As the graphic to the left rather stylishly shows… (and you can see the rest of it here) Yes. There are lots of TEFL jobs out there for non-natives; in fact some people argue there are as many opportunities for non-native speakers as there are for native speakers.
Over the years English has become the international language of business, communications, technology and travel. This global reach means that most people using English around the world are non-native speakers speaking to other non-native speakers (Polish businesspeople speaking to German businesspeople, for example). So sounding like a native speaker is irrelevant to them: they need International English and they want a teacher with good levels of English and teaching skills.
You’ve already learned English, so you can teach English
Another plus is that because you have learned the English language from scratch, you probably understand English grammar on an intellectual level to a much higher level than most of your native counterparts who understand it on a subconscious level having soaked up the language from birth.
And one final part on the back for our non-native speaking friends: being taught by a non-native TEFL teacher can really motivate and inspire your students – if you can learn to speak, write and teach English to such a high level, they can too!
What Are The Challenges of Being a Non-Native TEFLer?
The main challenge that you’ll have is your own worry about being a non-native speaker! But your students know you’re not a native speaker and don’t expect you to be one. You’ve worked hard to learn the language to such a high level, so be confident. All that hard work you’ve put in will help you teach English as a foreign language to your students just as well as a native speaker would.
You may encounter old attitudes from some employers who feel that the native speaker is still the ideal. Don’t worry – there is so much demand for TEFL teachers, you can just choose a different employer. These attitudes are changing rapidly – any good school now is looking for skills, not ‘native-speakerness’.
Some countries generally require proof of nationality from an English-speaking country to get a work permit (e.g. Korea). There’s not much you can do about that unfortunately, but these prejudices about what makes a good teacher are changing, and we expect them to disappear in the near future.
It’s worth keeping in mind that you don’t need to be a native speaker to teach English as a second language in England!
Do I Need Specific TEFL Training?
Whatever anyone says, you don’t need any extra TEFL training. You are the equal of the native speakers, and should not put yourself in a separate category.
Obviously, if you’re going to teach English, your English level has to be very high. If you’re unconfident about your English, you’ll need to work on it in a targeted way. Get a detailed diagnosis of your speaking and writing from an expert and work on the areas you need to improve: whether that’s fluency, pronunciation, sentence stress and rhythm, use of articles or tenses – a few more hours effort will open up a world of opportunities.
What Kind of Job Opportunities Are There for Non-Native Speakers?
As mentioned above, apart from the few remaining countries that require you to hold certain passports to issue teaching permits, you have the same opportunities as a native speaker: remember that when applying for TEFL jobs.
TEFL is market-driven, so if you can show an employer they need you and that you can do the job just as well as someone from the UK or the US, you shouldn’t have any problems. An employer may ask for ‘native speakers’ because they (mistakenly) think it will mean better teachers – show them they’re wrong by highlighting your high level of English and your TEFL skills.
But I Keep On Getting Rejection Letters?
If you keep getting knock backs from mainstream TEFL jobs because of your ‘non-nativeness’, don’t despair! There are quite a few TEFL jobs and internships aimed specifically at non-native speakers. The chances are that once you’ve completed one of these type contracts, you will be in a much better position to find work.
Here are a couple of great teaching opportunities for non-native speakers…
Five Month Internships in Asia
You’ll get full TEFL training over in Asia and then spend five months living and working as an English teacher in either China or Vietnam. You can find out more here
1. Be confident. You’re the equal of a native speaker in the classroom.
2. Sell your command of English, your teaching skills, and the fact you understand students’ situation as a former learner yourself.
3. Get proof of your level of English – such as a high IELTS or TOEFL score, or a CAE or CPE certificate.
4. Get proof of your teaching skills such as an i-to-i TEFL certificate.
5. Network with other non-native speaker teachers for support and job opportunities.