Non-Native English Speakers Teaching Abroad

Non-Native English Speakers Teaching Abroad

Teaching abroad isn’t just for native English speakers! In this post, 7 non-native English speakers share what it’s like to teach abroad. Keep reading to find out about the qualifications they recommend, challenges they have faced and advice they have for other non-native teachers.

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Daniela from Germany

Daniela has taught a mix of ESL, German as a Foreign Language and Math abroad in South Korea, Japan, China and Malaysia.

Her advice for non-native teachers abroad? “Know the language well enough to participate in staff meetings and outings. This will help you to bond on a personal level. Your accent doesn’t really matter. Professional international teachers come from all different countries and are not treated differently by open-minded staff members.”

Daniela found teaching positions through Google, Search Associates (a placement agency for certified teachers) and even through a friend telling her about a job.

In terms of qualifications, Daniela suggests having a teaching degree and says that her double master’s degree may have given her an edge over a candidate with just a B.A.

Her advice for teachers from Germany: “Do your research about the package the school offers. You need a related degree. Read about the culture and the city you are relocating to – most contracts are for 2 or 3 years. If you leave early, penalties might apply.”

Afsana from Bangladesh

Afsana has worked as a primary classroom teacher abroad. She was able to find positions through LinkedIn, TES and International School Services.

Unfortunately she faced some difficulties when searching for jobs abroad. “The value of my passport is more important than my ability to teach.”

Afsana’s advice for non-native teachers abroad? “As a non-native English speaker you really have to prove your worth for the position. Your experience and knowledge are your strengths. Focus on that and keep trying in your search.”

She says that having a teaching license, degrees with Honors or a Master’s and experience teaching in international schools will be helpful.

Afsana’s advice for teachers from Bangladesh: “Get enough teaching experience, attend workshops (national and international) and search job sites and schools that hire non-native English teachers. Also know the curriculum well and learn about any updates on the curriculum and the specifics on the school that you are applying to.”

Ines from Poland

Ines has taught a mix of Spanish and Physical Education abroad. At first she said it was difficult to get a position that matched her qualifications. It was also tough finding permanent positions. 

Eventually Ines was able to get jobs in international schools where students and co-workers were understanding of language differences since people were from all over the world.

Ines says, “getting a job was actually the most difficult task. I had the impression that regardless of my experience and skills, my chances against native speakers were very low. However,  I haven’t faced a lot of difficulties teaching other than everyday struggles that any non-native English speaker would face. For example, writing professional emails or talking in public using formal language.”

Her advice for non-native teachers abroad? “You should not worry too much about perfection as in most international communities people are used to dealing with different kinds of English. Nobody really focuses on how you speak as long as you can be understood.”

“As non-native speakers we will always make some language mistakes because we don’t have a native speaker‘s competence. There’s nothing we can do about it.”

Ines recommends having a university degree from an English speaking country if you’d like to teach abroad.

Ines’ advice for teachers from Poland: “Being successful abroad requires a lot of patience and compromise. Maybe you will have to accept positions that are below your qualifications such as a teaching assistant or learning support.”

Teaching abroad as a non native speaker

Wowie from the Philippines

Wowie has taught English, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies abroad. She found positions through Search Associates, TIE Online, and International School Services. 

Some qualifications Wowie finds helpful to have as a non-native English speaking teacher are a master’s degree from an English speaking country and teaching experience in an international school in your home country.

Wowie faced some difficulties as a non-native English speaker when teaching abroad: “First, getting a teaching job in an international school overseas is difficult. Some international schools prefer native English speakers or to have an undergraduate or master’s degree from an English speaking country.”

“An international school offered me a teaching job as a classroom teacher, but I could only teach in Early Childhood (kindergarten) despite my experience and degree. I was told it’s because the parents in that school prefer native English speaking teachers for their elementary, middle, and high school children.”

Wowie’s advice for non-native speakers? “Get a master’s degree. Improve your craft every day until you master it. Be passionate about teaching and be an advocate for children. Continuously read and learn. Teachers are lifelong learners. Being a lifelong learner is one of the things we inspire our students to become.”

Her advice for other teachers from the Philippines: “Keep your passion and competence in teaching. Stay resilient and hard-working.”

Nicoletta from Italy

Nicoletta has taught in Thailand as an Academic Writing teacher and primary homeroom teacher (teaching all subjects.) She found these positions through personal connections.

She has faced difficulties when teaching abroad as a non-native English speaking teacher abroad: “There is a lot of prejudice. However, with the right qualifications (qualifications in education, a MA in Education, PGCE or equivalent) and a lot of experience, it is doable. You have to be more qualified, more professional and work harder. If you are not up to the challenge, just leave it.” 

Nicoletta highly recommends getting your teaching qualifications and even better if it’s from an English speaking country. Sometimes the qualifications from non-English speaking countries aren’t considered valid.

Her suggestions for non-native English speaking teachers? “Get qualified and qualified and more qualified. After that, continue investing in professional development. This is just common sense and something that any teacher should do, but if you want to work internationally in a school that uses English as a means of instruction, you have to be more qualified and you have to be able to show that your students are learning.”

“Getting an interview with a first-tier school may be hard, but if you are properly prepared, then you will get offers. Stay away from schools that advertise that they want English-native speakers: it is a waste of your precious time. Do your research and apply for jobs at schools where they value multiculturalism. Those are the places where you want to work.”

“I would stay away from the schools that follow the British National Curriculum and work towards finding a job at an IB World School as multilingualism and international-mindedness are considered an asset. The environment at IB World School is more inclusive and less prejudiced.”

Teaching English abroad as a non-native speaker

Carol from Taiwan

Carol is teaching MYP Math at an American International School in Vietnam. Before that, she taught ESL, English Literature and Math in Taiwan in international/IB schools. 

Carol used ISS-Schrole and Facebook groups to find overseas positions. She is US-certified in Math and English. One reason that she chose Math was because people might overlook her solid training in English Literature just because she is a non-native speaker. However, she has a master’s degree in English from a Canadian university. 

Her advice for non-native English speaking teachers? “Holding valid teaching licenses is the first step. Accumulating IB experiences and continuing professional development helps you show your value to any school. Also, choose schools that truly value diversity.”

Carol recommends holding a teaching license from an English speaking country and accumulating PD training from IB.

Her advice for teachers from Taiwan: “I think being able to teach in English fluently, continuing to learn and being proactive is important.“

Laura from Argentina

Laura teaches Early Years abroad and found jobs through applying directly to school websites and Search Associates.

She has faced both prejudice and her own insecurities. 

Laura’s advice for other non-native teachers? “Go for it! The best schools are internationally minded and value experience and professionalism over passports and mother tongues.”

She recommends having teaching credentials from an English speaking country, although says that it isn’t essential.

Laura’s advice for other teachers from Argentina: “Do your research, play to your strengths and work on your English language skills.”

Final Thoughts

To sum up, if you are a non-native teacher who wants to teach abroad make sure you are qualified to teach, consider getting some credentials from an English speaking country if you can and rise above the challenges and prejudices you face. 

The best schools for non-native speakers value multiculturalism and will support their teachers, no matter their first language.

Need a TEFL certificate to teach abroad as a non-native speaker? I recommend International TEFL Academy or CELTA.

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I’ve taught in 6 different countries and love sharing my teach abroad (and online) tips and tricks.

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