Non-native English-speaking teachers ( NNESTs) and professional legitimacy: a sociocultural theoretical perspective on identity transformation

Davi S. ReiS

Abstract How do non-native English-speaking teachers ( NNESTs) establish their legitimacy as credible, qualified instructors in the contexts where they teach vis-àvis the native speaker ( NS) myth (Phillipson 1992)? Using Vygotskian Sociocultural Theory (Vygotsky and Cole 1978; Wertsch 1985), this paper traces the development of an ESL writing teacher’s professional identity and explores how his beliefs and attitudes in regards to the NS myth are connected with his professional identity and instructional practices. Based primarily on classroom observations, interviews, and a dialogic journal between the researcher and the teacher, I argue that the process of challenging the NS myth and negotiating a professional identity as a legitimate, qualified, and confident ESL teacher, though complex, is largely understudied. In order to address this gap in the literature, this study shows how the participant, the teacher of a graduatelevel writing course, went from being a “blind believer” in the native speaker myth to challenging it, to attempting to empower his own students as expert speakers and users of the language. Nonetheless, his beliefs and attitudes toward the NS myth remained ambivalent and contradictory. Based on the analysis presented, I offer some implications for second language teacher education. Keywords: NNESTs; non-native English-speaking teachers; ESL; EFL; nonnative language teachers.

1. Introduction Although non-native English-speaking teachers ( NNESTs) comprise the majority of teachers of English to speakers of other languages (TESOL) worldwide (Canagarajah 1999), many qualified NNESTs struggle to assert and negotiate an identity as legitimate English-as-a-second / foreign-language (ESL/
0165–2516/11/0208–0139 © Walter de Gruyter Int’l. J. Soc. Lang. 208 (2011), pp. 139–160 DOI 10.1515/IJSL.2011.016

140 D. S. Reis EFL) instructors in the contexts where they teach due to the native speaker myth (Phillipson 1992). Underlying this myth is the assumption that native speakers ( NSs) are inherently better language teachers than non-native speakers ( NNSs). This assumption has been challenged by applied linguists, several of whom have proposed alternatives to the NS/NNS dichotomy (Cook 1999; Kirkpatrick 2007; Leung et al.1997; Rampton 1990). Additionally, the international association of Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) issued a position statement as follows:
There has been a long-standing fallacy . . . that native English speakers are the preferred teachers because they are perceived to speak “unaccented” English, understand and use idiomatic expressions fluently, and completely navigate the culture of at least one English-dominant society, and thus they will make better [ESL or EFL] teachers than nonnative English speakers. As a result, nonnative English-speaking educators have found themselves often implicitly, and sometimes explicitly, discriminated against. (TESOL 2006)

The position statement also states that although “[a]ll English language educators should be proficient in English regardless of their native languages . . . [t]eaching skills, teaching experience, and professional preparation should be given as much weight as language proficiency.” That is, “[a]ll educators should be evaluated within the same criteria” (TESOL 2006). Criteria for English p oficiency and assessment are still needed along with specificity as to what r language teachers should know and be able to do (Burns and Richards 2009). Certainly, a reasonable and contextually-appropriate degree of declarative and procedural linguistic, sociolinguistic, and pragmatic knowledge must be required of effective L2 teachers. But despite efforts to dispel the NS myth, it continues to affect not only the careers and self-efficacy of many qualified NNESTs (Brutt-Griffler and Samimy 1999; Golombek and Jordan 2005; Motha 2006; Pavlenko 2003; Simon-Maeda 2004), but also the TESOL profession as a whole, as unqualified teachers are hired solely on the basis of their NS status. Unfortunately, NNESTs’ chances of employment are likely to be influenced more by their accent (and race) than their professional qualifications (Clark and Paran 2007; Mahboob et al. 2004). Also, the NS myth contributes to NNEST “anxiety” (Llurda 2005), that is, a sense of professional inadequacy that prevents many qualified NNESTs from becoming confident instructors. In educational research, the word critical has been used in reference to “how dominant ideologies in society drive the construction of understandings and meanings in ways that privilege certain groups of people while marginalizing others” (Hawkins and Norton 2009: 31). Critical pedagogy, in turn, is charged with empowering1 individuals, through education and critical reflection, to realize how they are situated and situate themselves in the broader context of

NNESTs 141 power relations and, more importantly, with giving them the tools with which to escape and fight oppression (Freire 2000; Hawkins and Norton 2009). Thus, this research is intended as a way to explore the processes through which NNESTs can achieve a sense of professional identity and legitimacy (KamhiStein 2005) by being empowered to recognize, acknowledge, and contest ideological discourses that position them as second-rate professionals. It focuses on how teacher education can help NNESTs to strive for professional legitimacy while reshaping their instruction in response to more empowering conceptualizations of self.

