What is a Native English Speaker? | i-to-i TEFL FAQ

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What is a native English speaker?

When applying for jobs, you may hear the phrase ‘native English speaker’, used a lot. So, what does this mean? The Collins dictionary defines it as:

Someone who speaks that language as their first language, rather than having learned it as a foreign language

So, technically, anyone with English as a first language from birth is a ‘native English speaker’. But, in practice, with TEFL jobs, you will often find that employers use this phrase to refer to people that are citizens of one of the following countries:

  • USA
  • UK
  • Ireland
  • Canada
  • South Africa
  • Australia
  • New Zealand

This TEFL employer interpretation of the phrase ‘native English speaker’ is, unfortunately, widespread and is used by multiple countries in their visa requirements for TEFL roles. So, working visas for certain countries can be difficult to come by, if you don’t hold a passport from the list above.

This can, understandably, be frustrating for native English speakers from other countries, such as India, the Philippines, or the Caribbean Islands, however, all is not lost! Although you may be considered ‘non-native English speakers’ by some countries (we know you aren’t!) there are still plenty of TEFL teaching opportunities out there for those that are fluent in English and hold accredited TEFL qualifications (like the ones we offer at i-to-i). Head over to the LoveTEFL jobs board, where you can search for opportunities by the passport you hold.

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