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Where can I teach English as a non-native speaker?

Often, ‘non-native speakers’ ask me where they can teach English. Is it even possible to teach English abroad as a ‘non-native speaker’?

If you’ve been asking these questions yourself, then watch the video below.

Now I’m sure you already know that there are quite a lot of places in the world and quite a lot of schools where getting a TEFL job as someone who doesn’t speak English as their first language will be very difficult.

However, did you know that there are actually lots of places where you can find good TEFL jobs as a ‘non-native speaker’? If you didn’t, then I want to show you these places and show you the schools where you can start teaching as a non-native speaker. 

You can get TEFL jobs abroad as a ‘non-native speaker’

So just a bit of background: I have taught English since about 2007. Apart from the first year when I was still a student in university in Poland, I’ve always taught English abroad. I’ve taught English in seven different countries in Europe and Latin America. I’ve taught in language schools and in universities. I’m currently working for a university in Brussels and also for a well-known publisher writing a course book.

Why am I telling you this?

Well, because I want you to know that YOU can succeed as a non-native speaker. You can start getting TEFL jobs practically wherever in the world you want.

Here’s a complete step-by-step guide you can follow.

Don’t get discouraged by negativity

However, when you go on forums for English language teachers, especially for specifically for non-native speakers, or forums where people post jobs, it’s very easy to start getting a very negative impression, because there will be a lot of job ads for ‘native speakers’ only. And a lot of ‘non-native speakers’ complaining about not being able to find jobs.

Of course, I think it’s really important that all of us start replying to those job ads and telling those recruiters why it’s completely inappropriate to advertise for native speakers only (in fact, in the EU, it’s illegal).

There are many things we all can and should do to speak out against such job ads.

If you want to reply to these recruiters, grab these two sample email templates.

Don’t focus on the countries where you CANNOT get a job

Another thing that I’ve seen ‘non-native speakers’ focus on very often is TEFL jobs in countries such as China or South Korea, for example. And of course they’re very nice countries to go to. I’d love to go and teach in China! Why not?

But these are one of the few countries (China, Taiwan, Indonesia and South Korea is the full list) in the world where by law visas for English teachers can only be given to those who come from ‘native-speaking’ countries. 

So while I do understand people’s desire to teach in, say, China, it puzzles me why ‘non-native speakers’ tend to focus so much on these countries where you will NOT be able to get a visa.

But this does not mean that you cannot teach English abroad as a ‘non-native speaker’. After all, there are another 180 or 190 something countries where you could potentially do it!

And I don’t mean to say that these visa policies are right. They’re completely wrong, and I think we should do everything in our power as an ELT profession to try and change these. For example, Gerhard Erasmus has been working very closely with Taiwanese politicians to try and change the law that currently prohibits ‘non-native speakers’ from getting a work visa

What I’m saying, though, is that as a ‘non-native speaker’ looking for jobs it really does NOT make any sense at all to focus on those few places in the world where you will never ever be able to get a job as a non-native speaker. If you want to teach abroad as a non-native speaker, if you want to succeed, then you should be focusing on the places where you CAN teach.

And there are plenty of them.

Where can I teach English as a non-native speaker?

So rather than look at the glass as half empty, let’s look at it as half full.

Aside from these few countries mentioned above, there is a whole world of opportunity out there for you.

Just to give you one example, Belgium is a great destination for a ‘non-native speaker’. I recorded a video about it here.

Another great place to go is Thailand. The TEFL industry is booming there, and there are plenty of opportunities for ‘non-native speaker’ teachers. Check out my article about it for specific information about how and where to apply. 

These are just two examples, but I prepared a whole list of countries and schools for you. You can view it here.

Which schools should I apply to as a non-native speaker teacher?

You might think that this is perhaps counter-intuitive, but you should really focus on very well-known and well-established language school chains. In here I’m thinking about a language school chains such as the British Council, for example, or International House, or Bell.

But you might be thinking: as a ‘non-native speaker’ I would never stand a chance of teaching in those schools. Surely an institution like British Council would only want to hire British teachers.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. Actually these institutions really value diversity, and they hire teachers not based on where this teacher is from or which language they speak as a mother tongue, but based on their ability to teach.

I would encourage you to go to for example British Council job site and try to find one job ad which would specify a native speaker.

You’re not going to find these job ads at all. They’ll specify the proficiency level that they want, and as a non-native speaker you might need to prove your proficiency, so it’s always a good idea to pass something like IELTS, CPE or CAE.

So language school chains such as the British CouncilInternational House, or Bell are a great place to start searching for a job as a ‘non-native speaker’. 

There are also many other independent language schools where you can teach English as a ‘non-native speaker’. Take a look at this list here.

If you want to learn how to get TEFL jobs as a ‘non-native speaker’, if you want to tackle native speakerism, then definitely check out my TEFL Equity Academy courses

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1 year ago

I’m not sure about China. I’ve got some Polish friends who went there and have been teaching English there ever since. I’ve also seen many job offers that don’t mention the requirement of being a ‘native-speaker’. Are you sure it’s not possible to get a teaching job in China if you’re not a native-speaker?

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