I don’t need to tell you that the vast majority of ELT jobs in the private sector are for ‘native speakers’ only. But when I wrote this blog post back in 2014, I would have never expected to see such job ads:
It’s quite ironic to see such job ads in 2019 on the European Job Mobility Portal, because as I will explain here in a second, such job ads are against EU regulations.
So seeing such job ads again recently when I started looking for jobs in Brussels made me go back to this original post from 2014 and update it with what happened to me.
But let’s first look at what EU regulations have to say about job ads for ‘native speakers’ only.
Article 21 of EU basic rights reads as follows (highlighted by me):
Any discrimination based on any ground such as sex, race, colour, ethnic or social origin, genetic features, language, religion or belief, political or any other opinion, membership of a national minority, property, birth, disability, age or sexual orientation shall be prohibited.
You can access the full document here. Apart from confirming what we all know, namely that discrimination against race and nationality is illegal in the EU; the important thing for us is that Article 21 also mentions discrimination based on language.
Let’s delve deeper and see what gems EU law holds for us in store.
In 2001, in an answer to written question E-4100/00, the European Commission (EC) stated that:
It follows that the native speaker criterion could be considered to be discriminatory and thus incompatible with the Community rules on the freedom of movement of workers in the Community.
In May 2002 the EC also announced that:
The Commission is of the opinion that the phrase “native speaker” is not acceptable, under any circumstances, under Community law. […] the Commission recommends using a phrase such as “perfect or very good knowledge of a particular language” as a condition of access to posts for which a very high level of knowledge of that language is necessary.
That same year, a Commission Communication of 11 December 2002 on ‘Free movement of workers – achieving the full benefits and potential’ (COM (2002) 694 final), when asked about language requirements for particular jobs, reads as follows:
the language requirement must be reasonable and necessary for the job in question and must not be used to exclude workers, so that advertisements requiring a particular language as a ‘mother tongue’ are not acceptable.
One year later, when a German MEP, Jo Leinen, asked the EC whether the words “native speaker” could be used in a job advertisement, 0n 23 May 2003 the EC ruled the following:
In its answer to Question E-0941 the commission states that the term native speaker is not acceptable, under any circumstance, under community law. The Commission also states its intention of continuing to use its powers to fight against any discrimination caused by a requirement for native speaker knowledge in job advertisements.
It probably couldn’t be much clearer.
So what does this mean for you as a ‘non-native speaker’ job seeker?
You have quite a lot of ammunition here that you can use to convince a recruiter they should rethink their hiring policy and take you on. You can see exactly how to apply this in a reply to a recruiter in this FREE email template I prepared for you:
Let me give you a personal example of how you can apply the above email.
So as I said at the beginning of this post, I decided to go back to it now, 5 years after it was published, because I was recently job hunting. I applied for a really interesting position teaching English at EU institutions. The catch: only ‘native speakers’ should apply…
Me being me, though, I simply applied. I ticked all the boxes, had all the right qualifications, experience and skills. In excess.
To my surprise, I got an immediate response. The employer was very interested in my profile. But since I no longer put my first language on my CV (I just say: Polish, English and Spanish C2 level – read this blog post for more CV tips for ‘non-native speaker’ teachers), the recruiter wanted to know what my first language was: they would only accept ‘native speakers’…
Fortunately I was prepared. I dug out the email template (see above), which I’d used many times before to good effect, tweaked it, and sent.
I got back to work and didn’t think much about it. My phone was on silent and charging in the other room, so when a few hours later I got a reply from them saying: ‘We’ve been trying to call you. Could you please get back to us asap?’, I almost jumped up.
Indeed, they’d called me 5 times. I phoned back and we had a nice long chat.
To cut the long story short, they invited me to come to the interview!
In the end, I didn’t take the job, because an even more interesting opportunity presented itself (I’ll be writing materials for National Geographic Learning and working part-time for Universite Libre de Bruxeles), but there is an important take-away message here for you:
Why am I telling you this story?
Because you can and will have exactly the same results. You CAN convince employers to hire you as a ‘non-native speaker’. Even if initially they only want ‘native speakers.
The first step to do that is a well-written and well-argued email. And to make your life easier, I’m sharing with you the same email I’ve used and perfected over the years to maximise positive responses.
You can download it below;