2. Research questions The research questions guiding this study are as follows: 1. hat can critical reflection and dialogic narrative inquiry2 reveal about the W relationship between a NNEST’s identity, emotions, and his instructional practice? 2. How can narrative inquiry, as a tool for professional development, support a NNEST’s attempts to explore, conceive of, articulate, and internalize identities with which to (re)position himself as a legitimate English teaching professional?

3. Literature review 3.1. Narrative knowing and narrative inquiry Narratives are a human way of making sense of otherwise random events (Polkinghorne 1991). We understand our lives by narrating them (to others and to ourselves) and by infusing our experiences with meaning. From a narrative epistemology, we all live storied lives and build “storied selves” (Bruner 1996). We discursively construct, through the stories we tell, our understandings of our lives and of who we are in the world (Olson 1995). Likewise, teachers live storied lives (Elbaz 1983). They understand their practice and continuously weave their identities through the act of telling narratives. Despite the material constraints under which teachers operate, they have a degree of agency to shape their storied selves through the narratives they tell and live by. Narratives are fundamentally intrinsic to the process of making sense of oneself and to the shaping of one’s identity (Bucholtz and Hall 2005; Pavlenko and Blackledge 2004; Pavlenko and Lantolf 2000). Narrative inquiry enables teachers to e plore and articulate the often tacit connections between their identities and x

142 D. S. Reis instructional practices (Simon-Maeda 2004). For the present study, narrative inquiry is the mediational tool and process through which NNESTs are able to re-story their experiences and seek to establish their professional legitimacy (Golombek and Jordan 2005; Pavlenko 2003). 3.2. Teacher identity3 Few would disagree that teachers’ instructional practices are shaped not only by the professional education they have experienced and accumulated, but also by their own experiences as students (Lortie 1975) and by their identity and emotions (Duff and Uchida 1997; Johnson 1992; Simon-Maeda 2004; Varghese et al. 2005). Drawing from the work of authors such as Davies and Harré (1990) and Lave and Wenger (1991), among others, Block (2007) conceptualized identities as:
. . . socially constructed, self-conscious, ongoing narratives that individuals perform, interpret and project in dress, bodily movements, actions and language. Identity work occurs in the company of others . . . with whom to varying degrees individuals share beliefs, motives, values, activities and practices. Identities are about negotiating new subject positions at the crossroads of the past, present, and future. Individuals are shaped by their sociohistories but they also shape their sociohistories as life goes on. . . . There are unequal power relations to deal with, around the different capitals — e onomic, cultural and social — that both facilitate and constrain interactions with c others in the different communities of practice with which individuals engage in their lifetimes. (Block 2007: 27)

Similarly, for the present paper, I take identity to be multiple, dynamic, relational, situated, embedded in relations of power, and yet negotiable ( Norton 2006). I focus on the use of linguistic resources and action as the key factors involved in identity negotiation, allowing for emphasis on the discursive nature of identity construction, its embeddedness in social and power relations and practical activity, its negotiability and intentionality. In this post-structural view of identity, language and discourse play a key role (Benwell and Stokoe 2006; Mantero 2007). But how do NNESTs attempt to articulate and assert an identity as legitimate professionals in the contexts where they teach and through what they think, say, and do? Here, the notion of positioning (Davies and Harré 1990) is helpful. Because discourse is always embedded in relations of power, individuals at times choose to willingly take on certain subject positions and freely reject others but, conversely, are sometimes ascribed certain subject positions which they do not value, claim, or desire. For NNESTs, to say that identities are negotiated within power relations means that NNESTs’ professional legitimacy is

