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Disciminatio in EFL teaching

For general discussion between ESL teachers.

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Is there discrimination in EFL teaching?

Yes
1
50%
No
1
50%
 
Total votes: 2

Kevin Vosper
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Disciminatio in EFL teaching

Unread postby Kevin Vosper » Tue May 01, 2007 11:45 am

Dear all

I was recently reading an article about discrimination within EFL on the eslemployment website and I wondered if anyone had any ideas about how to prevent what seems to be a huge problem within EFL teaching. I realise that similar problems probably exist in most employment situations but it seems to me that it is a particular problem with English teaching. Not only do many employers around the world actively discriminate on the usual grounds of race, religion, sex, age and sexual orientation but many also discriminate against "non-native speakers," although exactly how you define a "native-speaker" is never stated. Even for those who "qualify" as native-speakers there is often discrimination with Americans often having problems finding work in Europe and British speakers finding the same situation in Asian countries.

This stupid and harmful situation is often justified by excuses such as "the market decides" or "it's what our clents expect" or even, "it's a cultral thing and we can't change it." Even worse, many schools actually use the myth of "native-speakers" as a selling point even if the person concerned doesn't know his adverbs from his arse(to quote a friend of mine). None of the above is an adequate excuse for what is pure discrimination (and often illegal as well). I feel that if the EFL industry wishes to continue to be regarded as a "profession" it is time that individual teachers and EFL organizations took a stand against these harmful practices.

While the above is far too common in many places I should point out that there are many schools which don't discriminate (and these are nearly always the best schools). Neither is the problem restricted to any particular area of the world. Europe often prides itself on having the toughest anti-discrimination laws in the world. And yet I have seen more discrimination based on race and religion there than anywhere else.

Two suggestions which I would make would be to campaign for photos of the candidates to be excluded from the application process. I realise that this won't effect the interview stage but at least it might get more suitable candidates on to the short list. Secondary, I would encourage job advertisers to use the phrase "fluent speakers" rather than the discriminatory "native speakers." Anyone who holds the Cambridge Proficiency exam I would regard as a fluent speaker and probably one with a much better knowledge of English than someone born in America or Britain. Web sites such as English Club would have a role to play in this and hopefully would be able to persuade their advertising clients to adopt the new term.

I feel that if English is going to become an international language of global communication it has to get rid of the idea that the language is "owned" by a small number of countries and open it's job market to everyone based on their professional abilities alone.

Any ideas or comments gratefully received.

Best wishes

Kevin Vosper

Weibing
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Unread postby Weibing » Sat May 05, 2007 11:52 pm

Dear Kevin,

Although nobody answered my thread I decided to respond to yours first. I wondered if you're a native English speaker - you really sound like a native speaker!(I noticed you often answered questions in this Website). Maybe you really are but just living in Poland now?!

Anyway, it doesn't matter whether you're a native speaker or not. Seems to me that your English is excellent - at least better than the average native speakers. I'm not sure how good your listening skill is - I mean if you'can well understand English conversations, English movies, English TV shows and so on, you're almost a native speaker!

You might easily find an English-teaching job in Asia - with your good English. People here are eager to learn and master English - no doubt English is alos popular here!

By the way, could you possibly offer some suggestions on/about how to improve English-listening skill?

Yours,

Weibing

Kevin Vosper
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Unread postby Kevin Vosper » Tue May 08, 2007 5:52 pm

Dear Weibing

Sorry for not replying to your earlier posting, I did consider it but it's report writing time of the year here in Poland and the last couple of weeks have been very busy. To answer your question, yes I am a native speaker having been born and brought up in the UK so you could argue that the current employment situation in fact is to my advantage. However, I dislike the situation where I feel I have an unfair advantage and am employed because of where I was born not for my professional abilities as a teacher.

I don't know exactly where you are located in Asia but just from my own experience of teaching for four years in China I found it an excellent place to teach with very good support and enthusiastic and dedicated students (plus very little descrimination, sadly the same can't be said for South Korea). However, this is just from personal experience and perhaps I have just been lucky with the schools with who I have worked. I have heard some real horror stories about some schools in China but generally I have had a very positive experience of teaching in Asia and in fact very much miss the place.

As far as listening is concerned I greatly support your view that films are an ideal way to practice listening skills. I remember when I first started learning Chinese I watched a lot of Chinese films in order to both get used to the intonation pattens and to understand Chinese history and culture better. I think one of it's main advantages is in providing visual clues so that even beginners can follow the story. It also encourages students to listen for gist rather than concentrating on the meaning of every word. Quite soon I was finding that I was understanding little parts of the conversation and this gave me great encouragement to continue my studies as I was understanding "real" Chinese. This is not to say that sitting a student down in front of a TV and expecting he/she to "pick up" the language is enough. Language learning needs to be structured and organized but there is a place for authentic material, especially one that provides visual clues, in the learning process. Although as you point out idioms and phrasal verbs may cause difficulties. I think the answer might be to pre-teach and practice material before using the film. Films have a very important role as an intergral part of a comprehensive language programme but not as an easy class on a wet Friday afternoon.

Best wishes

Kevin Vosper

Weibing
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Unread postby Weibing » Wed May 09, 2007 10:40 am

Dear Kevin,

Greetings from China! Many thanks for your reply! I'm glad to know that you taught English in China for four years - you really sound like my good friend Steve, who is also a native English speaker and have taught International Trade Business in China for ages. He has the same feelings as you about Chinese students - friendly, enthusiatic and dedicated. So you're not alone to feel that way!

I agree that being a native speakers doesn't necessarily mean being qualified for teaching EFL. I'm a native Chinese speaker, but that doesn't mean I'm capable of teaching Chinese(Mandarin) within or outside China. So the discrimination you mentioned in EFL teaching is quite unreasonable.

