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Anti-English-native-speaker-ism in immigrant ESL programmes
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dmocha



Joined: 06 Mar 2010
Posts: 30

PostPosted: Sun Jul 17, 2011 3:48 pm    Post subject: Anti-English-native-speaker-ism in immigrant ESL programmes Reply with quote

When I came back to Canada after teaching for several decades overseas I knew it might be tough to break into the ESL market. One university English language programme told me flat out that overseas EFL experience was of limited benefit in getting an ESL teaching job in Canada. Another decade later and I know that they were right.

While on the hunt for ESL jobs I began to encounter another barrier to employment. I’d never even considered: anti-native-speaker-ism in the immigrant English language teaching sector. The premise is that having native-English speakers as instructors in immigrant oriented ESL programmes sends the message that ‘native is best’ or conversely ‘non-native is second rate’. As a result I’ve seem programmes (federal government funded programmes no less) which have zero native English-speaking teaching staff. (Male staff? Since most of the immigrant learners are women, having men in superior roles would send the wrong message too.)

For those of us who rely on our native speaker status to open doors overseas, who see how non-Caucasian native English speakers are often less employable and are paid less when they are just as good, this can come as quite a shock!

Speaking for myself, I doubt very much I’d enrol in a Chinese language programme in Beijing if I knew the instructors were not native speakers of 北京话.

My purpose in writing this is not to complain but to provoke a discussion on the issue of ‘anti-native-speakeristic’ approaches to language teaching, in terms of language learning, acculturation and teacher (un)employment.

PS If you think your many years of successful teaching overseas, your published papers and higher education count for much in Canada (at least) think again. Plan on retraining for a new career right from the get-go. Don't waste time; time is money.
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nomad soul



Joined: 31 Jan 2010
Posts: 4743
Location: Terra firma

PostPosted: Sun Jul 17, 2011 6:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

dmocha, I wonder how much of this comes from the belief that you're supposedly out of touch with the culture because you were overseas for a lengthy time. Even though you’re a native speaker, employers may perceive you to be similar to an immigrant in that you now have to acclimate back into the culture---that is, you’re estranged from the culture, which is essential for teaching ESL. Additionally, I think TEFL is misunderstood by TESL folks because of the “foreign” component. For example, I know several ESL teachers who have said they can’t fathom going overseas to teach because they’d be teaching on foreign soil and in a foreign context. Geez, and having "suspect-sounding" countries (e.g., Yemen, Sudan, Uzbekistan, Togo, New Guinea...) on your resume/CV could be an issue. Your TEFL experience would probably be more appealing if you'd taught in Mexico, China, Japan, Poland, etc.
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dmocha



Joined: 06 Mar 2010
Posts: 30

PostPosted: Sun Jul 17, 2011 10:14 pm    Post subject: I could see a mix of both Reply with quote

Nomad soul, the 'fear factor' seemed to be an issue with the ESL types who never travelled. You've put your finger on an important point: the EFL teacher is seen as an immigrant too. But is the solution to eliminate native speakers (Canadian in this case) and use actual immigrant ESL teachers? I could see a mix of both but 'all or nothing' seems to be almost ideological in its purity. Is the message “Welcome to Hotel Canada, you need never interact with an actual born-in-Canada native speaker while you’re here.”? (Yes I’m being polemical to make a point. Very Happy )

On another note, I once had some contracts in a university English programme where all of the full-time staff were native English speakers, graduated from the one and only local teachers college, and all were fluent in Japanese. But their market was foreign students on short-term language courses so the foreign students were effectively still EFL students as they were not immigrants, intending to return to their home countries.
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nomad soul



Joined: 31 Jan 2010
Posts: 4743
Location: Terra firma

PostPosted: Sun Jul 17, 2011 11:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm not familiar with Canada, but I hope the situation you describe isn't widespread. Monetary reasons aside, perhaps from the employer's perspective, a non-native speaking teacher is a language success story---someone students might see as a role model. Plus, the teacher can empathize with the students and their struggles as immigrants learning a new language and culture. The students are aware of this and feel at ease with the teacher. But I agree, there should be a mix of native and non-native speaking teachers to reflect the actual diversity of the country and allow students to learn English from a variety of perspectives and accents while realizing they can feel at ease with pretty much all of their teachers.
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johnslat



Joined: 21 Jan 2003
Posts: 12853
Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

PostPosted: Sun Jul 17, 2011 11:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"Additionally, I think TEFL is misunderstood by TESL folks because of the “foreign” component."

