Can I be a TEFL Teacher if English isn’t my First Language?

One of the most common questions that we get asked at i-to-i is ‘Can I be a TEFL Teacher if English isn’t my First Language?’ The simple answer is YES!

You can definitely TEFL if you’re not a native English speaker, but are fluent in English. In fact, over 20,000 i-to-i TEFL graduates speak English as a second language, to a high level, and they all successfully passed their courses and have gone on to become TEFL teachers!

Don’t believe us? Well then, you’ll have to hear from one of them! Joana is an i-to-i graduate from Portugal and she is currently a successful online TEFL teacher! To learn more about her TEFL story, read on!

Where are you originally from?

I’m from Portugal!

What TEFL course did you choose, and why?

I chose the Level 5 300-hour TEFL Diploma, as it was the most complete course at the time (note from i-to-i: our most complete course is now the Level 5 420 Advanced Diploma) and I wanted to make sure I was fully trained! I also chose to do an additional specialist course with i-to-i for Teaching Teenagers, as I know this can be a more challenging group to teach!

What were you doing before you started as a TEFL teacher?

I used to work in the hospitality and entertainment industry.

Where are you living now?

At the moment I’m living in Tenerife, Spain.

Why did you decide to start teaching English as a foreign language?

I live on an island (Tenerife) that depends on tourism too much, and the island didn’t fully recover after the start of the pandemic. Because of this, my job was insecure and I needed to look for other options. I did a Level 3 TEFL qualification many years ago, so I thought it was about time to get back to it, get fully qualified, and finally start working online, so I had more flexibility and job security.

Why did you choose to teach English online?

I love teaching, English, and technology, so it sounded like a perfect combination. It’s flexible, it’s challenging, and I can help people without having to move elsewhere!

How did you find an online teaching job?

For those that speak English as a second language, it’s sometimes not easy finding a job. However, I found it happened really quickly through LoveTEFL jobs, as they had loads of online opportunities and great support from the jobs team. I applied to different teaching platforms and landed a job with 2 different platforms, Preply and Profy. I worked in an English academy previously, now I work online full-time and I have students on the teaching platforms, and some private students.

What ages are the students that you’re teaching?

Between 6-50 years old, so a very wide range of ages! It keeps it interesting!

What were your first impressions of teaching online?

At first it was difficult, as you don’t have as much mobility as you do in a classroom, but technology does help with that. Now I find it much more manageable and I really enjoy it. You can teach people from all over the world!

What are your plans for the future?

I will probably continue developing myself as an online English teacher. My family is growing and working from home is a luxury!

What advice do you have for people, like yourself, that want to teach English but aren’t native English speakers?

First, have a lot of patience and never give up, believe in yourself! Apply for every platform, put up flyers around town (if you live in a country where people need/want to learn English, like Spain!), and try every possible idea you might have to find students. You also need to make sure that you prepare your classes well. Show people that what they need is a good teacher who can speak English, not a native English speaker.

Teaching online guide

Now that you know that you can still be a TEFL teacher if English isn’t your first language, we bet you’re feeling inspired and ready to start your own TEFL journey! If you still need to get qualified, check out our TEFL Courses page or arrange for a free call back with one of our TEFL Experts, who can help with any questions you might have!

Already TEFL qualified and ready to look for roles? Check out the LoveTEFL jobs board for some great options! If you want any support with your job applications, don’t hesitate to contact our amazing Jobs Team, they are happy to assist!


joana sousa

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  1. Sbongile Quvane

    I am not a native speaker and not a teacher by profession but i have a bachelors degree. Can i teach English in China?

  2. Kate

    My friend is a Zimbabwean passport holder and although English is not her mother tongue she has an excellent grasp of the language. She is also a single mother and looking to make a change, careerwise. Could she be considered for work in China?

  3. Lesley

    i am interested to teach English in your country, how do i proceed?

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