How to find great English teaching jobs for non-native speakers
In Facebook groups for teaching English, a question that is asked regularly is how to find English speaking jobs for non-native speakers. There are many non-native speaking English teachers out there looking for English teaching work, and so we wanted to create a post with lots of advice.
By writing this, we are not suggesting that we have any idea what it’s like to try to find English teaching jobs abroad as a non-native speaker. Being British, we obviously don’t. We haven’t faced this kind of discrimination and we can’t talk about that. However, we would like to give our advice and tips based on the experiences of non-native speaking English teachers we have worked with and are friends with. Hopefully, it can help some of you.
Before we get started, let’s just remember that we are publishing this in 2021 in the middle of the Covid 19 pandemic. It’s not an easy time for English teachers and countries we mention below that usually employ non-native English speaking teachers may not be accepting teachers now.
Can I teach English abroad as a non-native speaker?
The short answer to this is ‘yes’. There are lots of non-native English teachers teaching English outside of their home countries. We have personally worked with non-native English teachers from Poland, India, Iran, the Philippines, Ukraine, India, Guatemala, Mexico, Brazil, Malaysia and Spain. And those are the ones I can remember off to the top of my head. Sorry if you know us and we’ve missed you out. Feel free to let us know. Some of the big coursebook writers, ELT managers and teacher trainers are non-native too.
It often seems to non-native speakers trying to find jobs abroad or online, that all jobs want native speakers. There are a lot of adverts requesting this. The reasons for this vary, but in general it’s because of demand from students and parents. There seems to be an opinion that it’s better to learn a language from a native speaker of that language. This may come from bad experiences in schools where local English teachers had low levels of English. When they are paying for classes, they want quality and they want someone with a higher level. That someone doesn’t have to have been born in the UK, Australia or Canada though. Those non-native English teachers we’ve worked with in the past had the same level of English as us.
Discrimination in ELT
While there is no doubt that there is discrimination in the ELT industry against non-native speakers, in actual fact, there is little difference between a native-level speaker and a native speaker. If both are teaching outside of their home country, neither necessarily has an insight into the L1 of their students. While a native speaker may have more awareness of idiomatic language and lower frequency phrases, the non-native speaker has the advantage of having actually learned English themselves. This therefore gives them more idea of what it’s like to be a student and to study a foreign language.
Let’s be fair. We’re British and Brits are not well-known for their ability to converse in other languages. There are various reasons for this: lack of language provision at school and low motivation since English is an international language. Some of my non-native speaking friends and colleagues, on the other hand, can speak multiple languages. Not only their L1 and English, but also 2 or more other languages as well. I recently asked a Ukrainian colleague what she was going to do now she had got an ‘A’ grade at Cambridge Proficiency (the highest international English language exam there is). ‘Well’ she said. ‘I think I’ll start learning German. I’m already B2 in Polish and French and I’d like to learn something new’.
That is not to say that native English speaking teachers can’t speak other languages, or don’t learn them. But one thing that all non-native English speaking teachers have in common is that they have all learned English themselves.
Another advantage of a non-native English speaking teacher is that they can have Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in English, and/or in English language teaching. It’s rare for native speakers to have this.
An unhelpful dichotomy
Just to be clear, however, we are not claiming that non-native speaking teachers are better, or that native speakers are not good teachers. In fact, let’s get rid of this dichotomy because it just shouldn’t exist. There are very well-qualified, highly skilled native speaking teachers. We count ourselves as two of them, having Delta/DipTESOL and over 14 years’ experience in many good schools with excellent professional development. There are also very well-qualified, highly skilled non-native speakers with very high levels of English. There are also native speakers who have got their job purely based on their passport and who have had little if any training. Non-native English speaking teachers may hold Bachelor’s degrees in English language, but actually have B2 levels of English. And these are just four types. We can divide them further. The point is that it shouldn’t be us and them.
What are the requirements to teach English abroad as a non-native speaker?