As for English-listening skill, I'm not so sure whether watching English movies is an effective way to improve the skill or not. Maybe it's just a waste of time. Sometimes, it's really boring. English movies, however, could possibly provide a good English-speaking environment for non-native speakers - if we choose the modern, interesting and well-made movies to watch(or exactly to learn from). At the very beginning, we may need a subtitle to fully understand it. In the long run, it is worth all the hard work you do. By the way, I still wonder if it's easy for native speakers to catch up with a quickly spoken movie with lots of slangs,idioms and phrase verbs? Maybe Watching TV programs is a more ideal way to learn English - anyway, we watch TV almost every day. English is really a trick language - maybe one needs to learn it from very young. Do you think so?!

I'll finish for now. Do feel free to correct the mistakes or inappropriate expressions for me.

Sincerely,

Weibing

Ele
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Unread postby Ele » Fri Aug 10, 2007 9:45 am

I am happy that somebody should raise the issue and slap it into the face.

I am a non-native speaker but I've got things that some native speakers "teachers" do not: two degress+ experience. Language schools tend to hire native speakers even without qualifications because having native speakers- they think- will guarantee the high level of the school. I've seen such native speakers teach horrible lessons.

I have to add, that there are many qualified native speakers that do excellent job. Just I want to say that this "native-speakers only" policy is a big soap bubble. If we say English is the key to the world, we must have a variety of teachers with different backgrounds!

Lynn
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Unread postby Lynn » Fri Aug 10, 2007 11:16 am

For some reason, I am unable to vote in this poll. However, I would like to comment on this issue. I have lived in Hong Kong for about 27 years, and have tutored English on a part time basis for most of that time. We have three Chinese sons who we adopted here. They are native English speakers as well as native Cantonese speakers. All three of them taught summer school English, but getting those jobs was difficult because of their Chinese faces. I, on the other hand, with my blue eyes and blond hair, cannot get rid of students. Total strangers have actually stopped me on the street and asked me to tutor them or their kids! To them, my Western face was all the qualifications they needed. The kind of discrimination you speak of is alive and rampant in Hong Kong.

Just so you know, Ele, I am qualified to teach. I have also seen "native speakers" do some unspeakable things in the name of "class work". It drives me nuts, because I know that my Chinese sons can do a much better job.

This stupid and harmful situation is often justified by excuses such as "the market decides" or "it's what our clents expect" or even, "it's a cultral thing and we can't change it." Even worse, many schools actually use the myth of "native-speakers" as a selling point...


Kevin, this is precisely the situation on Hong Kong. Years ago, I was recruited to work in a new Chinese/English kindergarten in our housing estate. They came looking for me. The principal begged me to teach, basing her decision on the fact that I could speak Cantonese and that I was a native English speaker. Then she proceeded to recruit students, using my Western face as her drawing card. There were other teachers who were perfectly capable of teaching kindergarten level English, but they were not allowed to even help me, much less teach English.

Even now, the situation is not any better. One of the driving forces behind the discrimination is parental expectations. If the face is Western, everything is okay. If the face is Chinese, the school is obviously inferior.

I apologize for this rather emotional response. Your query really hit a raw nerve with me. If there is anything I can do to help the cause from Hong Kong, please let me know.

Weibing
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Unread postby Weibing » Sat Aug 18, 2007 3:31 am

Yes, Lynn, and I'd like to add a little more.

It depends on the English proficiency or level of the students whether we should choose a native Englsih speaker or a non-native one to teach English. The latter is suitable to teach children English - in that very beginning stage, the children's mother tongue may be helpful to understand the foreign language.

After all, the language English is the mother tongue of the native English speaker. So, it's quite reasonable that people in Hong Kong would like to choose a native English speaker(supposed to have better English than the non-) to teach them English.

English is really a tricky language - maybe one should learn it from the very young and preferably in an English-speaking nation.

Best wishes,

Weibing

Lynn
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Unread postby Lynn » Sat Aug 18, 2007 4:52 am

Weibing wrote:Yes, Lynn, and I'd like to add a little more.

It depends on the English proficiency or level of the students whether we should choose a native Englsih speaker or a non-native one to teach English. The latter is suitable to teach children English - in that very beginning stage, the children's mother tongue may be helpful to understand the foreign language.


Thank you for pointing this out, Weibing. I forgot to mention one thing in my post. The principal who recruited me for her kindergarten made a big deal in the interview that I can speak Cantonese. She said this would be very helpful in teaching kindergarten children. Yet, every time I used Cantonese in the classroom to explain what I wanted the students to do, she yelled at me for not using English 100% of the time. Without Cantonese instruction, it was impossible to maintian any kind of order in class. I was given no Cantonese speaker to help and I was not allowed to explain in Cantonese. So, I quit.

In certain situations, I feel that total immersion is the best way to teach a language, especially for very young children. But total immersion means that everything, all day, every day, is taught in the target language. Twenty minutes a day of English study is hardly a suitable means for total immersion practices. Therefore, some native language in the beginning English classroom is necessary.

Weibing
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Unread postby Weibing » Sat Aug 18, 2007 9:54 am

Lynn, I can imagine how hard the situation could be when you're required to speak only English in teaching those kindergarten children. Actually, your Cantonese could have been very hlepful for the young children to understand a foreign language (totally strange to them). I really doubt the efficiency to use only English in that kindergarten class.

It's ideal to send their children to an English-speaking nation - their chlildren could grow up in a totally English-speaking surroundings, and their grown-up chlildren could return home with a perfect English. If their condition isn't allowed them to do so, however, it's still a preferable way for them to hire a native English teacher to teach the children English. Seems to me that it's more effective to use a little mother tongue in the class. Anyway, their children couldn't have a totally English setting - to use some native language is inevitable.


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