One of the most popular questions we get asked at i-to-i is ‘are there any TEFL jobs for non-native speakers?’
We’re happy to say, yes! There are lots of TEFL jobs out there for non-native English speakers. In fact, there are probably as many opportunities for non-native speakers as there are for native speakers, providing you speak a good level of English.
Over the years, English has become the international language of business, communications, technology and travel. This global reach means that most people using English around the world are non-native speakers speaking to other non-native speakers (Polish business people speaking to German business people, for example). So sounding like a native speaker has become less relevant. Schools need international English and they want a teacher with good levels of both English and teaching skills.
You’ve already learnt English, so you can teach English
Another plus is that because you have learned the English language from scratch, you probably understand English grammar on an intellectual level to a much higher level than most of your native counterparts who understand it on a subconscious level having soaked up the language from birth. And if you think about it – students being taught by a non-native TEFL teacher can really motivate and inspire them, because if you’ve learnt to speak, write and teach English to such a high level, they can too!
What are the challenges of being a non-native TEFL teacher?
The main challenge that you’ll have is your own worry about being a non-native speaker! But your students know you’re not a native speaker and don’t expect you to be one. You’ve worked hard to learn the language to such a high level, so be confident – all that hard work you’ve put in will help you teach English as a foreign language to your students just as well as a native speaker could.
You may encounter old attitudes from some employers who feel that the native speaker is still the ideal. Don’t worry – there’s so much demand for TEFL teachers, you can just choose a different employer. These attitudes are changing rapidly – any good school now is looking for skills, not ‘native-speakerness’. Some countries generally require proof of nationality from an English-speaking country to get a work permit (e.g. South Korea). There’s not much you can do about that unfortunately, but these prejudices about what makes a good teacher are changing, and we expect them to disappear in the near future. It’s worth keeping in mind that you don’t need to be a native speaker to teach English as a second language in England!
Do I need specific TEFL training?
Whatever anyone says, you don’t need any extra TEFL training so long as you have your main TEFL qualification. You are the equal of the native speakers, and should not put yourself in a separate category. Obviously, if you’re going to teach English, your English level has to be very high; and if you’re not confident about your English, you’ll need to work on it in a targeted way. Get a detailed diagnosis of your speaking and writing from an expert and work on the areas you need to improve: whether that’s fluency, pronunciation, sentence stress and rhythm, use of articles or tenses – a few more hours effort will open up a world of opportunities.
What job opportunities are there for non-native speakers?
As mentioned above, apart from the few remaining countries that require you to hold certain passports to issue teaching permits, you have the same opportunities as a native speaker and that’s worth remembering when applying for TEFL jobs. TEFL is market-driven, so if you can show an employer they need you and that you can do the job just as well as someone from the UK, the US or Australia, you shouldn’t have any problems. An employer may ask for ‘native speakers’ because they (mistakenly) think it will mean better teachers – show them they’re wrong by highlighting your high level of English and your TEFL skills.
… But I keep on getting rejection letters!
If you keep getting knock-backs from mainstream TEFL jobs because of your ‘non-nativeness’, don’t despair! There are quite a few TEFL jobs and internships aimed specifically at non-native speakers – the chances are that once you’ve completed one of these type contracts, you will be in a much better position to find work.
5 top tips for non-native English speakers by TEFL teacher Denise in China
Here are a couple of great teaching opportunities for non-native speakers…
1. Be confident. You’re the equal of a native speaker in the classroom.
2. Sell your command of English, your teaching skills, and the fact you understand students’ situation as a former learner yourself.
3. Get proof of your level of English – such as a high IELTS or TOEFL score, or a CAE or CPE certificate.
4. Get proof of your teaching skills such as an i-to-i TEFL certificate.
5. Network with other non-native speaker teachers for support and job opportunities.
So you see, there are jobs for non-native speakers – you just have to go out and find them!