What Kind of A Native Speaker Are You?


It’s NOT what you think….




Image credit: Gunnar Þór Gunnarsson


I’m pleased to say that this is not a re-hash of tired old debates around native speakers or accents in English language teaching, ‘says I to meself in me Irish brogue’…;)

The truth is that I’ve recently come across a new way of ‘being native’ that those of us who connect online would benefit from exploring. It has nothing to do with geography, accent or culture, but may evolve into a new kind of socio-linguistics online, where HOW you socialize  will be fundamental to your work and reputation.

The good news is that we can choose how native we wish to be, and we are not at the mercy of traditional prejudice in this new terrain of communication.

As teachers around the world gather online to share ideas, learn from each other, or build up an online presence through blogging, or online teaching, we gravitate towards certain platforms such as facebook and Twitter. Not quite so many of us are active on google plus yet, though it’s an exciting new social media universe just waiting for innovative teachers to explore.

I’ve been doing some research on how all of these different platforms work, and it’s fascinating indeed. Busy teachers need to use social media mindfully and economically, which is why we need to brush up on our ‘native cyber-speak’, and truly reach out to those who need us.

Therefore I’m introducing you to the different types of communication which are native to the most popular platforms used by teachers. Understanding these different types of cyber-speak should make our work more efficient, effective, and inspirational.

The concept of native cyber-speak comes from a great book called ‘Jab, jab, right hook’ by Gary Vaynerchuk. He shows us how to tell our story in a noisy world.

In a world where teachers have the power to make a great difference, it’s up to us to learn how to tell better stories.

The ideas I summarise below are based on this book, and another book called ‘Divapreneuring’.

1) The native language of Facebook.

Interestingly, the native ‘language’ of facebook is that of storytelling. It may explain why I spend more time on facebook than on other networks, though I’ll be reaching out more across multiple networks this term, which explains this research I’m openly sharing.

” Facebook wants users to see things that they find relevant, fun and useful, not annoying and pointless, or else they’ll abandon the site, which means you’d better create content that’s relevant, fun and useful too”.( Vaynerchuk 2013)

For those of us who run pages, edgerank is facebook’s way of filtering what’s popular and what’s not. Engaging posts get more viewers and boring, annoying, or intrusive posts are left to sink into oblivion. This kind of feedback is actually constructive and realistic though, as we can keep changing our approach till we hit the jackpot, and finally, become proficient in facebook storytelling.

Hopefully, this article will go some way towards helping us to avoid too many hit and miss affairs.

When you realise that storytelling is not just talking about yourself, but is actually an ’emergent co-creation of dialogue’ where your mind blends with the interests of your FB friends, students or colleagues, then the story gets a chance to be told.

As Vaynerchuk says:

” As with any first date, getting a second date depends on your doing your best to learn more about what the other person is interested in, and directing the conversation in that direction.”

As teachers know, children show,  and facebook’s native lingo grows while  edgerank favours storytelling pros,  the short-cut to such synergy is FUN socialising.


Image credit: Aniktominously deviant art

A brilliant way to get your story across is to link it to interests shared by your networks, and then post images, videos, messages, quotes, questions, blogs, comments or news that resonate with others while also showing them something new they hadn’t thought of before. Also, memes, images and video appear like TV shows or art galleries on mobile devices, so they can grab the attention of colleagues and students in a very central and striking way.

Storytelling on facebook goes way beyond text, of course. It’s really all about visual storytelling, which is why memes, images and videos are so popular. Visual design, is, in my opinion, a sadly neglected area of pedogagy. The facebook mindset, may, in fact, spur teachers and publishers on to become more visually literate to match this digital world we live in.

In that sense, facebook can be as deep, exciting or brain-friendly as you want it to be – depending on how interested you are in the psychology of communication, &  the power of diverse combinations of text, image and multi-media.

When we look at it like that, we realise that teachers who understand the power of visual learning, emotional impact and brain-friendly engagement are fully primed to be dynamic native speakers of the facebook variety.

What about the other networks?

2) The native language of Twitter




Image credit: Niclas Lindh

Teachers will be fascinated to learn that Vaynerchuk associates Twitter with listening skills. It’s also fascinating with regard to concepts of  reading and  comprehension because Vaynerchuk says that Twitter is the only platform where ‘context is more important the content’.

The original native context of Twitter was built  upon short, textual contexts unimpeded by visual displays. This may also explain why my networks were built mostly on Facebook, but as an open experimenter I must admit that I’ve learnt a lot from my Twitter colleagues such as Shelly Terrell, the Twitter star, and from those amazing #ELTchats and the #ELTchinwag initiatives.

Twitter is becoming more visual, but we still need to brush up on those contextual listening skills. According to Vaynerchuk, the biggest mistake we can make is by just sharing blog posts links as an extension of our presence elsewhere online ( I’m somewhat guilty of this;).

Other big no-nos are ‘brags and birdiebrags‘.

