While TEFL sounds like it caters to a niche demographic, you’ll meet teachers of many walks of life. Teachers who left their home jobs to seek a temporary adventure. Those who not only want to travel abroad but to live abroad. People who had always planned to become teachers. In the TEFL industry, you’ll meet people from many occupational and academic fields. And while you obviously have to be able to speak English to teach it, it’s possible to do so as a non-native English speaker.
Why it is Possible to Teach English Abroad as a Non-Native Speaker
In some cases, non-native English speakers can be as effective, if not more, than native English speakers. This is because they might have plenty of insight into the difficulties of learning a new language. They could resonate more with the students if they recognise what difficulties they themselves encountered when initially learning English.
Additionally, proficient non-native English speakers will also have the ability to explain grammar rules. While native English speakers understand how to use certain grammar rules naturally, they may not understand how to explain why we use them the way we do. Foreign students who acquire English to a proficient level must always learn about the intricacies of grammar rules, whereas non-native speakers adopt these rules naturally.
Disadvantages That Non-Native Speakers Face
Non-native English speakers will face significantly more obstacles than native speakers if they want to teach English. Among these disadvantages are potentially lower salaries and fewer opportunities.
The reason they might face lower salaries is because they will appear to be less qualified than native English speakers. Of course, this isn’t necessarily the case. However, employers may be reluctant to hire non-native English speakers.
Furthermore, some countries will forbid hiring non-native English speakers in their public schools. This will make it incredibly difficult to obtain work permits within particular countries. This is especially the case during the pandemic, where employers will be more selective over who they hire and help enter the country.
How to Increase Your Chances as a Non-Native English Speaker
It’s a shame that non-native English speakers brimming with enthusiasm and teaching skills could go unnoticed. That’s why it is imperative that you have formal experience to display on paper. With that being said, there are a number of ways that you can improve your employability as a non native English speaker. When you impress your employers with your on paper experience, then you can impress them with your attitude.
Apply for Volunteer Work
By applying for volunteer work, non-native English speakers can add valuable in-class experience to their résumé. With enough time and positive references, this will enhance your employability significantly.
You could gain this experience by working in your local schools, at summer camps, or even babysitting. As long as you gain experience working with children, it will benefit you significantly. It will show your potential employers that you have the capacity to be responsible for children.
Additionally, if you volunteer with a school or company, there is always the possibility that your school or company will be impressed with your teaching skills and will hire you directly after your volunteering spell. Volunteer.hq, GoOverseas, and Workaway are excellent examples of platforms where you can find volunteering positions.
Teach English Online
Teaching online is an effective way to earn money from the comfort of your own home. It is also an effective way to earn experience as a teacher. Whether you teach group classes or 1-1 lessons, employers will recognize your personable qualities as you build rapport with your students.
If you’re fretting about your employability as a non-native English speaker, it is important to remember that the demand for English is unwavering. With this comes the desire and need for English teachers. And when you consider how the world has moved online since the pandemic, there are plenty of opportunities to earn experience in the digital classroom.
While some online teaching companies will only hire native speakers, there are many which are more open. Companies such as Engoo, iTalki, Preply, and many others are more flexible in their hiring criteria.
Whether you’re a native or non-native English speaker, teaching online is the perfect predecessor to teaching abroad. It will help you eliminate the nerves of teaching for the first time and ease your transition into a new country if you are already familiar with teaching.
There are many ways one could spice up their CV to stand out in the TEFL market. One way is to upskill. While the 120 hour TEFL course facilitates the working and traveling for many teachers, there are other courses on offer which can make you stand out.
Since the 120 hour course is usually the minimum requirement to TEFL, many settle for that. However, if you were to upskill and become certified with a 180 hour Ofqual Level 5 course, for example, you would stand out among the other teachers. There are plenty of courses on our website which would impress your employers should you acquire them.
Specialize and Define Your Niche
You could also specialize within the TEFL industry. Rather than teaching general English to students, you could teach something more specific. This could range from teaching Business English, IELTS coaching, teaching music, science, and so on.
