Do you need to be Italian to be able to make pasta?

I’ve been thinking and thinking about what to add to the responses I’ve seen to Karenne’s Dogme Blog Challenge #6, where the focus this time is on NEST/NNESTs and dogme, and come up a bit of a blank.

Oh, for those not in the know, NEST = Native English Speaker Teacher; NNEST = Non Native English Speaker Teacher (i.e. someone who also learnt English as a Foreign/Second/Other Language). And welcome to acronym hell (or heaven depending)

It seems everyone’s coming to more or less the same conclusion (that it doesn’t really matter whether a teacher is a native speaker or not, good teachers win out, and both can dogme, but maybe from different starting points and with different underlying knowledge). Please read these teachers’ posts. They are clear and clever to the core:

To be perfectly honest, I have little to add here. My colleagues have done a fab job of exploring the issue, earlier touched upon by Ken Wilson among others. As a native speaker who has taught in Spain and the UK alongside both native and non native speakers, I can definitely say that we all bring our skills to the table, and that both alike have the potential to dogme.

However, I’d like to widen my viewfinder, and draw an analogy which may be barking up the wrong tree entirely (if this is the case, feel free to say so!).

Namely, would you eat this bloke’s spaghetti?

What's he doing with those nuts?

Ok, if you don’t know, that’s Jamie Oliver. Born in Clavering, Essex, and certainly not Italian. The point is, language, like cooking, is not (entirely) a product. So I don’t think you can tie it together with the issue of nativeness. So just like Jamie can learn to cook Italian (I think) we can teach ourselves and others to learn a lingo! But this is all really just hot air, and I’ve got no proof, just what I think.

For more Jamie related info, check out his Wikipedia entry:

For more food-related EFL blogging, do check out the Tesla Coil:

Image credit: Jamie Oliver and Scandic Hotels continue together by Scandic Hotels on Flickr


  1. A good analogy, well-put Mike but I wonder if Jamie ever gets looked down upon by Italian chefs or over-criticised by Italian customers… 😉

    • Good point, Dave! As I said above (or to that effect) my post isn’t nearly as fully formed as the bloggers above. My instinct would be that maybe he does (maybe he hasn’t got the Italian mama’s touch to his gnocchi or whatever). Jamie, if you’re out there, would you let us know?


  2. My 2 cents Mike. The comparison may not be fair as we don’t really know what PASTA translates to in teaching. I believe Language Teaching has nothing to do with NEST or NNEST just with GOOD and BAD teachers. However, when it comes to picking up linguistic mannerisms, NNESTs rarely use expressions that “Grandpa used” (Bob’s your uncle). The parallel can be that Jamie will never use age old recipes handed down generations that don’t appear in recipe books – (dogme again !!). This is in no way a criticism of NESTs or NNESTs – just an observation.

    • Cheers for that Ron,
      I guess I was thinking more about the process, which is what I think is a big part of language teaching/learning. But no, there’s not really any direct relation to cooking. I feel at a certain level (and this pertains to teaching in general as well as dogme specifically), that native vs non-native really is a waste of time. Having said that, I do like the comparison you make to linguistic mannerisms and using grandma’s cook book recipes.

      Thanks for adding to this

      Mike =)

  3. Love the analogy Mike – I am always up for a good analogy (I think it makes things more easily understandable ;-)). I have to say I’d definitely eat pasta made by Jamie there – or anything else he might cook for me!!! I think it illustrates the dichotomy very well. But I think Dave brought up a very valid point when he wonders if Italians chefs don’t look down on Jamie – I believe some might. And not only chefs, but also ordinary people who like to eat pasta and believe the best pasta always comes from Italian chefs!

    This challenge has been great to show that everybody agrees on one thing: it’s not about your nationality, but about the teacher you are and how seriously you take your profession and development. :-) Cheers!

    • Hey Cecilia!

      Yes, analogies are all good in my book – I’ve been enjoying those you’ve been making too!

      I think you’re right that it seems we are mostly in agreement on the fact of being a teacher – don’t matter where you’re from, and I agree with Sabrina, it IS all about passion.

      Mike =)

  4. Nice analogy, Mike. Cecilia’s point is good too. I made a similar point about me teaching piano even though I’m not a professional musician.

  5. Hi Mike,
    I really like your analogy. I think it illustrates the issue very well.
    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, NNEST and NEST issues and discrimination.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). I think this one in a slightly expanded form would be a great start. 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: marek_kiczkowiak[at]
    Looking forward to your reply.


    • Hi Marek,

      Thanks very much for the comment. I noticed the TEFL Equity blog from a post on Hugh Dellar’s blog, and I’ve also seen very worthwhile promotion of the agenda on other social media. I’m glad that the analogy in this post makes the point that I intended it to, namely that to tie ability in a skill (essentially what being able to speak a language is) to nationality is, to me, a completely stupid idea. I’d be happy to write something, but am quite busy and it would take time to craft something appropriate. I’ll keep it in mind and probably be able to contribute something over the summer.



      • Hi Mike,
        Thanks for your reply. I’m glad that the word about our blog has been spreading around :)
        That’s fine. Drop me a line when you’ve written something you’d like us to publish.



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