From Shame to Pride: The Transformation of a Non-Native English teacher

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What happens when you want to open your mouth but you’re too afraid of what comes out?
Would you still speak? Or would you keep quiet?

This is a question Isis faced years ago when she had just moved to Canada from Brazil.
And for a while, she chose to be quiet. Her fears took over.
The fear of judgment, fear of prejudice, fear of being excluded, fear of being stereotyped, fear of making mistakes.

The only problem was… She was an English teacher.
That was her passion in life.

How can you overcome fears and fulfill your passion?
How can you make your voice heard despite your limiting thoughts?
How can you change your mindset to achieve your dreams and your goals?

This and much more will be discussed in today’s episode:

Let us know in the comments below:
1. What are your advantages as a non-native speaker?
2. ESL teachers – share with us some of the fears, frustrations, successes, and stories that you’ve experienced on your English teaching journey.

Thanks for watching!

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Hey there, it’s Hadar

and this is the Accent’s Way

and today we are going to explore the identity

of the non-native speaker.

To do that I invited a special guest.

Her name is Isis Diamond.

Isis is a good friend.

She’s been a dominant community
member for over a year.

And she’s also a student of mine

in my Accent Makeover training program.

Let’s welcome Isis Diamond.

– Hello, hello Isis Diamond.

How are you doing?

– I’m good.

How are you?

– I can’t tell you how excited I am

to finally have you on my channel.

So Isis,

for those of you who don’t know you,

why don’t you introduce yourself?

– My name is Isis

I am an English teacher

and I think that’s it.

I like painting.

I like art.

I like psychology.

I like philosophy.

I like self-help stuff.

That’s it, I think.

– Are these your paintings in the background?

– Yes, their mine.

– They are beautiful.

So, Isis, like I said
that in the introduction

but I said that you’re
very dominant member

in our online community on Facebook.

And a very proud member

and super super supportive.

And you’re also my student.

An Accent Makeover student

and an excellent one at that.

So this is how we know each other.

We’ve known each other for over a year, I think.

– A year now. Yes.

– A little over a year.

And I feel like we’ve known each other forever

like for years, right?

So, Isis, the reason why I wanted to talk to you

and the reason why I brought you here

and because I think you have so much to share

with our audience

and community members

who struggle with

maybe shame or with feeling self-conscious

about who they are about being a non-native speaker.

So needless to say you’re here

and we are talking about being a non-native speaker.

You are not a native speaker of English, right?

– Yes, I’m not

– So maybe give us a little background around that.

Like where are you from, originally?

– I was born and raised in Brazil,

so I speak Brazilian Portuguese.

I learned English as a child.

When I was 11

and I finished my program.

I went to a language school

and I finished my program when I was 17.

I started teaching when I was 16.

I taught in Brazil for five years.

And then I moved to Toronto, Canada at the age of 20

and I study translation at University in Brazil.

And then when I moved to Toronto,

I had to go back to college.

I took TESOL to become an English teacher here

and that’s what I’ve been doing here for eight years.

So altogether,

I’ve been a teacher for 13 years.

I’m very proud of my experience.

It’s all over the place.

– So I can say that you’re proud teacher.

It’s safe to say that right here.

And I knew that I wanted to become a teacher

when I was a child.

– Oh beautiful.

How would you define the
difference between who you were,

let’s say eight years ago,

or five years ago,

when you had just moved to
Canada and started teaching,

and the teacher that you are today?

How are those teachers different?

– I think that it’s all about your mindset.

And it’s not about like even being a teacher.

It’s your mindset about the language

and how you feel in the
language about yourself.

Because I remember that in Brazil,

I was always so confident.

I was always so proud of myself.

I always felt that I was a great teacher

and I just felt strong

about English in general.

But then I moved to here

and I think that I
started comparing myself.

I started comparing myself
to the people around me.

Maybe I’ve experienced being around people

who are not as encouraging.

I just looked down on on myself.

I had no problem teaching in Brazil.

I was a teenager and I was
teaching like businessmen

who were older than me

which could be intimidating, right?

But I never cared.

I was like I don’t care.

I don’t care.

I have a lot to tell you, guys

and I have a lot to teach you, guys.

But then I came here in my mindset.

I didn’t even think that I could be a teacher here.

I was like “no”.

“I’m not from here.”

“I can’t be a teacher here.”

What am I gonna do?

And then I did some research.