From my experience, I'd say that there is a fairly widespread prejudice among ESL employers in the States against EFLers.

I'd also say that, like all other prejudices, it's wrong-headed. Would we all agree that EFL students usually have it harder in learning English than ESL students? After all, the ESL students are generally surrounded by English whereas for many EFL students, the classroom is the only time they may get to speak English (the enterprising ones can read, write and/or listen to it outside the class, though I'd say, many don't.)
And when the students have it harder, doesn't it logically follow that the teachers have it harder, too?

Again, I can speak only from my background - 22 years as a EFL teacher and eight years as an ESL teacher. And I would have to say that in my estimation, the EFL colleagues that I had were/are (generally speaking) more competent than most of my ESL colleagues (the main exceptions being ESL non-native speaker teachers.)

But again - that's just my experience.

Regards,
John
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dmocha



Joined: 06 Mar 2010
Posts: 30

PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2011 1:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

nomad soul wrote:
I'm not familiar with Canada, but I hope the situation you describe isn't widespread.


I think the general prejudice against EFLers with their international experience, and often much higher levels of training and education, is quite widespread in North America.

As for the situation of the all non-native speaker ESL teaching staff for immigrants, the place I am describing is the only one I know of. That's partially why I started this thread: I too wondered if it was a one-off or a trend.
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spiral78



Joined: 05 Apr 2004
Posts: 9589
Location: On a Short Leash

PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2011 1:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've worked in a couple of places in North America providing classes for immigrants: the teachers were 90% native speakers.

Non-native speakers were employed primarily teaching lower levels, not due to any lack of proficiency (they were all very high level English speakers) but because their teaching methods tended to the more traditional. This is what many newcomers seemed to expect and to respond best to - they were then 'weaned' up through higher levels to more participatory/learner centred classroom styles.
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nomad soul



Joined: 31 Jan 2010
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Location: Terra firma

PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2011 3:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The ESL teaching situations I've observed in the US mirror spiral's description but with native and non-native speakers teaching all levels. It's probably relevant to the demographics of the area. But employers will hire whomever they want for whatever the reason.

The job market for ESL teachers is competitive and one way to make sure you're not forgotten or ignored is by networking. Teachers who head overseas for a time and then return to their native shores especially need to keep a connection with their home teaching community. TESOL events are a good venue for meeting and networking with one's peers. Linkedin is another way to network and it's free.
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timothypfox



Joined: 20 Feb 2008
Posts: 372

PostPosted: Tue Jul 19, 2011 7:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

To shed a little more light on this issue - take it as you will - but I became an ESL teacher in the NYC public school system through the NYC Teaching Fellows Programs where I studied at the same time as working as a teacher for 4 and a half years.

Because it was a government funded program focused on closing the achievement gap between minority students and the caucasian demographics, the focus was politically / ideologically oriented on all-inclusive instruction that 'empowered' the 'disempowered.'

All teachers trained in this program were taught that there was a 'culture of power' that demographically tended to be caucasian native English speakers. Our job as teachers was to do everything we could to over tiem reshape this culture of power so that power was more equitably redistributed amongst people from all cultural / racial / demographic background.

In order to relate and properly understand the children and their cultures and languages, it was said in not so many words that they would ideally be educated by someone from their community. This someone would understand conditions of poverty that might prevent minority students from getting the same "head start" when they entered public school as their caucasian (and often asian) counterparts. This teacher from their community, would be an ideal role-model who could show the kids that through hard work they too could become fluent English speakers and become very successful in society.

I am, however, not a minority, and it was my work overseas in Japan and my work in Montreal at ESL conversation schools that was enough to demonstrate to the Department of Education my dedication to understanding other cultures, and at my interviews I continually reiterated that "I wanted to make a difference."

In Canada, the forces at work are the antagonism between French Canadians and English Canadians. I was fired once by a French Canadian boss from a language school because I felt her teaching methology (which she devised herself as her MA TESOL thesis) was far too rigid.

