A female teacher showing children how to write

Can Non-Native English Speakers TEFL?

One of the most frequent questions we’re asked by prospective EFL teachers is: can I TEFL if English isn’t my first language?

The answer is yes! Many non-native English speakers have trained with us and have gone on to find work teaching English all over the world and online. That’s not to say there aren’t some challenges, unfortunately. While more and more is being done to combat native-speaker bias in the EFL market, discrimination and restrictions do exist.

Preparing our students for the world of TEFL work is important to us; we want our students to have all the facts so they’re in the best position for finding work after gaining their TEFL qualification. With that in mind, in this post we’re taking a look at some of the key issues affecting non-native EFL teachers aiming to teach English abroad to help you in your TEFL journey.

desks in a classroom facing a blackboard

Can being a non-native English speaker hold me back from some TEFL Jobs?

The harsh truth is yes, it can.

Native-speaker bias is being broken down every day but it’s still common to see adverts online that specify “native speakers only”. We don’t allow this wording on our TEFL Jobs Centre, as we don’t want to support or encourage discrimination against non-native English teachers.

The most important thing for non-native English speakers to research when applying for teaching jobs is visa requirements. Certain countries will only grant visas to teachers from specific English-speaking countries, typically the UK, USA, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Some may grant visas to other passport holders who have studied in these countries. If you’re not eligible for a visa then it doesn’t matter if you’re the best EFL teacher in the world – there’s no way around visa requirements.

Once you’ve established what countries you meet the requirements for then you can concentrate your job search there. It might take a big longer to find teaching work than a native English teacher would, but as long as you have the right qualifications (more on that soon) and are eligible for a visa then with a bit of perseverance there’s no reason why you can’t find a great teaching job.

Children's hands raised in a classroom

Non-native English speakers make great EFL teachers

When applying for any job you have to get across your strengths to a potential employer. While being a non-native English speaker can make the job search that bit harder you can also frame it as one of your strengths.

You have first-hand experience of what it’s like to learn another language and because of this your understanding of grammar is likely much more solid and well-rounded than many native English speakers. Most native English speakers don’t learn their own grammar at school and many won’t have a second language. Make sure to really sell this when applying for jobs – convince potential employers that rather than being a weakness, the fact that English is your second language is actually a real strength.

A teacher with children

How to improve your chances of finding a TEFL job

First of all, your English has to be impeccable. Expect to have to provide evidence of an excellent TOEIC or IELTS score when applying for EFL jobs. If you’ve spent a significant amount of time in an English-speaking country then make sure to talk about this.

Get experience

Give your CV a boost by gaining teaching experience in your own country. This could be through paid or voluntary work, or even teaching English online. Any direct experience teaching English is going to look good on an application and with a TEFL Org certificate you should be able to find work with charities, local government schemes and initiatives, tutoring and online teaching.

Get TEFL qualified

The most important thing for all TEFL teachers looking to teach English abroad is to get TEFL qualified. This is the qualification employers look for in applicants and it’s important to get TEFL certified from an accredited, internationally-recognised provider (like us!). Having trained tens of thousands of EFL teachers over the past ten years, a TEFL Org certificate is widely recognised by employers worldwide.

Most employers look for at 120-hour qualification, so we recommend a course with at least these hours. We also run Specialist TEFL Courses, which is a great way of adding additional hours to your qualification and standing out from other applicants.

Check out our full range of TEFL courses and start your TEFL adventure now.

And read our interview with Maria, who is originally from the South of Spain and found work teaching English in China and at home in Spain.

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4 thoughts on “Can Non-Native English Speakers TEFL?

  1. Thank you so much for posting this!
    As a non-native speaker, I never felt that I’m less qualified for TEFL job. Teaching overseas has never been my goal, as I’m planning to teach in my own country (Indonesia).
    I have a mission to help my fellow Indonesian to overcome the difficulty in learning English.

    1. Thank you so much, this was so helpful, especially the interview with a girl from Spain. I am Lithuanian and I have been teaching English over the last 2 years. However, I do feel the need to get certified with TEFL, this will open up more opportunities for me.

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