A ‘native’ level of English
If you want to teach abroad as a non-native speaker, you need to have an equivalent level of English as a native English speaking teacher. Now, we aren’t going to get into the argument now about all native English speakers having accents and dialects. What we mean, is that you need to have an English level that is CEFR C2. The Council of European Framework of Reference gives a series of ‘can do’ statements to measure a person’s language level, covering all four skills. You can find more information on these here. C2 includes:
- having no difficulty understanding any kind of spoken language,
- being able to read all forms of written text including specialised academic articles and literary works,
- conveying the finer shades of meaning precisely when speaking and developing appropriate and logical arguments
- writing a full range of complex letters, summaries, articles, literary texts, and reviews of professional works
The key reason for needing this level of English is that schools are looking for something that their local teachers don’t already have. Just like in your home country, there are many well-qualified English language teachers. Schools can employ them to teach their students. Employing local teachers means no expense or hassle arranging work permits and visas. Both can be expensive. To employ a teacher from another country means they are looking for something else. This can be experience living outside the country or awareness of different aspects of the English language including idiomatic language, collocation and more modern ways of speaking.
In some countries, it is possible to get work teaching English with lower than C2 English. Requirements for Thailand and Vietnam, for example, are lower. However, with a lower level of English, you become less competitive and less likely to find work.
How can I show I have a good level of English?
Get certified. There is a range of international English language qualifications out there. Take one and prove your English level in your application. You could take IELTS, Cambridge Proficiency (CPE), TOEFL or another. But having that piece of paper will help you a lot.
A decent, internationally recognised English language teaching qualification
There is an enormous range of TEFL and TESOL courses out there, all stating that they are ‘the most widely recognised’, ‘the best’ etc. etc. They can say anything. It’s marketing. If you intend to become an English teacher abroad though, you need to do some research. Those online courses without any teaching practice, that you can buy for less than 50 dollars, they are for native speakers. Schools that will accept teachers who have completed a TEFL course in a few hours by completing some multiple choice tests are not those who care about the quality of their teachers. They just want a native speaker to put in front of their students. I’m not saying that some of these may turn out to be good teachers, but they aren’t going to look at someone without a specific passport.
The sort of schools that favour quality over passport are going to expect something more in terms of a teaching qualification. Cambridge CELTA and Trinity certTESOL are two of the most widely recognised courses that include assessed teaching practice of real students. If you intend to teach abroad and you have the English level mentioned above, then set yourself up properly with a proper teaching qualification.
Not sure what the difference between TEFL qualifications are? Read our post on What TEFL Qualification you should take.
Facebook groups are full of non-native speakers who’ve taken a cheap online TESOL course and are now upset because they can’t get work. These courses may promise you the earth, but they rarely deliver.
On that note, Facebook groups are also full of non-native speaking teachers who have taken CELTA and assume that this is also a passport to an English teaching job abroad. CELTA and Trinity certTESOL courses accept teachers with CEFR C1 levels of English. This is because they also train teachers for work in their home countries. Taking CELTA is not a guarantee for a job abroad. If you don’t have CEFR C2 English, then think carefully before investing in a CELTA course as without the English level, you will struggle to find work.
If you want more convincing from people who’ve been there, read our posts from four Indian English teachers working abroad who give you their advice.
A Bachelor’s degree
While there are countries where you can teach English without a degree, if you are also a non-native speaker, you are really going to have problems finding work. If you are a non-native speaker without a Bachelor’s degree, we suggest taking one, or thinking of another career path.
Where can I find English teaching jobs for non-native speakers
There seem to be many rumours about this. I’ve heard people say that there are very few countries that accept non-native English speaking English teachers. This isn’t true. There are only a handful of countries that restrict visas for English teachers based on passport. One of these is China. I’ve heard that there are three provinces now where non-native speakers can teach English, but I’m not sure how true this is.
Another country where you have to hold a passport from the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland or South Africa to work is South Korea. Taiwan seems quite strict. Otherwise, most other countries do not have any law requiring English teachers to be from any specific country and there are English teaching jobs for non-native speakers there.