And then I found out

that I just had to go back to school

and then I could become a teacher.

But I think my limiting belief of this comparison

of native non-native prevented me.

It prevented me for such a long time

that I wouldn’t come out of my shell

and be myself because I was afraid.

I was in fear.

I was in fear for a long time.

– What were the thoughts that went through your head?

What were you afraid of?

– I think at the beginning of my life here

I was always really depressed.

English was my passion.

The main reason why I moved here

even though there was a lot
of stuff going on in my life,

it was because of English.

I wanted to be around English.

And that’s what it is.

It’s my passion.

But then when I found out

I was afraid

of the thing that I was the most passionate about

that killed me.

I couldn’t be myself.

I couldn’t speak up.

I was always afraid.

I was always in my head like thinking,

What if I make a mistake?

What if I make a grammar mistake?

I don’t know how to pronounce this.

I’m not even gonna try.

And then I just decided to be in a bubble.

And I did it for four or five years.

I just decided not to speak in English

and not even to speaking Portuguese.

I remember making that decision.

I was like “I don’t want to speak anymore.”

Because I don’t want people to know

that I’m afraid of speaking in English

and I don’t want people to then

think that it’s English

so I’m not even gonna speak in Portuguese.

That’s a decision I made to myself.

– And how was it?

Like how were your first few years teaching?

So how did you combine this anxiety of being judged

or being recognized as a non-native speaker

while you were the authority

You know, the teacher of English

You had to have this authority in English

and at the same time felt

like you were not even like,

like a fraud,

It’s not your job,

like an imposter.

How did you survive those few years?

What did you do?

Did you did you share with people

that you’re a non native speaker?

Was it something that you were ashamed of?

– I didn’t know how to approach that

but I think like for everybody

even in college just being around native speakers

I was always like “oh my god,

I can’t make mistakes.”

I can’t say anything.

And then after graduating

I got a job.

And I started working

and at work I wouldn’t say a thing in the office.

And I think even after when I talked to some people

they even said like, “oh, we thought you were stuck up.”

Like cocky or something.

And I’m like “no,

I was afraid of speaking in the office

because I was surrounded by native speakers.”

I remember being very soft spoken.

I would explain things,

I would do what I had to do

but I wasn’t myself.

The first four years,

it took me some time to actually try to speak up more

and really be myself while teaching.

It was always the fear.

I didn’t know if I had to introduce myself

and say that I was from Brazil or not

because one of my limiting beliefs

was that students come, they travel abroad

because they wanna have classes with native speakers.

The industry promotes the word “native”, “native”, “native”

all the time.

The word “native” drove me crazy.

So I was always like they come here

because they wanna be around native speakers

because they wanna have classes with native speakers.

So how am I gonna introduce myself?

“Hi, I’m from Brazil”

and a person would come and say,

“Well, I came all the way here from Brazil to have classes

here with a Brazilian?”

And that’s what I told myself.

And I didn’t know how to introduce myself.

I didn’t, I didn’t.

– We talked about it a lot,

you and I

and we discussed it in
the in our community

as well.

So what do you think now looking back

and also observing your performance as a teacher?

What do you think the advantages are of being a teacher

who’s also a non-native speaker?

– I think we can relate to the students much more.

Recently on and off in my career here

I would say some things about myself

but I was always not really like.

Oh they are interested because they don’t wanna know

about me because I’m not from here.

They would like to know more about the culture here.

But what I’ve come to realize

that I can relate to them

and I can share a method

which is the most important thing.

I believe that students should become independent

and how you become independent

is about

developing your methods

so that you can learn things regardless

grammar,

pronunciation of vocabulary or whatever.

And I don’t believe in giving students answers

because they are always gonna be relying on someone

telling them what to do

and I think I love the times.

what I have I noticed

is that a lot of teachers might just say to students,

oh, that’s not how we say it.

Oh, that’s, how we say it.

And it’s not good enough.

It’s not good enough for me

if you say that’s not how we say it.

– I totally agree with you.

First of all,

we have gone through this ourselves

like we have learned it.

We had to learn it.

We did something

like we developed a method in our heads

to really get it right.

And if it was effective

then we know how to communicate
that probably better.

And also like the way I’ve been teaching

and I know that you have too

is through like understanding the mistake.

Understanding the confusion.

And when you start teaching from there,

rather than this is how it should be

but like

this is why you don’t get it to begin with.

