"The importance of being a non-native teacher of English" (3)

Dear friends, here you will find another piece of the Academic paper published by Professor Dr Barbara Seidlhofer on the issue. Please feel free to comment, and post on the blog instead of sending messages to my inbox tray. As you like.
“1. Conflicting messages
Although the most hotly debated socio-political issues to do with World Englishes are generally perceived to be of somewhat less direct relevance in the Expanding Circle2 than they are in the Outer Circle, recent developments in the study of institutionalised varieties of English and English across cultures (e.g.Kachru 1992), English as an international language (e.g. Pennycook 1994,Tollefson 1995) and ‘linguistic imperialism’ (e.g. Phillipson 1992) have had considerable impact on the discourse of English language teaching in general.

This is easily observed, for instance, by comparing conference programmes and proceedings (such as those of the annual conferences of the International Association for the Teaching of English as a Foreign Language, IATEFL) of the nineties with those of the eighties: whereas presentations and papers used to be mainly devoted to issues in the description and instruction of the language as such, we now find a much wider variety of topics, with cultural, political, social, ecological, psychological, technological, and managerial issues successfully competing for space with contributions focusing on the language proper. In short, there is a sense of breaking the professional mould, with a broader conception of what it means to teach languages going hand in hand with a more comprehensive view of the languages to be taught. Thus monoculturalism seems to have been replaced by multiculturalism, monolingualism with multilingualism, and targets seem to be criterion-referenced rather than (native speaker) norm-referenced. But are these wider visions shared by the majority of practitioners themselves? What are teachers concerned with in their daily practice? Obviously it would be ludicrous to try and give accurate and comprehensive answers to these questions, as these do not exist any more than does a universally valid description of these contexts. But what can be observed generally is a striking discrepancy: the ‘idealistic’ visions of global ‘real world/ whole person’ concerns mentioned above are contradicted by other (equally global) influences of a decidedly materialistic nature rooted in free market economy: most practical matters which impinge directly on teachers’ daily practice, such as textbooks, reference works, supplementary materials, examinations and qualifications still make almost exclusive reference to notions of the native speaker culture as the (uncontaminated?) source providing the language to be taught. To mention just a few examples, learners and teachers are enjoined to ‘get into the Head of the Native Speaker’ (advertisement for the Longman Dictionary of English Language and Culture) 3; to go for Cambridge examinations, certificates and diplomas: ‘make no mistakes, there are no equivalents’4; being a native speaker is still the trump card when competing for teaching jobs (cf. Illés 1991); teachers are bombarded with materials on rival national language initiatives such as those of the British Council and the United States Information Service, and textbooks produced in the UK and the US are a huge industry. Qualifying institutions offering diplomas for TEFL run different schemes for native and non- native teachers5. ‘Authentic materials’ are traded as the genuine articles reflecting native-speaker language use, and empirical studies find that future (non-native) EFL teachers in the Expanding Circle tend to prefer, identify with, and aspire to native English accents while looking down on their own local varieties6 (Dalton-Puffer, Kaltenböck & Smit (in press)). And so it is not surprising, either, that native speaker experts get the lion’s share of audiences at international conferences as well as references to their work (cf. Van Essen 1989), and we might note in passing the paradox that, globally speaking, the best-known authors arguing for the importance of listening to authentic local voices are not themselves local voices but tend to be white male Anglos from the ‘Centre’. Teachers are thus faced with fiercely competing discourses: that of inclusive claims made at a fairly abstract level, and that of native-speaker centred, exclusive forces prevailing in reality. This means that teachers have to cope with the contradictory powers of educational ideologies and market forces and negotiate the gaps between global claims and local conditions. This can be a demanding and even daunting task, for which they need to be prepared. In order to explore ways of meeting this challenge, I shall take a closer look at the unique contributions that non-native teachers in the Expanding Circle can make, and point to implications for priorities in teacher education.”

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