AWEJ Volume.3 Number.4, 2012                                                                                                   pp. 58 – 71

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Native and Non-native English Teachers in the Classroom: A re-examination

Dr. Sean Sutherland
Department of English, Linguistics and Cultural Studies
University of Westminster
London, United Kingdom


Native English speakers are often claimed to be better language teachers than non-native English speakers, both by those who have not reflected critically on the inherent differences between knowing how to use a language and knowing how to teach a language, and by those who assume that non-native English speakers are by definition not fluent. Nativeness is thus equated with pedagogical superiority. This claim, whether it is made by students, parents, hiring boards, or other interested parties, is detrimental to non-native English teachers as educators and to the students who learn from them. Non-native English speaking teachers may be demoralised or discriminated against in hiring practices. Students lose when they are taught by teachers with nativeness as their defining characteristic, rather than by the best teachers. In this article the native speakers model, itself a problematic concept, is analysed to show how supposed nativeness is difficult to define accurately. Then the benefits of being taught by native English speakers and non-native English speakers are outlined, with a view to promoting more just hiring practices and sounder educational results for students of English worldwide.

Keywords: native, non-native, ELT, teachers


Dr. Sean Sutherland is a lecturer in the Department of English, Linguistics and Cultural Studies
at the University of Westminster in London, England. He holds a PhD from the Department of
Education and Professional Studies at King’s College, University of London. He research
interests include sociolinguistics, discourse analysis, World Englishes and English as lingua