Document Type: Original Article
Canterbury Christ Church University, UK
This paper asserts that English teachers’ understanding of their professionalism enables them to ‘put the learner in the spotlight’ through their highly-developed awareness of local contexts of English use. Changing attitudes to English language teacher identity include a revaluation of the’ native-non-native speaker’ dichotomy which is fast becoming irrelevant as teachers assert new identities based on factors such as professional beliefs about their teaching, understanding their students’ needs and understanding the role of English in their contexts. In a globalising world, these aspects no longer require ‘so-called’ native speaker skills, such as pronunciation and knowledge of ‘English’ culture. In fact, dwelling at length on the issues surrounding native and non-native speaker teacher identity tends to cloud understanding of what qualities English teachers need. Interviews with multilingual teachers of English, working in a variety of countries, have revealed an understanding of the diminishing importance of the ‘native speaker’ and the concomitant growth in the confidence of the multilingual teacher. This confidence has been acquired through depth of linguistic knowledge, through observance of other cultures, and through resistance to the encroachment of English by finding a place for the language which satisfies the needs of multilingual users without requiring subservience. In discovering these strengths of multilingual teachers, I show how stepping outside the boundaries of one’s own limited environment allows English language teachers, wherever they come from, to develop a truly enlightened international professionalism which puts learners firmly in the spotlight.