By defining your specific set of skills, you will make yourself more valuable. You can do this by specializing within particular subjects or by highlighting your previous occupational and academic experience.
You should display any experience you have working or studying in an English speaking environment to convince employers that you can teach them more than just general English.
Take an English Proficiency Test
When non-native English speakers apply to work, companies will require proof that they are proficient in English. This proof will usually come in the form of an English proficiency qualification such as IELTS or TOEIC, for example.
With the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) or Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC), subjects will need to achieve a certain score to be considered for work as an English teacher.
We have created a short quiz to test your proficiency in the English language. Spare a short few minutes to take the test for yourself.
Bulletproof Your CV
This one goes without saying. However, if there is a single spelling error in your CV or resume, why should someone hire you? This goes for both native and non-native English speakers.
If you can’t present your English perfectly in one or two pages of an important document that represents yourself, could you present your English well enough in your employer’s classroom?
Luckily, we now run free jobs coaching sessions where our Mentor Matt will coach you through interview preparation, CV and résumé tips as well as how to create a stand-out demo video.
Best Countries to Teach as a Non-Native English Speaker
While there are countries and schools that go against the idea of hiring non-native English speakers, there are still many opportunities. Non-native English teachers will still have a wealth of options when it comes to working and living in a foreign country.
It’s important to remember that you should have your documents ready to show to your employers. This includes your TEFL, your English proficiency certificate, your degree, and anything else that will help you in your search for a teaching position. So, which countries can you teach in as a Non-Native English Speaker?
Thailand is one of the most popular TEFL destinations. This is the case for native English speakers as well as non-native English speakers. With pristine beaches, bountiful harvests, and flavorsome food, it’s popularity is visibly justified.
With visible foreign influence and Bangkok being one of the tourist hotspots of the world, foreigners are very welcome in Thailand. This, along with the famous hospitality of Thai people, will make teachers and travelers want to stay for a very long time.
Non-native English speakers can find work in Thailand without too many obstacles. As long as you have the documents to support your English proficiency, there will be many schools and companies competing for your signature.
Similar to Thailand, Cambodia boasts of classic Southeast Asian lifestyle. With a low cost of living and plenty to do including visiting national parks, islands, and a plethora of temples, Cambodia is rich in culture.
At Premier TEFL, we offer a Cambodia Internship where you can spend three months soaking up sun in this beautiful country. Along with the opportunity to explore this fantastic country is rent-free accommodation and also visa assistance.
With Costa Rica being one of the world’s most biodiverse countries, why shouldn’t it welcome non-native English speakers? The Costa Rican population is one of the happiest in the world. This is also very visible as it boasts of a relaxed lifestyle, all while being environmentally conscious. It’s no wonder that the phrase pura vida or “pure life” derives from Costa Rica.
While Costa Rica may offer a lower salary for foreign English teachers, it will provide a rich and authentic experience. The demand for English is high, and teachers can opt for the untouched Caribbean side of Costa Rica or the tourist centric Pacific side.
Colorful streets, wine, glaciers, tango, waterfalls, why wouldn’t you want to visit Argentina? Argentina is a popular spot for TEFL teachers regardless of whether they are native English speakers or not.
Teachers from all over the world select Argentina as the destination to facilitate their TEFL journey. While you may not need to be a native speaker, you should be fluent in English with a TEFL certification to qualify as a teacher here.
“The Obstacle Is The Way”
It is important to not let the obstacles of being a non-native English speaker dissuade you from getting into TEFL. There are plenty of opportunities for non-native English speakers. Whether the opportunities are in Europe, South America, or Asia, there are plenty of destinations waiting for teachers with open arms.
While non-native English speakers may face more obstacles, it can also help them in becoming more effective teachers. The plethora of work experience and qualifications gained in order to boost employability will result in a teacher more desirable than native speakers who settle for the bare minimum. Additionally, non-native English speakers will continue to expose themselves to different avenues of TEFL.