NNESTs 143 eroded to the extent that disempowering discourses remain unchallenged. Thus, in many contexts, even qualified NNESTs are positioned as less able professionals than native English-speaking teachers ( NESTs) by the public discourse, the institutions where they work, their colleagues, their students, and even their social acquaintances. But despite the expanding body of research on NNESTs and on ways to empower them (Braine 1999; Kamhi-Stein 2004; Llurda 2005), it is less clear how this goal can be accomplished through professional development. 3.3. Theoretical framework Vygotskian sociocultural theory (SCT) can reveal what the processes of identity transformation look like for NNESTs and how potential changes in their professional discourse and self-concept might impact their instructional practices (Golombek and Johnson 2004; Johnson 2007; Johnson and Golombek 2003). SCT argues that human cognition (e.g., memory, planning, and higherorder thinking) is mediated by culturally-developed tools (Lantolf 2000). In the context of teacher learning and development, a SCT perspective foregrounds the socially-mediated nature of learning and the dialectical interplay between teachers’ cognitions and their sociocultural contexts and practices (Ball 2000; Golombek and Johnson 2004; Lantolf and Johnson 2007). It takes into account not only what teachers know and believe, but how their understandings of themselves and of their activity impact and are impacted by their relationship to the contexts in which they teach. In this view, teacher learning is primarily a matter of helping teachers to internalize4 new understandings based on theory, reflection, and socially-mediated interactions and, based on these new understandings, to commit to changes in their activity (i.e., instructional practices; Ball 2000; Johnson and Golombek 2003). In turn, a SCT perspective on identity development and transformation means that one’s identity arises from and within one’s social relationships and sociocultural context (van Huizen et al. 2005), from the dialectical relationship between the individual and the social, in unique yet constrained ways (Valsiner 1998; Wetherell and Maybin 1996). It draws from recognizable social types, yet infuses them with one’s own idiosyncrasies as it is internalized (Holland and Lachicotte Jr. 2007). In addition, individuals construct, display, and manage their identities in a process of constant becoming (Cross and Gearon 2007; Stetsenko and Arievitch 2004). As members of communities of practice, individuals can potentially re-story themselves into new subjectivities through both discourse and action (Wertsch et al. 1993). Finally, one’s emotions are at the heart of this process of re-storying oneself (DiPardo and Potter 2003; Mahn and JohnSteiner 2002).

144 D. S. Reis In this light, supporting the development of NNESTs’ professional identities involves promoting their awareness of how they position themselves professionally and are positioned by others (e.g., students, institutions, the public discourse) in regards to their legitimacy and in relation to the contexts where they work and live. It also entails the creation of mediational spaces (Golombek and Johnson 2004) where, through critical reflection and collaborative inquiry, they can challenge disempowering discourses and legitimize their professional identities. Once internalized as higher-order psychological functions (Holland and Lachicotte Jr. 2007), these renewed identities can potentially engender significant changes in NNESTs’ sense of individual and group agency. Finally, NNESTs’ identity development entails a commitment to change in both discourse practices and practical activity with the goal of empowering themselves and others (Stetsenko and Arievitch 2004). Only then, as a community of practice, will NNESTs “escape from the tyranny of environmental stimuli” and intentionally author “new selves and new cultural worlds and try to realize them” (Holland and Lachicotte Jr. 2007: 116). 4. Methodology The data analyzed here were collected in 2007 at a large northeastern university in the U.S. Given its wide array of PhD programs in the sciences and engineering, this university enlists the help of hundreds of teaching assistants from many different countries to provide general education classes to undergraduate and graduate students. This study was based on an ESL writing class regularly offered to international graduate students (mostly at the doctoral level) who wish to improve their academic writing skills in their fields of study. 4.1. Participants The main participant, Kang5, is a Chinese male in his early thirties. When data collection started, he had just completed his first year as a PhD student in Applied Linguistics while concurrently teaching writing courses in the ESL program housed by his department. A native speaker of a minority language in China, he started learning Mandarin at age seven and English during high school. Prior to starting his PhD program, he completed a bachelor’s degree in English Education and a master’s degree in translation while still in China. He then taught EFL for a few years before coming to the U.S. to pursue a master’s degree in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) at the University of Florida.6 As a doctoral student in Applied Linguistics and a teaching and research assistant for his department, Kang spoke and used English fluently and appropri-

NNESTs 145 ately in both departmental meetings and social functions (See ACTFL 1986, 1996). He would be considered a “superior” user of English in all four skills. In fact, already in 2002, his TOEFL score was 667 (out of 677) and his GRE verbal score was 640 ( placing around the 90th percentile). An informal analysis of a sample of his writing revealed that his written English was highly developed, incorporating advanced vocabulary and syntax, as well as indicating a strong understanding of genre conventions and rhetorical purpose. His feedback on his students’ work, both written and oral, was focused and detailed. Regarding his master’s degree, his cumulative GPA was above 3.80 (out of 4.0) and A- was the lowest grade he ever received. His coursework included English syntax, sociolinguistics, L2 acquisition and learning, L2 writing, and approaches to L2 use. His pronunciation of English (i.e., individual sounds, rhythm, stress, and intonation) was highly intelligible and rarely a source of any misunderstanding. The other participants in the study were Kang’s students, most of whom were also doctoral students from China (3), South Korea (3), Taiwan (2), Malaysia (1) and Thailand (1). They ranged in age from early twenties to late thirties. 4.2. Data collection The data collection instruments in this study were: a dialogic journal between the researcher and the participating teacher; eight weekly, videotaped classroom observations; five audio-taped interviews with the teacher; two teaching philosophy statements ( pre and post); two open-ended student surveys ( pre and post); and ethnographic field notes. The dialogic journal was set up so that the researcher could write follow-up comments or questions to the participant’s reflections on his teaching. The interviews7 were semi-structured and focused on the participant’s identity and emotions, specific classroom events, and what such events meant to him. The classroom observations took place at least once a week at the participant’s discretion. The teaching philosophy statements included questions as prompts, but were fairly flexible. Finally, ethnographic field notes consisted mainly of information about the institutional context of the study and notes taken during classroom observations. 4.3. Data analysis The written data (i.e., the dialogic journal, philosophy statements, and field notes) were essentially ready for analysis. The audio and audiovisual data were first annotated for potentially relevant issues (i.e., data relating to the