This is why it’s not natural.

This is where you automatically go.

Whether it’s sounds or grammar rules or whatnot.

Like if you understand

where are the two languages clash,

then it’s a lot easier to really implement

the new materials

in that angle.

Teaching them learning strategies

rather than just like teaching them the material

is extremely valuable.

I know we will share these opinions.

Why don’t you share a little bit about the transformation

from the person you were to the person you are now

or actually from the teacher you used to be

to the teacher that you are now

and maybe share what has led to this transformation?

What are the things that you had to reframe in your brain

and the thoughts?

The limiting beliefs that you turned

into empowering beliefs?

The disadvantages that you
turned into advantages?

So maybe you can share a little bit of that.

That can people learn from your experience

and maybe apply it themselves?

– It’s easier said than done,

like, oh speak up,

be yourself.

It’s not gonna happen.

You really have to know your words.

You do have to know your words

because you know

so many rules.

You have gone such a long way to get where you are

no matter what kind of English you have,

you have come a long way.

And you’ll have to appreciate that

Because I think what really clicked

was when I was talking to my boss

and he kind of talked to me

as though I was a native speaker

because of course he cannot come and say to me like,

“Oh, congratulations look at you.

You’re a non-native speaker but look how good you are.”

And I was like, no no no, actually,

I want this to be brought up

because like, for me to prep for this class,

I have to really pay attention.

I have to really work hard

and I do a great job

and you really have to pay
attention to what you’re good at

because your fears are gonna be there no matter what.

But maybe even a native speaker

would also have trouble explaining what you’re explaining

but you’re telling yourself

that it’s because it’s not your first language.

It’s just a teaching problem that a lot of teachers

would have problems with.

It’s a native speaker who might struggle

to explain something

and it’s just a non-native speaker speaker

who also struggles just to explain something

and we all have to do research

if we wanna be good teachers.

So it’s about being a good teacher

regardless of where you were born.

It’s about loving

what you do

and wanting to do your best.

If you wanna do your best,

if that’s what you wanna do,

you just have to fall in love with yourself again.

You just have to see things from a different perspective

and apply the “the 5 second rule”.

I set “the 5 second rule” by Mel Robbins,

and just be 5, 4, 3.

– Maybe explain it

’cause I don’t think a lot of people know

what the five-second rule.

What is the five-second rule?

– I’ve been following Mel Robbins for some time

and I’ve read her books

and she’s awesome.

It’s about taking risks

because you’re never gonna feel like doing anything.

That’s what she says.

You’re never gonna feel like making the change

and you’re gonna feel uncomfortable.

And that applies to anything in your life.

Going to the gym, anything.

So you’re always gonna be like “no, maybe tomorrow

or no not today”,

or “I’m not gonna speak up here in class”,

“I’m not gonna speak up in a meeting”,

“I’m not gonna do this”,
“I’m not gonna do that”.

It’s your brain.

It’s by default,

you don’t wanna feel uncomfortable.

You don’t wanna feel the pain.

But if you don’t get out of your comfort zone

you’re always gonna be stuck

and angry

and you have to change your mindset.

And you have the five-second rule

she says that

you have to tell yourself

you can count down five, four, three, two one

and you do whatever you thought you wanted to do

because your instincts,

they are telling you that you should be doing something.

But in five seconds our brains

are just going to talk us out of doing something

because of fear.

You’re gonna say I’m stupid.

I shouldn’t say that, I shouldn’t do that

and then the idea is killed,

the moment is gone.

So you have to do it

as soon as you think of something

and you should just take the next step

because if you don’t take risks

you won’t go anywhere.

– Absolutely. So like basically

when the impulse comes up to speak,

to say something, to do something

whether it’s to speak up in a meeting

or to apply for a job that you really want,

just like count down 5,4, 3, 2, 1

and then to just quit.

I think the consequences of not taking a risk

especially when it comes to speaking up or doing things,

the consequences of not taking your risk are much higher

are much worse I mean

than actually trying
something and failing at it.

because if you fail you learn from it,

you make a mistake, the big deal.

Maybe people are gonna think
oh it didn’t sound right

but that’s just about it.

But at least you you tried.

You experiment.

So would you consider yourself
as a proud non-native speaker

if before you used to be ashamed of it?

– It’s because of you.

– It’s because of you, Isis, not because of me.

Because of us.

