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September 04, 2013

Vietnam | Opinion

Why Asia needs white losers

teaching-english-in-vietnamVietnam's Thanh Nien News reports what it calls a "tongue-in-cheek look at 'racism' in hiring English teachers."

Last week this paper carried an article titled English teaching: Is White Right? The piece, written by Nazley Omar, made a pretty strong case that Vietnam uses racist hiring guidelines to recruit teachers.

I wholeheartedly disagree. It’s not that Vietnamese educators and parents are racist for overtly discriminating against Asian teachers. They just understand that their kids have a lot to learn from white losers.

In her piece Ms. Omar describes a Filipino teacher with a four-year degree in education, an English teaching certification, and a tough time finding a job. Meanwhile, she asserts that “any white person with a pulse and a degree” can net an English teaching job in Vietnam.

Hey. That’s just simply not true. It takes a bold, visionary type of white person to come over here and teach, especially those of us who have no background in education or formal training.

Read the full article from Thanh Nien News.

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I agree, what about all the 'Asian losers' and 'African losers' that immigrate to White countries to find 'a new life'? Nobody ever talks about that do they? But the same people always seem to find a line to comment on whites doing the same.

Well, maybe because some of these 'Asian losers' and 'African losers' bring with them better job skills that make them more competitive. Unlike some 'White losers' who get the job just because of his skin color, regardless of whether or not he knows how to manage a class, or has stepped in front of a classroom before moving to some obscure Asian country. Because, you know, knowing how to *teach* English is inherent in all White native speakers.

I don't see "Asian losers" or "African losers" or "Hispanic losers" bringing with them any competitive skills to the States - None at all. They get jobs in landscaping, food service or construction not because they necessarily know how to do these jobs but because of who they are. Is that so different from a "White loser" moving to Japan and teaching English?

Really, none *at all*? No Chinese doctors, Filipino Nurses, Indian Engineers? Your world must be really small...

Though I must admit not all "White losers" lack the credentials to teach. That's why I was careful to use the word "some". And as you've mentioned, those jobs are mostly labor based/ intensive. Teaching is clearly a whole different matter.

@ L.J. Jenkins - You must be a jealous academic, jealous at the fact that a practitioner who does not know of academic theory can do as well if not better than a credentialed teacher at teaching ESL.

While I'm delighted to see some discussion happening on the site, let's steer clear of personal attacks.

How could an article like this not generate discussion :)

Academics lecture birds on how to fly. Birds fly. Academics write about how birds fly and create theories on how they fly which are useless to birds but the academics claims the birds are using their theories ...

I work for one of the most respected language service providers in the USA. When the U.S. military or a major airline contracts us to teach foreign languages why do you think that most of the time academics are not hired to do the instruction?

@Dirk Tengg: Ah, no. Not at all. Just raising an eyebrow at those who fall in the dangerous pit of hasty generalization, especially when I can't detect a hint of sarcasm/ 'tongue-in-cheek'ness in their statements.

While I'm flattered that you think I'm from the academe, I'm unfortunately am not. I'm a simple bloke teaching kids this peculiar language we call English.

But anyway, we are digressing from the real issue here, and for that I apologize. It's like this- again, I reiterate that this does not mean that it applies to all- but we cannot deny that there is 'racism' in EFL teaching, specifically in choosing the person who will do the job, and do it well.

If you've read the article linked above, you'll know that the problem arises from schools/employers who'd rather hire someone who fits their image of an English "native" speaker (which is often a Caucasian person). This is problematic because it promotes an essentialist view of what a "native" speaker is, when we know that achieving "native" level of proficiency in English is anything but limited to this image. It sends the message that POC that are not from "native speaking" countries (such as the case of Ms. Omar) are not 'good enough' to teach English because the variety of their English is apparently limited to where they come from and is not on a par with international standards. English then becomes a tool of cultural hegemony. This stereotyping, in a way, takes away one of the important things you can get from the language- it's ability to open one's mind to the diversity of cultures and peoples.

If the US military asked me for 8 weeks of ESL training for a handful of soldiers who are not native English speakers I would not hire a Filipino. If they asked me for Brazilian Portuguese I would not hire someone from Lisbon. When asked for Chilean Spanish for the US Navy, they are given a Chilean and not a white American who is fluent in Spanish and specializes in various South American dialects. Only if a client asked for Canadian French would they be given an instructor from Quebec, otherwise the instructor is French. I see your point but that is simply how the business is. In Asia, clients want what they deem to be the *real thing* if you don't give it to them you lose the business to someone who can.

I've been working as an English teacher for quite some time now and I have met and worked with white native speakers who spell 'banana' as 'bannana', who adamantly insist that it's 'would of' and 'could of' instead of 'would/could have', who use 'then' and 'than' interchangeably, etc.. Remarkably, these people teach JHS kids, and because they are "native" speakers, it is the general assumption that they must be using the language correctly.

This is what I think Ms. Omar is griping about in her article, and why 'she asserts that “any white person with a pulse and a degree”'can net an English teaching job' . Hiring an English teacher should be based on competence and not the color of your skin. Competence does not necessarily mean having to major in Education/ knowing academic theories either (though it helps). If you've been teaching for 3, 5 years and you're good at what you're doing, whether you're Asian, Caucasian, African-American, Hispanic should not matter. Unfortunately,competent teachers are being pushed aside in favor of those who fit the image of the "real thing".

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