I am originally from the Philippines and I work as an editor for a research center in Germany. I also speak Filipino, the national language of the Philippines, but for all intents and purposes English is my first language. I can honestly say I cannot remember a time when I didn't speak English, and I have built a solid career on my language abilities that I couldn't achieve with Filipino. Yet no matter how qualified and skilled I am as an editor, I find myself constantly defending and justifying my sociolinguistic background. People at work have said rather unkind things like "I'm surprised they hired a Filipino for this job" or "But English really isn't your native language, right?" or "But your Filipino is still much better than your English, right?" Others have asked my co-editors to go over my work and would only accept my edits upon verification by my British and American colleagues. Worst case scenario would be explicitly asking my boss not to pass on their draft manuscripts to me. Usually I shrug these incidents off, but lately it has begun to weigh me down. I love editing and would love to stay in this field, but I'm afraid I will never be good enough because of something I have zero control over.

Before this post turns into a pity party, I would like to hear from you--both native and non-native speakers--about your views on varieties of English from post-colonial countries (e.g., Singapore, Malaysia, Jamaica, Nigeria etc). Maybe this can help me understand the reactions I've gotten.

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    FWIW, your written English is excellent. Having a command of more than one language is an accomplishment that no one should diminish. You know what you call a person who speaks more than one language? Bilingual. You know what you call a person that speaks one language? An American! lol! Nov 17 '15 at 22:09
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    It's not directly relevant which country you were born/brought up in. Precise definitions may vary, but essentially you're a "native speaker" of the primary language you used to interact with your peers (not so much your parents, if they're immigrants who've never mastered the language of their new host country) before you were about 8 years old. Nov 17 '15 at 22:13
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    @FumbleFingers I have yet to find a definition that takes into account the experiences of post-colonial countries. We grew up immersed in English-language media and educated almost entirely in English (even our judicial system is in English), yet we either speak our "native" language to our peers or code switch between the native language and English.
    – iamnarra
    Nov 17 '15 at 22:27
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    @iamnarra: Statistically it may well be that "post-colonial" countries have a relatively high proportion of the populace who can use the language of the erstwhile invaders (who may still remain in significant numbers, and whose language may actually still be the/a "official language" of the nation). But I don't think that makes much difference - all that matters is the language you normally used to communicate with your peers when you were a child (which would probably not be English unless the vast majority of those other children only spoke English). Nov 17 '15 at 22:36
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    Related: english.stackexchange.com/questions/14582/…
    – user66974
    Nov 17 '15 at 23:18

You live in a country where English is widely spoken and you have spoken it since childhood. Your question above is written in perfectly good English. I think you meet the definition of a "native speaker".

Different countries have different dialects. British English is not quite the same as American English which is not quite the same as Indian English. Frankly I have no idea what Filipino English is like. But arguably being a "native Filipino English speaker" is not the same as being a "Native British English speaker". For most purposes such differences don't matter much. I suppose for an editor that might be an issue.

In any case, the relevant qualification for an editor should surely be that he be fluent in the language, whether he is a native speaker or not. If someone from Russia has studied the language extensively for many years and speaks and writes excellent English, while a native American is poorly educated and totally inarticulate, which would you rather have for an editor? I'd try to shift the discussion from "am I a native speaker" to "am I a fluent speaker". If others can point out frequent flaws in your grammar or spelling, then it doesn't matter whether you meet some definition of a native speaker or not. Likewise if your grammar and spelling are impeccable, it again doesn't matter whether you qualify as a native speaker.

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    Thanks for the insights! My boss, the person who hired me, couldn't care less where I'm from or which variety of English I speak. As part of the hiring process, she made me do an editing test and decided based on that that I am the best fit for the position. So at least I have her vote of confidence. Unfortunately a lot of our German clients put a premium on British English because it's the "original" English. I cannot compete with that and there's literally nothing I can do about it. I just hope that bias doesn't hurt my career chances in this field in the long run.
    – iamnarra
    Nov 17 '15 at 22:36
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    OP: Yes, well, (1) I doubt seriously that contemporary British English is closer to the English it is derived from than is contemporary American English (or Irish English or...). Likewise, contemporary French from France vs that from Quebec, Belgium, Switzerland,... (2) Some of those who are from the same territory from which a language originated are convinced that theirs is the "original" or the "true" English, French, German, or whatever. They are snobs, fools, or simply ignorant of evolution.
    – Drew
    Nov 18 '15 at 1:27

The Oxford Dictionary Online defines a native speaker as:

  • A person who has spoken the language in question from earliest childhood: native speakers of English.

and other dictionaries give similar definitions. There is no reference to ethnicity or nationality.

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