There are a number of misconceptions about teaching English as a Foreign Language abroad, which we’d like to take a minute to debunk right now:
MYTH : You need to speak the local language
MYTH : You can’t teach without a degree
MYTH : You only teach children
But today let’s look at one in more detail:
MYTH: Non-native speakers can’t get TEFL jobs.
Can non-native speakers teach English as a Foreign Language?
Make no mistake, a solid knowledge of the English language and a high level of fluency is needed to be able to teach English, but it is not a requirement to be a native speaker. Let’s say that again: it’s not a requirement to be a native English speaker to be a TEFL teacher. There is no reason a non-native speaker can’t have the same language knowledge and the same teaching capabilities as a native speaker – just as there is no guarantee that if you are a native English speaker you will be able to teach someone to speak the language.
As an added bonus, because you’ve learned the language as a second or a foreign language, you know exactly what EFL learners are going through. This will give you a level of empathy and understanding for your students which native-speaker teachers can never have. You can be a role model for your students and an example of a successful language learner.
However, because there are sadly still TEFL employers who prefer native speakers, if you are a non-native English speaker and you would like to be a TEFL teacher, you will need to show that you have near-native fluency, which means at least a C1 level of English. During the interview, your employer will also take into account your accent, but this is customary with any TEFL applicants – an accent is not a problem as long as you speak clearly and intelligibly.
TEFL opportunities for non-native speakers
So now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s look at the different options for non-native speakers.
In theory, TEFL teachers should be eligible for any job, regardless of their first language. Sadly, this is not always the case as there are some companies that require you to be a native speaker and some countries which have restrictions on non-native speakers. But don’t freak out, there are also loads of jobs for you whether you speak Italian, Thai, Portuguese, or Afrikaans.
Face-to-face teaching opportunities for non-native speakers
We must first just say that there are a few countries that won’t issue a work visa to teachers unless you are a native English speaker. This will be made very clear in job advertisements and if that’s the case, don’t waste your time applying for those jobs – those are government regulations.
And there are tons of other places where you can get a teaching permit. Central and South America is a good first option, simply because there are so many amazing countries you could live and work in. If you have eligibility to work in the EU then that is another option, as a work visa won’t be necessary. Eastern European countries like Turkey, Ukraine, and the Czech Republic are all friendly to non-native speakers. In Asia, China, Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia are waiting to welcome you with open arms.
So your biggest problem is going to be choosing where you want to work!
Online teaching for non-native speakers
Then there is always the possibility of teaching English online. Here are a few companies who are happily hiring non-native speakers to teach English as a Foreign Language online, as well as their application requirements:
You need a C1 level of English, a degree, a TEFL certificate, and be legally allowed to work in the US or Canada. Experience teaching Young Learners or teens online is preferable but not essential.
All you need is availability between 6 am to 8 am EST at least 2 hours a day, 4 days a week. A degree and/or TEFL certificate is preferred but not essential.
You should have a degree or currently be studying towards a degree. Experience is preferable but not essential.
No degree, TEFL certificate or experience required!
You must be at least 18 years of age.
No degree, TEFL certificate, or experience is required as it acts as a database for teachers so while these will make you more attractive to students they are not essential. Simply sign up, record an introductory video, set your rate, and wait for the students to book you.
Top tips for applying for TEFL jobs as a non-native speaker
Finally, we want to leave you with a few tips and tricks which might make your job search a bit easier.
- Proofread your CV. Make sure there is not a single language error on your CV and cover letter.
- Be clear. Highlight your language achievements and your teaching experience and qualifications.
- Be confident. Employers like to see confident teachers and showing your nerves is not going to help you.
- Network. Build up a network of connections in EFL who can vouch for you and your skills and who might one day have a job for you.
- Don’t give up. Finding a job can be tough for anyone. If you can’t find a job, don’t assume it’s because of your language skills – have faith in yourself and keep looking.
Being a non-native English-speaking TEFL teacher means you may have a few more hurdles to jump over than a native speaker. But don’t let that deter you from finding the job of your dreams. With a TEFL course under your belt, you are ready to handle whatever any EFL classroom will throw at you!