico is a country with people of different skin
colours. The majority are dark-skinned. However, being fair-skinned is
perceived as belonging to an upper socio-economic class.
As well as using the word gero to differentiate English language
teachers in the Language Department, the word gringo1 came up in a
conversation with Daniel:

Years ago, when the administration started hiring English teachers, it

wasnt difficult to get a job here. Any gringo could come on vacation,
for a few months, and get a job as a teacher here. And there you saw
gringo hippies who could barely teach the language, but they looked
just right for the job.

From this excerpt, it appears that gringo has negative connotations

when it is related to hippie and implies a lack of teaching skills. Even
when it is not explicitly said, the word gringo seems to be more related
to a stereotypical image of a badly dressed person, far from the high-
valued image of gero discussed above.

Pocho and foreigner

The use of particular descriptive phrases led me to look at images of
the English teacher and speaker from a different angle and see how the
ideology of native-speakerism is present in everyday practice.
Constructing the English Teacher 113

This became evident when Pam, a student who had had the experi-
ence of being taught by different teachers at the Language Department,
seems to make a clear distinction when categorising and describing
her teachers in three areas. Pam explains: Well, I have been taught by
teachers Mexicans, foreigners and pochos. This allows for a new label
to emerge: pocho. When I asked her how she defined a pocho2, she said:

Those are the ones who were born in Mexico but went to the US and
then came back. They are not gringos; they are still Mexicans, but they
kind of have the experience of living in a foreign country, but their
English and Spanish are a little broken. (her emphasis)

However, the data revealed that in the eyes of participants, an English

teacher can become someone else because of unexpected events, show-
ing how subjective the classification can be. This can be seen in the
following excerpt from Adriana, a student who has been studying
English for several years at the Language Department. She describes in
her narrative a particular moment when a teachers condition of being
foreigner was about to change:

Well, when as I go to church, I saw the banns of marriage and

[I saw] that he was going to marry a Mexican, so, I said Ah, ok, he
is going to be a Mexican too! He is going to be one of us, but but
he is naturally a foreigner.

For Adriana the fact that the teacher was going to marry a Mexican, to a
certain degree, might give the idea that he would become a Mexican as
she is, but he would still have the label of being a foreigner. This exem-
plifies how identity is not static and that there are different reasons
why we can change our way of thinking about someone and ourselves.
This particular event of marrying a Mexican could give the teacher
the Mexican status by default, or at least at first instance it might be
believed that it is an immediate reaction. Yet, it seems that Adriana
distances the teacher from the Mexicans and intensifies his condition
of being a foreigner, as in Pams narrative. She seems to adopt him as a
guest because of this marriage. In essence he has a safe position.
Physical appearance and its apparent connection with teaching skills
is only a starting point which encourages the use of labels. In the fol-
lowing section, the use of labels, in regards to the power of an image in
the eyes of participants, will be discussed, to show how appearance is a
catalyst for more complex labels of native-speakerism.
114 Irasema Mora Pablo

Us vs. Them

Double standard practice

There is no doubt that Mexico and the United States have a complex
relationship. While the United States is seen as a powerful country,
Mexico is seen as a subordinate country (Condon 1997). As the narra-
tives were evolving, the emergence of what might be a description of
the Other was shaped by an existing cultural mixture of historical fac-
tors, which is recognised and even evaluated by participants, sometimes
positively and sometimes negatively. The constant division of Us and
Them is often construed as one being better than the other, but the
participants took this further and depicted a long-lasting division which
can raise issues of identity and shared pride to a different level. This can
be seen in the following extract, where Darren, a young British teacher
who had taught for almost four years in the Language Department,
makes an interesting reflection about his position as a foreigner, but
not just any foreigner:

Most people think I am American because of the way I look I never

mention that Im British, not at the beginning but you know students,
some because they talk to other students, some pick up on the accent,
but theres a big difference with me being a native speaker and not
a Mexican but also me being British and not American. I think it is
easier for me teaching English because theres not this historical issue
as there is with the Americans, and this relationship with the States,
and I think that some students find it difficult, consciously or uncon-
sciously, having an American teacher and we (British) are not so
involved, Mexico and England they dont have this part of history.

For Darren, his condition of being fair, with blue eyes and a foreigner
puts him in a different position in relation to not only Mexican teach-
ers, but to Americans as well. Le Ha (2008) calls this double standard
practice (144). That is, using his image to disrupt its associated colonial
and imperial norms, as it is in the case between Mexico and the United
States. For Darren, his British nationality brings a fresh image of the
English speaker, without all the baggage that being American means
historically between Mexico and the United States.

Crossing borders
In order to understand the love-hate border political relationship
between Mexico and the United States and its implications when
Constructing the English Teacher 115

constructing the English speaker, it is necessary to explore how partici-

pants define their identities in terms of the close relationship between
the two countries and how this influences the way they perceive
themselves and the Other. In this section, the phrase crossing bor-
ders means not only the geographical implications, but the mental
and affective, involving issues of attachment to a new culture but also
detachment from participants own culture.
In the case of some teachers, growing up in the United States and
being aware of the historical background between the two countries
prompted them to want to explore more about the other country across
the border. Some of these reasons were personal, but the family also
seemed to be a pivotal element, as William narrates:

Ive been in love with Mexico almost my whole life. My first aware-
ness of Mexico came when I was a child my dad would take us to
the other side of the tracks and into the barrio to eat Mexican food;
Ive always admired my dad for that, because this was during an era
when (and in a place where) Mexicans and gringos didnt mix much,
if at all. I first started coming to Mexico in high school when my
friends and I would cross the border so we could drink and carouse.
Those border trips turned into longer trips, down to San Felipe on
the Sea of Cortez and then further and further down the Baja penin-
sula. Those trips, in turn, resulted in forays into the interior. Before
I actually moved to Mexico, I probably travelled to Oaxaca ten times,
and Ive visited many many other places. Ive been living in Mexico
now about ten years.

The sentiments that William has for Mexico can be traced back to
when he first started coming to the country as a child. His father
played an important role in contributing to this love that William
feels for Mexico, even when he acknowledges that times were difficult
because gringos and Mexicans didnt mix much, if at all. This extract
seems to show how the dynamics of Americans and Mexicans have
been perceived by the participants of this study for many years. This
is interconnected with what Kenny describes in the following extract
and seems to show that a new view between gringos and Mexicans
is developing:

When I first came here I considered myself to be an American and

most people referred to me as such. Where I was most clearly a gringo
was when it came to the work permit, the permit to buy a house, the
116 Irasema Mora Pablo

permit for property. I felt like I was a part of the community, but the
Federal Government didnt agree. Then came the issue of studying
and travelling for work and the rule was Mexicans first. Based on
this plus ten years of living here I decided to start the nationality
change. Once that happened it was almost like instant acceptance
[in Mexican society].

In both cases, Kenny and William make reference to their condition of

being Americans or gringos. But Kenny also implies he was consid-
ered an outsider by the host community, even when he felt part of the
Mexican society that did not consider him as such. In his case, there
was a turning point when he officially changed his nationality and
became Mexican. This event seems to have opened the door for him to
have almost immediate acceptance in the Mexican community.
Also, teachers think they can help their students to cross the borders,
as in the case of Daniel. He reflects on how teachers can get students
interested in the English-speaking culture so that they motivate them
to expand their views and aspirations. He even thinks that they have
added a new identity to their initial Mexican identity: You need to
open students eyes and give them the opportunity to know about
places that they will probably never visit.
There is no doubt that teachers see themselves as the motivators to
engage students in a new culture, expanding their horizons and prompt-
ing them to have agency with another culture. But even when teachers
might not be aware of the various identities they have at their disposal,
they constantly change from one to another, as William explains:

I certainly never feel entirely at home in Mexico but thats one of

the reasons I like it. I know Im living abroad, and that excites me
and makes me happy. I like both the challenges and simple pleasures
of living abroad. Even if I were to someday leave Mexico, its very
unlikely that Id ever move back to the US Id almost certainly head
to another country.

Even when William has lived in Mexico for almost ten years, his narra-
tive seems to reveal his sentiments about being a foreigner in the coun-
try but also how he has detached himself from his country of origin, the
United States. In his case, he has crossed the border and, apparently,
the fact of being an outsider is one of the reasons why he likes living
in Mexico. However, for the Mexican teachers, being in their country of
origin and teaching a foreign language can also bring challenges. This
Constructing the English Teacher 117

is a group which shares interests, but they are also people who have
experiences, good and bad, and it is hard to separate the identity from
labels that have been given to them (native or non-native speakers),
as part of the ideology of native-speakerism, which seems to lead to
a continuum from low self-esteem to high self-esteem, depending on
where these participants place themselves on it. This seems to serve
a dangerous duality between identification and discrimination. The
idea of crossing borders can be seen in Raquels narrative. Raquel is a
former Mexican BA student of the Language Department and is now a
teacher in the same place who has been able to teach in both Spanish
and English. She first started teaching Spanish to foreigners and then
English to Mexicans as a non-native speaker. She reflects on how hard
it was for her to go from teaching her first language to teaching English
as a foreign language, and how she faced discrimination when trying to
cross the borders of two languages at different levels:

My English students attitudes, in their eyes, in their attitudes,

maybe my prejudices, but I think the teacher was not what they
were expecting. In the moment I started classes they are not the
students I was used to, those who congratulate me, those who trust
in the information I provide, in my knowledge. I could perceive that,
especially with one group. All the context was set. One of them dedi-
cated his time to try me. My self-esteem went down. I combined this
class with Spanish, that is, in the morning [when teaching Spanish]
I was the happiest woman in the world, but it came the time of my
English class and I became nervous. I had my class prepared all the
time, but I had to prepare more. It was a horrible experience. I was
valuable from 8:00 to 11:00, with my foreign students, there I was
me. But here, it was the dark side, the one that I didnt like, it wasnt
me. It was an experience of rejection.

She first started the teaching profession as a Spanish teacher to for-

eigners and she felt recognised and valued because of this. However,
the transition from teaching Spanish to English was not easy and she
felt like a swinging pendulum. On one side she began feeling admired,
valued and secure, but then she moved to the other extreme and felt
questioned, rejected and insecure. She was experiencing an internal
battle, having problems while developing her personal and professional
confidence and trying to perceive herself as a legitimate English teacher.
The perceptions of the students were shaped by different experiences,
but the teachers perceptions were also shaped in rather a short time. In
118 Irasema Mora Pablo

one day she experienced contrasting feelings, from using Spanish as her
tool to her lack of confidence in the same profession but in her second
language. She is a proficient user of English; however, she has already
drawn a line between Spanish and English, and moreover she has
erected a barrier between the teaching of those languages. This situation
made Raquel realise, at that specific point, that the teaching profession
was more difficult than she had expected and that her students wanted
an English native speaker teacher for their English classes. The ideology
of native-speakerism was present in her context and she experienced
this every day, teaching English and Spanish.
This tension between Mexico and the United States can be evident
in the language classroom and issues of language proficiency and pro-
fessional insecurity start to emerge. It seems that native-speakerism is
present in the minds of these participants and Mexican teachers need to
establish their credibility as legitimate speakers and teachers of English
because they seem to keep believing that only the native speakers are
the ideal English teachers to serve as role models for students. This is
so in the case of Laura, a Mexican student who became a teacher after
having studied at the Language Department. She describes her feelings
about having a Mexican accent:

My accent is going to be my accent and for all the English that we

speak and that we want to be understood and all we are going to keep
having an accent. And even the politicians, those that are well edu-
cated and all speak English very well but their accent is very strong
according to their country and that is not going to change to say this
person is not good at his/her job.

This statement seems to show that although teachers are educated and
trained, there are still traces of insecurity when comparing themselves
with the native speaker. This is a surface issue that connects to some-
thing deeper. The accent is highlighted as it is noticeable but connects
to something complex below the surface that relates to how the person
sees herself inside the ELT profession.

Problematising labels

Adding to the labels that emerged in the previous sections, such as

pocho, gringo, gero and foreigner, the evolving construction of the
English-speaking teacher concerning these labels became an issue of
discussion among some participants.
Constructing the English Teacher 119

This first one is the case of Kenny who, in his role of Director of
the Language Department at different moments of his life, had been
referred to with different labels and has been considered an almost
Mexican but for some matters, he still remains a foreigner, as he
explains in the following extract:

There is one odd thing that happens on rare occasions. When I get
deeply involved in work debates I have discovered that when I am
right about a particular issue I get the comment of You are Mexican,
but a foreigner one, which I interpret as You are a foreigner, you
dont know what you are talking about. Based on the circumstances
of when this happens, I have come to believe the only otherizing
or stigmatizing a person as different occurs when we as people have
no argument to defend ourselves, or when we are afraid, or finally
when we feel inferior, this is when we pull out the negative labels.
I say negative because the reason we label is to separate and classify
others as different from us. The way it is done it is most often with
the intent of minimizing something about the other person.

What Kenny seems to add to the discussion is the issue of giving labels
in order to place the other in a subordinate position. This has hap-
pened to him on different occasions and goes against the general dis-
cussion about placing the native speaker in a superior position. In his
case, it is the opposite. This seems to suggest that placing the other in
a subordinate position is due to self-perception of the one who labels
the other. An example of this is when Kenny says When we, as people,
have no argument to defend ourselves, or when we are afraid, or finally
when we feel inferior. This seems to show that viewing oneself through
the words of others may have a range of behavioural consequences. This
is in tune with what William says about the word gringo that has been
used to define him in several occasions:

I know that it can be used pejoratively. And the word has been
used as an insult on occasion. I remember walking through a park a
while ago, and someone felt it necessary to yell at me Pinche gringo!
(Fucking gringo). But, you know, who cares? Its like lots of words its
intended meaning depends on context. And the contexts in which
I use and hear the word are almost always positive ones. When I lived
in China, all of us Westerners referred to ourselves as Gwailo, which
is unquestionably pejorative; literally, it means ghost person and is
racially deprecatory. We used it ironically, and by doing so, robbed
120 Irasema Mora Pablo

the word of its potency. So perhaps theres some of that at work, as

well. By co-opting these words, you take the sting out of them.

This particular excerpt seems to show how perception is a finely-tuned

process. What might be considered offensive by some, is just another
word for others. For William, labels are context-specific and he even
goes further and seems to suggest that how someone is described can
influence how the word can be co-constructed and even its potency
can be taken away. The use of labels in the description of others, leads
to strengthening or weakening the label, depending on the context and
how personally the individual takes the impact of the given label.
Looking at the different labels given to English speakers and the
events surrounding their use, has helped me to explore the complexi-
ties of the native and non-native speakers issue in the Language
Department. It is evident that there are more labels that go beyond the
terms native and non-native speaker, as they represent complexities
of teacher identity. If these labels are ideas based on physical appear-
ance, geographical locations or ethnicity, they therefore represent
qualities attached to the person and qualities of life that can reveal
emotions, events, and attitudes at different times which therefore lead
to the construction of identities. What makes this discussion important
is that these labels are meaningful to the people who have experienced
them, either applying them or being defined by them.
Guilherme (2007) mentions that The English language definitely cuts
across national boundaries more than any other language and is an icon
of the contemporary age (74). English used to be seen as a symbol of
status, but nowadays learning English in Mexico has become a neces-
sity and therefore a mandatory subject from preschool, primary, middle
school and high school to higher education, in public schools (Davies
2007; Lengeling 2010).
As seen in Daniels narrative, the administration of the Language
Department hired only gringo hippies. Years ago in Mexico, as Davies
(2007) points out: Any foreigner could be travelling across Mexico and
get hired to teach English, without hesitation and without considering
qualifications or educational background (18).
Categorising and describing English teachers in three areas: Mexicans,
foreigners and pochos seems to position the non-native speaker in an
interesting schema, differing from all those categorisations both cultur-
ally and/or physically. This coincides with what Smedley (1998) sug-
gests: some groups define themselves in terms that appear rigid and
unyielding and in opposition always to the others (690).
Constructing the English Teacher 121

Based upon these comments it seems to be that the ideology of

native-speakerism is still alive and fraught with complexity. The belief
that teachers can be classified not only according to their image but
also according to what this image can represent in terms of professional
credibility serves the purpose of preserving this ideology. This coincides
with what Wong (2006) call hierarchies in professional life. When you
enter a new culture, it is easier to see these hierarchies and they can
shape your view of teaching and the profession in profound ways, to
the point of heightened awareness of inequalities in education.


At the beginning of the study I did not foresee many of the multifac-
eted elements that have been discussed in this chapter. Participants
revealed how complex the issue of classifying someone is, and that it
goes beyond accent and nationality. It seems from the data that the
participants clearly construct their identities in relation to difference,
but at the same time defend their ethnic background and show a sense
of pride in it. When discussing assimilation, for example, Yancey (2003)
argues that Latinos and other non-black racial minorities will soon
join the cap of whiteness in terms of being native users of English, but
this does not guarantee assimilation. At the core of his argument is the
meaning of assimilation, which he defines as the experience of thinning
ones racial identity and of approaching racial issues from a dominant
perspective (14). The data and historical roots of the labels suggest that
the aforementioned right look or look native is only the tip of the
iceberg. More non-native speakers are being hired in the Language
Department. Yet, non-native speakers have shown throughout this
study, as a group, that they face challenges at different levels. But non-
native speakers continue to occupy a marginal position in society,
even when they are joining the workforce of the Language Department.
However, these discussions also frame and inform the ongoing debates
over native speakers and the different labels they have been given.
Kabel (2009) mentions that Native-speakerism and stereotypes are
a thing of this world; they are performed by individuals who also
inhabit this world, who are historically and culturally situated and
whose subjectivities are determined by the myriad of discourses that
surround them (20). Implicitly and explicitly, the discourse sets native
speakers and non-native speakers against each other in a contest to
win the approval of a dominant society. Part of the problem is that in
a country such as Mexico, whose history has been constructed through
122 Irasema Mora Pablo

the heated ethnic terms of invaders, language has long served as refer-
ence to describe immigrant upward mobility, mainly to differentiate
themselves; and the use of different labels shows how complex the
ideology of native-speakerism can be.

1. Gringo is a person from an English-speaking country; it is used as a derogatory
term by Mexicans.
2. The word derives from the Spanish word pocho, used to describe a fruit that
has become rotten or discoloured (Dvila, 2008). It is used to describe native-
born Mexicans who received little or no formal education in Mexico, and
move to the States, picking up the language through daily interactions and
starting to show a lack of fluency in Spanish.

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Interrogating Assumptions of
Native-speakerism from the
Perspective of Kuwait University
English Language Students
Ayesha Kamal


The ideology of native-speakerism is based on the premise that the only

person who has the right to claim a language is the native speaker
(Holliday 2005). Although the dichotomy between native speakers
and non-native speakers is a major concern of native-speakerism,
this chapter presents data that directly contests assumptions that are
anchored by cultural disbelief, which characterises the cultural reali-
ties of non-native speakers as deficient (Holliday 2005). In line with
this problematic thought pattern, English language learners are often
seen as having difficulty grasping the language and implementing
study strategies that are necessary for excelling in their studies. This
disadvantage is linked to the idea that these learners have certain char-
acteristics that prevent them from being able to work as effectively as
other Western students (Montgomery & McDowell 2009). With these
perceptions, language learners are continually relegated to the position
of non-native learner without the possibility of achieving native
speaker status as is characteristic of native-speakerism attitudes. This
chapter strives to encourage a shift in how students learning potential
is interpreted based on cultural assumptions and to encourage adopting
a more postmodern perspective, examining the underlying ideology of
these statements to promote change.
The aim of this chapter is twofold: first, to demonstrate the presence
of a native-speakerist attitude within the educational environment,
and second, to juxtapose these attitudes against student descriptions
of their learning experience. Interrogating this juxtaposition is essen-
tial to contest native-speakerist attitudes in the educational arena. By

Interrogating Assumptions of Native-speakerism 125

acknowledging how the underlying ideology of native-speakerism is

present, we can work to provide a more accepting and encouraging
learning environment one that appreciates the diversity of student
experiences and moves away from essentialist notions.
The first main section of this chapter presents details of the partici-
pants as well as the research methodology used to conduct the study. In
the second main section, the assumptions of native-speakerism that are
based on the Othering of students who come from outside the English
speaking West are discussed. Student reactions that contest the cultural
disbelief that surrounds the potential competence of English language
learners are then presented in the final main section. It will be shown
how students in this study interrogate these assumptions through their
self-reflection and reflecting upon the role of English in their lives.

