The world around us as well as the relationships, whether they are social, political, national, sexual, cultural or any other, are perceived through the language. Also language can be treated as a key factor in obtaining political power, economic resources, education, social status or cultural resources. In other words, language issues matter, having a tremendous impact on various facets of people’s life.
In order to study an ongoing conversation of people about issues they care about we can apply a critical ethnographic sociolinguistic approach. A critical stance implies reflexivity both on social processes (i.e. inequality) and consequences they might have for people, communities and institutions. An ethnographic exploration concerns specific conditions and contexts where social processes work, whereas sociolinguistic research may comprise “all kinds of investigations into how language matters, socially, politically and economically.”
As far as language ideologies about teaching english in European countries are concerned, one topic which might arouse reflexivity among non-native English teachers is why they are underestimated in the countries where there are not many English native teachers who demonstrate standard accent or “pronunciation of educated people”.
Notwithstanding broad teaching experience or pedagogical qualifications of non-native English teachers, existing societal language ideology excludes or delegimatizes highly professional teachers who may have a non-native accent, giving the priority to english native-speakers, even without teaching background. Such negative attitudes to a non-native accent might originate from a belief that only people who got an education abroad or were born in English speaking countries may demonstrate good knowledge of the English language.
Consequently, advantageous terms of work and higher salaries for English natives may attract a number of foreigners without professional background in the European system of education, excluding residents without a non-native English accent.
Micro-level of social inequality, wich results in low salaries, fewer job opportunities, discrimination in job recrouting, etc., leads to a global paradox on the macro-level. High requirements towards English as a foreign language increase the overall level of performance among European residents, providing them with a “linguistic capital” in terms of easy access to universities worldwide, advantages when having job interviews and being promoted.
Conversely, a demand-driven approach of the community to education in Europe might force non-native English teachers to get rid of a strong local accent which they must have acquired and also to acquire advanced English language knowledge.
In other words, widespread language ideologies about teaching do impinge on the majority of European teaching staff, however, they might impact positively on their skills in the long-term perspective. Therefore, language issues, such as the need for a good command of English, may bring about complex changes in the European system of education, i.e. advanced teachers’ training, higher level of English classes at schools and universities, and, consequently, more career opportunities for European residents.
As teaching is a big industry and parents of students, being stakeholders, are ready to invest in education, the question on what teachers to prefer may be accute, although there is no clear-cut answer yet.