– Because when I saw your work

I would look at your Instagram page

and I’d be like how comes she’s like

capitalizing on non-natives?

Like how comes she’s proud of that.

And I was like oh, she’s proud of that

because she’s turning her what would be her weakness

into her strength.

And lately that’s how I’ve been looking at myself

because if I just pretend I’m a native speaker.

I pretend somehow

that I don’t talk about myself,

I don’t share who I am,

my truth,

you’re throwing in the garbage.

Your work.

and that’s what I felt.

You were throwing in the garbage all of those years.

It’s 20 years.

It’s over 20 years that I’ve been studying the language.

Really focusing on every single aspect of the language.

Everything that happens around me

especially after moving here

and I’m throwing that all out.

I’m like no, that didn’t happen

whatever I want my students to think of me

but how about all my baggage.

I have my baggage,

I cannot do that to myself.

– But your baggage is also

your gold,

your treasure

because this is what makes you

such an incredible human being and teacher.

So we don’t need to
wash out our identities

just to fit in or to sound better.

I’m an accent trainer

so I absolutely think that
people need to be able to speak

clearly and confidently

and learn all those elements

but not to lose their accents

and sound like a native speaker.

But just to understand, to simplify things for them.

As speakers, I think this is really really important.

And also I think that us,

you said that,

but I’m just gonna stress that as well,

the fact that our identity

and the fact that we’re different

and being a non-native speaker

I think it inspires our students

to also be proud of who they are.

To stand up for themselves and not to be totally,

constantly self-conscious and self-deprecating,

and feeling bad about the results

that come out when they open up their mouths.

So when we inspire them and encourage them

to make mistakes and be like, okay,

you can reach your goals

and where you want to be despite of the fact

that you’re a non-native speaker.

I think it really creates motivation

and people put in the work

and they feel a lot more confident.

And that immediately affects their fluency

and their communication skills.

– We are a work in progress.

I am a work in progress.

I’m not done.

I’m not even done.

I’m always gonna be learning

because I like it.

And I was gonna say something very quickly

about it’s like playing a musical instrument.

You practice, you practice.

You might think,

“Oh, no I’m playing it very well now,

but I wanna play even better”.

Not because I had a problem with the accent

and like “oh my accent!” whatever.

Yes, I have a little bit of an accent.

But I’m still working on it.

Not because I want to, as you said,

pretend I’m somebody else.

Or Oh yeah, I don’t want
to have an accent at all

so that people don’t know

anything about my background.

No, but it’s about just getting so good

at something because you love it so much.

I’ve changed my mindset about that.

I’m like no, it’s just because I want to know

how everything works

because I’m passionate about linguistics.

It’s your truth.

It’s not your truth but you how you see things.

It’s all about perception.

– Definitely not like working on someone’s accent

and your accent is not like just to to disguise

your identity.

It’s really just master something

that you are already good at.

And you want to be so freaking good at,

to feel that effortlessness

and that like being precise and all of that.

I think it’s extremely valuable.

I agree with you.

So Isis,

I don’t know if the people watching this know,

but you also have a YouTube channel.

In collaboration

with another beautiful community member of ours,

Carol.

So maybe talk about that.

– We decided to start our channel.

– Maybe a few words about Carol,

who she is where she from.

– Carol was an amazing person.

Actually she’s from my,

pretty much my city in Brazil.

So she like actually likes St. Paulo

the little place that

I come from Diadema, pretty much

and from Brazil

and she’s been living in the states

for seven, eight years or so.

And she’s an amazing person.

A good-hearted person

and she just wants to help people

also come out of their shells

and that’s like how we clicked

because we just see some things in the same way

and we just wanna share the journey

end the fear somehow because I lived in fear

for such a long time.

Depression, anxiety,

and I know that my fears are gonna come back

and my thoughts are gonna come back

but I’m choosing not to listen to them.

And the channel is the Non-Native Power.

It’s actually because of you again, of course.

And like some people might say,

why you keep saying ‘non’?

Is that a bad term?

I don’t think so.

I want to honor not being native

because that is a stamp of my work.

Of how hard I have worked to become fluent.

This didn’t happen naturally.

I have studied hard to sound the way I sound.

To know what I know

and to know how to explain things as a teacher.

So,

I honor the ‘non’

that’s why it’s the Non-Native Power

because we have unleash this power

because so many people are in fear, in suffering,

not changing jobs, not doing things

because of fear.