146 D. S. Reis participant’s non-native status and instances of identity work being done). I then t anscribed these excerpts using a simplified transcription scheme.7 The r only exception was the fifth interview, which was transcribed in its entirety. The student surveys were compiled and tabulated. With all relevant data transcribed and prepped for analysis, I coded the m jor themes as they emerged (about 40 categories). I then focused on the a themes I judged most relevant. Namely, non-nativeness, critical pedagogy, collaboration, the nature of identity, self-perceptions, confidence, and English skills/expertise, selecting the excerpts that best exemplified each of these central themes. Next, I attempted to trace the participant’s identity development in regards to being a NNEST. A conscious effort was made to triangulate the data and avoid taking the participant’s narratives at face-value (Pavlenko 2007). 5. Results Kang’s professional development as a NNEST, not surprisingly, has been filled with emotional ups and downs, challenging work, and empowering r alizations. e The excerpts that follow were selected because they show Kang’s linguistic instantiations of his understandings at different points during the study. They reflect his self-concept, his perceived status as a NNEST, his attitudes, emotions, and beliefs toward the NS myth, and his understanding of his instructional practice vis-à-vis his NNEST status. The italicized language in each excerpt points to relevant linguistic instantiations that support the discussion around the excerpt. 5.1. Going from “blind believer in the native speaker mode” to “expert user” In alluding to the NS myth, Kang told me he “was once a blind believer in the native speaker mode in language learning” (Dialogic journal). However, through critical reflection, engagement with academic readings, meaningful discussions, and the modeling and support of expert others, Kang started to challenge the NS myth and to consider alternative subjectivities for himself, such as that of “expert user”:
My first exposure to the issue was in a sociolinguistics class I took back in [Florida]. The professor who taught the class is a non-native speaker and a highly competent user of English herself. Through her stimulating lecture, I realized that non-native speakers too can become “expert users” in an additional language. My understanding of the issue was deepened through more readings and through a seminar on the global spread

NNESTs 147
of English, the instructor of which, though a native speaker of English herself, debunked the native speakers’ claim of the ownership of English in an article she published in the TESOL Quarterly. . . . Through my academic exposure and immersion, I gradually came to realize that taking native speaker as model is not beneficial because no matter how hard I work, I would never turn myself into a native speaker. (Dialogic journal)

Indeed, as a doctoral student in Applied Linguistics and having taught ESL courses in two major American universities, Kang claimed to have become “keenly aware of the issue and the debate surrounding it” (Teaching philosophy statement 1). 5.2. The relationship between identity and instructional practice In Kang’s own words, “who I am does affect how I teach or how I look at myself  ” (Interview 1). His instructional practice seemed to have been impacted by this realization. This happened in at least two ways. First, at times he drew on his and his students’ status as NNSs and took advantage of the perceived benefits of being a NNEST (Reves and Medgyes 1994) to build rapport with his students and help them succeed in their own English acquisition. Specifically, he drew on his “L2 learner status” to emphasize to his students his valuable expertise as a learner.
I told my ESL students that because of my L2 learner status, I can understand their difficulties in struggling to learn an additional language and I would share with them my struggle as well as my successful learning experiences. (Dialogic Journal) . . . academic writing takes time to learn, and then by that I don’t mean that native speakers and non-native speakers have to face the same problem . . . for a non-native speakers, there are other difficulties that we may have to face, for example gram_ grammar issue, word choice, etcetera, so we s_ we have some extra difficulties that we have to face. (Observation 8)

Secondly, Kang’s attitudes toward the NS myth seemed to motivate him to empower his NNES students as well and to weave a critical praxis perspective into his classroom teaching. For example, in reference to his first day of class, he made the connection between having been empowered by the notion of “language expertise” and wanting to empower his own students.
My aim, therefore, is to become an “expert user” of the language, most especially in my own research domain. I have been empowered by such a reconceptualization of linguistic competence, and so I believe my L2 students too would benefit from such a

148 D. S. Reis
renewed understanding. That’s why I wanted to bring up the issue in class. (Dialogic journal)

Most notably, he decided to bring up and challenge the NS myth on the first day of instruction.
I brought up the issue of native speaker and non-native speaker. I told them that there is a commonly held misconception among L2 learners that native English speakers are good readers and writers because they were brought up speaking the language. It is a misconception because one is not automatically a good reader and writer by virtue of one’s “native” status. Both reading and writing are literacy skills that one acquires through schooling. Native speakers also have to learn to be able to read and write. (Dialogic journal)