Participant details and ideological framework

The data presented in this chapter was collected from semi-structured

interviews and conversations with students and English language
instructors at Kuwait University (KU). The students, aged 1724, were
all Kuwaiti and were all enrolled in the universitys English programme,
and the instructors were all Americans who ranged in age from early
40s to mid-50s. The students voices are contrasted with these teachers
perspectives to highlight the difference between student realities and
teacher expectations. The data excerpts demonstrate how the issue of
cultural disbelief is present within the academic environment and how
it can have a negative impact on students learning experiences.
This research focuses on exploring multiple factors that are related to
English language learning. This mainly involves investigating how indi-
viduals interpret and react within their environment (Guba & Lincoln
2005). It is this process of developing meaning that is considered impor-
tant in qualitative studies, which focus on engaging with respondents
to better explore and understand what their behaviours represent and
signify. Moreover, it is through a postmodern paradigm, in which the
modern conception of knowledge as a mirror of reality is replaced by a
conception of the social construction of reality, where the focus is on
the interpretation and negotiation of the meanings of the social world
that this research study has been conducted (Kvale & Brinkmann 2009:
52). Within the parameters of this research, postmodern refers to pay-
ing particular attention to the context in which actions occur. This type
of conceptual framework is representative of critical cosmopolitanism,
which recognises the impact ideology has on ones construction of
126 Ayesha Kamal

reality (Holliday 2011). This perspective encompasses Kumaravadivelus

concept of cultural realism, which is that globalisation is challenging
the traditional notions of identity formation of an individual or of a
nation (2008: 158). It also emphasises recognising the dynamic nature
of a setting and the complex, fluid characteristics of respondents, which
counters the dominant discourse of native-speakerism. In postmodern
thought, all observations and notations must be contextualised from the
perspectives of both the researcher and the situation in which the events
are occurring. This paradigm emphasises that there is no clear window
into the inner life of an individual (Denzin & Lincoln 2005: 21).
At the core of this research are the tensions, contradictions, and
hesitations that illustrate the process of identity construction that indi-
viduals go through (Denzin & Lincoln 2005). These tensions are particu-
larly relevant in this study as the reality of what occurs in a language
classroom is juxtaposed against the language of cultural disbelief that
is expressed by some English language teachers. This inquiry involves
reflection and a reinvestigation of the flaws within the discourse of
English language education that lead to or promote discriminatory
views of people and cultures. Keeping this in mind, it is a postmodern
perspective that will help interrogate these basic assumptions, particu-
larly those assumptions that constitute reality, subjectivity, research,
and knowledge (Scheurich 1997: 2). The multiple voices and perspec-
tives of the students add to the richness of the study. Thus, given the
complexity of identity and the importance of self-reflection in the
process of constructing ones own social reality, a postmodern lens was
most appropriate in conducting this study.

Presence and impact of native-speakerism

This section presents examples of discussions that demonstrate how

a tone of cultural disbelief is present in the way language learners are
discussed and viewed. Acknowledging the presence of such discussions
is important because many times these statements pass unchallenged
and are seen as harmless. Denying that this undertone is present in the
academic environment is to ignore the negative impact that it can have
on learners.

Culturally impossible
Members within a community are diverse. However, this may some-
times be overlooked as behaviours tend to align within particular con-
texts, such as universities (Zancanella & Abt-Perkins 2007). As a result,
Interrogating Assumptions of Native-speakerism 127

educators should not presume that behaviours they see in class are
definitive characteristics of students. Rather, they need to contextual-
ise what they see and hear and move away from essentialised notions
of what learners are capable of doing or achieving. Even research into
specific communities needs to be taken in context and then analysed
to determine the relevance of the arguments. For example, in his study
about Kuwaiti society, Al-Thakeb asserts that deviation from traditions
was due to urbanization and modernization and was mostly likely to
be affected by education, womens employment, and freedom of inter-
action between the sexes (1985: 577). He seems to hold modernisation
as a cause of Kuwaitis not continuing to follow traditions without inves-
tigating what role individuals have in actively choosing this type of life.
This lack of analysis presents an incomplete one-dimensional picture,
and one that may be taken as truth without considering alternative
Similarly, Martins (2003) description of female students at a univer-
sity in the United Arab Emirates, who she claims are not motivated
unless they had been educated in or exposed to the West, is one that
links any form of sophistication with exposure to the Western world.
These issues were also seen in other contexts such as in Japan, where
both the lack of motivation and focus on only the pragmatic need to
study English simply to fulfil a requirement were the primary com-
plaints of English language teachers (Berwick & Ross 1989; Matsumoto
1994). When views like these are emphasised, the positive attributes of
students are sometimes ignored. Instead, teachers tend to focus on the
negativity and not consider deeper thought processes that students may
be engaged in.
Gruber & Boreen (2003) find that education is a social process that
is multidirectional and shared by a group of learners (58). Each student
in a language classroom brings her own experiences and ideological
framework. Kumaravadivelu (2003) believes that although learners in
a class may:

appear to belong to a seemingly homogenous national or linguistic

entity, their life values, life choices, life-styles, and, therefore, their
world view may significantly vary. In that sense, most classes are not
monocultural cocoons but rather are multicultural mosaics. (269)

It is because an individuals experiences shape their motivations behind

actions that it cannot be assumed that students from the same nation
are monocultural and undergo the same learning struggles.
128 Ayesha Kamal

The concept of culture is so broad that it is understandable that there

are multiple angles and cultural values that can be incorporated in a
persons life. Personal identity is about negotiating new subject posi-
tions at the crossroads of the past, present and future (Block 2007: 27).
This negotiation involves confronting power inequalities and, at times,
engaging in conflicting decision-making processes. Although culture is
connected to nationality in many ways, respondents in this study, like
those in Hollidays (2011) study, clarify that nation is an important cat-
egory, but an external one which may be in conflict with more personal
cultural realities (44). Thus characteristics that one associates with a
particular nationality are not a complete or accurate representation of
that persons cultural or linguistic identity.
Students, regardless of the subject and the context in which they are
studying, are faced with the task of learning new topics, organising
their material, studying diligently, and passing assessments. As ideal as
it may be to have students solely focused on pursuing their academic
tasks, it is only natural that sometimes they are forgetful, careless, and
not necessarily interested in their studies. Despite this probably being
a characteristic of students from any cultural background in any aca-
demic context, one concern with English language classrooms is the
Othering discourses, which are prevalent but not necessarily addressed
or recognised.
When investigating learning practices in classrooms, some research-
ers start with generalised statements about what they interpret as a rep-
resentation of culture. Zhu (2003) writes that Chinese students are less
likely to reveal their opinions, tend to hide their abilities, and seldom
challenge the authority of tutors, as a consequence of Confucian influ-
ences (38). Making statements such as these could be interpreted as pat-
ronising. There could be some students who are shy or are uninterested
in challenging authority, but making such direct statements, without
any acknowledgement of the plurality of culture and identity, does not
account for other possible interpretations. Studies like this demonstrate
how easy it is to fall into the trap of essentialism, which characterises
the belief that the core quality of a cultural or national group is unalter-
able. Even research that is conducted to build a complete understand-
ing and raise awareness of cultural diversity can be problematic (Biao
2001: 3). Each individual behaves and makes decisions based on their
own experiences and beliefs. With so many variables at play, a complete
understanding cannot realistically be achieved. What is troublesome is
that assumptions about such behaviours are still being made with links
to the learners culture. In these cases, individuality and intentional
Interrogating Assumptions of Native-speakerism 129

actions are not acknowledged. Students agency is not recognised;

instead, they are often grouped together as static learners. This is
particularly troublesome when these attitudes are linked with teach-
ing practices, as learner capabilities are sometimes assumed. Othering
discourses view participants as not being able to engage critically with
events that are occurring around them. Adopting a more critical view,
which interrogates the underlying ideology of these claims, will illumi-
nate the deeper processes that are occurring when students negotiate
language use. The limiting views of native-speakerism are characterised
by a lack of acknowledgement of this negotiation.

Embedded negativity
Educators need to move away from essentialist ideas about how learn-
ers from specific contexts approach studying. The tendency to asso-
ciate problems in the classroom with cultural deficiencies persists.
Montgomery (2010) notes:

The idea of culture is one thing that is used when talking about
international students, and the phrase its a cultural thing is often
used to explain difficulties in interaction or international students
approaches to study. Culture is often cited as the concept that illu-
minates the differences in diverse student groups, but it is a concept
that is rarely interrogated. (xv)

It is all too easy to make cultural generalisations based on observations

something that characterises neo-essentialism. However, it is important
to be aware of how the neo-essentialist rhetoric respects difference at
a superficial level and is therefore too quick to draw nave conclusions
(Holliday 2011: 21). Even after presenting evidence and highlighting
the discriminatory tone and attitudes, instructors are often reluctant to
give up the idea that students essentially did not have the capabilities to be
independent learners. For example, in this study, instructors sometimes
made comments comparing students ability to achieve and engage in
their studies with how conservatively they were dressed, particularly
whether or not they were wearing a niqab.1 The following is an excerpt
from my field notes:

An instructor mentioned that one of the students had a problem

with discussing a text that had to do with sexually transmitted dis-
eases. In response, another instructor asked, Was she a munaqqaba?2
The teacher confirmed that the student was a munaqqaba and they
130 Ayesha Kamal

went on to discuss how this was not surprising because conservative

students were often reluctant to discuss subjects that were related to
sex. (Rose)

Even though the student was a munaqqaba and she had an issue with the
topic of discussion, what is problematic with this exchange is that the
instructor did not specifically ask the student why she was uncomfort-
able. Instead, she automatically assumed that it was because the student
was wearing a niqab it was expected that she would be conservative,
which in turn implied that she would be narrow-minded (Kamal 2012).
Similar remarks have been made when grading student papers. For
example, upon grading a students paper, one instructor commented:
Im surprised she did so well on the assignment its not bad for a
munaqqaba (Charles).
Comments like these demonstrate a belief that conservative cloth-
ing, particularly wearing a niqab, is associated with a students level of
intelligence. Having preconceived ideas about a students potential per-
formance in class based on their clothing is highly discriminating and
automatically puts students at an unfair disadvantage. Despite repeated
expressions of surprise that students are doing well, even when they
are presumed to be conservative or religious, there appears to have been
no effort made to stop making judgments based on clothing. The cul-
tural disbelief regarding the capabilities of the foreign Other seems to
be firmly grounded in an ideology that is contrary to evidence provided.
In many cases, impressions the language teachers at KU have of their
students are primarily based on what they see in the classroom. From
conversations with staff members in this study, it seems like they hold
on to a single perspective: that the students are restricted from behaving
freely in the country and therefore not only are they not given the space
to act individually, but also that they are incapable of doing so because
they have not experienced such freedom. For example, one teacher
expresses: Mama says do this or dont do this this is why they cant
think for themselves because they dont know how (Helen). This
restriction is seen as a result of students being overprotected by their fam-
ily, and therefore, not possessing the ability to think or behave indepen-
dently. Most student behaviours, particularly negative ones, are blamed
on the influences of local culture. For example, one instructor suggested:

Students see people using wasta3 to get the things they need to get
done so students feel the same Theyre not taking responsibil-
ity for their actions They expect someone else to take care of any
Interrogating Assumptions of Native-speakerism 131

problems they come across instead of working hard to do it them-

selves they see it all around them in Kuwait, so thats what they
learn. (Rose)

Rose correlates the frequent use of wasta in Kuwait with students not
taking responsibility for their learning. She suggests that students do
not work hard because they expect someone else to do the work for
them. Despite the use of wasta in the country, she overgeneralises the
problem by linking it to student motivation in class. Instead of investi-
gating what really lies behind student actions, she makes an assumption
that it is related to what they have learned from something they have
seen around them. Such a broad negative statement does not consider
any other possible explanations.
In contrast, positive attributes, such as having good study skills or being
an active participant in group discussions, are linked to being well trav-
elled or having some exposure to Western culture. For example, Charles
makes a sweeping assumption that one student simply visiting America is
what has given a student the ability to think: She surprised me because
shes so quiet and conservative, but she can think maybe its because
shes been to America. Such broad generalisations must be addressed.
Even if the statement was made without intentionally suggesting that
only exposure to a Western country was what made this student capable
of thought, it is indicative of how native-speakerist attitudes exist and
how easily the assumptions are brought into conversations. Additionally,
students who are dressed conservatively wearing either hijab4 or niqab
or coming to class in a dishdasha5 and engage in classroom debates
or excel in their assignments are seen as exceptions, with no thought
given to them being able to independently develop critical skills. These
assumptions about local culture seem to be made based on what teach-
ers see happening in the rest of the country. One of the teachers at KU is
convinced that the way parents treat their children is revealed in the way
students expect to be treated by teachers. She expresses with amazement:

These students never have to do anything for themselves their

families are always coddling them. How can we expect them to think
and write on their own? They dont know what its like to be
responsible or think for themselves. (Helen)

Teachers see family involvement as the reason behind students feeling

like they do not have to work hard to succeed and are therefore unmo-
tivated to participate in class.
132 Ayesha Kamal

Another point that is frequently brought up is students inability to

engage in critical thinking as a result of their background (Montgomery
2010). Some researchers think that this is because it is not something
that is practised in their culture (Zoller et al. 2010). However, the issue
of students not being actively engaged in their learning is not isolated
to non-Western contexts. Perhaps instead of linking behaviour to cul-
tural roots, it should be examined in the general context of being a
student. The criticisms made by these instructors are clearly linked to
their interpretations of elements of the local culture. They interpret
the student behaviours and attitudes in class as direct consequences of
being Kuwaiti and living in Kuwait. Moreover, rather than simply not-
ing a students struggle in the classroom and working to help them, they
almost always assume that the issue is unavoidable and, more signifi-
cantly, unsolvable because of the inherent connection they are making
between student behaviours and local culture. It is teacher comments
such as the ones mentioned in this section that demonstrate the native-
speakerist manner in which teachers make assumptions about why
students behave in a particular way. What is even more telling is the
association of any positive attributes with exposure to the West. They
are correlating positive and negative actions with their interpretation
of a particular culture; but culture is not discrete. In todays globalised
world, it is unreasonable to assume that learners are limited to one way
of thinking that is confined by their cultural background, as is suggested
by the notion of cultural disbelief. They are continuously interacting
with information from around the globe, particularly through the
Internet, but also through the cultural changes around them. These
comments demonstrate the depth at which native-speakerist attitudes
lie within the educational context.
Even if one is not intentionally trying to be discriminatory or preju-
diced, word choice and how people are spoken about matters. Care
needs to be taken to ensure that by trying to understand elements of
other cultures further stereotypes are not perpetuated. There is a large
proportion of teachers and analysts [who] tend to approach cultural
teaching/learning as if it were an exercise in creating a taxonomy of
differences between familiar and exotic cultures (Guest 2002: 154).
Instead of looking for differences, perhaps focusing on similarities
among all students, locally and globally, will create a more understand-
ing and positive environment.
Current language teaching pedagogies are encouraging language teach-
ers to move away from a simplistic equation of nation-culture-language
and focus more on raising an awareness of linguistic and cultural
Interrogating Assumptions of Native-speakerism 133

complexity in a globalized world (Menard-Warwick 2008: 619). Despite

discussions about the harmfulness of negative comments based on cultural
generalisations, as can be seen from teacher reactions in this study, there is
a lack of acknowledgement about the problematic nature of such expres-
sions. When called to attention about the oversimplifications they were
making about student behaviour, Helen claimed that I was going soft on
the students and was giving them more credit than they deserved. Her
reactions demonstrate how there is still a denial that native-speakerist
ideologies exist at all. However, the statements made by the instructors as
presented in this chapter indicate that condescending attitudes still per-
sist, and as such, it is a serious issue that needs to be addressed.

Interrogating English students perspectives

The language of cultural disbelief, which has roots in native-speakerism,

is one that draws on cultural assumptions as an explanation for what is
observed. As demonstrated in the sections above, statements associating
behaviour with cultural roots have a condescending and patronising
tone. These superficial judgments do not acknowledge the different
negotiation processes students go through as they determine what role
English plays in their lives. The sections below reveal how students at
KU use their personal experiences to inform their decisions of how to
use English in academic contexts.

English in an academic context

In general, students in this study view English as a valuable language to
learn. They associate numerous advantages that range from mastering
the skill for academic success to using it as a tool to foster understand-
ing among people. These positive responses do not always correspond
to students attitudes towards learning English as part of an academic
curriculum. This discrepancy is important to note as it clarifies how
some teachers interpret students as being disinterested in class instead
of enthusiastically participating. The reason for this attitude is not
because their society does not value hard work, as some teachers
believe. Rather, the attitude towards English has to do with the way
students interpret the workings of the context. Understanding these
layers of negotiation is one way to move away from essentialist notions
of their capabilities and move towards acknowledging the complexity
and agency of students. This section demonstrates how students view
the position of English at KU and how this perspective lies at the foun-
dation of the way they approach their studies.
134 Ayesha Kamal

Navigating the study of English within KU

Students often mentioned that learning English is important for their
academic and professional success. In this particular university context,
failing or doing poorly in their English class has serious consequences
for their academic career. Therefore, the students are under a lot of
pressure to succeed. The data from this study demonstrate how, despite
favourable attitudes to learning English for general use, learning it in a
controlled environment under pressure changes the way they approach
their work. Instead, the focus is solely on achieving the grades to help
them get to the next level of studies. The structure of the university
plays an important role in perpetuating this attitude. The primary com-
plaint from several students was that they did not feel like they had the
proper resources to learn English in the way that was required by the
university. They based their actions on this interpretation.
Teachers often complain about students lack of engagement in class.
This behaviour is sometimes explained as students not caring to work
hard since critical thinking and independence are not emphasised in
their culture. However, with some investigation, it was revealed that
students have this attitude because they find the language programme
to be too difficult, particularly after coming from an Arabic-based high
school curriculum. One student explains,

Government schools did not prepare us for college. We only memo-

rized from books and copied lessons Nobody taught us like you
want us to write here. It is very difficult. For the ones from English
schools, they can do it no problem. But for us, we dont know where
should we start or how to study material like this. (Aseel)

Aseel is among several who express such frustration. Unfortunately,

despite the repeated acknowledgement of the disparity between the
curriculum design in Kuwaiti government high schools (free to all
Kuwaitis) and implementation of English programmes at KU, no steps
have been taken to rectify this gap. Requiring English but not provid-
ing appropriate support makes it difficult for students to succeed. Thus
the frustration that teachers express in relation to students resisting
learning English is not because students of this culture, as expressed
by Charles, are incapable. Rather, there is a real concern from students
that they are expected to perform without adequate preparation or sup-
port. Instead of accusing students of being disinterested or incapable of
accomplishment, it would be more beneficial if educators took the time
to understand how students backgrounds and interpretations of their
Interrogating Assumptions of Native-speakerism 135

context have a direct impact on their behaviours, and work together

to address these concerns. Providing more language support systems to
help students learn and get the most out of their educational experience
would surely be more helpful than simply blaming students.
Competition to do well within the university in order to be accepted
into their faculty of choice creates an immense amount of pressure to
receive a good grade, particularly in the English course. This pressure,
apparently, sometimes leads to using any means necessary to attain the
desired mark, even if it means cheating. One student explains:

We know that cheating is wrong, but we dont see it as doing a bad

thing because we need to get a good mark. If the system was fair for
everybody, then people wouldnt be cheating. But the system here is
not fair, so we have to do what we can. (Mishary)

Mishary goes on to explain how many students who were educated

in the government schools, which are taught only in Arabic, struggle
when they come to university and suddenly face having to take almost
all of their classes in English. He queries:

How can it be that we study all our lives in Arabic and so suddenly
they make us study in English? The students really struggle its like
a shock to the system, and it doesnt make sense. And whats worse is
that they made English class have five credits! That means that stu-
dents have to do really well in English class if they want to succeed
and continue in the programme. Thats a lot of pressure for students
to be under If the university isnt reasonable with their rules, then
we have to take matters into our own hands. (Mishary)

Misharys explanation of cheating in college is contextualised into how

he interprets the inconsistency in the value system at KU. Like Aseels
assertions above, it seems contradictory to him to have schools teach
only in Arabic and then automatically switch to a university that is
mainly taught in English. There are some students who interpret this
as unfairness, which is why they sometimes resort to cheating; they
feel that the system is unbalanced, so they can be unfair in return. It
seems as if the importance of doing well in their studies supersedes the
strategies used to achieve this goal. This type of attitude is what per-
petuates the frustration that teachers feel. Even though the majority of
the students do not cheat, the ones who do cause a lot of aggravation
136 Ayesha Kamal

and prompt teachers to make generalised statements. For example, one

teacher stated:

Students think cheating is okay because they see it as helping each

other, like their family helps them, so they help other students its
this group or family mentality They cant think for themselves
its all about community, you know the whole individualisms versus
collectivism thing. Thats these students. (Helen)

