As the use of English as a lingua franca increases in a range of contexts, one question that has received recent media attention is that of whether native or non-native speakers are more effective communicators in these contexts. The native/non-native question resists a straightforward answer, but taking account of the views of people in the business world is a necessary step towards understanding the underlying issues. This article investigates the nature and origin of these views by analysing online newspaper comments written in response to a column in the Financial Times. It first identifies several topics related to the native/non-native question, including perceived differences between and within the two categories. It then discusses these topics from a language-ideological perspective, aiming to identify the patterns of beliefs and assumptions that inform the comments. Although this perspective involves a critical evaluation of the binary “native/non-native” opposition, the article identifies several important effects of the native speaker concept, ranging from outright discrimination to feelings of frustration and inhibition. It portrays the comments as both reflecting and questioning the ideological premises of the native speaker concept, and it considers the implications of the approach for ELF research and for the wider study of international communication.
- language ideologies
- media discourse
- native and non-native speakers
- business communication