Finally, while providing a course summary during his last class session, Kang again challenged the NS myth and provided students with an empowering view of what it means to be a good writer.
. . . writing is a learned skill, everybody has to learn in order to know how to write, right? and even native speakers have to learn how to write . . . being a native speaker doesn’t mean that you are automatically a good writer, you have to learn how to write and then I want you to walk out of this classroom being confident about yourself, uh if you_ you practice a lot you can be a good writer, ok? (Observation 8)

Based on the discussion thus far we might be tempted to assume that Kang’s professional development in regards to being a NNEST was smooth and linear. However, as I explain in the following section, Kang’s beliefs and attitudes toward the NS myth, as well as his perceptions of his teaching experiences as an ESL teacher in the U.S., seem to point to a much more complex, contradictory, and unresolved view of his identity and feelings. 5.3. Receiving a blow to his confidence Whereas being a NNS was reportedly not a prominent issue for Kang while teaching English in China, he had a different experience in the U.S. While teaching ESL in Florida, his confidence in his ability to provide quality instruction to his students was severely threatened. In our journal, he spoke of a student who recommended that the school only hire NS:
Throughout my short teaching career in the ESL context, there was only one time that I was directly confronted with the native and non-native speaker issue. . . . [A] student wrote as a concluding remark in his/her course evaluation that “the ELI [English Lan-

NNESTs 149
guage Institute] should hire only native speakers as instructors”. This remark came as surprise to me because he/she hadn’t said anything negative about me or the course in the foregoing open-ended questions. I have to admit that it was a blow on my selfesteem as a teacher. (Dialogic journal)

Although Kang claimed that he did not take this student’s comment personally, he referred to this incident in his first teaching philosophy statement and interview. It made a strong impression on him, reinforcing the NS myth and adding self-doubt regarding his practice:
However, I didn’t take it as a personal attack. It just shows how the native speaker myth is deeply rooted in some of the L2 learners’ minds. Some other ESL students I have taught/is teaching might have similar thoughts, but there is no way I could find out since they never bring this up openly either in front of me or in the course evaluations. (Dialogic journal)

As it turns out, Kang’s students participating in this study did not express any negative reactions to him as an instructor. His official end-of-semester course evaluations revealed that his students were extremely satisfied with his instruction and delivery. His students ranked him very high on overall quality of the course (6.67 out of 7); overall quality of the instructor (6.78); clarity of the instructor’s presentations (6.67); clarity of the instructor’s explanations (6.56); and adequacy of the instructor’s knowledge of the subject matter (6.67). In answer to the question “Do you have any other comments about the course in general?” from Kang’s own course evaluation form, students’ responses included: “Nice class” and “Perfect! You are the best teacher I have ever meet [sic] for my English course”. Likewise, for the question “What types of responses to your writing did you receive from the instructor?” students’ answers included “Detailed response. He is a good instructor”; “Positive feedback and encouragement” and “Feedback on grammatical error, revision guideline, and comment”. Although these higher-than-average scores and comments might have boosted Kang’s confidence, they were not made available to him ( per university policy) until several months after the course had ended. 5.4. Feeling self-conscious and insecure as a NNEST Kang’s reported confidence as a NNEST seemed to waver throughout his teaching career and during the study itself. For example, in answer to the question of whether or not he considered himself to be a legitimate, credible, and qualified ESL teacher, Kang spoke of the nagging doubt that haunts many NNESTs:

150 D. S. Reis
I think this is a complicated question, I wouldn’t say yes or not . . . when I was teaching [freshman-level writing course] uh most of student were ok, but there were a few students uh who challenged me, I mean, they didn’t say anything but they just didn’t behave themselves sometimes in class uh so and that could uh forc- force me to ask myself what’s wrong, (xx) maybe they’ve challenged that I_ I don’t really have this rights to teach them because I’m a non-native speaker of English and things like that so, when things like that happen, like I can become not very confident sometimes . . . but then if things like this you would think well maybe you know they question my qualification as a teacher. (Interview 2)

Here, we start seeing Kang’s ambivalence towards the NS myth, as he seemed hesitant to position himself as a qualified NNEST. Similarly, the excerpt below suggests that being a NNEST teaching ESL may be an issue not only for his students, but for himself as well.
. . . but here in this context before I walk in the classroom this non-native speaker identity would come out all the time so I would ask myself I’m a non-native speaker and the students here are in the English as a second language context and would they question my validity my ability as a teacher? That’s the question I ask myself when I uh walk into the classroom. (Interview 1)

