For native English speakers, there are lots of opportunities to teach TEFL abroad, in almost every country, but what about for non-native English speakers? Many people are under the misconception that in order to teach English as a foreign language abroad, you have to be a native English speaker. The truth is, there are loads of working opportunities for non-native English speakers from any and every location.
Read on for my recommendations on finding a TEFL job as a non-native English speaker. Towards the end, you will see a link to join the collaborative project of schools that are hiring non-native speakers.
Tip #1: Get Language Accreditation
The first fear that employers have when considering a non-native speaker as an applicant is that they won’t have an adequate English level. In my opinion, this is a fair concern.
It’s your duty to prove to the employer that you have a C1 level of English, or better, according to the CEFR. If your level of English is below this, you will likely have an issue finding a TEFL job with a reputable company. How can you prove your English level?
In order to prove your grasp of the language, I recommend taking the IELTS, TOEIC or TOEFL test. These are accredited tests that employers in the TEFL industry are familiar with. If you can get a score that shows you are advanced or fluent, this will help prove your legitimacy as having the same level of English as a native speaker.
Tip #2: Get Teaching Accreditation
Increasingly, schools aren’t willing to hire anyone who does not have either a TEFL, CELTA or certTESOL. I have spoken before to some non-native speakers who studied English as part of their undergraduate course. Although it seems that this would be more comprehensive than the above-mentioned courses, many employers simply look for the above teaching qualifications as a necessary item that needs to be ticked.
My advice is to get accredited and also send your CV in with a letter of reference from somewhere that you have taught in the past. This is where doing a TEFL with a 20-hour practicum has an advantage over some purely online courses. You’ll get hands-on experience teaching and someone will have observed you and can provide you with a reference.
If you can’t do a TEFL with a practicum, I recommend that you volunteer somewhere for a period of time. In the end, you’ll have more confidence to start your first paid job and you’ll be able to look for employment armed with a reference.
Tip # 3: Push for a Phone or Skype Interview
Even if you are more qualified than a non-native applicant, one thing that employers are often concerned with is the accent. There have been many moments in my career where I have had to have meetings with principals and concerned parents about a teacher’s accent. When hiring, these awkward meetings and complaints are often in an employer’s mind.
To combat these concerns, be proactive about setting up a phone or Skype interview. This will give you an opportunity to showcase either a fairly neutral accent or to show that you have adopted an accent similar to a native speaker through the course of your studies.
After you’ve sent in a CV, it might not be a bad idea to call the institution in a week or two to check on its status. This is an opportunity for you to talk to the manager who, after hearing your voice, might reconsider your CV.
Tip #4: Fight Past Industry Bias
There is no point sugar coating it – there is an extreme bias in the TEFL industry, which makes it easier for native speakers to get a job than non-native speakers. That said, some of the best teachers that I’ve personally hired have been non-native speakers.
One of the reasons for this is that they have more learner empathy. Non-native speakers who have achieved a fluent level of English know how hard that journey is. They understand students’ needs and are more attuned to how students feel in the class.
Also, non-native speakers sometimes have a better grasp of grammar than native speakers. Native speakers usually know if something is correct or not, but an inexperienced native speaking teacher will often have a difficult time explaining why or providing a rule for the situation. This is something that non-native speakers often understand.
That said, why is there such a bias towards native speakers? Well, let’s look at it from the learner’s (or parent’s) perspective. Quite often you are paying a considerable amount of money for English classes, especially those with a TEFL teacher. If they are going to pay this amount of money, learners want some assurance that they are getting what they paid for (i.e. someone who speaks English like they want to be able to).
There are plenty of schools out there who lie about their teachers’ qualifications and take advantage of the learner. Due to this, learners are naturally suspicious. Employers are naturally concerned about pleasing their clients, and this is where the bias comes from.
It may not be fair, but a non-native speaker will have to work harder and be more proactive in their job hunt than a native speaker. However, if TEFL is something you are passionate about, and you follow the above tips, I’m sure you’ll be able to find gainful employment. It will simply require fighting some misconceptions that currently exist in the industry.
Click the button below to get a list of schools that are hiring non-native speakers. This is a collaborative project and will continue to grow as you, the reader, contribute.