Tag Archives: accents

Qualification required: Native English speaker

Join our team of friendly gynecologists! If you’re female, we’re looking for people like you! A degree in medicine is preferred, but not required. Apply today and begin a new rewarding career!

Let’s hope we will never see job ads like that in the medical field. No one in their right mind would think that just being female will make you a good gynecologist.  So why do so many TEFL job ad writers think being a native speaker makes you a good teacher? Seriously. In the above announcement replace “gynecologists”, “female”, and “medicine” with “teachers”, “native speaker”, and “teaching English” and you’ve got the meat of far too many ELT job announcements.

This is a serious issue in our field, generally not among the teachers themselves (thankfully!) but among the people recruiting the teachers (and hence paying the salaries). For some reason recruiters, especially in private language-training centers, have come to confuse teaching qualifications and birth certificates. This is one of the biggest shames in our field if you ask me because being a native speaker is NOT a sign of one’s ability to teach the language well. It is not even a guarantee that the (native) English taught will correspond to the English that will be encountered outside of the classroom. I, for example, am American but the vast majority of my trainees don’t do business with Americans. They use English with Chinese, German, Indian, Scottish, and Brazilian suppliers and colleagues. My American-ness is not of any added value here. I don’t know much about those countries’ business cultures, I don’t speak with any accent other than my own American accent and my native English certainly differs from that of a Scot or an Indian. So why is it fair that I would likely be preferred over a Polish or Hungarian EFL teacher with similar qualifications? It isn’t fair. Period.

Nowadays, native speakers no longer are the majority users of English. So why do recruiters specifically seek out native speakers over non-natives with equal qualifications? To be honest, I don’t know. Perhaps it’s a way for recruiters’ to hide their own lack of knowledge of the field’s teaching qualifications. Between the CELTA, DELTA, Trinity DipTESOL, M.A.s in TESOL, and the whole gamut of sketchy “TEFL certifications” out there it’s no wonder that it’s just easier to slap “seeking qualified native speaker” on a job ad and leave it at that. The lack of clear professional qualifications within our field has led to an ersatz discriminatory qualification of “native speaker.”

I just ran a quick search for “TEFL job ads” and clicked on a few random ones that were posted on a few popular ELT sites. Here are some of the requirements I found (get ready to cringe):

  • Native-level intonation, accent, and pronunciation  (Which native accent?)
  • Requirements: teaching experience, degree in any field, British, American, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, Irish, South African or South American Passport holders (what a clever way of avoiding saying “native speaker”. At least it technically leaves the door open to dual citizens!)
  • We are looking for CELTA / TEFL qualified native English teachers to join our team
  • We are looking for native speakers of English to join our friendly teams
  • Qualifications required: Native English Speaker, some knowledge of Spanish

Of course some of the ads from which these examples are taken also mentioned teaching experience and/or teaching diplomas so at least they’re not stopping at “native speaker” as the only qualification. It’s the fact that “native speaker” is included as a qualification that irks me. Sure, arguments can be made that native speakers bring their cultural background and that they have intimate knowledge of their home culture. Sure but so do non-native speakers and if the learner is a French guy who is going to work mostly with Chinese businesspeople, what use–culturally speaking–is a teacher from England?

And I’m not claiming that ONLY teachers with recognized certifications or diplomas make good teachers. There are plenty of good teachers who got to where they are through experience, reflective practice, and participating in continuous professional development opportunities such as conferences, workshops, and webinars. It’s a damn shame that these people may automatically have their CV sent to the bin (or is that “have their resumé sent to the trash can”?) because they weren’t born in the right country.

TESOL France recently issued a message to employers who send announcements out on their Jobs List discouraging them from using “native speaker” in their announcements, explaining that trained, professional non-native teachers can be just as effective (if not more so) than native speaker teachers. This measure was unanimously applauded by the ELT teaching community on Facebook (which is rich in both native and non-native speakers 🙂 I hope other organizations who provide job ad services also practice this, even if they don’t yet have a formal statement on the issue. We as teachers can also be stewards for fair recruitment policies by addressing the issue with our hiring managers, by encouraging our schools/companies to seek out high-quality teachers who can show proof of their training and/or development, and by explaining why this is more important than the hollow requirement that one be a native speaker to teach a language.

I do have an idea as to why “native speaker” has wrongfully come to be seen as a qualification. It follows in the footsteps of why use of learners’ L1 became a taboo for much of the 20th century. But that, my friends, is for the next blog post!

P.S. There was a great post written recently on this same subject by Marek Kiczkowiak on his blog I see that it has been removed because it’s awaiting publication in the TESOL newsletter and in the Winter 2015 edition of the TESOL France magazine “Teaching Times”, which is fantastic. He says a link to the article will be published on his blog at a later date, but in the meantime, you can still read the many comments on the original post.


