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Where Can I Teach English as a Non-Native Speaker?

Abhi, Indian Teacher in Hong Kong

Is teaching English abroad only open to native English-speaking teachers? Certainly not! But teachers who speak a first language other than English may wonder, “Where can I teach English as a non-native speaker?” or, “Are certain regions or specific countries more welcoming to bilingual teachers?”

Even though there are plenty of ESL jobs available around the world, it’s not uncommon to see language schools targeting native speakers by including this requirement in their job postings. However, the good news is, with the ever-increasing number of English learners worldwide and English being recognized as the global lingua franca, more countries are open to hiring qualified teachers regardless of their citizenship or first language. Let’s explore the largest markets for non-native English teachers (NNESTs), most of which are in Asia, Latin America, or online.

Teach English online as an NNEST  

First, you can choose to get a job teaching English online. Regardless of your first language, this is a great way for new teachers to gain experience before applying to jobs abroad or while waiting for COVID-19-related travel restrictions to ease. This type of work benefits newcomers because they can get insights into the kinds of students they prefer teaching (kids vs. adults) should they shift to teaching in a classroom later on.

Non-native English-speaking and bilingual teachers could find it less difficult to land jobs teaching online as opposed to in the classroom because online companies are usually more flexible with requirements for virtual ESL teachers. This is especially true when teaching online via an ELT marketplace. With online jobs, you don’t always need a college degree or experience to be hired, though it is important to have a TEFL/TESOL certificate. Additionally, earning a Specialized Teaching English Online Certificate will make your profile stand out among other candidates.

Read the unique stories of three non-native English-speaking teachers in Chile who teach English online.

Work online with a company

Your first option is to work online with an ESL company that will provide a set schedule and pay rate and connect you with students. Here are some recommended online tutoring companies where you can work as a teacher without being a native English speaker:

Browse online teaching jobs on the Bridge Job Board.

Teach online as a freelancer

Alternatively, you can work for yourself as a freelance online English teacher. Aside from being location-independent and in control of your schedule, becoming your own boss gives you perks like setting your own rates, choosing the types of learners you want to work with, and designing your own teaching methodology and materials.

As an independent virtual English teacher, you can opt to:

Check out this guide to your options as a freelance online English teacher.

Carla, from Brazil, runs her own online English teaching business in her home country
Carla, from Brazil, runs her own online English teaching business in her home country.

Teach English abroad as an NNEST in Asia

Many native and non-native English teachers alike look to Asia for jobs because of the steady demand for English, as well as the excellent salary and benefits offered here. But what are the chances that NNESTs will be hired in this region?

As more and more countries are reopening for travel, you might be surprised to hear your chances to teach in Asia in the future are good! It’s possible to teach as a non-native English speaker in Thailand, Cambodia, or even Japan (South Korea is more challenging due to citizenship requirements for the visa).

How to get a job in this region

In order to be qualified to teach in Asia, you typically need a TEFL/TESOL certificate (120 hours is recommended), a four-year degree in any subject, and high proficiency in English. The main exception to these requirements is Cambodia, where teachers can often get hired without a degree as long as they hold TEFL certification. You can job hunt year-round, but peak hiring season usually goes until September.

  • Pro Tip: While first-timers usually look to the bigger cities for jobs, a good strategy to broaden your prospects is by checking out posts available in smaller cities or towns. The experiences are equally – or perhaps more – rewarding!
Read an interview with Colombian English teacher, Carolina who teaches ESL in a school in Beijing.
Read an interview with Colombian English teacher Carolina, who teaches ESL at a school in Beijing.

Teach English abroad as an NNEST in Latin America

Another great option for non-native English-speaking teachers is Latin America. Generally speaking, countries here are more welcoming to teachers of different citizenships or with different accents, so the chances of landing a job here are quite high. Plus, this region, with its more relaxed requirements for teachers, also makes it a good place to jumpstart your English teaching career!

Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Bolivia, Uruguay, and El Salvador are just some of the countries that have their doors open to non-native speakers.

Shella Chua ESL teacher in Taiwan
Teacher Shella, from the Philippines, works with young learners in Taiwan.

How to get a job in this region

There is more leeway when it comes to getting hired in this region, as compared to Asia; a bachelor’s degree may not always be necessary if you meet the other requirements, such as TEFL/TESOL certification.

While many schools hire teachers who are physically in the country already, others will hire teachers from abroad. Regardless of how you apply, take note of the hiring season in each country so that you get responses to your applications quicker. Hiring in some countries like Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, and Uruguay usually starts around February or March, while in others, like Peru and El Salvador, hiring peaks from October to November.

  • Pro Tip: If you prefer teaching adults to teaching kids, Latin America is the region for you! Most students here are adult professionals rather than young learners.
Hassan, from Tanzania, Teacher in Turkey
Hassan, from Tanzania, teaches in an English center in Turkey.

Teach English abroad as an NNEST in other regions

Of course, Asia and Latin America are not the only markets for bilingual teachers, and you can always expand your search parameters to other parts of the world, such as Central/Eastern Europe. For instance, Romania, Turkey, Ukraine, and the Czech Republic can be NNEST-friendly countries. While they may not be as popular as other teaching destinations, they have a high demand for English teachers and, similarly, offer interesting perks and an excellent working environment for teachers.

Many schools in these locations will just require you to have onsite or online TEFL certification and be fluent in English. A bachelor’s degree is often required in European countries.

Advantages of being a bilingual (or multilingual) teacher

When you start your search for TEFL/TESOL jobs, it can boost your confidence to remember that there are many advantages of being a non-native English-speaking teacher.

  • For example, one of your plus points is that if you teach in a country where your mother tongue is spoken, you will be able to teach all student levels, including total beginners.
  • In addition, you could also have a chance to teach not only English but also your first language.
  • Even if you read “native speakers only” in a post, apply anyway! As long as you can show your English proficiency, nothing should put you off.

So, get yourself TEFL/TESOL-certified, explore your options, and gain experience teaching online if you need it! With your competitive edge, you will soon enough get that dream teaching job!

Reluctant about teaching English overseas because of scary stories you’ve heard? We debunked the most common teach abroad myths so you can start your TEFL/TESOL journey anywhere in the world!

Back in her hometown in the Philippines, Krzl worked as a writer at a TV station before moving to Chile. After she completed her TESOL certification, she worked for language institutes and then decided to become an independent English teacher to business professionals. When she’s not giving classes, she’s either surfing along Chile’s long stretch of coastline, traveling, or practicing photography by the beach.