Helen draws on the constructs of individualism and collectivism as

an explanation for why students cheat. Compartmentalising student
behaviours into such strict categories does not view students as agentive
beings. Associating adjectives such as individualistic, modern, and
liberal with the West, and collectivist, traditional, and conserva-
tive with the East, skews a persons perspective. These labels are not
mutually exclusive. There are modern and liberal societies in the East,
just as there are traditional and conservative societies in the West.
Attitudes, behaviours, and ideologies are not fixed based on region,
religion, or nationality, a point that is ignored by native-speakerism.
In todays globalised world, this view is changing, and it is becom-
ing increasingly apparent that identity, language, and culture are all
flexible. This holds true in every environment, not just in education.
Restricting ones interpretations to assumptions of these labels without
further investigation is what can prevent instructors from seeing and
encouraging students to work to their full potential.
Students struggling with their studies or resorting to cheating is not
symbolic of a lack of respect or ambivalence towards their education.
Rather, some students do not follow the rules because they do not
feel as if they have adequate support from the university, not because
they are unable to actually do the work. Of course this does not make
cheating acceptable. However, the frustration students feel should be
acknowledged and addressed. Without further exploration into how or
why these attitudes exist, teachers will probably continue to interpret
these student behaviours as direct reflections of cultural and societal
flaws versus an act of students contesting their environment. It is these
misinterpretations that highlight the importance of taking the time
to be aware of Othering discourses that are, as seen in this study, still
present in the field of education. Being anchored to a native-speakerist
mentality that does not acknowledge the complexity of the setting and
the potential of the students is problematic.
Interrogating Assumptions of Native-speakerism 137

Concluding thoughts

The discussion presented in this chapter is based on the contrast

between assumptions English language instructors make about the
potential success of their students, which are based on their interpreta-
tions of the local culture, and what the students actually have to say
about the motivations behind their actions. The disparity is presented
to highlight the presence of negative assumptions based on interpreta-
tions of the local culture, which can have a negative impact on how
instructors approach the classroom. Adopting such a perspective of
cultural disbelief is indicative of native-speakerism. The data presented
in this chapter demonstrate the critical engagement students have
with their learning process. Although academic excellence is important
to them, their social positioning and family influence also weigh in to
the way they learn and use the language. By taking the time to look at
students and talk to them to understand what is motivating their learn-
ing, instructors will be better informed as to what students are going
through. It is important to understand social behaviour in terms of the
context of local circumstances and to acknowledge each individuals
agency as a motivator for language learning.
Teachers come into the academic setting in order to fulfil their job
requirements and meet their teaching objectives. Students come to
class in order to learn what they need to pass the class. Although these
goals may appear to be parallel, this study revealed several tensions
between students and teachers. The teachers often linked issues, such
as frequent student absences and plagiarism, to a cultural inefficiency.
The students, on the other hand, did not interpret their actions in this
way. In their minds, as revealed in the data, they were taking ownership
of their learning environment, which they felt was not appropriately
organised, by finding ways to accomplish their goal. Therefore, the
interpretation of the parameters of their context was what influenced
their behaviour, not some assumed cultural problem. Directly associat-
ing these actions to a cultural flaw is highly suggestive of Othering and
essentialising discourses.
Despite issues that teachers may have, students do not seem to be
very affected by the criticisms. This is mainly because in the end,
whether they are described as lazy or uncritical, they are there for one
purpose, and that is to learn the language. What the students reveal is
that they have a good grasp of how the university is structured, and
therefore they use the system to their advantage, even if this may go
138 Ayesha Kamal

against what they really believe and what the teachers expect of them.
They are doing what they need to do in order to succeed. Not all stu-
dents believe that their actions are right, but they do find them neces-
sary in order to get ahead.
Thus, in todays world, students appear to be self-reflective and ana-
lytical. Data show that they are continually balancing conflicting forces
around them expectations from society, and their own view of the
world and of how the world views them. This balancing act is not easy;
however, the students in this study demonstrated how they have had
to do this from a very early age. As a result, individuals automatically
analyse their environment and make decisions about how they want
to live their lives. Having to emphasise this point demonstrates how it
is not uncommon for teachers, in any context, to be caught up in this
mentality, which is exacerbated by a native-speakerist attitude not
acknowledging the criticality of non-native students. Suggesting that
students are unable to critically engage with the language just because
they seem disinterested in class undermines the capabilities of the stu-
dent. The students choice of whether or not to use English is actually
a reflection of how they perceive the language. While their attitude
may not be seen as one that embodies critical thinking or one that is
dynamically interacting with their environment, that is in fact exactly
what they are doing. The only difference is that the criticality is not
occurring in the way the teachers think it should.
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data in this study demonstrate how it is present in the educational envi-
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Taking the time to see students as individuals in their own right can have
a positive impact on the way teachers approach the classroom. This is
the importance of understanding the place of native-speakerism in the
educational environment. Not recognising the complexity and their
agency stifles the progress of the students. The refusal of instructors to
acknowledge their part in native-speakerism highlights how ingrained
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learning environment in which teachers are convinced of their students
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focuses of language instruction should be not only to promote intercul-
tural communication but also to be conscious of Othering discourses.
Interrogating Assumptions of Native-speakerism 139

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The Role English Plays in the
Construction of Professional
Identities in NEST-NNES
Bilingual Marriages in Istanbul
Caroline Fell Kurban

Globalisation and international migration have led to an increase in

individuals living outside their country of origin and to a corresponding
increase in bilingual marriages (Wenger 1998; Piller 2002) particularly
in the field of English language teaching where Native-English-Speaker
(NES) teachers marry and settle abroad (Fell 2012). While much research
has been conducted into migrant families attempting to assimilate lin-
guistically and professionally into a host community abroad (Norton
2000, 2001), minimal research has been conducted into bilingual
marriages in which one partner is a NS living in their spouses home
community and little research has been done into how the native-
speakerism of this partner may affect the construction of each partners
professional identity. This study focuses specifically on how native-
speakerism affects bilingual families in which the native speaker is liv-
ing in their partners host community and how their native tongues and
language used affect their professional identities.
Migration through marriage means many individuals enter an
employment market outside their home community, necessitating
a reconsideration of the construction of their professional identi-
ties aligned to local employment market needs. In Istanbul, being a
native-speaker of English or a participant in a native-English-speaking
community is perceived as socially and economically beneficial, espe-
cially in fields such as English language education whereby a teachers
perceived English-speaking authenticity is used as a selling point to
students and parents. Outsiders perceptions of how an individual
embodies native-speaker English or is accepted as a legitimate speaker
by the native-speaker community may affect how individuals choose to
construct and present themselves professionally.

142 Caroline Fell Kurban

Professional identity constructs in the NNES spouses

In this investigation, all couples (who are anonymised in this study) met
and continued their relationships in English, which I believe exposes
the already existing supremacy of English. I believe these bilingual mar-
riages provide a supportive environment for Non-native English Speaker
(NNES) spouses to develop their English in a natural language learning
environment other language learners may not be privy to. Bourdieu
(1977) believes, due to power relations in social interactions, not every
interlocutor may consider a speaker worthy to listen to or worthy to
speak. Norton observed this with language learners attempting com-
munication with target language speakers. Her (2000) study revealed
language learners attempts at interaction with target language speak-
ers were a site of struggle, with power relations prevalent. However,
the Turkish spouses experiences of natural language learning with
their partners are generally described as positive. This may be because
through their relationship and extended British family, they are able to
command the attention of their NES listeners and are given the right
to speech (Bourdieu 1977: 648) that many other language learners are
not. It may be these participants are not seen as language learners by
their partners, but as people in their own right, with a need to commu-
nicate, not a need to acquire English. Bourdieu (1977: 648) argues that
when a person speaks, the speaker wishes not only to be understood but
also believed, obeyed, respected, distinguished. This is the situation
NNES spouses find in their NES partners and extended families. Usually,
a speakers ability to command the listener is unequally structured for
different speakers because of the symbolic power (Pavlenko 2001)
relations between them. However, I believe this is negated in these
relationships as the NNES-Turkish partners English may be legitimised
through their relationship to a native speaker thereby giving them
greater linguistic power.
This advantage emerges in an interview with one of the studys sub-
jects, Alya. Alya describes her ability to switch comfortably between
cultures, which she attributes to previous travel and work experiences
and through being a part of her husbands family.

I was an au pair, and I worked in families and Im married to Graham

and Ive been working in Britain as well, so I have an English side,
and I have a Turkish side. And after I married Graham, I spent more
time with his mum and dad and it became a family thing I am
bilingual in language and culture.
The Role English Plays in the Construction of Professional Identities 143

Her comfort in cultural frame-switching (Hong et al. 2003) is implied in

her description of her English side, indicating she may have incorporated
British realities into her Turkish cultural universe (Holliday 2011: 55).
In her move to the UK, her career, and her family, she takes ownership
of English language and British culture and uses her agency (Lantolf &
Pavlenko 2001) to transform herself into a British recreation of herself
when needed. Alya also describes how she believes being viewed as a
peripheral member of British culture may be considered a symbolic asset:

Alya: Even if you dont have any qualifications, if you speak

English, it helps.
Graham: Yes, when Alya goes to job interviews and they say do you
speak very good English? and then they say oh, your hus-
band is English as well sometimes they value the fact as
a culture, so therefore when she goes to work she has the
added value there and they know she is going to be more
flexible, a bit more adaptable Alya, the last company said
they would employ you whenever you want. And I think
thats not just because you speak English, but the way you
speak English and communicate culturally.

It is clear that Graham thinks his wifes association with him as a British
citizen and native speaker is seen as added value.
From Alyas experience, I believe having a NES partner may increase
the complexity of an individuals identity perception (e.g., having an
English side) and may increase the complexity of others identity percep-
tions (Norton 2000), affecting the way they are positioned by employers.
They may be seen as more culturally and linguistically complex; leading
employers to view them more favourably as the linguistic and cultural
legitimacy of their English is perceived to increase. This, in turn, raises
their symbolic and social capital and may provide access to employment,
promotion, and social and further education (Pavlenko 2001).
Alya may have also gained legitimacy by being seen as on an inbound
trajectory, being a potential member of the NES community (Wenger
1998: 100), which then opens up even more opportunities for social inter-
action and access to resources within those communities. I believe this
was certainly the case for Alya, who had previously worked in companies
in England. Marriage to a British spouse, therefore, may affect how an
individuals professional identity is perceived and may bring advantages
to the Turkish spouse, leading to English language and British culture
forming a major part of Turkish spouses professional identity constructs.
144 Caroline Fell Kurban

I believe the fact that the company that interviewed Alya perceived
her marriage to a native-English speaker as advantageous, even though
both of them speak fluent English in their own right, may indicate that
despite moves by linguists to present English as having pluricentric
ownership, outside the field of linguistics this is not necessarily tak-
ing place. Based on this example, I identify a need for further effort
by linguists to deconstruct the perception of the dominance of native-
English-speakers and inner-circle English countries to the extent that
this is broadly recognised and accepted outside the realms of academia.

Professional identity constructs in the NES spouses

In this section, I present examples from the study of how NES par-
ticipants have drawn upon their native language as they construct and
perform their professional identities as English language teachers, and
provide examples of participants describing why they have not learnt
Turkish beyond their current abilities.

Why individuals may or may not invest in learning new languages

On starting my investigation, I originally believed people more acclima-
tised to a host country have better language skills and accents. In one
participants narrative, Leyla, at first I found evidence to support this:

25 years ago, when I came, I refused to learn the language because

I did not like it here and I felt I want to go back to England as soon
as possible. My whole aim was I want to go, I want to go and we
came back after five years and Turkey had changed immensely and
I think in another five years it had changed again. It was more not
the language but an overall change.

Leyla believes her initial refusal to learn the language was based on her
dislike of the country. However, on her return, she found the country had
changed and I suspect she had probably gone through a process of change
herself, getting used to her new identity back in Turkey. While Leylas
early comments mirrored my initial belief, others indicate she does not
believe acculturation leads to high levels of linguistic proficiency. At one
point during the interview, Leyla finished my sentence for me.

Caroline: I love being in Turkey, I wouldnt live anywhere else apart

from Istanbul, but my Turkish is rubbish. And I dont think
my feelings about Turkey
Leyla: are affected through my language.
The Role English Plays in the Construction of Professional Identities 145

Leyla emphatically finished my sentence for me in such a way that

I readdressed my beliefs. I originally thought linguistic proficiency was
best gained when an individual had a strong connection with the host
community and a desire to assimilate. However, through my exchange
with Leyla, I realised my personal views differ from the feelings I was
expressing. I feel a strong connection to Turkey, love the people and liv-
ing in the country, but do not feel my linguistic abilities in Turkish are
at the level they should be considering my commitment to the country.
It was only during this exchange I realised that what I had believed
regarding language learning and what I was experiencing personally
did not coincide.
After discovering this incongruity, further evidence appeared from
other participants to indicate acculturation or love of a country may
not be the main motivators in efforts put into learning that language;
other factors may be at play. This became clear in one participants
story, Elizabeth. Elizabeth described how she has not made an effort
to learn Turkish because she perceives Turkish to lack importance as a
world language:

English is important and Turkish is not very important. I mean thats

how I look at it. I really feel had it been another language I would have
made a real effort, but I did think learning Turkish would be a waste
of time, Ill be honest, because it was no good anywhere else outside
the Turkish Republic, and I havent really learnt it properly myself
because you always have this thing that you are going to go back.

Elizabeth perceives limited advantages to learning Turkish compared to

languages with wider use outside the Turkish Republic. Even though
Elizabeth has been in Turkey for 40 years, she is clear she always thought
she would return to Britain. She therefore perceives she had little use
in investing in Turkish. Elizabeths initial decision not to learn Turkish
may have been based on practicality; it takes a lot of effort to learn a
language. Should one put in the effort if it does not have widespread use
outside the country? However, her comments may also reveal she ranks
languages based on their relative, global use. Elizabeth is not alone in
such opinions. I found similar sentiments mirrored in an article in the
British Community Newsletter (a locally-produced, amateur publica-
tion) written by a Canadian:

Despite the competitive advantage a proficiency in English confers,

there is also a complacency after four years, I have learned
little more than survival level Turkish Indeed, my motivation
146 Caroline Fell Kurban

to improve my Turkish had started to seriously wane when I real-

ized how much I could do with only English Im pretty fluent in
French and Id studied Spanish at university. So what was it about
Turkish? True, its not really spoken anywhere else in the world, so in
a sense its of limited use. (Lambert-Sen 2011: 3)

She, like Elizabeth, sees Turkish as having limited use, not having the
competitive advantage or widespread use that English, French or Spanish
have. In Elizabeth and Lambert-Sens narratives, their belief that Turkish is
neither widespread nor useful led them not to invest the time and effort
to learn it. This supports Nortons (1995) theory that an individual will
not invest in a language unless they can gain directly from it. As well as
seeing limited gain in learning Turkish, Lambert-Sen also discovered she
could get by using English, a language individuals in Turkey are striving to
acquire. She therefore perceived no need to learn Turkish above survival
level in her daily life. It took an embarrassing incident that affected her
sense of self for her eventually to become motivated to learn Turkish:

There are also many very good reasons why I should have made more
of an effort to learn it, not the least of which is that we are living
in Turkey! Somewhere along the line though, I decided to take the
easy way out. I could still make a happy life for myself, I could still
get by. But at what cost? As it turns out, at a most precious cost: my
independence and self-esteem.
(Lambert-Sen 2011: 4)

Her recent move to acquire Turkish indicates an investment in her

independence leading to increased self-esteem in an attempt to feel
at home and fully participate in society; it seems she is now ready to
make an emotional investment in the language.
The issues described by Elizabeth and Lambert-Sen regarding the per-
ceived importance of Turkish also arose in a refrain between Graham
and Alya:

Graham: I have excuses not to learn Turkish.

Alya: No, I understand Graham; youve just got no time to do it.
Graham: Yeah, at the moment.
Alya: You have to want it, really. When I was in primary school,
I really got the desire to learn about England and learn
English; it has always been my thing. I always wanted to
learn English.
The Role English Plays in the Construction of Professional Identities 147

For Alya, her investment in learning English paid off as she has gained
employment in both Britain and Turkey due to her linguistic skills. It is
unlikely Graham would gain in the same way through learning Turkish:
Thats the reason my Turkish is a bit bad Ive got two small children
and Im tired and have no free time and dont always have the money
to do lessons.
Next, Graham mirrors Elizabeths sentiments that she never thought
she would permanently settle in the country and would therefore not
have the need for Turkish outside the country.

Its a bit like when I was going to come back to Turkey again, so
I went away and I thought, Ive done my bit, Ive learnt a bit of the
language, Ive had a good time, its been interesting. And now, when
I come back, I feel my self-confidence goes a little, but because Ive
got that old problem that Ive got to learn it so theres your answer.

I didnt have any motivation to learn it, apart from I have to.

In this utterance, Graham clearly identifies he believes he has noth-

ing to gain from learning Turkish, and therefore no motivation apart
from I have to. Alya shows some acceptance in Grahams sentiment:
No, Turkish isnt spoken in many other countries. She acknowledges
Turkish is not widespread and, I suspect, is beginning to realise Turkish
is not a globally-used language and thus Graham is less likely to invest
in learning it. Like Lambert-Sen, Graham also concedes that due to
English being his native-tongue, used by many in the community, and
the language of his employment, he has limited exposure to and limited
use for Turkish:

Well, Im not exposed to it because, and this has always been the
case, I wake up, get to school, speak English, the children speak
English, I do private lessons and I speak English there, I come home
and speak English to my sons. Occasionally, I feel I need to speak
Turkish, but not for long. The thing is, I can get by, not a problem.