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ELT audio resources: a long (but surely incomplete) list


Courtesy of ELTpics

Learners need lots of listening practice, no doubt about that. Practice makes perfect as they say, so the logic follows that the more learners are exposed to aural input, the better they’ll get at understanding it. Not just any input though.

I’m always surprised how, during our needs analysis and discussion of how learners can help themselves improve their listening skills, lower-level groups suggest that they can just watch CNN and the BBC outside of class and expect to become fluent listeners. Perhaps it can help their ear become accustomed to the sounds and rhythm of the English language, but it won’t be at that i+1 level so dear to our friend Krashen.

Fortunately, there’s a whole bounty of readily-accessible, mostly free listening resources for our learners available on the web. Some of them are even graded for appropriate levels or have exercises that make otherwise difficult audio extracts more accessible to lower levels. You know, grade the task, not the text.

The authentic listening extract project is well under way (and the call is still out for volunteers to record short, semi-authentic extracts!! Contact me!!), but  in the meantime, here are a list of online audio resources that I’ve managed to compile over the years.

And please feel free to add your own golden listening nuggets. My list is surely just a drop in the online aural ocean!

Business listening sites:

  • A British Council website with many audio extracts for meetings, negotiating, and socializing situations. Although they are meant as teacher resources (complete with lesson plans), students could also do the accompanying worksheets alone and bring them to class. Possibly good preparation for role-plays.
  • Another British Council creation, but this time specifically aimed at learners. Includes two audio sections: “Professionals Podcasts” and a video series called “You’re Hired.” I like the podcasts because business learners get English and business advice from them. The activities can all be done online or the downloaded (MP3 audio file + worksheets). For higher (B2 and up) levels.
  • Not specifically geared towards business professionals, but ther are so many fascinating talks on various topics that can directly or indirectly link to many professional contexts. These talks are all under the Creative Commons license so can be used freely so long as you cite where they came from.  Talks vary in length and difficulty but do not provide ready-made activities. Many videos do include the transcript and sometimes even the possibility of adding subtitles in various foreign languages.
  • The companion site to the Macmillan course book series The Business. It includes 21 podcasts (5 of which refer to articles in the course books though) graded by level on some basic topics such as working in various countries. Downloadable worksheets (though no key) and a transcript are provided to allow students to work (semi-) autonomously.

General listening sites:

  • One of my favorite sites. It has real interviews done by real people, about their lives and people who have influenced them. Most students love these. If you click on the transcripts, you can follow along or check that you’ve understood after listening. You can also subscribe to their podcasts. Great authentic listening for more advanced levels.
  • Listening site specifically designed for English learners. Each audio has 3 panes: one on the left for words coming, one in the middle for the part being read, and one on the right for words already read. Learners listen and follow the text on screen. Mostly for lower level students.
  • One of Sean Banville’s eight very thorough sites (does this guy ever sleep?!) that has short, downloadable audio files plus all the activities you need to go with it. Students can work through most parts of the lessons autonomously because all the answers are provided at the end, but of course, they could also bring their work to class for you to look at together.
  • This site has a large number of interesting articles that also have audio files that can be listened to online or downloaded. You can also leave comments at the bottom of the article and print the script to read to check your listening comprehension.
  • Voices of America offers excellent podcasts for ELT students. Learners can download them onto a mobile device and use them to make the most of those long, boring commutes!
  • This site wasn’t designed for English learners, but is good for advanced levels. There is also a transcript you can use to follow the audio. It is updated every day with current content.

Accent-specific sites:

  • Listening website of native speakers from around the world. Great because you can search by speaker’s country, level, topic, media (video or audio), or a combination of these. Includes lots of general and some business-related topics. There are even transcripts and some basic worksheets to boot.
  • The International Dialects of English Archive. You can find extremely specific accents by selecting a speaker’s continent then country. Sometimes the speaker’s region, sex, age, race, educational background, and linguistic background are even given. Each speaker reads a text and then speaks more spontaneously about themselves for a few minutes. There is only this “raw material” but my students have said they enjoy just listening and following along with the transcripts provided to hear how certain accents pronounce things.

“For fun” listening sites:

  • For football fans only! This site offers authentic-language football-themed podcasts accompanied by free worksheets and a transcript of the audio. Each podcast lasts 10-15 minutes and follows the same format so learners become familiar with it. Although it is authentic, lower levels can still use this site by listening to short extracts of each podcast or by following with the transcript.
  • A fun site to help you understand popular English-language songs. Students listen to the song and watch the video, which has a fill-in-the-blank activity. The songs are divided into category of difficulty and you can then choose if you want a text with 10%, 25%, or all of the words missing. You can even create an account to compete with other learners around the world.

Short extracts:

  • 1-minute audio extracts on a wide variety of themes. Each extract has a transcript and several activities that learners can do and bring to class to check with the teacher. Another Sean Banville creation and the activities follow roughly the same format as BreakingNewsEnglish, but in a shorter version. Great for busy learners!


 Any additions? Please feel free to add to the list!


Posted by on March 20, 2013 in Technology


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