Kang was concerned that students would not welcome him as an instructor. His fears were based not only on his status as a NNEST, but also on his race, both of which seem to be conflated in the excerpt below:
I do feel conscious as a non-native speaker in the first class, because when you step into a class, you stood there a student look at you and maybe like they’re uh how would I say? they they they would believe that it should be a a white person, English-speaking person who would teach the class so they would be a little surprised to find that an Asian person, a non-native speaker stand there, so for the first class I might have this kind of consciousness (Interview 3)

5.5. Internalizing the NS myth Despite Kang’s awareness of the NS myth and of the challenges facing NNESTs, at times he seemed to have internalized some of the precepts of the NS myth. For him, there seemed to always be a nagging sense of inadequacy: “Non-nativeness is probably another concept the [sic] creeps into my mind when it comes to teaching in an ESL context” (Teaching philosophy statement 1). In the excerpt below, for example, it seems that Kang had not committed to positioning himself as an “expert speaker” just yet, even though he did ac-

NNESTs 151 knowledge this subjectivity as being an empowering reconceptualization of linguistic competence.
My aim, therefore, is to become an “expert user” of the language, most especially in my own research domain. I have been empowered by such a reconceptualization of linguistic competence (Dialogic journal)

Additionally, after a “protracted discussion” during one of his classes following questions by a few of his students about the different uses of “this” and “it”, Kang felt as if “[his] explanation in class was not very clear”. He thus decided to email his teaching supervisor and a colleague, both native speakers from the same department, in order to “test [his] intuition against a native speaker’s”:
I also email [NS colleague], because I want to uh uh test my intuition against a native speaker’s intuition . . . yeah I just wanted to test my intuitions . . . just ask them whether my intuitions were correct or not. (Interview 3)

Although clarifying one’s doubts with able colleagues seems a reasonable course of action, the main issue here is that Kang felt the need to “test” his intuition against that of NSs. This adds support to the notion that, for Kang, NSs do “have” the language and NNSs are in a position of having to check their understandings against an idealized NS intuition. Indeed, the argument that linguistic intuition is a distinctive advantage of native speakers has been challenged by some researchers. Kramsch (1997), for example, argued that “Chomsky seems to conceive his ‘ideal speaker-listener’ as a monolingual individual whose intuitions perfectly match the expectations of one homogeneous standard community. Such a standard community is increasingly difficult to find in multiethnic industrialized urban societies” (Kramsch 1997: 368). Similarly, Pacek (2005) argued that English “is no longer regarded as the property of NSs only. . . . There has been a growing realization that NSs do not always have accurate insights into all aspects of English” (Pacek 2005: 244). In addition, language teachers, regardless of their native-speaking status, can increasingly take advantage of technological tools such as language corpora, online communications, and Internet content in order to expand their knowledge and check their understanding of certain target language varieties, registers, and genres. Where such tools are readily available, resorting to NS intuition is no longer the only or necessarily the best alternative. Another indication of Kang’s ambivalence toward the NS myth can be seen by contrasting the excerpt above with the one that follows. Here, Kang expressed a view of language as being “in constant change” with users of the language being the ones who “make changes” to it. His views suggesting that

152 D. S. Reis NSs have the language and that NNSs must test their intuitions seem at odds with the view of language he expressed below.
I mean these are prescribed rules, and language are in constant change, so language changes all the time, and people are the one who use the language and they make changes to the language . . . is in constant change. (Observation 8)

During one of our interviews, for example, Kang’s answer to the hypothetical question of whether he would feel comfortable teaching an American pronunciation course seemed to imply that he would not be a good model for his students:
I don’t think I would be confident to teach American pronunciation in an ESL context because I don’t think my pronunciation is American-like, so if it’s this course is called American pronunciation, I don’t think I’m a good model in providing students with this so-called American pronunciation so th_ I wouldn’t think this is a course for me, no (Interview 2)

However, when asked the same question in regards to an EFL context, his answer was more ambivalent, pointing to a possible tension between having (or not having) a certain accent, his ability to teach, and students’ expectations.
. . . it’d be more comfortable, but I would in my teaching I would tell my students that I don’t really have a so-called American accent, uh we wanna work on pronunciation- or the purpose of working on pronunciation uh is for uh us to be able to speak clearly and comprehensibly. It doesn’t have- I mean it doesn’t have to be a certain accent, I mean everybody has an accent, so the purpose of learning how pronounce a certain language is to be clear and comprehensible so I always tell my students this, “it’s perfectly ok for you to have an accent but then try to be clear and comprehensible”. (Interview 2)

