Can a non-native English speaker become an ESL teacher?

Can a non-native English speaker become an ESL teacher?

English is a global language, it’s a language of communication that is used not only for travelling but frequently for business purposes. That’s why today when you search for a job you may notice that one of the skills required is English language proficiency. Nowadays, it’s like an essential part of knowledge you should possess, and an obligatory point of your CV.

For this reason, a lot of people throughout the world are studying English. And the global importance and demand here is to find professional ESL teachers. That is why different language schools of various countries are searching for well-qualified tutors from all over the world.

But if you are a non-native English speaker, you may face different problems when search for a job as an ESL teacher abroad or online.

Let’s answer all questions that can arise.

The most important questions for English teachers who search for vacancies as non-native speakers are:

Do really all English schools worldwide hire only native speaking teachers?

Unfortunately yes, very often. There are many organizations that hire only native English-speaking teachers. And what is worse, sometimes they want their potential teachers to come from a specific list of English-speaking countries, preferably from UK, United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand or South Africa. And one more interesting fact is that this list even excludes countries, such as India and the Philippines, where English is an official language.

Course for English teachers

Visa problems

There are also some more countries where you can teach English if you are not a first English speaker but unfortunately you will face visa problems because of the specific requirements in law for who can get the visa as an ESL teacher. These countries are: South Korea, Indonesia, Taiwan and Vietnam.

What is the reason of such discrimination? The answer is simple. Such countries are in need of professional teachers. And they expect to hire a highly qualified first language speakers who are guaranteed to be fluent in English.

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

Being a native English speaker doesn’t always mean being a professional teacher! To be a teacher is a talent. Therefore, well-qualified, totally in love with their profession, teachers are highly on demand.

The list above shows that there are countries that want to hire only first language speakers. And it really seems unfair and even discriminatory. But there are also 180 other countries where you can teach abroad. And moreover, there you’ll have advantages of being a non-native English-speaking teacher.

Your advantages as a non-native speaking teacher.

  • You feel the language as your students because once you were in their shoes.
  • You faced same studying problems in grammar rules (articles, prepositions, tenses, exceptions, conjunctions, etc.) and now able to explain all of them understandably.
  • You can explain the pronunciation of English words even better than a native English speaker because you spell English words from knowledge, instead of gut feeling.

And that is a list of your advantages you should remember and mention on the interview!

So, what are the countries where you can go and teach English as a non-native speaker?

There are at least eight perfect locations (countries in Asia, Africa, Europe and South America) that offer opportunities for non-native speakers. And here you can successfully apply for a job as an English teacher.



What an exotic and undiscovered country! But the more pleasant thing is that Cambodia is the easiest place for a non-native speaker to find a job as a ESL teacher.

The government of Cambodia doesn’t require neither TEFL/TESOL certificate, nor a four-year college degree, nor a proof of native-speaker residence. However, your chances to get a job are higher if you have a certificate.

Unfortunately, the salary is lower here than in neighbor countries, such as Vietnam and Thailand. Average monthly salary range vary from $1,000 to $1,200 while the average monthly cost of living varies from $600 to $1,100.



If you have a four-year degree, apply here with no fear. It’s a good option for both teachers from EU and other non-European countries. This hospitable and marvelous country also accept teachers from South and Central Amerika.

The average monthly salary here varies from $1,000 to $1,800, as well as the cost of living varies from $500 to $600.



Thailand is a wonderful country and one of the best places to teach abroad for non-native speakers. The salary isn’t as high as in South Korea, Vietnam or gulf countries (varies from $850 to $2,500), but the cost of living here is very low (varies from $1,000 to $2,000), especially in the North.

To be a non-native teacher in Thailand, you should possess an OEIC score of 600+ or an IELTS score of 5+, and have a four-year college degree, for sure. TEFL/TESOL certificate isn’t required, but to have it will give you a bonus to be hired.



Another seductive place for teaching abroad is China. Mysterious country with great history and sightseeing. And what is even more luring is a high salary and low cost of living. You can earn here approximately from $1,200 to $3,500, while the cost of living here can range from $380 to $1,000.

Nowadays, China is in need of well-qualified professional teachers. As the situation is that following. Almost all Chinese parents want their children study English.

There are also a lot of companies that offer English classes to preschoolers where babysitters play games and sing songs with kids in English. And the Chinese are eager to pay for that.

The Chinese are looking for TOEFL, SAT and ACT tutors for their children. Moreover, they want them have a bachelor’s or a master’s degree earned in an English-speaking country (degrees are not mandatory). To meet these requirements means to work legally and earn more.



One more amazing and beautiful country for teaching ESL abroad is Japan. You can try to apply here but may face some difficulties.