In this way, Grahams need to learn Turkish for communicative or eco-

nomic gain is removed through his NES teacher position. In addition,
he has no need for better Turkish proficiency in order to manage his
daily life.
As described earlier, I previously felt proficiency in ones second
language sprang from a desire to assimilate into the host community
148 Caroline Fell Kurban

leading to a high motivation to learn. While there was some evidence

of this emerging from the data, such as Leylas original refusal to learn
Turkish due to her initial dislike of Turkey, the majority of British
participants utterances point towards different factors. Such factors
indicate participants are unwilling to invest in learning Turkish because
they believe there is limited use for Turkish in their futures. This led me
to question why. Are native English speakers unwilling to learn due to
monolingual arrogance, a sense of linguistic and cultural superiority,
other factors, or a combination of both?
During my study, what emerged from the narratives above led me
to change the direction of my literature review. This led me towards
research into sociological approaches to investment and to theories on
motivation in language learning. Norton puts forward the concept of
investment for language learners, believing:

The conception of investment rather than motivation more accu-

rately signals the socially and historically constructed relationship of
the (learners) to the target language and their sometimes ambivalent
desire to learn and practice it. (1995: 17)

As all the participants in this study who are unwilling to learn their
partners language are native-English speakers and therefore tradition-
ally privileged, I found Nortons ideas that investment in learning a
language is directly linked to the socially and historically constructed
relationship of the learners to the target language (ibid) particularly
pertinent. Norton supports her theories, which place motivation as
synonymous with economic gain, with reference to Bourdieus (1977b)
ideas on cultural capital, whereby:

If learners invest in a second language, they do so with the under-

standing they will acquire a wider range of symbolic and material
resources, which will in turn increase the value of their cultural
capital. Learners will expect and hope to have a good return on
that investment a return that will give them access to hitherto
unattainable resources this return on investment must be seen
as commensurate with the effort expended on learning the second
language. (Norton 1995: 17)

Nortons approach takes a poststructuralist stance regarding how lan-

guage learners approach the target language. She posits that theorists,
such as Gardner & Lambert (1972) and Gardner (1985), have not
The Role English Plays in the Construction of Professional Identities 149

devised a satisfactory conceptual framework of the relationship between

language learners and the social world because they have not framed a
theory for social identity which integrates both learning context and
learner. In particular, Gardners theories do not take into account the
socially and historically constructed relationships that exist between
all languages. Based on this, Norton calls for a re-conceptualisation of
social theory in line with poststructuralist thought of social identity as
multiple, a site of struggle, and subject to change (1995: 9). Norton,
therefore, believes the concept of investment rather than motivation
incorporates language and social interaction in a symbiotic relationship

The notion of investment attempts to capture the relationship of

the language learner to the changing social world. It conceives the
language learner as having a complex social identity and multiple
desires. The notion presupposes when language learners speak, they
are not only exchanging information with target language speakers
but they are constantly organizing and reorganizing a sense of who
they are and how they relate to the social world. Thus, an investment
in the target language is also an investment in a learners own social
identity; an identity which is constantly changing across time and
space. (Norton 1995: 1718)

It seems the NES participants in this study, through being employed as

English teachers, have no need for such investment as their economic
gain and social standing come through their native language, possibly
showing that the privilege afforded to native-speakers in ELT is still
alive and well, despite efforts from the field of linguistics to level the
playing field in how non-native speakers are viewed. These participants
experiences are very different from NNES participants experiences in
other research studies. Norton (2000: 91) gives the example of Katarina,
a Polish woman in Canada who wanted sufficient competence in
English to secure her employment to make her life normal again as a
teacher, employment that would give her a good income, an intellec-
tual challenge and access to the social networks of educated Canadians,
thereby giving her the opportunity to resist being positioned as an
immigrant. Such investment is not required by the British participants
in this study, as they are employed as native-speaker teachers and their
mother-tongue provides employability, access to professional networks
and financial independence. They do not need to resist being seen
as immigrants, as Katarina did, due to being viewed positively as a
150 Caroline Fell Kurban

symbolic resource by the surrounding community. This, therefore, puts

these native-English individuals in a different position to most foreign
spouses, who are:

At an economic disadvantage both in the employment market and

in the marital relationship (whereby) economic asymmetry or down-
right dependence in the marriage relationship creates a potentially
conflict-laden power imbalance. (Breger & Hill 1998: 145)

Norton believes it is through language that a person negotiates a sense

of self and can gain access to powerful social networks that give learn-
ers the opportunity to speak. In this way she believes language should
not be conceived of as a neutral medium of communication but under-
stood with reference to its social meaning (Norton 1995: 13). It appears
Katarina saw learning English as a site of struggle but also as influencing
her social interaction, giving her the agency to provide herself with a
symbolic resource, ultimately providing her with power (Heller 1995:
373405). However, NES participants in this study already hold this
symbolic power (ibid) through their native-English speaker privilege,
thereby putting them in a different situation in their host communities
of practice. As such, I believe this influences how much effort they put
into learning Turkish. Apart from Leyla, Turkish has not given the NES
participants any symbolic power in their professional identities due
to English being the language of their professions and therefore their
financial security and social standing.
When reading the data regarding participants efforts in learning the
language of their partner, my findings at first appear to mirror Nortons
(1995) theory on investment. When participants efforts at language
learning are rewarded with economic and symbolic gain, they are likely
to invest in learning the language; this may explain why Turkish partici-
pants have learnt English to an advanced degree but NES participants
have not achieved the same proficiency in Turkish. This outcome fol-
lows Nortons (1995) theory on investment that places motivation as
synonymous with economic gain, based on Bourdieus (1977b) ideas on
cultural capital. Perhaps the NES participants are comfortable enjoy-
ing the privileges the social and historical power related to English has
given them, and are unwilling to make extra efforts to learn Turkish,
which they may see as having less use, i.e. less status and symbolic
value. While this may be true for the NES participants in this study, for
Canadian Lambert-Sen, another NES individual, her need to invest in
learning Turkish came when she felt the need to invest in her autonomy
The Role English Plays in the Construction of Professional Identities 151

and self-respect, to be able to operate to her full capacity without hin-

drance in Turkey. Her investment in language learning was for her self-
esteem at this stage, not economic gain. While Nortons (1995) theory
on investment may embody the reason behind most participants drive
for learning a language in this study, I do not believe it addresses the
issue of emotional investment in ones self-esteem, something that, in
Lambert-Sens case, may be situated separately from ones professional

Why individuals may not wish to emulate

target-language speakers
In a later interview, Elizabeth, another NEST participant, turned the
conversation towards which accent she uses in Turkish, describing
herself as continuing to use the Devonshire accent that she acquired in
childhood. From our discussion, I perceive she finds comfort, and pos-
sibly an anchor to her identity in keeping that accent in Istanbul, even
40 years after leaving the UK. She also comments that she does not use
her Turkish to her best abilities:

I mean, Ive got a friend who speaks perfect Turkish and shes got
two children too. And nobody helps her like they help me. Nobodys
friendly to her like they are to me. Everybody is ever so nice to me,
the bus drivers, everybody. I mean, they really treat me nicely.

Elizabeth perceives acceptance by the local community when she is seen

as an imperfect Turkish speaker. However, she feels her friend, whom
she describes as speaking perfect Turkish is not accepted in the same
way. She goes on to describe why she thinks this:

If your Turkish is really, really good, you put up a barrier to people

I really think Turkish people in particular try to be helpful and kind
to you. So when you go somewhere and you mumble a bit and you
cant get round a bit, they rush to your aid. So I think for that reason
I dont speak Turkish so well.

Elizabeth feels she gains from painting herself as someone struggling

to get by in Turkish, mumbling a bit and in need of help, describing
people as rushing to her aid. She uses this as a reason for not want-
ing to further her Turkish proficiency. By acting this way, Elizabeth is
showing that she is not claiming the same linguistic right to power
(Bourdieu 1978: 80) as someone born in Turkey. Elizabeth believes her
152 Caroline Fell Kurban

fluent friend, on the other hand, receives more resistance from the
host community when she speaks Turkish. Following Bourdieu (1978),
I believe the community may not be willing to accept Elizabeths friend
as one of their own, registering her instead as a sub-standard speaker or
imposter. In addition, Elizabeths friend may be in violation of Lave
and Wengers theory on peripheral legitimate participation (1991)
whereby an individual joining a new group needs to start on the
periphery and slowly work their way in to be accepted. When meeting
new individuals, interlocutors may be unsettled by a perceived outsider
showing proficiency in Turkish, an act in which the speaker appears to
be placing herself at the centre, not periphery of the group, and this
may cause her interlocutors to reject her. It seems Elizabeths attempt
at partial participation through using less-than-perfect Turkish and a
Devonshire accent aids her participation, whereas her friends attempt
at full participation, through proficient language use, is met with resist-
ance. Leyla and Shirley (NEST participants) also discussed their accents:

Caroline: Leyla, hows your accent in Turkish?

Leyla: I can get away with it. It depends if Im tired and the time of
the day.

By get away with it, Leyla infers she can be mistaken for being Turkish
at times. Shirley agrees: Shirley: I never hear you with an accent. You
speak very clear and you speak very confident [sic]. Shirley indicates
that confidence in the language is also a factor in Leyla coming across
as Turkish. Shirley, however, describes herself as fighting to keep her
Birmingham accent, proclaiming that her accent is part of her identity
and that she doesnt want to come across as Turkish.
Elizabeth, Shirley and Leyla, therefore, may all use their accents in
Turkish for differing purposes. Elizabeth, using her agency, may keep
her Devonshire accent, as she perceives this brings her greater advan-
tages in the local community. Shirley describes using her agency to
actively maintain her Birmingham accent as a statement of her identity.
As Elizabeth and Shirley work as native-English speaker teachers, their
native-speaker identity is integral to them being able to maintain the
privileges afforded to NES teachers. However, Leyla, despite being a NES,
has acquired a Turkish accent of such accuracy she can be mistaken for
Turkish in the host community. This may be because she is the only par-
ticipant who previously needed to enter the Turkish-speaking workforce; a
factor which may have had a strong bearing on her attempts at acquisition
and assimilation. All three of these participants, therefore, have acquired
The Role English Plays in the Construction of Professional Identities 153

the target language; however, only Iranian-born Leyla who has used her
Turkish for work purposes is modelling her Turkish on target language
models. For Elizabeth and Shirley, it seems they may have more to gain
from keeping indicators of their English-linguistic identity.
Jenkins (2007) supports the notion that language learners personal
identities are an important factor regarding the extent to which they
want to identify with the target language culture and that not all
learners want to fully affiliate or claim group allegiance with the target
language community. In addition, Omoniyi (2006) suggests individu-
als may utilise their languages and accents depending on the identity
they wish to portray. There is evidence in support of Jenkins and
Omoniyis (ibid) theories in Elizabeth and Shirleys stories. Leyla may
be aligning herself with a native-like, Turkish accent to assimilate into
her host community, a community in which she has gained employ-
ment and therefore economic capital, whereas Elizabeth and Shirley
may be retaining their British accents in order to bring more perceived
advantages from the local community such as avoiding potential rejec-
tion from interlocutors or as an act of resistance against being viewed
as Turkish. For them, it has only ever been a NES identity that has pro-
vided them with access to economic capital.

Living within two communities or choosing to

enter one as a guest
As well as drawing on their patterns of language use and accents in their
identity constructions, a number of participants drew on the national-
ity that they received through their place of birth. Table 9.1 presents
participants nationalities.
In the NES participants stories, there are examples of individu-
als claiming or rejecting a nationality for themselves. Graham and
Elizabeth describe themselves as British or English, perhaps as each

Table 9.1 Nationalities of the participants

Participant Nationality

Elizabeth British (NES)

Shirley British (Turkish through marriage) (NES)
Leyla Iranian (Turkish through marriage) with right to reside
in the UK (NES)
Graham1 British (NES)
Alya Turkish
Caroline British (Turkish through marriage) (NES)
154 Caroline Fell Kurban

hold only a British passport. Elizabeth emphatically labels herself as

not wanting to be thought of as Turkish. Shirley too, despite holding
naturalised Turkish citizenship, strongly identifies herself as British
even though she implies she will live in Turkey for the rest of her life:
But Im still here on holiday by the way! I will never become a Turk,
I will never become like a Turk Im here, this is my life. Shirley seems
to divorce her concept of nationality from citizenship; she may have
dual citizenship, but only lays claim to one. Shirley explains how she
maintains her foreignness:

I do like living in a bubble, and Ive created that bubble. I can walk
round the street and I can be totally foreign. But I dont switch from
culture to culture. Im terrible. I know it sounds bad, and I know
I come across totally wrong and I always get in trouble for it, but
I mean I just dont.

Through her description, Shirley is using her agency (Lantolf &

Pavlenko 2001) to resist assimilation into the host community by
creating and living in a bubble that allows her to be totally foreign.
She is choosing to present her home culture identity, not her host
culture (Omoniyi 2006). However, she indicates a sense of guilt about
doing this, saying it is terrible and sounds bad. Shirley also implies
her behaviour is not always accepted by others, who think she comes
across wrong, and may lead to her getting into trouble. However, her
resistance continues. Despite this strong resistance, Shirley describes
how she also has the ability to use her agency to shift between cultures
if she so desires: But I can come out of that bubble. I can pretend to be
Turkish. I can be part of the Turkish community if I want to.
Through the use of different discourses, Shirley reveals the con-
tradiction she feels about her bubble and shows she uses different
strategies for making sense of her life. She is vocal about living in her
English bubble but is aware of her agency to step outside this bubble
to become part of the Turkish community. It seems she does not see
herself as being part of two communities at once, but part of one com-
munity, with the agency to enter into the other as a guest if needed.
Jenkins (2007) believes individuals have the ability to choose to affili-
ate or not to affiliate with the target language community depending
on the identity they wish to portray or the group they wish to affiliate
with. It seems Shirley uses this agency when the need arises but Turkish
assimilation is not her preferred identity.
It emerges that most NES participants describe their nationalities
in an essentialist light, drawing on the nation of their birth and the
The Role English Plays in the Construction of Professional Identities 155

culture in which they were socialised as children, describing themselves

as British despite living in Turkey for many years and, in Shirleys case,
despite holding Turkish citizenship. As previously described, I speculate
this may be based on the advantages they gain in the employment
market that values their NES professional selves. Turkish citizen, Alya,
is also proud to describe her English side a side she and her husband
perceive has brought her advantages in the eyes of potential employers
and, therefore, economic advantages.


One of the outcomes from this research is the realisation that both NESs
and their NNES spouses have gained symbolically and economically
through the English language as a result of their bilingual marriages in
Istanbul. From the data, it appears native-English participants retain a
view of themselves and portray an image of themselves based on their
country and language of birth. For these British individuals living in
Istanbul with their Turkish partners, they find themselves in an envi-
ronment in which, in addition to their professional skills, their native
language and culture are in demand in the employment market. This
may explain why these individuals strongly hold on to the linguistic and
national identity of their birth, painting a British identity, expending less
effort in learning Turkish and not attempting to gain a Turkish accent. It
is probable, through these actions in the local community, they are con-
tributing to the ongoing image of the native-speaker teacher, despite
the fact their identity constructs may be much more complex and inte-
grated into the local community than they like to present.
For the Turkish partners, they find themselves viewed advantageously
in the employment market through their marriage to a British spouse,
due to being seen as legitimate English speakers, and also accepted by,
or on an inbound trajectory towards, the target language community.
Therefore, while their British spouses may play upon their native-
English-speaker identities to gain advantages, the Turkish spouses are
also capitalising on their spouses native-speaker identities, confirming
the image of native-speaker professionals in the local community.
It therefore emerges that in these marriages, it is to the advantage of
both partners, British and Turkish, to include Britishness and Native
English or Accepted-by-Native-Speakers-of-English as part of their
professional identity constructs. This may indicate that while in the
field of linguistics English may be seen as belonging to the world, not
to a British or English-speaking centre, this may not be the case with
how English is perceived in the local employment market in Istanbul.
156 Caroline Fell Kurban

It seems that the institutions, employers and individuals in this study

place a high value on native speakers, not only for their language skills,
but also for other attributes of national identity that they may see as
encapsulating a certain way of behaving, thinking or being. The con-
cept of native-speakerism and the labels attributed to native-speakerism
by those in this study, therefore, would seem to be much more com-
plex than native-speakerism simply being a label for the linguistic skills
obtained through the country of ones birth.
While the results of my research present NES teachers as being in a
relatively advantageous position in the local employment market, since
the completion of my thesis, additional complexities related to the NES
teacher identity have arisen. NES teachers may find complications arise
on obtaining Turkish citizenship. While the participants and the local
community and most institutions they work for view them as foreign,
on obtaining Turkish citizenship, they may find themselves legally
labelled as having a Turkish identity. This has a profound effect on their
choices, such as whether they can send their children to international
schools or are legally required to send them to Turkish national schools.
In addition, it can affect employment requirements in institutions
such as Turkish, English-medium universities, where they are required
to pass a Turkish-medium ALES exam (Akademik Personel ve Lisansst
Egitimi Giris Snav, Academic Personnel and Graduate Education Exam)
in order to be employed. While they may have acquired Turkish citi-
zenship, it does not always mean they have acquired university-level
Turkish academic skills. This can leave naturalised, Turkish-citizen NES
teachers in a no-mans land between their legal identity and language
skills. I believe, due to this, we could question whether the Turkish
government is starting to challenge the existing rights based on speaker-
hood. It is in this area that I see further room for investigation, as the
dichotomy between native and non-native identities starts to blur.

1. Graham decided not to obtain Turkish citizenship because he would be
obliged to undertake national service.

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influence: Construct activation as a mechanism for cultural differences in
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Jenkins, J. 2007. English as a Lingua Franca: Attitude and Identity. New York: Oxford
University Press.
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Newsletter, British Community Council, Istanbul, June 2011: 34.
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Directions in Research. Harlow: Longman: 159171.
Omoniyi, T. 2006. Hierarchy of identities. In Omoniyi, T. & White, G. (eds) The
Sociolinguistics of Identity. London: Continuum: 1133.
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Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Part IV
Native-speakerism in the
Academic Environment
The Politics of Remediation:
Cultural Disbelief and
Non-traditional Students
Victoria Odeniyi

Inherent to native-speakerist ideology is what Holliday terms cultural

disbelief (Holliday 2013: 17; Holliday this volume), that is, the view
that non-western cultural realities are deficient. This chapter applies
Hollidays (2011, 2013) thinking around cultural disbelief in the abili-
ties of the Other to discourses surrounding the ability to perform in an
academic culture. In doing so, the chapter explores alternative ways of
conceptualising people from cultural backgrounds which may be dif-
ferent to those who traditionally take up places at British universities:

While cultural disbelief finds the cultural background of non-native

speaker teachers, and indeed students [italics added], deficient and
problematic, cultural belief perceives the cultural background of any
teacher or student to be a resource.
(Holliday 2013: 21)

The chapter contributes to discussions of non-native speaker teachers

and students, including multilingual university students with diasporic
connections, that is, first generation immigrants resident in Britain
originating from different parts of Africa with transnational linkages
(Okpewho 2009: 19).

Background and the university context

I taught academic writing at a university located in culturally diverse

London where I first became aware of labels such as native-speaker
and non-native-speaker as they were used in institutional publicity by
the university language support unit in which I worked. However, I felt
this dichotomised view of students to be unhelpful, in part, as it ignored
162 Victoria Odeniyi

the rich linguistic repertoires of many of the multilingual speakers

who sought to develop their academic writing. Indeed, labels of this
kind are commonly used in English language teaching contexts in the
United Kingdom (UK), despite being problematised by Nero (2005) in
the United States and through Hollidays (2006, 2013) discussions of

A sense of dissatisfaction
This chapter emerged from doctoral research originating from dissatis-
faction as an English for Academic Purposes (EAP) practitioner due to
some of the ways in which I observed EAP approaches had been applied
to develop academic language and literacy for the culturally and lin-
guistically mixed profile of students I encountered at the university in
which I worked. The way in which EAP was implemented seemed rather
uncritical of its own aims, methods and teaching context (see Benesch
2001; Harwood & Hadley 2004; Pennycook 2001). This was intensively
felt particularly amongst practitioners who were, like me, teaching EAP
to what was often, although not exclusively, a post-colonial audience
speaking not only a range of first and additional languages but also a
range of varieties of English. On this topic, Benesch (2001) refers to a
domesticity of EAP methodologies, which have the tendency to serve
the dominant institutional cultures and not the students. I do not wish
to claim that EAP, or teachers of EAP, are inherently deficient in any
way, rather that EAP methodologies may not be the best institutional
intervention for culturally and linguistically diverse student bodies.
Indeed, many of the students I taught would not describe themselves
as language learners at all, even though they possessed a desire and
motivation to develop their academic English whilst at university, in
addition to speaking English as a second, third or additional language
terms I acknowledge are ideologically loaded.

Probematising labels
The students I worked with were also frequently referred to as non-
traditional institutionally. Following Lillis (2001), non-traditional
students can be described as those students from social groups previ-
ously excluded from Higher Education; that is, working class and black
students, students older than 18 at the start of their course and those
with a range of cultural, linguistic and religious backgrounds previ-
ously excluded from post-compulsory education including universi-
ties. The term is extremely useful in foregrounding under-represented
groups of students even though there is potential to view all students
The Politics of Remediation 163

within a distinct category as the same, which I want to avoid. Non-

traditional university students who encounter difficulties with writing
and thinking have been described as having a literacy gap. Although
conceptualised as a gap between student and faculty expectations (e.g.,
Ganobcsik-Williams 2006; Lillis 2001; Street 2004), I suggest gaps and
lacks in awareness associated with particular groups of students can
contribute to a discourse of cultural disbelief (that is to say a lack of
belief in the ability of the Other) surrounding some students abilities
and willingness to adapt to university culture.
The students I worked with during my ethnographic study were mul-
tilingual and with rich diasporic profiles, thus resisting easy categorisa-
tion. Some, but not all, were non-native speakers, yet institutionally
were often described as such. As a consequence, I use the term non-
native speaker to apply to multilingual students who are native-like
speakers of English, yet denied the status of native speaker due to the
politics of accent, or simply having the wrong kind of accent (Lippi-
Green 1997). This latter point relates to their diasporic identities as,
even though students were often fluent speakers of English commen-
surate with the length of time spent in the UK, and in some cases had
been schooled in English, they were routinely sent to language support
to get help with English for remediation purposes.
Ideologies promote the needs and interests of dominant groups at
the expense of marginalised groups and ideologies which penetrate
discourses surrounding non-traditional and non-native students
abilities are evident in debates surrounding standards of literacy within
universities in the UK (see Lillis & Scott 2007; Orr & Blythman 2003).
Therefore, one way of suspending disbelief in the abilities of the non-
traditional Other is to problematise the ongoing predominance
of an essentialized deficit model which focuses on the gaps that
individual disadvantaged students are seen to have (Marshall & Case
2010: 492). I suggest the image of the non-traditional students, which
emerges from cultural disbelief in their abilities, shares features with
discourses surrounding non-native speaking learners. Discourses of
this kind characterise people as culturally deficient as they are seen as
lacking the skills or expertise commensurate with university attendance
and success.

