Can I Teach English Abroad If I’m Not a Native Speaker?

One of the most common questions that we get asked at i-to-i is ‘Can I teach English abroad If I’m not a native speaker?’

The simple answer is YES!  You can teach abroad if you’re not a native English speaker. In fact, over 20,000 i-to-i TEFL teachers are non-native English speakers and many of those have found fulfilling jobs overseas.  Yvonne, an i-to-i teacher from The Netherlands explains what her life is like as a non-native TEFL teacher in China…Hi Yvonne!

Where are you originally from?

Originally I‘m from the Netherlands.  I was born and raised in a small village and lived there with my parents and brother until I was 18.  After 18 I left home and moved to Nijmegen, a middle-sized city in the Netherlands to study.

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

Before I started my TEFL career I was a substitute teacher.  I graduated in August 2009 and worked for several different schools back in the Netherlands.  It was a time of transition for me and I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do – I’d always dreamed of teaching abroad or travelling a lot but it was hard to find an international school to work for.

Where are you now?

At the moment I’m living in Beijing, China; and I’ve been in China for over 3 years now.

Why did you decide to look at teaching English?

I was looking online for jobs or other things I could do (projects) and I came across a TEFL-programme in China that looked interesting.  The ad got me intrigued and after a little bit of research, I decided to sign up and go for it.

What advice do you have for people who want to teach English abroad but aren’t native speakers?

If you’re thinking of teaching English abroad as a non-native speaker make sure to do your research.  There are a lot of recruiters out there who are trying to make money off of you and you should never be paying someone to find you work. i-to-i run a reputable TEFL jobs board and this is where I found my job in China as it was safer. Plus, try and find out more about which type of visa you’ll need.  China is changing the rules a lot these days and I really want people to take a good look at what kind of visa each employer is offering and what the benefits are.  Other than that; go in with an open mind and respect for the culture of the country you’re moving to, as you’re a guest in their country.

Why China?

If it hadn’t been for the job, I don’t think I would have chosen China.  I’d been to Asia before, which I loved, but China still seemed very different!

What age students are you teaching?

At the moment I am working at a school that offers a bilingual learning environment.  Together with a Chinese teacher, I am the headteacher of a K2 class, so I teach children that are 3-4 years old.

What were your first impressions of China?

I was pretty overwhelmed when I first arrived in China.  I flew into Beijing and I didn’t know what was going on!  The city is enormous – especially when coming from a small country like the Netherlands.  I didn’t like it when I first arrived, but now I’m used to things here.  Even for those who’ve travelled to Asia before, China can still seem alien!

How would you rate the experience so far?

I’d rate it as an 8.  I was lucky to find my boyfriend here, so that’s a big reason for it!  Besides that, I really enjoy my current job, because I’m a homeroom teacher, so I learn all about the Primary Years Program and I have some management tasks too.

What are your plans for the future?

I am planning on staying in Beijing for at least another year and a half.  I have been job-hopping for a while, and right now I want to focus on getting some more work experience in one school and some consistency.

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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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