What are birdie brags?

Birdie brags are ‘humble’ types of bragging. It becomes bragging when it turns into excessive or consistent retweets of favourable things people say about us. I think that we’re all somewhat guilty of this and it’s  an important and necessary part of our online presence. The key lies in not overdoing it. What people genuinely  think of us is more important that what we show off about what people think of us.

It reminds me of the difference between people who give anonymous donations to charity and those who tell the whole world about their philanthropy. Telling the world may be necessary if you are key to highlighting a necessary cause, but turns people off if you are just blowing your own trumpet.

For me, the contextual and listening side of things may reside in types of sharing  that speak to follower needs – if you share a webinar link or a blog article – make sure they can benefit from it and make it clear how they benefit, instead of just showing off and adding noise to indiscriminate streams. In 140 characters, label the link through the mindsight of your followers.

Vaynerchuk says that we should ‘deejay’ information instead of spreading it. We spin, interpret and remix the news, the course, the webinar, the chat.

The trick to doing this is to use Twitter as a trending tool to help you put a new twist on your work and also ride the waves of breaking news. Vaynerchuk calls this ‘trend-jacking’, and I see that this is also a technique that good teachers use to get students interested in class, and that good  bloggers use in their articles and lesson plans.

” You can set your account to track worldwide, national or even regional events and tailor content to suit any situation, thereby sparking interest in your work, opinions or content”
(Vaynerchuk )
-…….content which is now riding upon explosive context.

3) The native language of Pinterest

“Glam it up”



Image credit: Manda Mia

I love Pinterest and I love this reference to glamour and style.

What can we learn from the language of glamour?

Pinterest is, (strangely enough, or not…hmm...) THE place to access  female global demographics – outnumbering men by 5 to 1.

How can this be useful to teachers and learners?

Well, firstly, it can give female teachers an edge on gender issues in education by making female teachers more vibrant and visible online. However, teachers can also create great content for boys/male learners using the Pinterest visual displays, so I would hesitate to call it a girly platform from an educational point of view.

From a marketing point of view the statistics speak for themselves, but wise teachers can harness this demographic both to expand female visibility in a male-dominated profession, AND, educationally speaking, encourage their male colleagues to give Pinterest a go, and especially make great content for all of their students, male and female.

Psychologically speaking, the lack of male usership of Pinterest, reminds me of what I’ve decided to called the ‘Pink Shirt Effect’, inspired by Jude Law in the film Alfie.

Male teachers who are not afraid to wear pink shirts and glam it up, think Jude law above, will also not be afraid to learn the ‘Glam language of Pinterest’.

The psychology of Pinterest according to Vaynerchuk is that, amongst other things…

” Pinterest appeals to the same urge that compels teenagers to decorate their lockers with pictures of their favourite bands, office workers to brighten up their workspace, and home owners to decorate their homes”….

For me , it’s a beautiful way to collect blog links, webinar links and so much more. It can be a visual display of your curriculum vitae, a map of your digital footprint and a form of course creation and lesson planning platform, if you have the imagination to use it in that way.

As we have figured out already, women are already fluent in the ‘ language of glam’ – hurry up men…;)

4) The native languages of Instagram and Tumbler

I’m not going to cover these platforms in detail here, but may do so in a follow-up post. However, the language proficiencies you need are those of art and animation.

5) The Native language Of Google Plus

This is also too big to cover here, but I’ll definitely write about it again. My information about Google plus is from the Divapreneurs Quick Start To Google Plus.

I choose to name Google plus the native platform of universal languages.

As you’d expect from Google, it incorporates a seamless stream of universal digital languages, and it’s success is based on four principles in my opinion; cleanliness,  depth, circles of friends, and  good, old-fashioned etiquette.

It’s visually appealing, intuitively social, and a pleasure to visit and work from. The cleanliness refers to an ad-free space where people do not get distracted or annoyed.

It’s universal in magnitude for teaching, business purposes and multiple other purposes, so I must postpone my exploration of this universe for follow-up articles.

Google Plus is the ‘social layer of the internet’ and is inclusive of or could arguably swallow up all of the other platforms – I prefer the integrated, inclusive approach and am planning to adopt it in my work very, very soon.

I hope this look at platforms can help teachers around the world. Special thanks to the authors of these two great books:

Jab,jab, right hook (Vaynerchuk 2013)

A divapreneur’s quick start guide to google plus ( Dodsley C, Conabree K; 2013)

‘Emergent co-creation of dialogue’ – inspired by (Thornbury S. and Meddings L; 2013)

‘Social layer’ coined by ( Dodsley C, Conabree K)

Sylvia Guinan

is an online English teacher, writer and blogger who facilitates professional development online. She uses brain-friendly techniques to help students and teachers around the world. She designs educational materials, develops courses, writes resource papers and publishes ebooks. Her work is the result of much research into the psychology of learning, as well as hands-on experience with multi-media technology.

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