The Birth and Rise of the NNEST Movement

Although critical scholarship focusing on NNEST issues began to gain attention in 1990s, the formal beginnings of the NNEST movement dates back to the colloquium entitled “In Their Own Voices: Nonnative Speaker Professionals in TESOL”, organized by George Braine at the 30th Annual TESOL Convention held in Chicago in 1996. The colloquium brought together both leading and emerging NNS scholars in TESOL/applied linguistics, including Ulla M. Connor, Suresh Canagarajah, Kamal Sridhar, Jacinta Thomas, and Devi Chitrapu. The idea for a brand new Caucus focusing on NNEST issues emerged at the discussion and was followed up by a signature drive.

In 1998, the Non-Native English Speakers in TESOL (NNEST) Caucus was formally established with George Braine as the Chair, Jun Liu as the Chair-elect, Lia Kamhi-Stein as the Newsletter Editor, and Aya Matsuda as the Webmaster. The first official meeting of the Caucus was held at the 1999 TESOL Convention in New York.

The overarching goal of the Caucus was basically to strengthen effective teaching and learning of English around the world while respecting individuals’ language rights. More specifically, the primary goals of the Caucus were to
   • create a nondiscriminatory professional environment for all TESOL members regardless of native language and place of birth
   • encourage the formal and informal gatherings of NNS at TESOL and affiliate conferences
   • encourage research and publications on the role of nonnative speaker teachers in ESL and EFL contexts, and
   • promote the role of nonnative speaker members in TESOL and affiliate leadership positions.

In 2008, by consensus of its members, the Caucus transformed itself into an Interest Section of the TESOL International Association. This may be regarded as a step forward since Caucuses are primarily advocacy-oriented whereas Interest Sections deal more in-depth with professional issues. In the meantime, the establishment of an NNEST-related entity was echoed in local TESOL affiliates through the foundation of the CATESOL (California TESOL) NNLEI Group (1999), and WATESOL (Washington Area TESOL) NNEST Caucus (2004).

The year 2018 brought two major changes for the Interest Section concerning its name and goals. In the light of recent scholarship on privilege and marginalization in TESOL, the name of the IS has been updated to "NonNative" English Speaker Teachers Interest Section. The hyphen in the original title was removed as it does not conform TESOL International Association's style guidelines. The quotation marks surrounding the word "NonNative" was purposefully added to denote the idea that teachers may position themselves (and others), and be positioned, as "non-native." In the light of this recent revision, The Interest Section now aims to
      • promote, develop, and advance academic and professional awareness of the experiences of "NNEST" professionals in the field;
      • Stimulate scholarship, research, and professional development within the IS, by sponsoring special projects, sessions at the TESOL Convention, webinars, and publications;;
      • provide members with opportunities to learn about the continuum of perspectives that study and address privilege-marginalization;
      • contribute to the cultivation of a nondiscriminatory professional environment for all TESOL members, through a focus on teachers positioning themselves and/or positioned as "NNESTs"; and
      • connect with other critically-oriented professional communities within and beyond TESOL International, in unity and in recognition that privilege-marginalization manifests in ways unaddressed by the scope of the IS.

Serving as a prominent intellectual space for transformation, the NNEST Caucus/Interest Section offers a biannual newsletter, an active listserv, and the website to publicize its activities and disseminate information among the membership. Today, it is home to an extremely diverse and vibrant TESOL community striving for such values as collaboration, participation, equity, justice and professionalism in TESOL.

Here are three articles by our former presidents, George Braine and Brock Brady, which take us through the journey of how the NNEST Caucus came to exist:

NNS and Invisible Barriers in ELT
Non-native English Speakers in TESOL Caucus Formed
Growing Recognition - The New Non Native English Speaking Teaching Interest Section