Setting the scene further

A second source of dissatisfaction stems from the way in which cultur-
ally diverse students are welcomed to university yet, at the same time,
institutional structures and practices do not always successfully support
164 Victoria Odeniyi

participation and engagement as much as they do recruitment and

access. Bhabba (1990) is critical of a position which encourages cultural
diversity alone, as he argues difference cannot be accommodated as
readily, which is why inequalities persist. Of relevance to the complex
profile of students I worked with and my professional role as academic
writing practitioner is Matsudas (2010: 82) critique of institutional
responses to linguistic difference, where weaker matters of conven-
tion, genre and style are tolerated while stronger forms of language
difference are not. I suggest the approach to language matters outlined
displays native-speakerist attitudes, as such practices affect people who did
not grow up speaking privileged varieties of English disproportionately,
as well as disproportionately affecting students who are functional
bilinguals. In the university I worked for, many individuals fitting this
complex student profile were routinely sent to language support or writ-
ing classes, or placed in non-credit remedial courses. Such policies of
linguistic containment (Matsuda 2010: 85) aimed to help individual
students but at the same time were perceived as stigmatising, even
humiliating, and failed to address issues of inequalities.
The next section draws on data from my doctoral research in order
to highlight how some of the students I worked with were judged in
unfavourable ways, reflecting native-speakerist beliefs. To achieve this,
I foreground my observations of literacy-related classroom practices
surrounding seminar presentations while, as far as possible, remaining
sensitive to the students complex backgrounds.


Interviews and class observation were used as part of a mixed methods

approach during sustained time in the field. The approach I adopted has
a degree of overlap with language and literacy research adopting ethno-
graphic approaches in university settings (Canagarajah 1997; Harris &
Thorp 1999; Lillis 2001). These methods were selected as such interven-
tions were more likely to be perceived as part of the day-to-day lived
experiences of participants and of those around them. I also attempted
to build on models of empowering research (Cameron et al. 1992) by
incorporating participant validation into the research strategy. After
initial interviews took place, I transcribed, retold and reconstructed
participants stories in response to the initial prompt question: Who are
you and where have you come from? Participants were invited for a second
interview during which they were invited to comment on the written
account of the initial interview.
The Politics of Remediation 165

I observed a class of 30 first year undergraduate applied social sci-

ence students in a core module for four months as part of my doctoral
research. Additionally, I interviewed 11 of the class of 30. My criteria for
selection was that participants had to be over 21 and classified by the
university as a home rather than an international student, thus fulfill-
ing the non-traditional student profile. The majority of the class were
members of Londons visible minorities (Harris 2006: 1), multilingual
speakers and home students, which means that they were long-term or
permanent British residents. Cultural, linguistic and social background
was mixed, echoing the complex profile of students attending the
university. However, although not anticipated or sought specifically,
students who presented for interview identified as members of Londons
African diasporic community in some way, even though their cultural
identification and diasporic connections were experienced differently
reflecting the inherent heterogeneity of any group.

Themes emerging from the data

I now present data which shows how native-speakerist discourses

denigrated the abilities of the students I observed and interviewed.
Three themes emerged from the data selected for this chapter and have
been used as headings for the discussion that follows: Currying favour,
Mistaken identity and The late ones.

Currying favour
The first example stems from my observation of the first year social sci-
ence class. At the end of a seminar, the lecturer and a group of students
were trying to arrange a group presentation and I made the following
notes on interaction between Hamdi (pseudonym) and the lecturer:

Hamdi gets out a blue Filofax which has a blue leather cover. It looks
a little like the Quran with Arabic writing on the front. It becomes
apparent that there has been some error and overlap with allocation
of presentations. The lecturer has made an error for which he apolo-
gises. The lecturer asks Hamdi to do it.

Hamdi: Ill do it, init, just to make it level?

Lecturer: Ah, youre, youre trying to curry favour?!
How many of them [co-presenters do] you see?
Hamdi: I dont really see them, but I can call them.
Lecturer and Hamdi then arrange his tutorial.
166 Victoria Odeniyi

What struck me about this exchange was that the lecturer asked Hamdi
for help and then accused him of currying favour when he agreed. This
seemed unfair, as rather than being thanked, the student was accused
of doing something rather dishonourable. At the time I felt the lecturer
misrepresented Hamdis intentions as he was, in my view, trying to
alleviate the lecturers predicament by making it level in his words.
The lecturers verb choice to curry favour is a further example of how
non-traditional, non-native speaking students are viewed as defi-
cient and problematic (Holliday 2013: 13). I also suggest it indexes the
importance of power relations in the exchange between student and
lecturer. In contrast, I had previously observed Hamdi to be an articulate
student who in class at least was engaged and contributed in seminars
positively. This is reflected in these observation notes from an earlier

Lets not be nave here it comes down to the same thing

[He reads from the article more than once as a means of support-
ing his point of view.] (Observation six)

In contrast, the lecturers less-than-positive evaluation of Hamdi as

someone motivated by self-interest and seeking additional favours
has implications for patterns of engagement. He no longer attended
the classes I observed (Observation 11). I found it significant that this
was the last time I saw or heard from this student and later on in the
year I made reference to this fact: With the exception of Hamdi, who
I have not seen since before Christmas (Field notes). I am not suggest-
ing that the lecturers response to Hamdis offer was the reason for his
non-attendance; nor do I wish to claim that the way Hamdi was treated
was intentional. That said, religious and ethnic difference as well as
differences in age, status and clothing were striking. For example, the
fact that the black student wore traditional shalwa kameez1 while
the white lecturer wore formal Western dress made his treatment all
the more stark. Hamdis compliance is less surprising given the lecturers
status and relative power, and the data selected highlights not only
Hamdis embarrassment and discomfort but also how individuals in less
powerful positions are treated unfavourably. Delanty et al. (2008: 13)
suggest that racism is now less direct and more diffuse. It is less likely
to be expressed overtly in terms of hostility towards race or ethnic dif-
ference. I do not mean to imply that the lecturer was a racist. I observed
the lecturer on 16 occasions and there was no evidence that this was the
case. However, the data indicates some evidence of neo-racism where,
The Politics of Remediation 167

rather than intentional Othering of non-dominant groups, the effects

of certain behaviours and discourses disadvantage groups or individuals
along racial lines.

Mistaken identity
A second example of cultural disbelief in the abilities of the Other to
carry out academic matters efficiently and with integrity relates to
two female students from the same class. I observed the same lecturer
confuse two students for approximately three minutes when during
the start of a class he asked who was presenting that day. Nancy was
present but Mary had not yet arrived. There was also further confu-
sion as the lecturer confused Nancy with Mary. They are both Black
African females. He is insistent and I find the exchange extremely

Lecturer: Well, why did you come to see me? Yes, you came to see
me. [His face colours with emotion as he says it.]
[He means why did she come and see him about the pres-
entation topic, if she is not in fact going to present on that
Nancy: That was not me [shaking her head].
[He is emphatic and now her face colours. The lecturer
continues to insist for two or three seconds more, then
realizes his error and apologizes, explaining that a few
students came to see him about poverty, while Nancy
came to see him about her PDP (Personal Development
Plan). He had forgotten. The exchange is embarrassing and
9.47am Mary arrives late. (Observation eight)

Although this exchange in the classroom was between Nancy and the
lecturer, it suggests he did not recognise either Mary or Nancy, two
women of African appearance and accent, half way through their first
year. This oversight is despite separate appointments with him on dif-
ferent topics. I was aware that Mary had met the lecturer (Odeniyi 2014:
122). Not only does the exchange cause embarrassment for Nancy and
the lecturer due to the intensity of the situation but I, along with other
students present, also experienced a degree of discomfort as onlookers.
The two students blackness and the lecturers whiteness added to the
intensity of the situation. The identities of these two women did not
seem important despite the considerable level of investment reported.
168 Victoria Odeniyi

For example, during an interview Nancy expressed her views on being

a mature student with familial responsibility:

Some subjects [lecturers] forget our responsibilities as mature stu-

dents and they treat us the same. For example Ive got three kids.
I must work with them, do their homework and once Ive finished
with them I do my own.

The comment on the challenges of being a student with additional

responsibilities echoes Nortons (2000) findings, which point to a
significant degree of investment made by migrant learners of English.
The extract reveals that significant time and energy is invested into
her familys education in addition to her own education. Once again
it was difficult to ignore differences of race and gender, which seemed
to intensify as Nancy was accused of lacking the ability to prepare
an appropriate and timely presentation, echoing native-speakerist

The late ones

The final example explores how the lecturer ascribes a number of the
students in his class with the essential label late. Over the four months
I observed the class, there was continual confusion and lack of clarity
over the administration of group presentation topics and schedules,
which dominated class proceedings. As a result it can be useful to think
of the discussions surrounding the group presentations as forming part
of the every day practice which informed and influenced the group:

Nancy: Have you changed the topic for the presentation?

Lecturer: Well, we need to work this out as a group [hesitantly]. [Mary
looks confused as the lecturer continues to address the whole
group. Mary tries to get his attention once more ]
Mary: Which topic?
[The lecturer goes over to Mary finally and they discuss
the topic which it turns out is a duplication of todays
Lecturer: I remember now, you were one of the late ones turning up.
(Observation six)

The late ones was ascribed to those students who were late starting the
programme and the phrase was articulated many times as the lecturer
struggled to organise the group and maintain control of the course. Out
The Politics of Remediation 169

of context the word late may seem benign, but I suggest it reflects a
deficient image of these non-native speakers as unable to work autono-
mously and collaboratively, skills idealised in Western higher educa-
tion. The practice of ascribing late to the identity of students was not
restricted to Mary or Nancy, as we can see from the next example of
Mustafa, a non-traditional student with diasporic connections:

[Lecturer goes on to housekeeping matters of who presented today and

who is presenting the following week.]
Lecturer: Right, thats group 6 sorted out Group 7, I didnt
even know I had Group 7!? [Jokingly]
Mustafa retorts: You made it!
Lecturer: Yes, I remember you were very late. (Observation six)

Mustafa attempted to challenge the lecturer, but he was essentialised as

late. The students appear to be blamed for the challenges encountered.
One reason for the problem of assigning topics and students arose as a
proportion of the class was not present at the very start of the semes-
ter, which presented significant problems for the lecturer. However, it
seems to me that the complex and challenging organisational matters
were partly a result of the course design, with weekly presentation allo-
cations, rather than being caused by the late arrivals (Odeniyi 2014:
131) alone. The continual reference to students starting late was pow-
erful not only because of the high proportion of participants ascribed
this essential and deficit label, but because I did not see the lecturer
take responsibility, publicly at least, for the difficulties and challenges
encountered. There is no doubt that lateness caused additional logistical
challenges but it seemed unfair to blame the individual students. The
lecturer referred to Mary more than once as one of the latecomers who
had caused problems for themselves because they had joined the mod-
ule late (Field notes). The lecturer stated any challenges or difficulties
were personal and brought about by the individual. However, it seemed
to me that the challenges were, in part, a consequence of the course
design rather than the late arrivals alone.
This suggests that difficulties arising are seen as a result of individual
choices or circumstances rather than from structural or systematic
forces (Lewis & Ketter 2011: 135). Logistical problems become prob-
lems associated with the individual. Indeed, the data reveal power
relations at work at particular moments in the university classroom
and how Othering of this kind surrounding the organisation of class
presentations became routinised discourse practice. Rather than being
170 Victoria Odeniyi

supported, Nancy, like Hamdi, seems to have been accused of some-

thing she did not do nor had intended to do. The reality is that Mary
talked to the lecturer the previous week but he had forgotten and Nancy
did not correct him.

Depth of life experiences and untapped resources

I now return to Mustafa, one of the late ones, in order to provide an
illustrative example of the rich life experiences the participants I worked
with brought to the academy:

Mustafa is originally from Congo but spent most of his childhood

in France where most of his schooling took place. As a child he trav-
elled at lot, mainly to French speaking West African countries such
as Ivory Coast, Togo and Gabon. He left Congo when he was four. He
comes from a diplomatic family: his father works for the UN and his
mother used to be an Ambassador. They changed countries accord-
ing to the appointments his family received. Mustapha now lives in
xxx and drops his son off at school before he commutes to xxx four
days a week. Mustapha originally elected to take Development with
French as he felt he needed to continue with French. Soon after, he
realized that he needed to try something else. Mustapha started xxx
module in week six. (Field notes)

We can see from this extended data example that Mustafa had had a
rich and varied life before starting university, and from what he reported
appeared to be reasonably accustomed to changing environments and
cultures. In contrast, the students I observed were constructed as self-
interested, disorganised and late. Mustafas diplomatic family back-
ground is a vivid reminder of how unfavourable identity categories such
as late mask the complexity of life before university, which in this case
impacted on disciplinary choice.
Mary, a second student identified in the excerpts above, identified as a
recovering alcoholic (Field notes) and her life before and during her time
at university was equally rich, reflected in a powerful research narrative:

She is originally from Rwanda but was forced to leave as a result

of the genocide. She was privileged to be able to study in Kenya.
Mary had a varied professional career in Rwanda, working mainly in
the field for, for example, an insurance company and an HIV AIDS
organisation. As a consequence of this fieldwork she speaks a range
of languages which include English, French, Swahili, Yerwanda,
The Politics of Remediation 171

Luganda and a number of local languages. She describes herself as

a linguist and she had to learn the languages of local people to be
able to carry out her work as a counsellor effectively. However, it was
because of this work that she had to leave her home. (Field notes)

Marys multilingual repertoire is notable and data suggest that neither

Mustafa nor Mary fit easily into native or non-native categories. It is
also worth noting that although black and over 21 at the start of the
degree programme it is questionable whether either Mary or Mustapha
identified as working class, suggesting that these individuals do not
fit definitions of non-traditional home students comfortably either.
Additionally, Mary reported financial worries and eviction. Interview
data reveals compelling reasons for late arrival onto the course:

She used to live in North East London in a two-bedroomed flat but

felt that she had to move away and put everything behind her. It was
mainly for the sake of her five-year-old daughter. Mary moved with
her daughter in September 2008. Financially, the move has been very
hard as, for example, at one stage she and her daughter were evicted.
They ended up living in a single room for several weeks. This took
place while Mary should have been attending xxx as the academic
year began the third week of September. (Field notes)

One interpretation is that Mary brought about her own housing

issues, motivated by a desire to start afresh. However, I suggest the
narratives help to construct an alternative image of the non-native,
non-traditional undergraduate and the potential resources they have.
Marshall & Case (2010) found that coping strategies developed in a dis-
advantaged social background could be productively used for successful
navigation of the higher education context students enter, thus pro-
moting alternatives to deficit discourses. Instead we have seen indirect
Othering through unfavourable assessment of these individuals as seek-
ing advantage over others as well as being disorganised and ill-prepared.
In Burrs words: To define the world or a person in a way that allows
you to do the things you want is to exercise power (1995: 64). Problems
are associated with the Other and not the Self. Non-traditional stu-
dents from a range of linguistic, social and cultural backgrounds deserve
to be treated with respect, and one way of respecting difference is to
unpack essential labels. This section has shown how sustained time in
the field provided significant insight into the depth and complexity of
students experiences during the first year of university study.
172 Victoria Odeniyi


Deficit discourses at work

There was evidence of repeated Othering, which suggests that these par-
ticular students were viewed as problematic. The lecturer in the exam-
ples above appeared to have generated cultural disbelief in the Other
rather than suspend belief in his own abilities. More specifically, cul-
tural disbelief became normalised in the classes I observed as students
were labelled and essentialised in terms of lateness and other undesir-
able attributes, such as attempts to gain unfair advantage. Data support
the view that some groups of people are constructed as less able to
think critically, be autonomous, to speak out, and to plan and manage
(Holliday 2011: 77), cited frequently as essential graduate skills by
universities (Canterbury Christchurch University website 2014). Indeed,
Colonial constructions of [superior] Self and [inferior] Other, combined
with factors such as race, gender, ethnicity, class, language, and others
(Shin 2006: 147) continue to be reproduced through deficit discourses.
That said, I do not wish to reproduce fixed notions of race, ethnic iden-
tities and accent, thus reinforcing disbelief (Kubota 2003), particularly
as academic culture is not uniformly accessed or experienced (Read
et al. 2003: 261). Constructions of an inferior Other when reproduced
in university classrooms may result in participation in academic culture
being more challenging for some people than others.
I have illustrated how visible markers of difference such as race, gen-
der and non-Western dress are bound up with the workings of power
and difference (Ayka 2008; Delanty et al. 2008; Kubota 2003). Neo-
racism is subtle and encompasses linguistic and cultural discrimination
in addition to physical features associated with old racism. Indeed,
Spears (1999) defines racism as both direct and indirect behaviour
which supports unequal hierarchies along racial lines, where being
white takes a primary position.

Responding to complexity and difference

I suggest successful exposure to academic culture, which includes read-
ing, writing and knowledge-making, can only occur after engagement
and participation is made possible for all students. One way to achieve
this is to draw on life experiences and students cultural and linguistic
repertoire, and in doing so acknowledging the potential value of post-
colonial audiences.
The research narrative extracts indicate the importance of life
before the UK, despite long-term residency. It would therefore seem
The Politics of Remediation 173

appropriate for the students I worked with to identify and engage in

academic culture while not having to renounce the cultures with which
they identify, however marginal or peripheral to the university. Zeleza
(2009) wrote that diaspora involves a sense of culture, which is often
characterised by marginalisation and a sense of belonging to a nation
or place that is different to those referred to as the majority, tradi-
tional or mainstream. Complexity and difference can be looked upon
as a resource, thus suspending cultural disbelief. This is significant for
two reasons. The complexity of experience masked by the label non-
traditional is given institutional exposure. In turn, exposure might help
to unearth a creative diasporic space (Lavia 2010: 41) for learning and
engagement with academic writing.
Discourses surrounding academic writing intervention, highlighted
by Orr & Blythman (2003), are infected with cultural disbelief and have
a tendency to construct individual students in terms of a lack of prepar-
edness for university. It is important that students complex linguistic
repertoires are better understood. Here I include less privileged native
varieties of English, in addition to more and less privileged non-native

Responding to diversity
The need to respond to an educationally, culturally and linguistically
diverse student body remains important. I would like to return to the
issue of language and literacy development, possible alternatives to EAP
pedagogies and what this provision might mean for non-traditional
home students with diverse diasporic connections. Institutional poli-
cies of linguistic containment documented extensively by Matsuda
(2010: 85) should be resisted. In practice this means that rather
than kettling students into language support units there should be
a sensitive approach to language and literacy development where
attendance remains voluntary. One solution would be to insist that
non-traditional students continue to seek help from language support
units and academic writing centres. However, I remain uncomfortable
with this as a monolithic intervention at institutional level as it feeds
into native-speakerist discourses where the non-western, non tradi-
tional student is Othered and solutions to the academic writing chal-
lenges encountered are seen as lying with the individual.
An alternative approach to the more traditional forms of generic aca-
demic language support, which scaffolds and embeds the development
of academically literate practices within specific degree programmes
(Bernaschina & Smith 2012; Lazar & Ellis 2010), is useful in three ways.
174 Victoria Odeniyi

Responsibility for the remediation of student literacy continues to be

the domain of English language support units as well as the individual
student. Writing and language development remains a site of struggle
for the individual, but an increase in visible, shared responsibility for
academic text production may reduce feelings of stigmatisation. Finally,
this contextually sensitive approach can create opportunities within the
university curriculum for the non-traditional, non-native students
experiences to be valorised through writing and assessment practices,
which contributes to the suspension of cultural disbelief.

Final comments
Scepticism towards students abilities and willingness to adapt to uni-
versity life and faculty expectations needs to be challenged. Students
essentialised as non-native and non-traditional have just as much to
offer their institutions as those labelled native and traditional. This
chapter attempts to move beyond merely quantifying and celebrating
a diverse student body towards revealing the complexity of student
experiences with regard to their diasporic identities. I have shown how
native-speakerist discourses serve the more powerful within the acad-
emy at the expense of the more marginal. To return to the title, the
politics of remediation centres on perceptions that the academy has
remained the same, according to Soliday (2002), and it is the students
alone who have changed. Yet, academic communities of practice are
no more fixed or homogeneous than any other. We need to create new
discourses which are decolonising in intent (Lavia 2010: 28), in that
they seek to disrupt neo-racist discourses.

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I am not what you think I am:
EFL Undergraduates Experience
of Academic Writing, Facing
Discourses of Formulaic Writing
Nasima Yamchi

All our writing is influenced by our life histories. Each

word we write represents an encounter, possibly a
struggle, between our multiple past experience and the
demands of a new context. Writing is not some neutral
activity which we just learn like a physical skill, but it
implicates every fibre of the writers multifaceted being.
(Ivanic 1998: 181)

Based on Ivanics views, I assume that academic exchanges can be

enriched through equal participation of every writer novice or
expert. However, much of EFL novice writers participation has been
limited, due to widespread use of generic styles supported by ideolo-
gies and cultural values of native-speakerism and promoted by prag-
matic approaches that claim to help students learn how to write in an
acceptable way. In practice, more boundaries are created for novice
writers. On the one hand, discourses of native-speakerism construe
an image of the Other as deficient and inferior (Holliday 2005). On
the other hand, the imposed limits and the power imbalance between
novice EFL writers and their native-speaker teachers constrain their
choices in writing. As a result, their texts are mainly a representation
of what is expected of them rather than their real self. The ideological
roots of these orientations have been challenged (see Pennycook 1998;
Canagarajah 2002; Holliday 2011, 2013); however given the social, cul-
tural and political variety in the field of EFL it is necessary to investigate
the effects of these practices comprehensively. It is equally important to
understand learners experiences from themselves and thus problema-
tise the neo-racist, denigrating ideologies of native-speakerism.

