Featuring the EXTRA LOCAL Teacher of English
| David D. Perrodin1 - 16 Apr 2023

The universal reach of English is unprecedented. No other language in the history of the world has impacted, nor continues to impact, the economic development and globalization of commerce, diplomacy, industry, legislation, literature, and science as much as English. With an estimated 2.5 billion speakers worldwide, of which only 400 million are native English speakers, English continues to be one of the most commonly used languages by much of the world’s population. The continual use of English by such a large portion of the global community has understandably created an ever-increasing need for English teachers.

 Interestingly, in 2014, the late David Graddol forecasted that a lack of qualified English language teachers would present one of the most significant large-scale challenges to developing national English programs. Nearly a decade later, regardless of the immense worldwide need for English education, the slightly more than 15 million English teachers—with almost 80% or around 12 million being non-native English speakers—currently teaching across the globe are unable to meet the overwhelming demand for English education.

 Despite valiant recruiting efforts, many developing countries with the most significant economic need for English education have felt the brunt of the global English teacher shortage. Yet, even though, as highlighted earlier, the most accessible English teachers are non-native English speakers (NNES), education stakeholders (e.g., school administrators, teachers, parents, and community and local business leaders) in most developing countries continue to irrationally focus on predominantly recruiting native English speakers (NES).

 Accordingly, this preoccupation with NES teachers begs the question, seeing as non-local NNES teachers (e.g., Filipino, Indian, Indonesian, Malaysian, Nepalese) substantially outnumber NES teachers (e.g., American, Australian, British, Canadian, New Zealander), why would education stakeholders with a personal stake in the success and welfare of a school or education system fixate on recruiting from a limited pool of NES teachers.  This socially unjust misguided demand for NES teachers has expectedly exacerbated the ever-increasing English teacher shortage. Yet, this irrational fixation over who, the seemingly “preferred” NES teacher or the “less desired” non-local NNES teacher, is believed to be the most suitable English teacher in the world of ELT rages on.

 Peter Medgyes, in The Non-Native Teacher, one of the most influential seminal works on this subject, should have resolved this discussion nearly thirty years ago. In trying to settle the above debate over who is the better English teacher, Medgyes compared the capability of an NNES teacher who ‘is’ highly proficient in English to an equally credentialed NES teacher who ‘has not’ acquired a second language. In this case, they found that the NNES teacher would be a more competent English educator. In contrast, Medgyes then compared the capability of an NNES teacher who ‘is not’ proficient in English to a likewise experienced NES teacher who ‘has not’ acquired a second language. In this second case, they found the NES teacher would be a more competent English educator simply due to their English language ability. Medgyes concluded that an NNES teacher who ‘is’ highly proficient in English and a similarly qualified NES teacher who ‘has’ acquired a second language would be equally competent English teachers.

 Given the above realization, it is prudent to say that English educators should be chosen according to their attributable qualifications, teaching experience, subject knowledge, and linguistic aptitude rather than solely based on their characteristics and social traits (e.g., ethnic group, skin color, national origin, sex, religion, or age).

 Even though leading English language teaching organizations have voiced solidarity with NNES teachers across the globe, the TESOL International Organization was the first to take a formal stance against such prejudiced biases. In 2006, the TESOL International Organization strongly opposed discrimination against NNES teachers in ELT. Although they conceded that all English educators should be proficient in English, they declared that teaching skills, experience, and professional preparation (e.g., credentials) should be given as much weight as other criteria when evaluating an English teacher’s professionalism. Unfortunately, the NNES teacher label continues to routinely minimize the formal education, linguistic expertise, professional preparation, and teaching experience of NNES English teachers.

 As NNES and NES teacher groups have been found to possess comparable benefits, there should be terminology to represent the homogeneous English teacher rather than separating them into prejudiced NNES and NES English teacher categories. Suppose we peruse studies regarding NNES and NES labels. In that case, we will find that the prefix non-, as in non-native English speaker teacher, has the connotation that the NNES teacher lacks the usual, particularly positive characteristics of the NES teacher. Several studies have explored alternative terms for the NNES teacher, such as ‘bilingual or multilingual teacher,’ ‘multicompetent teacher,’ and ‘translingual teacher.’ Nonetheless, whether alternative terms or the traditional NNES teacher label are utilized, there is always an implication that these terms convey a negation or an absence of “nativeness” compared to the NES teacher label.

 In the work by Carmen Fought, Language, and Ethnicity, they mentioned the term extra local. They continued that an individual is considered extra local if they are neither the ethnicity nor a citizen of the country where they reside or work. Therefore, the term Extralocal Teacher of English could homogeneously embody the mutual characteristics of both NNES and NES English teachers without focusing on the inconsequential attributes mentioned above.

 I would like to put forth a call to action to all education stakeholders in countries where English is taught as a foreign or second language to end this nonsensical NNES and NES teacher debate. It is time for you to uphold the notion that all Extralocal Teachers of English should be chosen according to their experience, qualifications, subject knowledge, and English proficiency rather than being discriminated against on account of their physical characteristics and social traits (e.g., ethnic group, skin color, national origin, sex, religion, or age).

 David D. Perrodin is an English Language Specialist with the Institute for Population and Social Research, Mahidol University in Bangkok, Thailand. He is also the Managing Editor and Senior Copyeditor for the Scopus-indexed Journal of Population and Social Studies with the same Institute. In addition to being the recipient of several prestigious international teaching awards for his contributions to global education, he has acquired exemplary teaching qualifications and certifications along with a Bachelor’s in Secondary Education with honors and a Master of Arts in Teaching with honors, both with concentrations in English. He is currently a doctoral candidate in the final year of pursuing a Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics for English Language Teaching at the King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi, Thailand.

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