Tuesday, July 16, 2024
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Non-native speakerism has had its day

Two inlingua schools, one in Germany and one in Italy, are among the 80% of schools in continental Europe no longer using the term ‘native speaker’ in job ads. The three other international groups in our sample also used ‘native level’ rather than ‘native speaker’ in their advertising.

But, with one highly qualified Greek English teacher suing another inlingua school in Germany for language-based discrimination (see opposite page), it’s clear that the problem hasn’t gone away.

While the majority of adverts specify only ‘native level English’, they also require British teaching qualifications, such as Cambridge CELTA and Trinity Cert TESOL rather than, for example, full state teaching qualifications from an EU country. A small number of ads also state a preference for candidates with ‘teaching experience in an English-speaking country’. However, since UK summer schools hired large numbers of EU teachers pre- Brexit, this is not tantamount to excluding non-native speakers.

Some centres state a preference for teachers with proficiency in the local language as well as English, a practice long standard in France and Germany. In so far as such a requirement is used to favour local teachers over those from other EU member states, it may also be challenged as discriminatory under EU law.

Another potential problem is the lack of definition as to what constitutes ‘native level’. Rather surprisingly, given that all the advertisers were language schools in Europe, only two specified a level on the Common European Framework of Reference for Language, with others requiring teachers to be ‘fluent’, ‘proficient’ and even ‘very competent of understanding and using English grammar (sic)’.

Although most EU teachers cannot legally work in Britain, jobs are appearing in other English language destinations. Only a couple of Irish advertisers are specifically focusing on applications from other EU countries, specifying the right to work in the EU and offering help with accommodation. None specified language level. By contrast all the Maltese mentioned work rights, but language levels in the country are based on the national framework and specific language tests may need to be taken.

Of the 20% of EU employers who specified native speaker teachers, just over half were seeking teaching assistants in Spain’s bilingual state schools, posts which by law must go to L1 applicants. Around a quarter were from countries in Central Europe, where non-EU citizens can work freelance on business visas. Only one language school which specified native speakers offered help with visas.

Sadly, many schools would still prefer native speakers. As an example, one group in Spain has been advertising teacher training courses in a magazine for local British expats. But Brussels law and the aftermath of Brexit means non-native speakerism is finally on its way out.

Image courtesy of PHOTO PIXABAY
Melanie Butler
Melanie Butler
Melanie started teaching EFL in Iran in 1975. She worked for the BBC World Service, Pearson/Longman and MET magazine before taking over at the Gazette in 1987 and also launching Study Travel magazine. Educated in ten schools in seven countries, she speaks fluent French and Spanish and rather rusty Italian.
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