178 Nasima Yamchi

With this background, this chapter illustrates the findings of an eth-

nographic study investigating female Emirati students experiences of
their practice of academic writing in an English-medium university with
mostly native-speaker teachers.


Readers evaluate a text as well-written, incoherent, organised or disor-

ganised using their linguistic and meta-linguistic understanding of how
texts should be written. These criteria are acquired and learnt through
social interactions, and thus are impacted by the ideological roots of per-
tinent discourses. These are and can be challenged within their local social
context. However, with mass education, knowledge production is carried
out and codified largely through generic forms of writing (Berkenkotter &
Huckin 1993: 476). Standardisation is stronger in written than spoken
English. Lillis & McKinney (2013) state that writing has become the
pre-eminent disciplinary site for normative stances on language (417).
These generic forms are construed through recurrent use of particular
styles within academic communities, and established by enforcing gate-
keeping processes such as standards required by academic journals (see
Canagarajah 2002). In the field of EFL, despite the variety of Englishes
across the world and the fact that most users of the English language are
so-called non-native (see Graddol 1997), the native-speaker model, as
Kirkpatrick (2006) emphasises, remains one of the most popular and
sought after models. These he adds, have been codified [and] through
their codification are seen as standard varieties of English (72).
The framework of native-speaker models, shaped by the neocolonial
political-economic and cultural interests of capital (Kapoor 2011: vix),
promotes the still-dominant culture of native-speakerism, advocating
Western values from which spring the ideals both of the English language
and of English language teaching methodology (Holliday 2005: 6) (origi-
nal emphasis). Thus, English learners are further Otherised because, as
Holliday (2013) argues, the discourse of native-speakerism labels other
cultures as, present[ing] a problem by not being very good at taking
part in activities which require an imagined Western World view. For
example, some learners of English have been criticised as having prob-
lems with autonomy and critical thinking (21). Native-speakerism
also connects with a broader ideology of neo-racism within Western
liberal multiculturalism and though it may appear inclusive and
celebratory in effect reduce[s] non-Western cultural realities and
hide[s] racism (Holliday 2013: 20).
I am not what you think I am 179

I argue that in this context EFL novice writers are doubly disadvan-
taged. Their repertoire of English writing is mainly based on learnt
codified forms, and they might not have enough knowledge about
the ideological backgrounds of these imagined world views. Their
texts are naturally influenced by their existing experience of L1 literacy.
Thus, their writing might seem foreign, despite students efforts to
follow the learnt standards. On the other hand, many native-speaker
teachers of English or content courses (e.g. IT and Business), impacted
by the ideology of native-speakerism, relate students issues in writ-
ing to a conviction that non-Western cultural realities are deficient
(Holliday 2013: 17), rather than to errors that any learner might make.
Added to this is the significant power imbalance between students and
teachers, considering that EFL students are reliant on their teachers
both as experts in their corresponding fields and as native-speakers
in English.
Novice writers mainly use imagined models to express their
thoughts to an audience (native-speaker teachers) which already has
an imagined image of who these writers are. This blurred context can
deepen suspicions and hide any other conditions affecting EFL learners
choices. With this background, I undertook a study investigating nov-
ice writers experience of academic writing from their own perspective.
In doing so, the participants discussed the style used for presenting
their thoughts and their views about the process of writing in English.
This study also problematises views branding EFL learners as lacking
autonomy and critical thinking. Participants were female Emirati
students in Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT), a public university in
the UAE. All universities in the UAE use English as the medium of stud-
ies. However, prior to discussing some of the findings, it is necessary to
look briefly into the roots of generic forms of academic writing and one
of its main tenets, critical thinking.

Academic English and standardisation

Meaning is socially negotiated through interactions between and

within common discourses. Kumaravadivelu (1999: 460) maintains that
discourse designates the entire conceptual territory on which knowl-
edge is produced and reproduced; therefore it determines what can be
said and what is acceptable. Discourses are challenged and modified
with changes in the society. Standardised versions, however, claim
neutrality, objectivity and universally applicable forms. It was in this
light that in universities EAP courses were introduced to teach students
180 Nasima Yamchi

pedagogically useful formulations of the demands of a specific audi-

ence (university instructors, for example) (Horowitz 1986: 789). These
pragmatic approaches have been criticised (see Benesch 1993) for their
dichotomous views and for consciously or unconsciously following the
ideology of styles advocated by dominant discourses.
My investigation focused on a very common generic form of aca-
demic essay which has been popular for a long time (Shafer 2000;
Duncan 2007; Kibler 2011) and is extensively used in HCT, namely
the five-paragraph essay model. Wiley (2000) relates its popularity to
possibilities of making assessments more objective. The five-paragraph
essay, according to Leki et al. (2008), advocates a linear product
which should be constructed through a logical step-by-step process of
planning, outlining and identifying the audience. The linearity in this
model is claimed to be closely linked to logical thinking. The culture
of native-speakerism has used this area as one of the main tenets of its
deficiency theory, based on still-dominant views relating language to
cognitive abilities rather than social interactions. As a result, language is
removed from the material and social settings in which it functions This
orientation will lead later to making distinctions on the rational and
logical nature of certain languages, with damaging consequences for
communities perceived to own less developed languages (Canagarajah
2013: 23).
Another aspect of this framework, considered exclusive to Western
cultures, is claiming the ownership of a text. In this area, too, cognitive
approaches are dominant. Kamberlis & Scott (1992: 363) point out that
in spite of other definitions, a particular view of voice the Cartesian
voice is the most common understanding in academic writing.
This is reliant on native-speakerism prioritising individualist versus
collectivist cultures (see Holliday 2011).

Critical thinking

Educating students equipped with critical thinking skills has become

one of the main goals of higher education in the UK and US (US Goal
2000; The Dearing Report UK 2007) and by default part of university
curricula globally (Kuhn 1999). This was initiated and supported by
the dominant discourses of industries. Consequently, critical thinking
has become a key factor in the employability of university graduates
(Knight & Yorke 2002; It Takes More Than a Major 2010). However,
these skills have been exclusively related to Western cultures and there-
fore used as discriminatory factors against EFL/ESL students, marking
I am not what you think I am 181

them as deficient (Atkinson 1997; Stapleton 2002; Shi 2006; Alagzl &
Szer 2010; Holliday 2013).
Critical thinking has been defined in various ways (see Moon 2008),
however the most influential view in the field of education considers
it a set of skills related to cognitive abilities (Ennis 1996; Fisher 2001).
Cottrell (2005) states that a critical thinker should have some necessary
skills and attitudes to be able to identify and evaluate others argu-
ments fairly, through reflection and use of logic, and to present her
own views based on valid and justifiable evidence. The presentation of
critical thinking in writing is taken as closely linked to the linear style,
therefore it is often considered as an ability learnt in individualistic
cultures (Atkinson 1997), excluding non-Western cultures and varie-
ties within Western societies. This has been problematised; for example
Johnston et al. (2011) argue that, following this view, students have no
opportunity to build up in depth field knowledge or to practice informa-
tion gathering or evaluating which information is worth collecting (25).

Background information on the participants

The data in this investigation was based on interviews and field notes.
This was drawn on the widely used method of talk-around- text
because it is more writer-focused and allows a better understanding
of reasons for writers choices and provides an emic perspective ena-
bling researchers gaze to move beyond the text (Lillis 2008: 359).
Conversations were based on participants analysis of texts prepared for
their content courses. These were written and chosen by the interview-
ees. I believe this process, contrary to deficiency theories, demonstrates
participants autonomy and critical thinking.
The interviewees were students in HCT in Ras Al Khaima (pseudo-
nyms used)between 19 and 21 years old. My choice was mainly based
on years of exposure to English. All these students had completed two
semesters of foundation courses including general English (18 hours a
week) in preparation for joining Bachelor courses. And, at Bachelor level
they had attended two English courses within one year; one preparation
for Academic IELTS and one for academic writing, each 4 hours a week.
My assumption was that most of the participants were quite familiar
with writing conventions and had formed opinions about their writing
practice in negotiation with discourses in their social context.
Their social and economic backgrounds varied considerably and cer-
tainly influenced their experience of learning English. However, I did
not have the opportunity to obtain detailed information about it.
182 Nasima Yamchi

Imagined world views and self-presentation

There is a great deal of research (for example, Atkinson & Ramanathan

1995; Barnawi 2011) considering native-speakers as individualists who
have positive attributes of self-determination and are able to plan
and organize (Holliday 2013: 21). As Arab-Emiratis, the participants are
assumed to follow a collectivist culture; therefore I was eager to find
out their views about planning and organising ideas in writing. The
discussions incorporated all stages of writing; however in this chapter
only parts of text organisation, the role of audience and the issue of
voice are presented.
These novice writers revealed a strong tendency towards using linear
organisation after the five-paragraph model, with a top-down, general-
to-specific development of ideas. They regarded this model as the way
academic writing should be. Amna explains:

Like as we study, they [teachers] told us that we have to divide it [an

essay] at least to four, five [paragraphs], the introduction, body and
conclusion. There is advantage, disadvantage or agree and disagree
[and] at the end conclusion.

This style is further solidified in content courses, because every course

we go, like English course taught us, like this order, write like this
(Lateefa: 192). Most of the interviewees showed the same convictions
in organising a paragraph: I will write the topic sentence and all
my ideas about this sentence first (Khadija) and ideas start from the
important the strongest [one] the idea which causes the other ideas
(Ghalya). These are supported by examples, from my mind situa-
tions that happened to me or I read about in an article (Bashayer).
In contrast to these student writers, who strongly follow the model
they have been taught, some native speaker teachers continue to
judge students writing problems by common stereotypes supported by
native-speakerism. One of the Business Faculty teachers, for example,
constantly referred to her students writings as Arabish, explaining
that they follow a cyclical pattern and cant get it that in English we
go straight to the point (Field notes). This comment is a reminder of
Kaplans division of writing into logically written texts that show
inductive and deductive reasoning which the English reader expects
and other cultures, for example Arabic writing, where essays are devel-
oped using parallelism which in a modern English paragraph would
strike the modern English reader as archaic or awkward (1996: 8).
I am not what you think I am 183

The ideology of native-speakerism also explains the so-called non-

linear texts through the still-dominant views of reader- or writer-
responsible texts (Hinds 1986; Qi & Liu 2007). The former, usually
written by non-Western writers, allows the reader to interpret a text by
themselves, whereas the latter, following a linear organisation, makes
writers ideas clear for the reader. Contrary to this dichotomised view,
these participants texts were intended to respond to their audiences
expectations. Alya said, of course I write [my ideas] in the paragraph
because what matters to me [is] when I have something, I want the
reader to understand or whats the point? Or Hayfa said that while
writing she is constantly thinking about the reader, shell [the reader]
understand it in this way or not. However, in the context of this study,
the audience is also the assessor, and has the power to pass or fail stu-
dents. What culturalism disregards is the unbalanced power created
by this double role and how this could affect students choices. I had
asked the interviewees about their reasons for the choice of texts they
had given me for the interviews. Most participants said that: we were
able to express our thoughts (Hala and Fatima), or I feel my opinion,
myself in this writing (Fatin). My interpretation of this strong focus
on raising voice is that in a highly prescribed and controlled context
of writing, expressing ones opinion provides the space or an oppor-
tunity to engage in negotiations of meaning with others on a relatively
equal footing. This understanding was supported by comments students
made. For example, Halas and Fatimas choice of texts was because
there were no limitation that limit our ideas (Field notes).
Given the description of non-native-speakers as lacking in self
esteem, reluctant to challenge and uncritical, I was keen to learn about
how participants form their views. Except for personal experiences, they
mostly referred to the common methods of reading, using sources and
evaluating others views. Iman said, first I find the resources and match
between the resources then I start to write. Halima verified what she
reads, with searching for facts or statistics [and] references. Lamya
mentioned using the internet to read other people writing about the
same topic. This is followed by: I compare them [the information]
to my opinions sometimes theyre reasonable and I can believe it
(Halima). The comments mentioned here are a small part of the data,
but they illustrate that these interviewees used the same methods and
skills that are generally practised for verifying, evaluating and finally
accepting or rejecting information.
A final point relevant to the discussion of critical thinking is related
to methods of argument. Most of these novice writers maintained
184 Nasima Yamchi

a balanced approach to presenting arguments in their texts. If you

concern only one group of people without talking about the other
part there is no balance. Its like youre on this side (Alya). This very
point was the motivation for many to favour their ethics course. Alya

Ethics was a new topic for us and I found it really interesting because
theres nothing wrong or right its nice, its different, so I like how
people give reasoning and its mostly a lot of thinking.

Like her, many students talked about their preference for argumentative
writing. Faiza highlighted her preference by saying that:

I like to write and I like to read other peoples opinions because

sometimes you think about something and when you read what the
others think, you might change and [get] convince[d] about their

It would seem that the interviewees are quite conscious of common

styles of argumentative essays, namely offering a balanced discussion
of pro and contra views. However, there seems to be a contradiction
between teachers reading of students texts and these novice writers
analysis of their own writing. Participants seem to have followed the
required frameworks but still their argumentations seem to be cycli-
cal or Arabish to their teachers. To probe further, I asked the students
which writings they are not satisfied with. Lamya said that she some-
times repeats ideas because: I have nothing to say really. This is mainly
because of lack of interest or knowledge about the topic of writing, or
limited expertise in integrating the vast amount of information from
sources into their texts. Mashael mentioned that when you have no
knowledge you cant come up with new things. Sara is more inter-
ested in topics that are related to our life, it happens in our real life.
She did not like a project on excessive whaling, for example, because it
had no real connection to life in the UAE.
These accounts indicate common approaches that students anywhere
in the world might adopt. Relating students issues in academic writing
to deficit theories, however, is the result of tendencies which construe a
cultural dichotomy between East and West and create fixed, apolitical
and essentialised cultural representations such as groupism, harmony,
and deemphasis on critical thinking and self expression (Kubota, 1999: 9)
to describe Eastern cultures, e.g. Japanese.
I am not what you think I am 185

Views on English language

Views are formed through interaction between writers existing percep-

tion of the world, their social and cultural experiences, and their image
of their self as seen by others with new discourses (see Ivanic 1998).
The findings of this study showed that while the participants generally
find learning English as necessary, important and even as an eman-
cipator; some consider it as the language of the enemy, criticising its
widespread use in the Emirates.
Participants positive view is partly due to their relations with writ-
ing in Arabic. Contrary to my own experience that L1 is found easier
by students, many commented that: English is easy, Arabic is difficult.
Ghalya clarifies this point: the Arabic I use at home, is different from
the one in the school, this one is the strongest one. Written Arabic or
fusha (also referred to as standard Arabic) compared to spoken dialects
of Arabic is, according to Said (2004: 3), like Latin for the European col-
loquial languages until a century ago. This was summarised by Amal,
stating that in Arabic we have like two languages. Due to its strong
connection to Islam, written Arabic has been more resistant to change.
However, because of its more prestigious status, most writers still prefer
writing in classical Arabic to regional dialects (Said 2004: 4). This has
led most of the participants in this study to find writing and reading
in Arabic very difficult because of the structure of sentence (Mashael).
These issues have made some, like Mashael, hesitant about writing in
Arabic because: sometimes Im afraid that the person who reads my
writing in Arabic would laugh at my ideas (ibid). Others feel strongly
negative about written Arabic: I hate it to be honest (Shayma).
Apart from the difficult relationship with written Arabic, the wide-
spread use of English worldwide and its role as a lingua franca in the
UAE have further supported participants positive views:

Alya: Um, I think, most things now depend on English and because
actually were dealing with foreigners and Emirates is expanding
its business, so it has so many from foreign countries, thats why,
I think the, the work needs people who know the language, because
the Emiratis are less than 20% and most [of] them [foreigners] are
Indians, so thats why you have to talk in English.

As a result of studying in English-medium universities, Lateefa was not

in the minority in saying that, to be honest, I forget the Arabic style.
Maybe for years I dont write in Arabic. I just write in English.
186 Nasima Yamchi

The complexities of written Arabic, coupled with powerful position

of the English writing models have lead to privileging the latter over
the former. Mashael says that she uses the linear style because it is
focused. In the same vein, Faizas interpretation is, I think its logi-
cal. Its sequenced and related to each other and its easy to follow and
understand. Ghalya adds, actually there are many types, but I like this
one because its very organized and clean. However, in a remarkable
step ahead of advocates of deficit theories, Alya does not restrict logic
to any specific culture.

I cant say every English writer has logical ideas or writing. Some
people have logic and some dont. I think it depends on the person.
I think Arabic is as logical I cant judge the whole language
because of their writing.

Despite positive views, participants also talked about their discomfort

about native-speakers image of them or how foreigners think about
them. Mashael gave an example about the reaction of her teacher to her
Islamic Hijab as:

When foreigners see our abbayas [formal black dress for women in the
UAE], its a simple thing, I say what do they think when they see these
abbayas? So many teachers go like whats that? What am I doing?
Im just wearing my abbayas, I dont know.

These worries reflect themselves in how students write. Amal indicated

that sometimes she does not explain her views, especially if they are
related to religion. As a result she does not feel herself represented in
her writing and says, I cant believe 100% in my [expressed] opinion.
It would seem that the self-presentation is at least partly formed by
what these writers believe is the expectation of their reader/assessor.
In other cases, English is used to defend cultural or religious values.
Khawlas comment that, if you know your enemys language youll
protect yourself from them, was not an exception. Shayma, holding the
same attitude, referred to a discussion she had had with someone who
had commented negatively about the UAE on Facebook. She said: if
they talk about something wrong about my country I can talk to them,
respond in English.
This brief review of some backgrounds to students positive or nega-
tive attitudes about English learning and the practice of English writing
reveals a much more complex context than simplified explanations
I am not what you think I am 187

provided by advocates of cultural differences. Furthermore, images of

the Other formed by hidden racism build yet another hurdle for the
free expression of thought.

Critical perspectives

The often politically motivated (Houghton & Rivers 2013: 2), codi-
fied native-speaker models represent power and authority; therefore
non-native speakers inevitably feel that their own variety is inferior
(Kirkpatrick 2006: 74). The discourse of native-speakerism has drawn
a common image of the Other as uncritical and unthinking and
unable to plan and organize (see Holliday 2013). At the same time,
through practising a dominant discourse, its world view or ideology
is inadvertently adopted (see Ivanic 1998). Considering participants
accounts about English almost replacing writing in Arabic, it would be
plausible to assume that ideologies supporting dominant discourses are
also partly adopted. An indication of this process came to my attention
through replies to my enquiry about the reasons for students convic-
tion about the five-paragraph style. One of the main responses was:
because this is professional. Fatema says, I think its the standard and
the teacher wants us to [follow it] these things [are] professional,
good in all sides.
The concept of professionalism, together with its ideological per-
spectives, has spilled over from neo-liberal discourses into education.
Gewirtz et al. (2009) define professionalism as work which follows,
cost-containment efficiency and productivity goals (26). As a result,
teachers have witnessed an increased role for quasi-masked centred ideas
imposed on them. Evetts (2009: 40) relates the spread of these beliefs to
the growing capacity of higher education systems to produce workers
who are educated and trained, and the needs of employees and managers
in organizations to exercise control over knowledge and service work.
Indeed Sheikh bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, the chancellor of HCT, in
his speech in 2010 emphasised that our impressive accomplishments
reflects clear entrepreneurial attitudes. The expression of these atti-
tudes is accomplished through standardised native-speaker models.
I asked Ghalya if she would like to try another style of writing and she
responded, no, Im used to do this, automatically will [write] this way.
However, this does not mean that these students are passive receivers
of knowledge. There were many critical voices among these interview-
ees. I have consciously chosen the word critical instead of opposing
because I agree with Chase (1988) who defines opposition as student
188 Nasima Yamchi

behaviour which runs against the grain and which interrupts what we
usually think of as the normal progression of learning (14). In this
sense there was little active opposition, possibly due to unbalanced
power relations mentioned earlier. The main criticism was directed at
the limitations the standardised styles impose. Khadija defined writing
as: its like testing. Bashayer expresses her frustration as: what were
doing is exactly the same the way we practice it, is the same I think
like Im repeating myself. Alya indicates why these models are used:

I think most of it is because they [teachers] want to make it easier for

them to mark every one of projects another point is they want to
manage their time we were more than 40 students so I think
its a good way to manage their time.

