You might speak English daily—sometimes even more often than your native language. You use it to get around, in business, when hanging out with friends, while watching Netflix. But despite your amazing grasp of the language, if your citizenship isn’t from a small subset of world countries, then the TEFL job market will define you as a non-native English speaker (and thus make your job opportunities as a TEFL teacher abroad a bit slimmer).
Read on to learn the native English speaking countries, as defined by TEFL.
Am I from a native English speaking country?
Unfortunately, even if your home country uses English in most of its day-to-day communication, the TEFL job market has a very narrow classification of countries home to “native English speakers.”
If you’re not a citizen of…
- New Zealand
- South Africa
- The United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland)
- the United States
… your passport/citizenship doesn’t qualify as a “Native English” country.
This can be particularly frustrating to aspiring ESL teachers from countries that are English-speaking such as Belize, India, the Caribbean, Singapore, or the Philippines, for instance. And while we understand your frustrations, we’re on your team and want to help you achieve your dreams of teaching English abroad as a non-native speaker!
Countries with very strict hiring standards
If you’re a non-native English speaker—or a non-passport holder from one of the seven countries included in our recognized “native English speaker” list—then we recommend you forego seeking TEFL employment in the following countries.
- South Korea
- Saudi Arabia
While many of these destinations are popular for TEFL teachers and have strong job markets, their hiring standards are quite high (native English speakers only, sometimes even a Masters degree) and their work visas are difficult to acquire.
Where can I teach abroad?
We have an entire article devoted to sharing the inside scoop on the most popular destinations for teaching English abroad as a non-native speaker, but here are the cliff notes:
Mystical India is a fabulous destination for getting your feet wet as a non-native English speaking TEFL teacher abroad. Between running around the schoolyard and mastering pronunciation techniques, you’ll be sipping on chai and pondering how many more chapati you can fit in your belly.
Historic, religious, and lush, Cambodia is more than meets the eye. With your weekdays chock full of meaningful interactions with students and your weekends devoted to jungle explorations (including laying your eyes on Angkor Wat), non-native English teachers hit their stride in bustling Phnom Penh.
Have you sights set on teaching abroad in Latin America? Then look no further than gorgeous Argentina. With inspiration around every corner (to the tune of tantalizing tango, colorful barrios, epic Patagonian landscapes), you’ll never be short on lesson plan ideas for your English classes next week.
Get here before the word gets out! Romania is an incredible destination for non-native English speakers to teach abroad. This country has been making huge strides in the last few decades, and to live here is to get a pulse on its exciting future. And don’t worry, we’re (pretty) sure none of your students will be vampires.
The King of English teaching opportunities, China doesn’t shut its grandiose temple doors to non-native English speakers. There are literally dozens—if not hundreds—of megacities itching to welcome English teachers. China is flush with opportunity, and if you love Mulan or seek to witness an empire in the making, now is the time to teach English in this colorful, surprising nation.
Citizenship-based tips for finding non-native English speaker jobs abroad
Citizens of African nations
If you’re from Namibia, Rwanda, Nigeria, etc. and seek English teaching positions abroad, you’ll have the most luck finding opportunities in Southeast Asia (Thailand and Cambodia) as well as across Latin America. Keep in mind that it is not uncommon to “break-even” in terms of earnings/expenses in either of these regions.
If your home base is on the Asian continent, your best bet for English teaching jobs abroad for non-native English speakers is Latin America. Schools and English companies in destinations like Mexico, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, Argentina, Ecuador, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Peru, and more will happily hire you!
Citizens of Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, the Bahamas, etc. pose a unique hybrid of true Native English speaking countries capabilities without being recognized worldwide for them. This means that you’ll have some opportunities that are not afforded to other non-native English speakers, like jobs in Japan.
While you may have to jump through a few more hoops to prove your qualifications, access to this job market can make a huge difference in your earning potential abroad. You can also find jobs in Thailand, Cambodia, and around Latin America.
If you’re a citizen of the European Union, there are still plenty of options for English teaching jobs abroad. If you don’t want to go too far from home, consider finding jobs in Eastern Europe like Poland, Romania, the Czech Republic, and Turkey. If Southeast Asia is calling, pick up the phone for opportunities in Thailand and Cambodia. If you prefer rice and beans to pierogis and curries, you’ll find English teaching opportunities for non-native English speakers all around Latin America.
Non-EU Europeans will have a buffet of opportunities similar to their EU-comrades. The only difference, however, is that your teaching English options in Eastern Europe are more limited (only Turkey). You best take your TEFL job search beyond your continental borders!
Latin American citizens
Latin Americans have a treasure trove of job opportunities around the corner and around the continent. (Trust us, there’s a TON to discover in nearby countries—it will be a grand adventure!). If you dream of elephant encounters in the jungle, you might also find opportunities in Thailand, India, and Cambodia along southern Asia.
Don’t discount online English teaching opportunities for non-native speakers
A true #TEFLhack for non-native English speakers is to take your skills to the internet! There are a handful of organizations that love hiring and working with non-native speakers (they *get* what makes you an ideal hire!), and you can read all about them in our latest article on 8 Companies Hiring Non-Native English Speakers to Teach English Online Now.
You now know how TEFL defines “Native English Speaking Countries”
It might not be the easiest truth to swallow, but we’re confident that armed with the right information, you’ll have a fruitful, exciting path towards teaching English abroad—even if your first language happens to be something else.