Can I teach English abroad if I’m a non-native speaker?

Let’s cut to the chase. Yes, you absolutely can teach English abroad if you’re a non-native speaker!

We’re happy to debunk this particular myth. At Teach Away, we regularly place teachers from all over the world, including native and non-native speakers, in lots of great teaching jobs abroad. Too many to count, in fact!

The best part is, demand for English teachers worldwide is skyrocketing right now.

Do you:

  1. Have a bachelor’s degree?
  2. Speak English proficiently?
  3. Hold a TEFL certification?
  4. Have a knack for teaching?

If you check all of these four boxes, you're golden. There’s going to be the perfect English teaching job overseas out there for you. Especially in countries like China, where English language learners looking for great teachers like you are at an all-time high (check out the graphic below if you don't believe me):

In fact, that’s why we launched a new initiative last year, called the Explore Program, to help recent college graduates land English teaching jobs with our partner schools in China.

For all the details, check out the Explore Program page >

Don’t forget, English is a global language and in many instances, being a non-native speaker can actually give you an edge over your competition.

Why’s that? Well, just think of how motivating you can be to your students as a non-native ESL teacher.

As a bilingual teacher, you have so much to offer.

For one, you’ve been in your students’ shoes before. You also worked hard to learn English to a high level, so you know what it’s like first-hand to learn a language from scratch.

Secondly, you have a depth of understanding of English grammar concepts that your native speaking counterparts won’t have, having learned the language intuitively from birth.

Remember, native English speakers don’t automatically make better English teachers.

So, don’t let your nationality or accent hold you back from applying to teaching jobs abroad - schools abroad in many countries are looking for job candidates just like you!

With all that said, let’s get down to the details:

Who counts as a native English speaker?

teaching english abroad for non native speakers

In general, employers abroad consider candidates from the US, Canada, the UK, Ireland, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand to be native English speakers.

Hang on a second, that doesn’t seem fair, right? There are plenty of other countries that speak English as their primary language - countries in the Caribbean, the Philippines and India, to list just a few.

The reality is, though, there are a few remaining countries that don’t count applicants outside of these seven countries as native English speakers.

Stringent visa regulations in the UAE, South Korea and Japan, for example, require teaching candidates to hold a passport from one of the seven countries above, meaning schools in these countries are, unfortunately, restricted in who exactly they can hire.

Where can I teach abroad as a non-native English speaker?

teaching english abroad for non native speakers

Keep the chin up! There are still plenty of job opportunities for non-native English speakers in other popular teaching destinations overseas.

The list is long: Thailand, Cambodia, countries in Central and South America like Mexico and Brazil, countries in Europe as well as Turkey, among others, all welcome applications from non-native English speakers.

So, how can you make sure that you’re as qualified as possible for teaching positions in these countries?

How non-native English speakers can boost their chances of being hired to teach English abroad.

teaching english abroad for non native speakers

While being a non-native speaker isn’t necessarily a barrier to teaching English abroad, as with any job you apply for, you need to show you’re the right person for the job.

When it comes to applying to teach English abroad, it’s important to first familiarize yourself with some common qualifications and requirements.

Step 1

Head on over to the Teach Away job board and browse some job postings in the countries you’d like to teach in. This will help you figure out any gaps on your resume that could cost you that dream English teaching job interview.


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Step 2

Ensure that you’re as qualified as possible for the English teaching jobs you’re interested in.

Prove your teaching skills as well as your level of English fluency - taking a TEFL course can boost your chances of landing a job in one of the many and varied countries that welcome applications from non-native English speakers.

Having some teaching experience also goes a long way to show your commitment when applying for English teaching jobs. This applies to native speakers just as much as non-native speakers, though!

Remember to keep working on your English language skills, too. The English language is changing and adapting all the time. Read books, listen to English music, watch movies with the subtitles turned off - all of these daily activities will help you refresh your English skills!

So get applying!

Don’t let the fact that you’re a non-native speaker keep you from realizing your dream of becoming an English teacher abroad.

Give it your best shot - keep honing those language skills, get your resume up to scratch, figure out where the best places to teach abroad are and keep an eye out for the right opportunities on our teach abroad job board. Good luck!