Students described their feelings about this process as: frustration

Sometimes I feel frustrated by these limits (Bashayer); boredom what
I know is that all the students are nearly the same [in their writing]
(Bashayer); de-motivation teachers dont care about creative things
in writing (Afra); lack of dialogue There is no freedom in writing
(Lamya); feeling unimportant I feel our own opinion is not impor-
tant; and mechanical learning this is not real writing (Khawla).
The constructed image of the Other sets further boundaries for self-
representation in writing. In response to how others views are evalu-
ated, many participants immediately referred to using their cultural
values and religion. Halima says, because were Muslims, the first thing
we consider is Islam. Some interviewees found this point in conflict
with teachers expectations. Mashael explains:

I always relate everything to my religion but I feel like foreigners,

in English speaking countries, they could choose fact I feel like
everything is correct, everything is right. Theres no other option.

Some interviewees believe that this strong tendency is not correctly

understood by their teachers and therefore these writers self-censure
their opinions: in college I think we cant write everything, when
we talk about religion if I write something about Islam the teacher
might not understand, so I dont write about it (Hala). Amal criticises
this practice by saying, sometimes I have a feeling like the rest of the
world is trying to learn English like understand the culture but I dont
I am not what you think I am 189

see that side to try to understand. Those interviewees who were critical
about the enforcement of standardised versions also criticised the wide-
spread use of English and its use as the medium of studies. Alaya states:

I think most Arabs think that when they get attached to English
they will become professors or whatever, but I dont think so. They
are the ones that [believe] the person who speaks English is more
modern, more civilized, you know how small minded people are
ya, because I think they planted this in their mind to be a good
productive person is to speak English.

This section reveals the rift between competing world views. Practicing
dominant discourses can lead to adoption of its ideologies; nevertheless
these novice writers also express their dissatisfaction with constructed


EFL novice writers are disadvantaged in many ways and their meaning-
ful participation in academic exchanges is limited by dominant codi-
fied systems supported by ideologies of native-speakerism. Pragmatic
approaches promoting the use of standards disregard the neo-liberal
and neo-essentialist roots of these orientations, which superficially
celebrate variety but in reality still maintain important essentialist
elements (Holliday 2011: 7). These elements still favour white, middle-
class cultural values privileges which are not extended to varieties
within Western cultures and beyond.
With the dominance of these discourses, the practice of writing shifts
its focus to form rather than content; consequently novice writers have
fewer opportunities to engage in a meaningful exchange of knowledge.
Secondly, student writers texts represent mainly what is expected of
them, instead of their real selves. Thus, the texts they produce are
more the sum of boundaries set instead of free expressions of thought.
These are also looked at, by many teachers, through the lens of native-
speakerism. Thus, novice writers issues in text construction are first and
foremost related to their cultural deficits. Finally, this blurred context
strips both writers and their audience of opportunities to learn from
each other and eliminate possible misunderstandings. These tensions
affect students identities as writers and attitudes towards the usefulness
of writing practices.
190 Nasima Yamchi

Participants in this study are in a challenging context. They have

to develop their academic literacy struggling within two standardised
frameworks: rigid forms of written Arabic with its distanced position
from more dynamic spoken dialects, which have constrained their
enthusiasm for writing in Arabic; and generic styles of English aca-
demic writing that restrict the styles used for presentation of thought,
and thus make even varieties which exist within Western academic
communities unavailable to these writers. It is in the context of these
complexities that novice writers texts, their choices and possible issues
in writing, as well as their positive or negative attitudes towards their
practice of writing should be understood.

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Perceptions of Alternative Research
Writing: Conjuring up Nostalgic
Modernism to Combat the Native
English Speaker and Non-native
English Speaker Differentiation
amongst TESOL Academics
William Sughrua

Based on a qualitative investigation, this chapter discusses perceptions

of alternative types of published research writing in Teaching English
to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) as related to the native
English speaker and non-native English speaker differentiation and
by extension the centre and periphery distinction when referring to
academics in TESOL. What do I mean by alternative research writing?
Pending further clarification below, and as emergent from the data of
the investigation, I define this writing as highly personalised and story-
like expression that occurs not within data extracts or quoted references
but throughout an empirically- and/or bibliographically-based article,
chapter, or monograph at large, such as within the discussion section.
To explore this alternative research writing in TESOL, I pose a research
question with two subparts: Within the TESOL community, (i) what
does this alternative research writing seem to be in terms of its types
and forms and as seen in published journal articles, chapters and mono-
graphs in TESOL, and (ii) how does this writing relate to or impact on
other concerns and issues within TESOL?
To address this question, I analysed the data generated from my semi-
structured interviews and email correspondence with 16 internationally-
renowned writers in TESOL as well as nine referees and four editors of
mainstream international journals in TESOL. The overriding perception
was that the preference for alternative research writing seems to depend
on the TESOL academics identification with what I term a nostalgic
modernist paradigm. The presence of this paradigm as a force rallying
194 William Sughrua

academics around the issue of alternality in published research writing

seems significant. For its stance of universality dispels or makes irrel-
evant the seemingly localised and potentially discriminatory descrip-
tors native English speaker, non-native English speaker, as well as
periphery and centre, when referring to academics in TESOL. This is
the conclusion reached in this chapter. I begin with relevant concepts.

Conceptual background

Underlying the above conclusion are the native English speaker and
non-native English speaker divide, the centre and periphery distinc-
tion, paradigm, and modernism. I now generally present and define
these concepts (this section) so as to provide a basis for my upcoming
analysis and discussion of the data (the next two sections). I begin with
the native speaker and non-native speaker distinction.
This distinction is widely used in TESOL (Doerr 2009a: 15). For
instance, the professional association TESOL includes a Nonnative
English Speakers in TESOL Interest Section (TESOL International
Association 2013; emphasis added); and implicit in this labelling is the
perceived division between the centre and periphery the centre
being associated with native English speakers, and the periphery,
with non-native English speakers (Braine 2014: vii; Phan 2008: 857).
However, various TESOL scholars have criticised this terminology as a
means to divide the worldwide range of English language educators. For
example, Samimy & Brutt-Griffler (1999) argue that this divide estab-
lishes a hierarchy based on English language proficiency and pertinent
cultural knowledge, with those English educators whose English is an
additional language (i.e. non-native English-speaking teachers) being
perceived by their colleagues and often by themselves as occupying the
lower levels of this hierarchy. Taking this hierarchy metaphor further,
Doerr (2009b) claims that once perceived as occupying the lower rungs
of the ladder, those bilingual or multilingual educators of English could
easily be subjected to work-related discrimination (6). This potentially
damaging distinction of native English speaker, non-native English
speaker, centre, and periphery within the interview and email data of
this investigation becomes overridden by an inclination towards a nos-
talgic modernist paradigm. This begs the question: What is a paradigm?
A paradigm can be considered a broad set of assumptions, beliefs,
and philosophies shared by people in a common endeavour, such as
those who conduct research within a particular community (Tuffin
2005: 59; citing Kuhn 1962/2012). For an academic community such
Perceptions of Alternative Research Writing 195

as TESOL, a paradigm helps to ensure that the community members

remain intellectually cohesive so as to dialogue constructively together
through academic work such as research articles, conference proceed-
ings, and course seminars (Hyland 2004). In other words, the schol-
arly work of an academic community takes on a collective resonance
because the scholars share a common vision of the world that is, a
paradigm. Now, what does this vision involve? Or, to put it another
way: What are the primary components of a paradigm?
These would be epistemology and ontology (Denzin & Lincoln
2011: 185). The first contemplates what knowledge is, and the second,
what reality or truth is. The first feeds into the second. For example,
perhaps the most pervasive type of epistemology is that called mod-
ernist (Eron 2014: 22730). Modernist epistemology emerged from the
eighteenth-century Enlightenment era in Europe, which depicted the
world as a dominant and subjugating force for the lone individual who,
by exerting her/his reason and judgment, could nevertheless come to
complete understandings of the world looming around and above her/
him (2014: 22730). Hence transcendental, modernist knowledge or
epistemology is something fixed and a priori that can be articulated only
by individual effort, primarily through the creation of art, literature,
philosophy and scientific writing (Canagarajah 2002: 54). At this point,
the epistemology crosses over into ontology, in the sense that modern-
ist knowledge evolves into an uncompromised belief in pre-existing
truths that emancipate the individual from mundane living (Gillies &
Alldred 2012: 478). The modernist ontology, as a result, views reality
or truth as a certitude that one must accept or mediate. Examples of
such certitudes would be religion and governance: what many call
modernist grand narratives or social orders (e.g. Barker 2003: 1920;
McGowan 2007: 367).
In contrast to modernism is postmodern epistemology and ontol-
ogy. At the onset of industrialization, secularization, and urbanization
emerging from the wake of French revolution in the 1790s (Zafirovski
2010: 288), knowledge became considered as contextualised within
material, historical, and social conditions (Canagarajah 2002: 546,
59). As a result, for many, knowing was no longer synonymous to the
modernist notion of transcending but rather with the now emergent
postmodernist notion of understanding day-to-day life. Consequently
evolving into sense of scepticism towards all universal causes and a
loss of certainty about all absolutes, whether spiritual, moral, political
or ideological (Baxter 2007: 56), postmodernist epistemology affected
an ontology viewing reality or truth as incertitude.
196 William Sughrua

One would look mainly to the ontological and epistemological spaces

within the paradigm in order to typify the paradigm. Consequently, as
based on the above, one can refer to a modernist paradigm as well as
a postmodernist paradigm amongst other paradigms, such as social
constructionist paradigm and feminist paradigm, pursuant to onto-
logical and epistemological formations different from those discussed
above (e.g. Denzin & Lincoln 2011; Gillies & Alldred 2012: 48).
It is the postmodernist paradigm, rather than its nemesis the mod-
ernist paradigm, that seems currently favoured by the TESOL com-
munity (Pennycook 2004, 2012). For instance, Kumaravadivelu argues
that English language teaching methodology is entering a post stage
whereby a decentralised and localised syllabus (i.e. in accordance with
a postmodernist paradigm) would be more advantageous for students
than would the universalised functional-notional syllabus (i.e. modern-
ist paradigm) that began in the early 1970s and continues to operate
today, though seemingly out of inertia (2008). That said, however, a
disposition towards a modernist paradigm seems evident in the two
significant perceptions of alternative research writing which surfaced in
the interview and email data of my investigation.


Before I work through the email and interview data pertaining to how
the TESOL writers, journal referees and journal editors perceive alterna-
tive writing in terms of related issues (i.e. research question subpart ii;
above), I first offer a summary of what they think this alternative writ-
ing seems to be, in terms of its types and forms (i.e. research question
subpart i; above). This first part of the analysis is in summative form.

i. Alternative research writing in TESOL is generally referred to as

(alternately) story and narrative, as produced by the writer or
researcher her/himself; as opposed to the participant(s) who, for
instance, may generate story-like data extracts from interviews.
ii. Within these umbrella types story and narrative (i above), alter-
native research writing is more specifically described as: (a) literary,
(b) journalistic, (c) anecdotal, and (d) autobiographical.
iii. The specific types (a), (b), (c), and (d) (ii above) are separate as well
as overlapping.
iv. The general and specific types (iiii above), individually or in
different combinations, create the forms. These are identifiable
Perceptions of Alternative Research Writing 197

constructs of alternative writing seemingly specific to TESOL. At

least three forms seem evident.
(a) I as researcher: a written text undertaking qualitative research
and presented in the first-person with the author elaborating on
her/his experiential and intellectual role in the research process.
(b) Third-person vignette: a short piece of writing that is fictional-
ised in the sense of placing invented characters (referred to by
name and she/he) within a scene evoking time, place, and
(c) Author as thinker: a written text that has no empirical data;
that has few, if any, bibliographic references; and that some-
how profiles the authors mind and way of thinking (e.g.
Widdowsons writing, as mentioned by one of the participants).
v. The above general types, specific types, and forms of alternative
writing in TESOL (iiv above) become research-oriented when they
integrate within the standardised sections of a research paper such
as those normally reserved for a literature review, research method-
ology, and discussion.

If the above approximately defines alternative research writing in

TESOL, then what do the writers, referees, and editors think about this
writing? What issues do they associate with it?

First perception
This perception holds that TESOL academics on the periphery, who
are so-called non-native English speakers, would have an inclination
towards alternative research writing such as those types and forms
referred to above. To reconstruct this, I first refer to participant Bertina,
a referee at an international mainstream journal in TESOL. (The name
used here is a pseudonym; the same goes for the names of all the other
participants.) Bertina says:

Personally, I have no experience of reviewing any articles that

include this kind of discussion [i.e. alternative-oriented types or
forms] My own feeling is that we should continue to move toward
the work of off-networked scholars and different backgrounds which
may well bring up some of [these] issues. (Email communication)

Bertina apparently would like to see her journal publish either

alternative-oriented articles or standard articles treating issues of
198 William Sughrua

alternative writing, or perhaps both. She suggests that, in order to do

so, the journal needs to market itself with those scholars of different
backgrounds who are located outside of the network or centre. She
further suggests that the prevalence of standard academic articles in her
journal owes to the fact that those publishing in the journal are native
English speaking writers based in the centre. This implies that alterna-
tive research writing in TESOL somehow corresponds much more to the
periphery than the centre.
The same seems conveyed by journal editor Harold:

If youre involved in a big journal like [ Journal X], people are

always saying to the editorial panel, We need more articles from
bigger variety of places around the world. Right? But we get a lot
of submissions from various places: China, Asian countries, Africa,
and so on. And they all get rejected. But the reason is, of course, is
that they are being told to conform to Western generic standards.
So if you really want these people in, an argument would be to have
a different kind of article, you know, with different characteristics.

This different kind of article expected from periphery writers seems

to be that which Harold later refers to as experimental writing in the
sense of innovation:

I asked you earlier if this [i.e. alternative research writing] is national

or international. I think its an international phenomenon. So, in the
big centres of academic excellence, as they call it, this is a very strong
phenomenon. Im using these terms in single quotes [because] I dont
know if they are centres of academic excellence. And I was going
to say, while on the periphery but Im not sure what I mean by
periphery but there, you get more experimental writing. (Interview)

Harolds notion of experimental implies non-experimental, which

itself connotes something standardised; the result of which in the
present context is alternative versus standard academic writing. This
alternative writing is stated by Harold to be prevalent on the periph-
ery. Admitting uncertainty about the term periphery, Harold seems
to refer to large research universities located in the West (e.g. the UK)
whose departments include international faculty members undertaking
internationally-pertinent research. If alternative writing were to emerge
in the academy as Harold suggests it would generally be on the part
Perceptions of Alternative Research Writing 199

of such periphery writers rather than Western or centre writers. Why

might this be the case? Harold continues:

Youve got people who are so successful within the terms of the aca-
demic establishment that they can bring a little bit of autobiography
or fantasy into their writing But then youve got people who just
do it to be quite blunt about it. I edit a journal, and we get articles
from certain parts of the world where the person just doesnt realize
what the academic conventions are. So theyre not breaking them in
a deliberate way. They just dont know. (Interview)

Harold conveys that those manuscripts submitted by TESOL writers on

the periphery (i.e. certain parts of the world) use alternative forms such
as autobiography out of default. That is, by not having what another
journal editor (Robert) calls knowledge of the style and knowledge of
the presentation expected by the particular journal (interview), these
periphery writers submitting manuscripts to Harolds journal auto-
matically fall back on (for instance) an autobiographical or anecdotal
account of their experiences as teachers rather than an analysis of action
research-generated data. Indirectly, then, this suggests that alternative
forms such as autobiography and anecdote, as automatic fall back
positions, are already in place within periphery contexts. This default
status of alternative writing gives the impression that alternative writing
is ever-present or on reserve for periphery writers in TESOL.
In summary, the above data pertaining to participants Bertina, Harold,
and Robert evoke the view that the periphery seems to be distinguished
from the centre according to an apparent predisposition towards alter-
native research writing in TESOL. This conclusion may at first seem
overly generalised, as it is based on a minimal number of the total 29
research participants. However, as discussed below, my performative
type of data analysis does not distinguish between minority and major-
ity participant representation. The same disclaimer would also hold for
the next perception, which corresponds to only six participants.

Second perception
This regards emotive responses to alternative research writing. Admitting
to bend[ing] the rules linguistically and produc[ing] alternative nar-
ratives, participant Kenneth as a [TESOL] writer like[s] to dance with
language (email communication, emphasis added). One could wonder:
What is it about his alternative writing that makes Kenneth dance? He
does not say. Nor does another TESOL writer (Ansel) say what would be
200 William Sughrua

enjoyable about his recently published short article based on a single

anecdote. Ansel writes: For your enjoyment, I am attaching something I
wrote recently for the newsletter in TESOL. I enjoy this style of writing
a lot more than the typical style and format required by academic jour-
nals (emphasis added). Here Ansel apparently hopes that I, as reader,
will feel the same enjoyment reading the paper that he felt as writer
when writing it. Ansel then reiterates this sense of enjoyment as to his
preference for anecdotal discussions of teaching issues:

The volume by Belcher & Connor (2001) is also a book I enjoyed.

Miyuki Sasakis chapter on how she composes journals articles in
Japanese and painstakingly translates them into English is a treat.
(Email communication, emphasis added)

Perhaps more intense than the enjoyment felt by Ansel and the libera-
tion felt by Kenneth (above) is the impression left by Kubotas appar-
ently alternative-oriented article The Story of Barbara on participant
Ignacio, a TESOL writer who, like the other participants, is internation-
ally renowned. Ignacio says:

Another experience is Ryuko Kubotas article in which she tells

the story of three friends sitting in cafs . Its called The Story of
Barbara I thought it was beautiful, and it inspired me to do the
things that I am doing now. (Interview, emphasis added)

The beauty of The Story of Barbara seems to have some sort of holistic
impact on Ignacio. He does not seem readily able or willing to articulate
this beauty according to its component parts. For instance, I wonder:
could this beauty be due to the cadence of the dialogue, the caf set-
ting, or the interweaving of scenic development with bibliographic
references? Ignacio does not say. He leaves me with the sense of this
undefined beauty of Kubotas article as having had such impact on
him that it alone has inspired some of his current writing projects.
Likewise, participant Omar, another TESOL writer, is inspired by the
three-page Ravi vignette at the start of Canagarajahs Resisting Linguistic
Imperialism in English Teaching (1999). Omar seems personally moved
by the Ravi vignette, as evident in my interview with him. (I, as inter-
viewer, am Bill.)

Bill: He [Canagarajah] begins with italics, talking about one of his

Perceptions of Alternative Research Writing 201

Omar: Thats what I was thinking about.

Bill: when he was in adolescence.
Omar: Yeah, thats what I was thinking about. That kind of vivid
thing. That was a very daring thing, I think. And that works.
I thought that would carry well It stuck out, when I read
that. I thought there arent too many people doing this.
Bill: Right.
Omar: And when I wrote [my next] book that was very much
kind of from the heart. It was kind of inspired by the Canagarajah
book and maybe a couple other things Ive read.
(Interview, emphasis added)

Both Omar and Ignacio being inspired by alternative works; Omar

writing from the heart; Ignacio emphatically declaring beauty; Ansel
stressing enjoyment; and Kenneth finding himself in a metaphoric
dance: For all this, I could not find in the data related to these par-
ticipants any articulated reason or further specificity, simply because
the participants themselves did not elaborate any further during the
interviews or in the emails.
On a parallel level, I am struck by TESOL writer Jazhibes reference to
the kind of almost ritual, incantatory power that powerful forms of
discourse have (email communication). I also find intriguing Omars
pithy comment that the Ravi vignette works (above excerpt). But in
what sense does the vignette work? Omar doesnt say. Equally unsub-
stantiated yet striking for me is journal editor Charles use of the same
term when he generally ponders a future place for alternative academic
writing in TESOL journals such as the one he edits: The proof of the
pudding is in the eating depends if it works (email, emphasis added).
This sense of alternative writing working, the ritual, incantatory
power, and the emotive reactions (above) emerge repeatedly in the
data as is without explanation or definition. The only commonality or
connection between them simply seems that each illustrates that alter-
native research writing has a certain impact that captivates the reader
and hence works by activating certain affective triggers, such as those
felt by Kenneth, Ansel, Ignacio, Omar, Jazihbe, and Charles above.