Here are some suggestions:
South East Asia
We’ve taught in Thailand twice and worked with English teachers from all over the World. To get a work permit to teach English in Thailand if you are a non-native speaker, you need a TOEIC score of 600+.
In Thailand you can find work in government or private schools, and in language schools. Pay is not high. Salaries start at around 20,000 baht per month, sometimes plus housing. However, many teachers love the lifestyle in Thailand.
To find out more about teaching English in Thailand, read our post on How to find a job teaching English in Bangkok.
Another country we are very familiar with, having taught there for just under five years, is Vietnam. We worked with English teachers from lots of different countries while working in Vietnam and it’s another country where there are a lot of English teaching jobs for non-native speakers.
Most jobs in Vietnam are in language schools, teaching children. There are jobs all over the country with the most competition being in the large cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Salaries are much higher than in Thailand and you can earn around $2000 a month or more, depending on your qualifications and experience.
After five years in Vietnam, we wrote a bumper guide to teaching and living there. Read more in our Ultimate Guide to Teaching English in Vietnam.
Cambodia is quite flexible with its requirements for teaching English, and you do not need a Bachelor’s degree or to be a native English speaker to work there. There are jobs in private schools and language centres, largely in the main cities of Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.
If you had 12 consecutive years of education in English, so you attended an International school where you studied in English and possibly went on to study in an English-speaking country, you can legally find work in Japan.
While China has some odd restrictions for English teachers, Hong Kong accepts teachers with various passports. There are lots of positions in language schools and tutoring centres, as well as in primary and secondary schools through the NET scheme and others.
If you have an EU passport, you can legally work as an English teacher anywhere in the EU. The freedom to live and work means that you can move and look for work in a country. Of course, this used to apply to the UK too, but since Brexit, we aren’t sure how that is going to work. However, other countries are open to you.
If you do not have an EU passport, it will be nearly impossible to teach in some countries because they don’t want to go through the long process to get you a legal work visa. However, you still have a few options to find English teaching jobs for non-native speakers.
Language Assistant Programs in Spain place teachers in schools to help with conversation lessons. Some of these accept non-native English speakers, particularly those from India and the Philippines, but also other C2 level speakers. Look at BEDA and ConversaSpain.
Find out more about Language Assistant Programs in Spain.
It’s also possible to teach English in Spain on a student visa, where you study Spanish and can work a specific number of hours per week. Several TEFL schools and Spanish language schools in Spain can arrange this.
The majority of English teachers in Germany are freelance, living and working on a freelance visa with a residency permit. You can apply for this as a non-native speaker as well. Be aware, though, that competition for work in Germany is high and it is tough to get enough hours for a decent standard of living. You’ll have more success if you have a background in business and experience in teaching business English.
If you have a really high level of English, you can teach English in Poland. If you are an EU citizen, look at International House schools. If you are not, look at English Wizards, who place teachers in schools around Poland.
Find out more in our post by Nick from English Wizards on Teaching English in Poland.
All teachers coming to Ukraine from abroad need to get a labour permit and residency, and there is no restriction on passport. Standards for jobs that provide legal work are high, and you will need a minimum of CELTA and some experience. Salaries might seem low, but so is the cost of living. Look at jobs at the British Council and International House to start.
Russia is a huge country and there is demand for English language teachers in many cities. There are many large language centre groups that employ teachers from many different countries. Look at International House, English First and Language Link to start.
For an idea of different types of jobs in Russia, see our post on the Pros and Cons of different jobs.
Jobs for English teachers in Turkey exist in private schools, universities and language centres.
Read Ukrainian Svitlana’s story of teaching English in Turkey and Myanmar.
Central and South America
This region in general accepts people from all countries, but it is rare for schools to recruit from abroad. Most people find jobs by going to a city to look.
The main requirement for English language teachers in Mexico is a TEFL qualification, but there is no restriction on passport. Jobs are not well paid, but there are language schools in many cities and towns where you can find work if you go there to look.