And no matter what their English level is.

They could be a beginner, an intermediate.

It’s just like,

wherever you’re at

you’re already way ahead of where you were,

a year before, two years before.

So like always,

you need to acknowledge
your work and your progress.

And yes, there’s always more work to be done.

Wherever you’re at

being a non-native speaker means

that you have come a long way

communicating in a different language

which is not something.

For some people, it might come really easily

but for most people, it’s hard work

and being able to speak in English

shows that you’re a hard worker.

And that’s incredible.

And this is why like,

the Proud Non-Native.

I can really resonate with that so it’s beautiful.

Isis Diamond.

Thank you so so much.

So tell us again where we can find you

online?

– It’s the Non-Native Power.

– We’ll put links to it.

We’ll put links to it in the description below.

And Isis Diamond on Instagram, right?

– Yeah Isis.diamond on Instagram.

Yes.

– Okay, beautiful.

And of course,

we invite everyone to join our community.

Isis is a wonderful moderator,

great activities.

So if you wanna work more with her

we’re gonna have like a

weekly live grammar broadcasts.

I just like decided that that’s what we’re gonna do

right here.

(giggles)

We talked about it but we
haven’t really sealed the deal.

So like that’s it.

Now it’s gonna be published

so you have no choice to do that

answering grammar questions online.

So we’ll link to our community

right below this video.

So Isis it was a pleasure as always,

talking to you.

I love you very much.

Thank you for everything that you do

and for inspiring your students

and for being such an incredible teacher.

And I wish you all the best.

– You’re inspiring.

I love you.

– Thank you.

– My culture, you’re beautiful.

(giggles)

– Bye Isis.

Thank you so much.

Now Isis and I would love to hear what you think.

Being a non-native speaker,

what are the advantages that
you think non-native speakers

have in this global world of ours.

And if you’re an English teacher

share with us your struggles,

your achievements,

your wins

and your frustrations?

being a-non native speaker,

who is also an English teacher.

We would love to hear your thoughts,

and we would love to start a discussion

right below the video.

If you like this video don’t forget to subscribe

to my YouTube channel and
come on over to my website

to sign up for my email newsletter

so you can get this weekly video to your inbox

every single week.

Also, be sure to visit Isis
and Carol’s YouTube channel,

The Non-Native Power.

Links are below the video.

Have a beautiful beautiful week

and I will see you next week.

In the next video.

Bye.

Show Episode Transcript

6 Comments on “From Shame to Pride: The Transformation of a Non-Native English teacher”

  1. Thanks Hadar for the continued great job you’ve been doing in pursuing to improve other people life. Listened to that non-native speaker fuels my mind to get to the next level..She is so amazing. Love her experience.
    Keep the good job.

  2. Dear Hadar thank you and your guest for great video . It is best example wich shows that , until we will not to speak we can’t reach success .We need overcome fear as soon as possible to steep to next level. I know people are kind and nobody will judge for some mistakes . Big respect you.

  3. Hi Hadar and Isis !

    Thank you so much for the superb video ! I would like to congratulate for both the video and for both of your successes and for your achievements in your life ! As a once active psychiatrist I particularly appreciate the successful struggle you have won (although different places and maybe with different tools) against prejudices.
    Of course, my fate and my struggles have been different. Nevertheless, as a scientist from Hungary, an east European country I also encountered several times the geographical prejudice. It was relatively frequent in France, lower in the USA where I had been working for four years mostly as a visiting associate professor at Brown and Albert Einstein Universities.
    However, recently I have been experiencing sharply increasing manner an other nasty kind of prejudices. That is the ageism. (I am 84 years old) Ageism is present everywhere. It is strong in East Europe. So, never believe that you have got rid of prejudices. You have never stop fighting against them.
    Your video, as I consider it is a strong and valuable admittance to the fight against a special problem of racism one of the nastiest and most dangerous prejudice.
    I feel that your video focuses on the problem how someone can cope with the inferiority complex fueled by the subconscious fear born from latent or merely suspected prejudices in the environment.
    Thank you for it and congratulation !
    Laszlo Latzkovits

  4. 1. Advantages as a non-native speaker- a wide-open perspective view and being able to stand up and express a different mindset.

    2. Disadvantages- ”our inner thoughts of thinking we might fail at being different and unique. We may face the feeling of ’’being judged’’.

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