Fitting In and Fighting Out

Non-native teachers of English engaging in an Australian ESL environment


  • Urmee Chakma Monash University



Native speakerism, non-native English speaking teacher, NNEST, English language teaching, ELT, English as a second language, ESL


This study explores and problematises the various challenges six non-native English-Speaking Teachers (NNESTs) faced in the ESL teaching profession. The purpose of this study was to increase an in-depth understanding of non-native English speaking teachers in terms of their perceived and actual employability, students’ perceptions of them, and the discriminatory practices they are often reported to be subjected to in the ESL industry in Australia. The number of international students studying ESL at Australian language centres has increased significantly in recent years and a concurrent increase in trained NNESTs seeking employment in these centres necessitates this study. The findings revealed that the participants still face challenges to some extent in the ESL teaching profession in Melbourne and their teaching approaches are impacted by their linguistic and educational experiences. The study also found that, contrary to popular belief, NNESTs do not use the so-called ‘traditional’ teaching approaches while teaching, despite their own learning of English through such approaches. As well, far from seeing it as a disadvantage, these teachers often utilise their non-native status as a positive source of inspiration to encourage ‘non-native’ students in the classroom.

As data in the study indicates, the participants’ pedagogical approaches have been influenced by their past linguistic, educational, and cultural experiences, this understanding will help these programs become better attuned to teachers’ experiences and backgrounds and encourage NNES future teachers to examine their varied experiences in relation to theories of language acquisition, language teaching and curriculum design.


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Three women studying in a classroom