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“Real” Native Speakers: Visible ethnic minority, native English speaking teachers

Publication Date
  • Visible Ethnic Minority
  • Native English Speaking Teacher
  • Race
  • Teacher Identity
  • Nativespeakerism
  • Narrative
  • Design
  • Education
  • Linguistics


In the professional world of TESOL, the native English speaker (NES) / non-native English speaker (NNES) dichotomy is a firmly entrenched hierarchy that affects how teachers are perceived and valued. Within the international English language education business, the NES status is often associated with a particular racial profile. The view that NES are preferred English language teachers remains the dominant storyline, which is made available to those that fit the racial and linguistic criteria. As a NES of Filipino ethnic origins, I am visibly not part of this profile and, as I have experienced, visible ethnic minorities can find that their NES identity is not acknowledged by students, school managers and even NNESTs. In this multi-stage, narrative based study I further problematize the NES preference by examining the experiences of visible ethnic minorities who are native English speaking teachers (VEM-NESTs). Moreover I am both the researcher and a participant and I have deliberately incorporated my story as part of the methodological design. The stories generated in response to my narrative have been influenced by my identity as a VEM-NEST in addition to the content of my story. This paper presents how VEM-NESTs have subverted the dominant NES storyline and through this subversive stance, reconstructs their racial and linguistic identity in response to the resistance they encountered when striving to be recognized as a ‘legitimate’ English language professional. The findings have implications on the criteria currently used for evaluating the worth of English language teachers, NES and NNES.

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