If you are not a minority yourself, it may be important to promote yourself as very sympathetic to demographic inequalities and wanting to make a difference. In my experience, showing sincerity and wanting to share and understand the many different cultures of your students, and make a difference etc... has given me greater luck in finding work than failure.

Perhaps an MA or a teaching fellow program or some equivalent would be a way to really demonstrate you are committed to the children at a particular school with the same lense as the employers. An MA is always a great thing to add if you have not done so already overseas because it will reintegrate you into the current methodological trends and teaching philosophies in North America - and make you seem once again the native resident and not the "foreign" EFL teacher.
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santi84



Joined: 14 Mar 2008
Posts: 858
Location: under da sea

PostPosted: Tue Jul 19, 2011 1:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My observations are also the same as Spiral's. I have also not experienced any antagonism between French or English Canadians, and I live in a very French community.

ESL in North America and EFL abroad are two totally different beasts - far too many long-time EFL instructors come back to North America and do not demonstrate the ability to teach in the way that is expected in an ESL context. EFL experience is generally always required, but most people cannot go from EFL to the top jobs in ESL right off the bat - it requires some slow introduction (ie. not the worst jobs, but not the best).

Immigrant teachers in programs such as LINC or ELSA are able to elicit a rapport with their lower level students and are familiar with teaching in an ESL context (as they have been ESL students themselves, usually for many years). I have seen one immigrant teacher in these programs who came directly from an EFL context (Taiwan) and it was a complete disaster.

Interesting observations here though, I really enjoy this discussion.
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johnslat



Joined: 21 Jan 2003
Posts: 12853
Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

PostPosted: Tue Jul 19, 2011 1:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear santi84,

"ESL in North America and EFL abroad are two totally different beasts - far too many long-time EFL instructors come back to North America and do not demonstrate the ability to teach in the way that is expected in an ESL context."

I wonder if you could be more specific regarding the above statements. How are they "totally different?" What is the "way that is expected in an ESL context," and why do you think "too many long-time EFL instructors come back to North America and do not demonstrate the ability to teach" in that way?"

The reason I ask is that those statements don't correspond at all with my experience, so I'm curious. Have you taught EFL at all?

Regards,
John
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nomad soul



Joined: 31 Jan 2010
Posts: 4743
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 19, 2011 7:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm with johnslat on this one. It shouldn't take much of an adjustment to go from EFL to ESL except that the student base in the ESL context would most likely be a diverse, multilingual group. If your argument is that the EFL teacher can't cut it in TESL, then what about ESL teachers who head overseas to teach EFL? (Darn acronyms!)
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spiral78



Joined: 05 Apr 2004
Posts: 9589
Location: On a Short Leash

PostPosted: Tue Jul 19, 2011 8:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think there are some differences that are notable in EFL/ESL. I worked for a while at a Canadian university that hired teachers with EFL experience. The university was also in the process of implementing what they called a 'participatory' learning/teaching approach across all departments.

A few of the EFL teachers whose experience was solely in countries where more traditional classroom approaches are used (Asia, primarily) had serious difficulties adjusting to a more student-centred approach upon demand.

In short, depending on the expectations of institution and students, one's foreign experience may or may not translate effectively.
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johnslat



Joined: 21 Jan 2003
Posts: 12853
Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

PostPosted: Tue Jul 19, 2011 8:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear spiral78,

So, perhaps not "totally different beasts," though. And actually, the problem you mention:

" . . . teachers whose experience was solely . . . . where more traditional classroom approaches are used . . . had serious difficulties adjusting to a more student-centred approach upon demand."

could occur even among ESL teachers coming from different parts of the US.

Believe me - the "participatory' learning/teaching approach" is hardly universal in this country.

Regards,
John
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nomad soul



Joined: 31 Jan 2010
Posts: 4743
Location: Terra firma

PostPosted: Tue Jul 19, 2011 8:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I see your point, spiral. The issue seems to be more about teaching approaches/philosophies than it is about EFL teachers vs. ESL teachers. Too much generalizing. Ironically, unless the interviewer asks first, this is one of the questions I bring up during an interview because I want to make sure the teaching environment is a good fit for me and my teaching style. I've actually turned down a position (EFL) with a university prep year program because the teaching approach was old-school. I knew I'd be miserable teaching there.
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