Close this search box.

Is 'Non-native English Speaker' an Offensive term?

For some, it is.

If English isn’t your first language, do you get offended if someone calls you a “non-native English speaker”? Is “non-native English speaker” a derogatory term? Some teachers think it is. I believe it’s not.

I define myself as a non-native speaker of English all the time. To me, this is just a descriptive statement based on pure factual basis: English is not my first language. 

I made a YouTube video asking my audience, composed mainly of non-native English speakers, if they feel discriminated against when referred to as such.

A dozen people replied saying they’re okay with the term. Only one said, “Not offensive, but for some reason, I feel like it’s not the term I want to use for myself or others.”

Some colleagues suggested “better” terms like “bilingual,” “multilingual,” “second-language English speakers,” or “international speakers.”

Yes, those can work, too.

So, what am I not seeing?

Click on my glass of beer to sign up for Better Writers, my weekly newsletter for online writers who speak English as a second language. I share writing tips, insights, and resources to help you do one thing: become a better writer.