It is not surprising that Kang would still feel ambivalent about this issue himself. References to “native speakers” and “American English” are still widely used in an attempt to appeal to prospective students. In fact, courses in American or British pronunciation, as well as accent reduction classes are widely offered on the Internet. In addition, many job ads still list NS status as a requirement. These excerpts seem to indicate that although Kang has been empowered as a learner by a reconceptualization of linguistic competence, he still has some conflicting views. 5.6. Dealing with linguistic insecurity Given Kang’s references to the NS intuition and to his perceived fossilized command of English pronunciation and grammar, there was a tension in re-

NNESTs 153 gards to just how much of an expert he can be or become as a self-identified NNEST. This is especially thorny for NNESTs, as English is both the medium and, to a large extent, the content of instruction. For Kang, the belief that t achers “should know the stuff that [they] are doing” seems to be at odds with e his conceptualization of himself as an expert speaker. On the one hand he feels as though he must know “a lot” to be deemed qualified, but on the other, he at times appeared to suffer from “linguistic insecurity” (Labov 1972), as he put it himself. In the following excerpts, Kang implies that speaking “perfect English”, having “native speaker accent, grammar” and otherwise passing for a NS are goals he desires but cannot achieve. He indicates his English speaking ability and his self-consciousness might also be sources of concern for him that affect his speaking in class.
. . . my language is fossilized and sometimes I complained to my friends and said well I have a lot of colleagues who who speak uh perfect English you can’t tell that they’re not a native speaker. They have these native speaker accent, grammar and everything. I just couldn’t do that. I couldn’t envision myself reaching that stage. (Interview 1) I wish my English was better . . . especially in uh terms of speaking, sometimes I find myself struggling in expressing a certain idea or putting ideas across and because I’m too self-conscious and too timid, so very often I don’t speak up, so if I can be the normal self or I can be very natural very relaxed I think I could express myself much better like in classroom or things like that. (Interview 1)

In sum, we see Kang’s ambivalence toward the NS myth. Despite the work he has done in reconceptualizing himself as an L2 learner in light of alternative identity options (such as Rampton’s [1990] language expertise), he is not free of a deficit metaphor as a NNEST.
The reconceptualization of linguistic competence . . . has empowered me as a L2 learner. However, this doesn’t mean that a revolution has taken place and the native-non native issue is solved once and for all. It is, and will continue to be, an issue that I have to face. The discussion as well as the call for a reconceptualization of linguistic competence has been restricted to a small circle of scholarship within applied linguistics and sociolinguistics. (Dialogic journal)

6. Discussion The analysis above suggests that issues of professional expertise, confidence, and self-esteem were all involved in Kang’s professional identity as a NNEST. His beliefs, attitudes, and feelings toward the NS myth seemed ambiguous and

154 D. S. Reis incongruous. Although at times he seemed to think of himself as an effective teacher, he also seemed to believe that he must “make up” for what he presumably lacks (i.e., “perfect English”, “language intuition” and “cultural insights”, Interview 5). Despite his reconceptualization of linguistic competence as an “L2 learner”, his professional and personal subjectivities appeared ambivalent toward the NS myth. Though he seemed to know that NNESTs can become expert users of English in their own right, he did not seem to feel as though he is an expert or believe that he can become one. As with the participants in Golombek and Jordan’s (2005) study, Kang’s professional identity as a legitimate NNEST is filled with tensions and contradictions. Such tensions are u nderstandable, given his belief that his students would expect to see a white, NS teacher in front of the class. Reportedly, Kang’s self-concept or instructional practices did not significantly change as a result of participating in this study. However, keeping a dialogic journal seemed to help him reflect critically on his teaching.
. . . having this dialogic journal gives me the opportunity to, to reflect my_ on my own teaching in depth because when you, try to write something up, you_ you’re kind of exploring with your ideas, and uh, v_ reflecting in_ at a much deeper level uh with what you have done. So I think that’s really helpful. (Interview 2)

Our exchanges through the dialogic journal enabled Kang to delve into o therwise unexamined beliefs, feelings, and attitudes. Our mutual sharing of our experiences seemed helpful to Kang as well. As he “learn[s] from other people’s experiences” (Interview 4), my sharing of my own experiences and occasional insights seemed to open a mediational space in which we were able to address some of the issues that he might not have wanted to discuss (i.e., had I not shared my own feelings and experiences as a NNEST). Through the relating of our own personal experiences, beliefs, and feelings about the NS myth, we were able to construct a mediational space through which to explore our own self-concepts. More importantly, my interactions with Kang, especially through the dialogic blog, supported him as we dealt with the sometimes emotional issue of professional legitimacy. In sum, Kang went from being a “blind believer” in the NS myth to challenging it, to attempting to empower his students as expert speakers and users of the language. His instructional practice reflected a deep understanding of the NS myth and of its broader implications, as well as a desire to empower his students to resist it. By finding ways, both overt (e.g., bringing up the NS myth in class) and subtle (e.g., his discussion on linguistic imperialism), to challenge the NS myth in his teaching, Kang attempted to proactively address an issue that for him was a source of emotional dissonance and professional tension. Rather than shying away from it, he took a stand and encouraged his students