As a huge country, there are a lot of options to teach English in Brazil, but jobs are found by going there.
While salaries in Argentina are low, around $600-800 a month, cost of living is low too. Decent schools will employ you on a work visa, although many teachers are working on tourist visas, jumping over the border every 90 days to get a new one.
Most English teachers in Costa Rica teach on a tourist visa, because apparently it’s legal to offer your services even as a tourist. This means that you need to renew it every 90 days, however. Salaries are not high and cost of living isn’t that low, but it is a beautiful country.
Online English teaching jobs for non-native speakers
It can seem from looking at adverts on social media that only native speakers can teach English online, but again, that’s simply not true. While the companies that advertise a lot like VIP Kid do restrict on passport, many companies do not. Here are some companies that offer English teaching jobs for non-native speakers. Being on this list does not mean we recommend them. We haven’t worked for any of them.
Before you start, read our guide on how to become an online English teacher
Palfish is an app-based English language teaching platform which you can teach on using a smartphone or tablet. Students are adults and children from China and you generally teach them 1-1. On the ‘free talk’ platform, teachers market themselves to students for conversation lessons, where you correct grammar and vocabulary. There is no nationality requirement for this, and you can set your own rate of pay. Most teachers charge around $10-20 an hour. Palfish take 20% commission from this.
To work for Palfish, you need to be of native level with a TEFL certificate. You don’t need a degree or experience, but some experience may help you to be accepted.
Another conversation based English teaching job that accepts non-native speakers in Cambly. Cambly tutors are paid by the minute to talk to English learners around the World. You don’t need a degree, teaching experience or a teaching qualification to register with them and you can expect around $10 an hour.
Skyeng is an Eastern European based company offering 50m long 1-1 classes, largely to students in Europe. They require a good level of English, a TEFL certificate and some experience teaching English.
Pay is not high at $5-10 per lesson, but you can set your own schedule and teachers working there seem very happy with the company.
Also based in Eastern Europe/Russia, English Dom (home) offers 1-1 English lessons on Skype to students worldwide. They prefer Russian speakers as most of their target market are in Russia. Average monthly income is around $600 a month.
Verbling is an advertising platform where language teachers advertise their services to potential students. You set your own hourly rate and decide when you want to teach. To be accepted to teach English as a non-native speaker, you need to be C2 in English and if you also have a teaching certificate, you are more likely to have students choose you. Verbling charges 15% commission on any money you earn.
At iTalki, there are two types of positions. They offer conversation based lessons, similar to Cambly and Palfish, for which you need to have a C2 level of English. The minimum lesson price for this is low – around $4 a lesson. If you have an English language teaching qualification or degree in education and experience, you can apply to be a professional teacher, and earn $8 a lesson. You need to have C2 English for this too.
Preply is actually based in Kyiv, where we also live and work. It provides a platform for many different kinds of tutors to offer their services to students. You set your own price for classes and you do not need any specific qualifications or experience to promote yourself there, although the more you have, the more likely students are to choose you.
One negative thing about Preply is that they take 100% of the fees for your first class with a new student. After that, commission varies between 18 and 33%.
Amazing Talker is another platform that matches students with teachers. You set your own hourly rate and decide when to offer classes. You need to be fluent in English and have teaching experience to be accepted. Amazing Talker takes 30% for commission for the first $100 you make in a month, and commission then reduces if you teach more.
For ideas of who to work for, read our interviews with online English teachers.
iTutorgroup has been around a long time and is part of a huge Chinese education company. Classes are available 24/7, rather than just Beijing hours though. iTutorgroup accepts teachers of all nationalities BUT it pays based on location. If you are based in the USA or UK, you can expect a high rate of pay – around $20 an hour, but if you are based in Asia, you are looking at around $5.
Winkey Online English Academy
Winkey Online English Academy offers classes to Chinese children and adults. They accept non-native speakers with neutral accents who have had experience of UK, US or Canadian education, so basically if you have attended school or university in an English-speaking country. It will also help if you have an international English language certificate like IELTS or TOEFL.
