Profiling the “native speaker” of English: myths and implications for ESL learning and teaching

  • Ambrose B Chimbganda Center for Academic Development, University of Botswana, Botswana


This article discusses the controversial concept of the “native speaker” of English within the context of the language policy on higher education of not only Southern Africa in general, but also of many other bi- or multilingual countries that are faced with the problem of choosing a language that can be used for higher education. First, the article analyzes in some detail the different criteria used for defining a native speaker of English. It shows that many of the common assumptions are either hollow, half-truths or are deliberately intended to reinforce social, political, economic and educational exclusivity. The article then goes on to show how the notion of the “native speaker” of English affects ESL teaching and learning. In each case, it is argued that an insistence on “native speaker” norms, such as the use of “standard” English, suffocates the growth of regional varieties that have characterized, over many generations, the accommodative nature of English. The remaining part of the article is devoted to suggesting the ways and means of tackling English language learning problems in order to enhance the students\' academic literacy skills. The article concludes by proposing that the main challenge in our current language discourse is to design a vibrant learning and teaching curriculum that can produce an academic intelligentsia that are capable of competing globally.

Keywords: native speaker, acquisition, Standard English; dialect, mother tongue, critical period; first language, second language; bilingual; multilingual, competence

Journal for Language Teaching Vol. 39(1) 2005: 18-33

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 0259-9570