NNESTs 155 to do the same. He went beyond the claiming of an identity as an L2 learner to helping his students to gain more confidence in their skills. In the context of critical pedagogy, teachers are encouraged to “work with their students to deconstruct language, texts, and discourses, in order to investigate whose interests they serve and what messages are both explicitly and implicitly conveyed” (Hawkins and Norton 2009: 32). Kang certainly did. 7. Limitations Admittedly, this study explored one NNEST’s professional context and experiences for a relatively short amount of time. In addition, it did not provide an in-depth exploration of the participating students’ expectations. Although they were asked to fill out a survey at the beginning and end of the study, they did not provide a full picture of the student participants’ views on the NS/NNS dichotomy or NS myth. Finally, it is not my intention here to make sweeping generalizations about NNESTs or to essentialize their multiple experiences. Clearly, one’s professional development journey and experiences are unique. However, I believe that many NNESTs can relate to Kang’s experiences and feelings as an NNEST and take solace in the fact that they are not alone. 8. Implications and conclusion This study has implications for L2 teacher education. First, systematic opportunities should be created for all TESOL professionals to collaboratively inquire about their beliefs, attitudes, and feelings in regards to the NS myth and how they might want to position themselves in both their local contexts of practice and in the larger sociocultural structures constraining their teaching. In particular, NNESTs can benefit from social mediation and collaboration in conceiving of and internalizing identity options that lead to more professional agency and empowerment. As argued by Simon-Maeda, “both teacher and student subjectivities become transformed when personal histories are used as teaching tools to explore both how prevailing discourses shape our identities and what alternative discourses are available to reinvent ourselves in more empowering ways” (Simon-Maeda 2004: 429). Through narrative inquiry, NNESTs can start to make sense of their professional landscape, challenge disempowering ideologies, and identify as legitimate TESOL professionals. As argued by Hawkins and Norton (2009), “[b]ecause language, culture, and identity are integrally related, language teachers are in a key position to address educational inequality, both because of the particular learners they serve, many of whom are marginalized members of the wider community, and because of

156 D. S. Reis the subject matter they teach — language — which can itself serve to both empower and marginalize” (Hawkins and Norton 2009: 32). Through critical pedagogy (Pennycook 2001) and praxis (i.e., the “integrating [of ] theory and practice in the interests of educational and social change”), teachers can help learners situate themselves in broader relationships of power and attempt to resist oppression (Hawkins and Norton 2009: 36). Teachers can “make changes within these institutions as they engage with new disciplinary ideas and learn from the expertise of others” (Kramsch and Ware 2004: 37). Thus, despite the institutional constraints that bear upon teacher’s work in the classroom, what they choose to do in and through their practice can reverberate to the broader sociocultural context and start a ripple effect (Pennycook 2001). The NS myth has serious implications for NNESTs’ employment prospects and instructional practices. However, while identities are often imposed, they can also be disputed, negotiated, and asserted. The need to support NNESTs as they enter the TESOL profession should be clear. As language teacher educators, we must create systematic opportunities for TESOL professionals to critically reflect on their practice. Duquesnse University Correspondence address: Notes
1. I echo Brutt-Griffler and Samimy (1999) and Lather’s (cited in Brutt-Griffler and Samimy 1999: 419) view of empowerment as the “analyzing [of ] ideas about the causes of powerlessness, recognizing systemic oppressive forces, and acting both individually and collectively to change the conditions of our lives”. 2. I take narrative inquiry to be the “systematic exploration that is conducted by teachers and for teachers through their own stories and language. . . . Such inquiry is driven by teachers’ inner desire to understand that experience, to reconcile what is know with that which is hidden, to confirm and affirm, and to construct and reconstruct understandings of themselves as teachers and of their own teaching” (Johnson and Golombek 2002a: 6 — emphasis in original). 3. Unless otherwise noted, I have chosen to use the terms identity, self, and self-concept and subjectivity somewhat interchangeably in reference to one’s understanding of oneself in relation to one’s sociocultural context, social relationships, and activity in the world. 4. I take internalization to be “the process through which developing teachers move beyond positions of cognitive internalization of theory and practices toward transformative positions of reflective commitment needed to guide them in their generative development as (. . .) t achers” e (Ball 2007: 229). 5. All names used here are pseudonyms chosen by the participants themselves. 6. A pseudonym, though comparable in size to the actual university attended by the participant. 7. The fifth interview was conducted as a follow-up, approximately six months after the course had ended.

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