Putting both perceptions together

Allow me to synopsise both perceptions as constructed above. The first
is that alternative research writing seems favoured by TESOL scholars
who are so-called non-native English speakers and by extension associ-
ated with the periphery, and apparently disfavoured by those TESOL
202 William Sughrua

scholars who are so-called native English speakers and thus associated
with the centre. The second perception is that alternative research
writing appeals to TESOL scholars based on a personally-felt but inde-
scribable impact, sense of working, and emotional engagement.
Granted, one could deem these two perspectives weak or unfounded
because they are based on a quite limited number of participants out
of the general pool of participants in the interviews and email cor-
respondence: for the first perception, three participants; and for the
second perception, six participants. My intention, however, is not to
present the nine participants underlying the above two perceptions as
representative of the total 29 participants involved in the investigation.
Rather, I consider these nine participants as helping to construct or
spin off just one of many possible data interpretations inherent in my
overall investigation. This would be in line with a performative type
of data analysis.
Generally considered a specific type of qualitative research (e.g.
Holloway & Wheeler 2010: 334), performative research is expressed in
forms of symbolic data other than words in a discursive text, such
as material forms of practice, of still and moving images, of music and
sound (Haseman 2010: 151). Though not as dramatically or sensori-
ally based as that conveyed in the previous definition, my data analysis
takes on a performative edge in that it disengages and separates the
above two perceptions from the rest of the data. As a result, I place
the two perceptions on their own stages; and I imagine them as one
rhetorical statement or argument, as if an utterance in a one-act play or
debate. This, for me, becomes a unique social reality distinct from that
which had motivated me to undertake the research (Holliday 2007: 20,
9192). In this performative sense, therefore, I see the first perception
setting forth one premise that is overruled or disqualified by the second
The first perception plays devils advocate, feigning its aggressive
stance so as to push for a reaction or definitive perspective, which is
provided by the second perception. Consequently, the first perception,
that of devils advocate, conveys that non-native English speakers
largely prefer alternative academic writing over standard academic writ-
ing, while native English speakers largely prefer standard academic
writing over alternative academic writing. This perception neatly clas-
sifies alternality and standardness in TESOL research writing accord-
ing to the native English speaker and non-native English speaker
divide and by consequence the centre and periphery distinction. As
such, the perception could readily be dismissed as stereotypical and
Perceptions of Alternative Research Writing 203

discriminatory in the way it implicitly pigeonholes personal preferences

according to nationality and ethnicity. However, rather than outright
discarding this perception, one could take it as self-ironising or tongue-
in-cheek. In other words, it seems intentionally flawed so as to stir up a
reaction and hence a constructive position on the issue.
This position is conveyed by the second perception a type of good
cop to the bad cop of the previous perception, as if a staged routine.
In rebuttal, this second perception debunks the first. It strongly sug-
gests that if TESOL scholars were to feel drawn to alternality in research
writing, it would not be due to their language repertoire nor nation-
affiliation, but rather due to a commonly shared sense of affective
engagement. This affectivity involves the TESOL scholar feeling some
type of wholeness or wonder in the alternative writing which in
turn inspires or moves the scholar in a manner that the scholar her/
himself cannot fully describe (above). To me, this relates to modern-
ism. As discussed above, modernism regards a belief in a something
located securely beyond the corruptions of worldly comprehension
(McGowan 2007: 36).
Accordingly, then, this one-act play or rhetorical performance of the
tandem perceptions reaches its finale. It closes with the soliloquy or
statement that (1) the TESOL scholars preference for alternality over
standardisation in research writing seems dependent upon a modernist
sensibility that can be shared equally across the worldwide TESOL com-
munity, regardless of any alleged native English speaker, non-native
English speaker, centre, or periphery distinction; that (2) such dis-
tinctions, by the way, seem quite vulnerable to rhetorical dismissal (i.e.
the second statement readily overpowering the first) and hence seem
inconsequential and weakly-founded in the first place; and that (3)
these distinctions, anyway, would be cancelled out because the mod-
ernist sensibility underlying this issue of alternative writing preferences
is guided by a universalism that would deem irrelevant any locally- or
geographically-bound labels such as native and non-native. Now,
what is meant by this universality? And how can modernism be more
specifically described and then further articulated within the context of
the above three-part statement?


I admit that my contention of modernism in the above statement

could be weak on at least two points. First of all, one cannot necessar-
ily discount the postmodernist tendency within TESOL. As mentioned
204 William Sughrua

previously, much of the current TESOL literature follows the postmod-

ernist creed to not take the accepted and assumed for granted, and
to resist established practice. One example is the call for a reconsidered
teaching ethos aspiring towards social liberation through language
(e.g. Clemente & Higgins 2008; Pennycook 2004, 2012). This apparent
postmodern fervour within TESOL would negate or at least marginalise
my contention of a modernist paradigm.
Second, if those universalised narratives or protocols created by
modernism can be identified and described (e.g. gender, democracy),
then how could the mostly undefinable and indescribable protocols
emergent from my data (e.g. enjoyment, beauty) be considered mod-
ernist? For this second and final assumed objection I have an answer;
and that answer renders both objections moot. To begin, I concede that
the universal discourses or protocols surfacing from perception two
of my data analysis are largely inarticulable. The participants identify
an approximate description of what they feel from the alternative
research writing (e.g. being inspired); and they can go no further. Such
a discourse or protocol of emotional or soul-stirring could be deemed
universal; however, it would not be modernist in the strictest sense.
For instance, if it were to be articulated in a more specific way, such as
patriotic, then that could be considered modernist. The very vague-
ness of the emotionality (e.g. inspired in what way?), however, evi-
dences that the individual is pushing her or himself and trying to move
towards some understanding or ideal. This abstract sense of movement
towards some unseen yet assumedly a priori point refers to what seems
the middle space of the modernism versus postmodernism binary.
This follows from the social philosophical work of Adorno (1951/1978,
with Horkheimer 1947/2002). In particular, Edgar & Sedgwick (1995)
draw from Adorno in order to argue that the objective of postmodernism
to attack the modernist notion of a single form of reason as universal
is commendable; but that postmodernism went too far. By interjecting
uncertainty about all things taken-for-granted, Edgar and Sedgwick
argue, postmodernism has invalidated the Enlightenment ideals of
human emancipation and thus serves the very reproduction of those
repressive practices of the modernism that it has replaced (1995: 1003).
The argument, therefore, is that there is a transitional space between
modernism and postmodernism that has been bypassed (Toth 2010:
236). This space exists beyond the single given reality of modernism
but not yet at the extreme of the total uncertainty of postmodernism
(Edgar & Sedgwick 1995). This space contains traces of a given reality
or realities, such as emancipation, which one can never fully grasp but
Perceptions of Alternative Research Writing 205

only move toward in a seemingly endless effort to grasp and understand

this reality (1995). Adorno (1951/1978) refers to this as longing a sort
of space between modernism and postmodernism where some sense
of an a priori universalised sensibility (e.g. the goal of non-suffering
[Archer 2011: xiii]) would dwell.
This revived Adorno-esque ideology has echoes within current social
science research. For instance, Fielding (2012) promotes the nuanced
conceptions of flexibility and rigor between the conventional meth-
odology of modernism and the anything goes of postmodernism
(146). Similarly, in terms of my investigation, I see the participants
with regard to the second perception emergent from the data analysis
as manoeuvring between the poles of modernism and postmodernism.
As discussed above, alternative research writing impacts the participants
in the sense that they move or will themselves forward towards
something life-affirming. In this sense, they step out of the strictly
modernist paradigm and situate themselves within the middle space
of the modernism versus postmodernism binary, which can be called
longing (Adorno 1951/1978, above). Following on from this, I call this
middle space on the binary nostalgic modernism, simply because to
me this term is more indicative of being situated at a midpoint between
modernism and postmodernism.
With the potential binary-related objection now resolved, I amend
my previous three-part statement to emphasise that the preference for
alternative writing in TESOL involves adherence not to a generalised
modernist paradigm but rather to a nostalgic modernist paradigm.
This paradigm seems not the direct antagonist of the currently favoured
postmodernist paradigm in TESOL but rather a negotiated version
of that paradigm. Regardless, as Kuhn would contend, any academic
community, such as that of TESOL, should welcome resistance and
divergence, which ultimately are healthy for the continued dialogue
of the community (1977). This resolves the first objection, that of the
prevalence of postmodernism in TESOL.
I now rephrase and synopsise the entire statement made at the end of
the analysis (above) and thereby set forth the final conclusion: A TESOL
scholars preference for alternative research writing seems dependent on
whether she/he perceives nostalgic modernist protocols and connects
with them. This suggests that those who prefer alternative research
writing subscribe to a nostalgic modernist paradigm. Because the
modernist features of this paradigm would involve universality with-
out any distinction such as nation-affiliation (Gillies & Alldred 2012:
4748; McGowan 2007: 36), this paradigmatic space renders completely
206 William Sughrua

irrelevant those labels such as native English speaker, non-native

English speaker, centre, and periphery. In the second section of this
chapter, I refer to these labels as arbitrary and potentially discriminatory
and prejudicial. Certainly, that premise could be contested. However,
even in the face of arguments alleging neutrality within the native
English speaker, non-native English speaker, centre, and periphery
labels, the nostalgic modernist paradigm would make such a contro-
versy irrelevant. For it would simply, at least for those involved in the
issue of alternative research writing, not recognise such labels because
of their localness.


Alternative research writing in TESOL is generally perceived as story-like

writing; more specifically, it is seen as certain types, such as inter-genre
literary and autobiography, as well as forms, such as third-person
vignette and author as thinker. Not to be confused with story-like data
extracts of qualitative research, this writing is the author or researchers
own narrative that extends itself, to different degrees, throughout the
commonly considered standardised sections of a journal article, chap-
ter, or monograph, such as methodology and discussion. Based on a
qualitative research methodology involving semi-structured interviews
and email correspondence with internationally-renowned writers, jour-
nal referees, and journal editors in TESOL, and performatively consid-
ering two related perceptions emergent from the data, this chapter has
concluded that preferences for this alternative research writing reveal a
nostalgic modernist paradigm within TESOL. This paradigm provides a
space in which academics can be seen, and indeed can see themselves,
without the apparently unnecessary and potentially discriminatory
distinctions of native versus non-native English speaker and, by exten-
sion, centre versus periphery. Although this nostalgic modernist para-
digm has come about in the present investigation by way of perceptions
of alternative research writing, by no means would this paradigm be
limited to the issue of writing practices within TESOL. Rather, its liberat-
ing pathways could extend throughout other concerns within TESOL.

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Atkinson, P. 97 Chase, G. 187
Autobiography 36, 196, 199, 206 Clandinin, D. J. 111
Ayka, . 172 Clemente, A. 22, 31, 204
Clifford, J. 29
Barker, C. 195 Communicative language
Barkhuizen, G. 111 teaching 22, 59, 63, 64, 658, 73,
Barnawi, O. 182 769, 82, 83, 84, 89, 11718, 147,
Baxter, A. 28 152
Baxter, J. 195 Condon, J. 114
Beck, U. 18 Confidence 31, 32, 34, 45, 49, 59
Bell, J. 111 Connelly, M. 111
Benesch, S. 106, 162, 180 Constructivism 26, 30, 34
Berkenkotter, C. 178 Context 1, 56, 37, 53, 59, 6371,
Bernaschina, P. 173 756, 78, 939, 1012, 1045,
Berwick, R. 127 1078, 11011, 11720, 122, 1259,
Biao, Z. 128 1325, 1378, 149, 1612, 169, 171,
Bilingual 6, 14, 62, 71, 98, 103, 106, 1745, 1779, 181, 183, 186, 189,
1412, 155, 164, 194 195, 1989, 203
Blackman, S. J. 29 Costino, K. A. 106
Block, D. 29, 93, 94, 989, 1045, Critical thinking 7, 132, 134, 138,
128 172, 17881, 1834
Blythman, M. 163, 173 Crystal, D. 44

210 Index

Culture 1, 27, 1123, 2637, 434, Ganobcsik-Williams, L. 163

46, 54, 62, 64, 6673, 75, 81, 87, 89, Gardner, R. 1489
93, 96, 989, 1046, 110, 11416, Geertz, C. 38
1201, 12434, 1368, 1425, 148, Giddens, A. 56
150, 1535, 1615, 167, 17089 Gillies, V. 1956, 205
Gilroy, P. 56
Davidar, D. 21 Globalisation 6, 556, 74, 107, 126,
Davies, A. 434 1323, 136, 141
Davies, P. 120 Glynos, J. 28
Dearing Report 180 Gong, Y. 14
de Block, L. 98 Goodson, I. 27, 111
Delanty, G. 18, 166, 172 Graddol, D. 44, 53, 178
Denzin, N. K. 29, 37, 97, 126, 195 Grimshaw, T. 28
Diaspora 14, 107, 173 Gruber, S. 127
Discourses 12, 4, 15, 1720, 269, Guba, E. G. 19, 125
313, 356, 43, 467, 49, 83, 89, Gubrium, J. F. 29
10910, 121, 126, 1289, 1368, Guest, M. 132
165, 167, 169, 1714, 17781, 185, Guilherme, M. 120
187, 189, 201, 204
Discrimination 7, 13, 1518, 110, Hadley, G. 162
117, 126, 12930, 132, 172, 180, Hall, S. 1819, 21, 28
194, 203, 206 Hammersly, M. 97
Doerr, M. N. 194 Harris, R. 1645
Du, H. 64 Harwood, N. 162
Duff, P. 94, 98 Haseman, B. 20
Duncan, M. 180 Hayes, D. 63
Heller, M. 150
EAP 162, 173 Hierarchies 121, 172, 194
Eron, S. 195 Higgins, M. 22, 31, 204
Essentialism, non-essentialism 31, Hill, R. 150
34, 98, 104, 125, 1279, 133, 137, Hinds, J. 183
154, 169, 172, 174, 184, 189 Holliday, A. 1, 4, 1115, 1822,
Esteem 30, 32, 77, 117, 146, 151, 183 269, 336, 43, 64, 75, 934, 97,
Ethnicity 102, 105, 109, 110, 120, 110, 124, 126, 1289, 143, 1612,
121, 122, 166, 172, 203 166, 172, 17782, 187, 189, 202
Ethnography 20, 212, 31, 34, Holloway, I. 202
1634, 178 Holloway, W. 823
Evetts, J. 187 Holstein, J. A. 29
Hong, Y. 143
Faez, F. 106 Horkheimer, M. 204
Fairclough, N. 28 Horowitz, D. 180
Fell, C. 6, 14, 141 Houghton, S. 15, 187
Fielding, N. 205 Huckin, T. 198
Fisher, A. 181 Hyland, K. 195
Foreign 6, 14, 16, 18, 314, 44, Hyon, S. 106
60, 635, 689, 713, 86, 11214,
11620, 130, 150, 154, 156, 179, Identity 56, 14, 17, 34, 4350,
1856, 188 536, 5960, 68, 71, 73, 84, 936,
Freed, B. F. 94 98100, 1047, 10911, 11317,
Index 211

1201, 126, 128, 136, 1414, Leki, I. 180

14956, 163, 165, 167, 16970, Lengeling, M. 13, 29, 120
172, 174, 189 Lewis, C. 169
Ideology 15, 1113, 1720, 22, 26, Lillis, T. 1624, 181
2830, 43, 65, 73, 89, 94, 102, Lin, A. M. Y. 13, 28
1067, 110, 112, 11718, 1212, Lincoln, Y. S. 19, 29, 1256, 1956
1245, 127, 12930, 133, 136, Liu, L. 183
1613, 17780, 187, 189, 185, 205 Llurda, F. 1, 3, 17, 29, 43
Inequality 121, 128, 164 Lortie, D. 88
Ivanic, R. 177, 185
Mahboob, A. 1, 43, 48
Jefferson, T. 823 Marshall, D. 163, 171
Jenkins, J. 17, 44, 52, 1534 Martin, A. 127
Johnston, B. 181 Matsuda, P. 164, 173
Matsumoto, K. 127
Kabel, A. 110, 121 McDowell, L. 124
Kachru, B. 23, 52 McGowan, K. 195, 203, 205
Kamberlis, Q. 180 McKinney, C. 178
Kaplan, R. 183 Medgyes, P. 18, 21
Kapoor, D. 178 Menard-Warwick, J. 133
Kelchtermans, G. 85 Merrill, B. 37
Ketter, J. 169 Migrants 6, 39, 478, 93, 959,
Kibler, A. 180 1012, 1045, 107, 122, 141, 149,
Kidd, W. 110 161, 168
Kim, M. -S. 13, 28 Miller, E. R. 27
Kirkpartick, A. 44, 178 Mochizuki, T. 75
Knight, P. T. 180 Modernism 1722, 94, 99, 1067,
Kubota, R. 1, 13, 19, 28, 43, 172, 1936, 2036
184, 200 Montgomery, C. 124, 129, 132
Kuhn, D. 180 Moon, D. G. 13
Kuhn, T. S. 205 Moon, J. A. 181
Kumaravadivelu, B. 12, 1115, Mora Pablo, I. 6, 1314, 19, 29, 31
1720, 23, 26, 28, 64, 74, 81, 1267, Moussu, L. 1, 3, 17, 29, 43
179, 196 Multilingual 5, 16, 22, 59, 68, 71,
Kvale, S. 125 734, 978, 106, 1613, 165, 171,
Labelling 26, 1119, 2122, 31, 43,
934, 989, 101, 10410, 11213, Nakamura, I. 111
11722, 136, 154, 156, 1612, Nayar, B. 28, 43
1689, 1714, 178, 194, 203, 206 Nero, S. 162
Lambert-Sen, M. 1467, 1501 Nomura, K. 75
Lambert, W. 1489 Non-traditional students 67, 1623,
Language support 135, 161, 1634, 1656, 169, 171, 1734
1734 Norton Peirce, B. 94, 98, 101, 1413,
Lantolf, J. 143, 154 146, 14851, 168
Lave, J. 152
Lavia, J. 1734 Odeniyi, V. 67, 169
Lazar, G. 173 Okpewho, I. 161
Le Ha, P. 114 Omoniyi, T. 1534
212 Index

Orr, S. 173 Soliday, M. 174

Ortmeier-Hooper, C. 106 Spears, A. K. 12, 172
Othering 1, 6, 15, 20, 28, 53, 55, 81, Spradley, J. P. 28, 334, 367
110, 11415, 11920, 125, 128, 130, Street, B. 163
136, 1378, 161, 163, 167, 16973, Swan, A. 5, 14, 22, 66, 72
1778, 1878 Sznaider, N. 18

Pavlenko, A. 143, 154 Thick description 4, 20, 367

Pennycook, A. 13, 28, 43, 52, 64, Thomson, M. 102
162, 177, 196, 204 Thornbury, S. 48, 50
Periphery (See Centre and Periphery) Thornton, R. J. 37
Phan, L. H. 194 Toth, J. 204
Phillipson, R. 12, 43, 75 Tsui, A. 678
Piller, I. 141 Tuffin, K. 194
Postmodern 4, 1920, 22, 26, 2930,
956, 99, 1067, 1246, 1956, Universities 6, 14, 19, 22, 26, 31,
2035 62, 67, 69, 72, 99, 1034, 109,
Prejudice 7, 11, 19, 23, 289, 32, 43, 111, 1247, 1347, 1615, 16974,
117, 132 17880, 185, 198

Qi, X. 183 Velasco, J. 109

Qualitative research 29, 34, 368, Vertovec, S. 98
93, 95, 106, 125, 193, 197, 202, 206
Walelign, A. 44
Race 4, 11, 13, 1516, 1819, 22, Waters, A. 3
289, 166, 168, 172, 174, 178, 187 Wenger, E. 152
Rajagopalan, K. 1, 16, 43 West, L. 37
Ramanathan, V. 182 The West 67, 1113, 1819, 21,
Ross, S. 127 323, 64, 667, 75, 77, 109, 119,
Roulston, K. 35 1245, 127, 1312, 136, 161, 166,
16970, 1723, 17881, 1834,
Said, E. 185 18990, 1989
Samimy, R. 194 Wheeler, S. 202
Saraceni, M. 23 Whiteness 16, 47, 112, 121, 1667,
Scheurich, J. J. 126 172, 189
School 5, 14, 45, 556, 601, 65, Wiley, M. 180
757, 85, 878, 99100, 115, 120, Wodak, R. 19
1345, 1467, 156, 170, 185 Wong, S. 121
Scott, K. D. 180 Woodward, K. 55
Scott, M. 163 Wu, Z. 22
Selvadurai, S. 21
Shafer, G. 181 Yamchi, N. 67
Shao, T. 13 Yazan, B. 14
Sheikh bin Mubarak, N. 187 Yorke, M. 180
Shuck, G. 13
Siegel, J. 97 Zancanella, D. 126
Skeggs, B. 110 Zeleza, P. T. 173
Smedley, A. 120 Zhu, H. 128
Smith S. 173 Zoller, U. 132