Lessons are 25 minutes long and they pay $15-25 per hour.
Another online school offering classes to Chinese students is Yiyi English. They take all teachers provided they speak English ‘to an idiomatic level’ and provide training and ongoing support. Pay is around $15- 20 an hour and you can also earn bonuses.
Core English teachers work with Chinese children and lesson materials are provide. They require teachers to commit to a 25 hour a week schedule of 25 minute lessons at Beijing time, and a minimum of a 6 month contract. You get regular students and $15-20 an hour. You need to have a teaching qualification and a Bachelor’s degree and if you have experience, you are more likely to be accepted.
Hello Kid offers 1-1 lessons with Chinese children aged from 3-16. Lesson materials are provided and you need to commit to a minimum of 12 hours a week at Beijing times. Pay ranges from $8-22. You need to have a teaching certificate and experience in teaching young learners online.
If you are a teacher with extensive experience in teaching business English, German-based Learnship is an option. They provide business English lessons to students in Europe and Asia. You’ll need a degree, preferably in a business-related subject, a teaching certificate and native-level fluency and accent. Pay is around $16-30 per class.
One option if you don’t want to pay a platform commission to find students is to offer your own private lessons. You can advertise to students in Facebook groups, have a Youtube channel to attract them or put adverts in your local classified advert website like Gumtree or OLX. You can set your own rate of pay and decent when and who you teach.
How to find English teaching jobs abroad for non-native speakers
Once you have chosen the country you want to work in, do some research into the decent schools. Have a look which ones already have non-native speakers teaching there. I’ve mentioned many above that you can start with. You can find blogs of other non-native English teachers or contact people in Facebook groups to get contact details of schools to contact.
There are companies that have non-discrimination policies. British Council and International House are two. They both have jobs pages which list vacancies and how to apply.
Make sure you are applying for jobs professionally and using international standards. Most decent schools expect a current c.v and covering letter detailing why you are the right candidate for the job. The c.v. should be directed towards teaching, no more than 2 pages long and the covering letter should use western conventions. I’ve received a lot of covering letters that start ‘Esteemed Sir’ or that begin with a quote about the applicants teaching ethos, which generally go in the bin. If we are employing an international teacher, we want one who can support our students in how to work in an English language environment.
Here is our advice on how to apply. Non-native speaking teachers we know have used this and been successful at finding work.
For more advice from someone who has experienced finding work as a non-native English teacher, look at Marek from TEFL Equality‘s blog. He also runs training courses to help you get set up.
Other options to teach abroad as non-native English speakers
Teach your own language
Everyone seems to want to teach English abroad. However, there’s demand for other languages too. Why not teach your own language? If your L1 is an in-demand language like Arabic, French or Russian, you can find work abroad or online teaching that. The principles of communicative language teachers transfer to other subjects as well, so if you have taken a TEFL course, you can use techniques you’ve learned in your own language.
Language Assistant Schemes
We’ve mentioned English Language Assistant Schemes above, but there are Language Assistant Programs for other langauges too. The British Council employs Foreign Language Assistants in Arabic, Mandarin, Japanese and Russian to support teachers in UK schools. There are programs for German, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese and Arabic speakers in France, China and other countries.
Teaching other languages online
Online platforms such as Latinhire, Verbling, and Preply don’t just have English language tutors. You can offer courses in your own language too.
Teach your specialist subject
An option if you are a certified science teacher, for example. is to get a job teaching that subject in an English medium school. In many countries in the world, children study in English and teachers are employed to teach different subjects in English. Look at adverts for schools in countries like Thailand for such jobs.
Hopefully we’ve given you some ideas of how to get started looking for English teaching jobs for non-native speakers. This isn’t an exhaustive list, of course, but it should help you start looking.
If you get work as an non-native English teacher, please let us know. Perhaps we can interview you for our blog and you can share your story.