Sunday, 28 November 2010

Raised by NNESTs

The original photo found at Beverly@Pack's photostream

Dogme Blog Challenge #6:

Luke Meddings & Scott Thornbury, Teaching Unplugged, Delta Teacher Development Series, 2009.

Can non-native teachers 'do Dogme'? And, if they can't, why not?

NNESTs are judged both by how effective they are as teachers and by how good their English is. I have to say right at the beginning that I find it quite unacceptable for anyone to teach a subject they are not proficient at. And, though we can never become as good as native speakers are, we can, and should, keep learning.

150/365/880 (November 8, 2010) - Flapjack and Wanda

Guess I should explain the title now. You see, most of my teachers were NNESTs. Though I had a few NESTs at University, I feel that I owe everything I know to my non-native English teachers. Some of them were good, others were great. There were one or two not so great ones, but that's life. They used a variety of methods. You will probably find most of their methods terribly outdated, but a few were way ahead of their time. Whatever they did, whichever method they used, they have obviously been successful, for here I am. The proof of the pudding is in the eating.

(You can recognise a NNEST by their use of hideous outdated idioms such as: "The proof of the pudding is in the eating" and "It's raining cats and dogs.")


Most of my primary and secondary school teachers used a combination of grammar-translation and class discussions. Speaking has always been considered an important part of learning languages in my country. Serbs are talkative and extroverted and they rarely have a problem when they need to speak, even when their "grammar" is "all wrong". Plus they have an opinion on every topic in the world. Add to that inadequate books prescribed by someone who has never been inside a classroom. Picture a secondary school teacher walking through the door armed with this inadequate book. She does every exercise in the book and she still has half an hour of nothing to fill the class with. What will she do? She will get the students talking and, as I have said, it is usually not difficult to do that over here.

Karenne also asks:

I work with adults. Some of my students are professional people who have really 'made it' in life, but they have somehow failed to learn English (and to really 'make it' in life you have to be able to speak English). Others are in my classroom because they want to change something in their lives and learning English seems to be the right way to start (I wrote about this topic in The Teacher as the Light at the End of the Tunnel). Whether they are successful businessmen or unemployed and trying to make ends meet, all my adult students share one thing - they feel inadequate for not being able to speak English. As a NNEST, I know exactly how they feel. I have been there. I catch them making the same mistakes I once made, I see them hitting a plateau and getting stuck, I see them confused and irritated at the complexity of English language and I remember the days when I felt like that. As a NNEST, the best gift I can give them is to reassure them that, if I could do it, they can do it too. The people I teach share my mother tongue with me, so I can predict where they are going to have problems and what mistakes they are going to make. And I can explain to them that those mistakes are good, they are a part of the learning process and they are going to disappear with time, because that's what happened to me. Sometimes when the students say something incomprehensible in English, I know what they wanted to say because I can translate it word for word into Serbian.

Karenne goes on to ask:

I will never be able to speak English like a native speaker. However, I would say that I have one advantage as a NNEST - I am able to understand how both languages work and to jump from one "model of expression" to the other with relative ease.

You need to understand that I am not 'doing Dogme' at the moment, though, as I have already said, I kind of like it. I am doing the challenge because I would like to learn more about Dogme and then maybe one day... Who knows...

Now let me go back to where I have started this post.

Can NNESTs teach unplugged? I see no reason why they shouldn't be able to do that if that's what they decided to do.

There's something else I keep wondering about: If, as the result of what we do in the classroom, our students learn English , doesn't that mean that we are doing the right thing?

Is the proof of the pudding in the eating? Or is it in the recipe we used?

Christmas pudding 1: ingredients

We hear a lot about learning styles. What about teaching styles?

Just a thought...

Gold Medal Chocolate Pudding - McDonalds


Leahn said...


What a great response! Well done a great read. I love the cat dog thing.


Natasa said...

Hi Leahn. Thank you.
I first came up with the idea of creating cat and dog cartoons, then I spent a week looking at cute cat and dog pictures on Flickr and I favorited lots of them. I was going to include more pics, but I decided I had to control myself. It wasn't easy.

Janet Bianchini said...

Hi Natasa

Like Leahn, I too love the cats and dogs theme and I know how hard it iscute images.

I think this post is a fantastic one, Natasa and thank you for sharing your thoughts on this very interesting topic!

PS I have to confess I still teach "it's raining cats and dogs" as I happen to personally like it.

However, I always explain to students, that yes, this idiom is a bit outdated, but that if used with caution, and often in a humorous way, you can still get away with using it!!

Natasa said...

Thank you Janet. I am really glad you have enjoyed it. I like "It's raining cats and dogs" too.They used to teach us a lot of idioms at school, but they later warned us that we should be careful when we teach idioms because we are not native speakers and idioms go out of fashion quickly. It is a pity, though. I would like to be able to judge which idioms are outdated. Then I wouldn't end up teaching only the idioms that are in the textbooks.

Marek Kiczkowiak said...

Thanks for your post. Very interesting.
Recently, together with a group of like-minded teachers, we have decided to set up a blog where we are going to publish articles and materials related to hiring policies and NNEST/NEST debate.You can find it here:
We would like this blog to be a place for discussion, exchange of ideas and above all a source of inspiration and motivation that change is possible. We also want to keep it as open to contributions as possible, so I was wondering whether you would be willing to contribute a post (or a few). You're free to choose anything related to the theme of the blog, but if you need idea, I'd be quite happy to give you a few. Of course, we’d link it to your blog, directing even more readers to it.
You can contact me either via the blog or email:
Looking forward to your reply.


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