There is a rigorous selection process in Japan. You may be eligible for a job if you not only have a four-year college degree, but also can prove you’ve received twelve consecutive years of English-only education.

And if you succeed you will be able to earn here from $1,700 to even $5,000 while the cost of living averages $1,300-$2,200.

Central and South America


There are plenty of locations here where you can teach as a non-native speaker. But best places to start in Latin America are: Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama and Peru.

The only requirement is to have a TEFL/TESOL or CELTA certificate. Online TEFL Certificate may also be accepted by many companies all over in Latin Amerika.

The salary and cost of living varies by the country.


EU flag

The salary and cost of living in Europe also varies by the country, but anyway, you can earn in average $900-$1,800.

To teach in Europe, you need to have a bachelor’s degree and a TEFL or CELTA certificate.

What companies do hire non-native speakers to teach English on-line?

Teaching on-line is a great option for those who doesn’t want to go abroad. The average salary range is $10-20 per hour.

Here you can also face discrimination for non-native speakers. Some companies, such as, VIPKid, Magic Ears and Gogokid employ only first English-language teachers.

However, there are 7 companies that can hire non-native English speakers to teach ESL online: italki, Engoo, All right, Topica Native, Fluentbe, Learnlight, and Preply. They are online speech tutoring platforms and schools that connects students with their ESL teachers online via different internet communication programs.

Essential requirements for all these companies are: fluent English, teaching experience, (on-line experience of teaching is a plus) and a high-speed (at least 1 MB) of internet connection.



italki is a so-called platform, where students can find their teachers. That’s why to have an introduction video in your profile is obligatory. It helps students to understand what the sessions with you will be like and how they will speak English after learning it from you.

italki requires for non-natives to have native proficiency or the most advanced (C2) level of English. So, you should have any language proficiency certification to prove your qualification.

It supports not only Skype sessions, but also Google Hangouts, Facetime, and QQ.

You choose your schedule available for students and set your own prices. italki only charges 15% fee on transaction between teachers and students. And it doesn’t even charge a commission fee for your trial sessions.



Engoo (former Bibo Global Opportunity) is a same platform, where English teachers provide their lessons to students from Japan, Taiwan, and other countries via Skype.

It is required for non-natives to have a proficiency in the English language. A certificate is not mandatory but to have it is a plus. ESL teaching experience is not also required.

Tutors’ schedule is flexible, slots can be opened 24/7, up to 7 days in advance. And there is no minimum number of classes. Any lesson lasts 25 minutes, and there 5 – minutes break between them.

You’ll be paid around $10 per hour.

Topica Native

Topica Native

Topica Native is a platform that provides innovative services of internet connection, including the first English learning program via Google glass and the method of adaptive learning. Your students are grown-ups that want to study conversational English.

You will have a flexible timetable, based on your free time. 45 minutes running, 16 daily classes lasting from 8AM to 11PM (GMT +7).

To be hired in Topica Native as a non-native speaker, you should have a high level of proficiency. Since Topica uses a payscale system of ranks (all the teachers are classified into 8 ranks), your salary will also depend on your level of proficiency.

All right is a growing English school that specializes in teaching of 4-12 aged children from all over the world, but mostly from Russia, Poland, Spain and Italy.

The requirements are: having a degree or at least a TEFL certification and a teaching experience. There are also categories for the tutors: Standard, Near-native and Native. And your pay will depend on the category you will be referred to.

Lessons’ duration is either 25 or 55 minutes, and the pay usually starts on $8 and can reach up to $12 per hour.


Fluentbe is an online language school that study polish adult students.

The only requirement is to have at least 1-year experience teaching adults, and it’s also welcomed to have an online teaching experience (Skype, etc.).

Here, you will also have flexible working hours, and the pay rate at $10 per hour.



Since the students in the Learnlight are highly motivated business professionals of different sectors from over 100 countries, the requirements here are also quite high. You should have a foreign language teaching qualification (i.e. TEFL, TESOL, CELTA, EPE, FLE, DAEFLE, DELE, ELE, DaF, DITALS), and a minimum two years’ language teaching experience. To have a business background will be your plus.

The rate of pay isn’t mention on its website but according to information from different forums and Glassdoor, it rates $12-14 per hour.

Your schedule can be fixed for a minimum of one year with a minimum of 10 hours per week.



Preply is a so-called marketplace of teachers. Both native and non-native speakers can be hired here.

You will have your own calendar where you will be able to manage lessons and set your own hours.

The idea is that following: the more working hours you have, the more you earn. Preply takes a 100% commission fee of every first paid lesson with a new student. But the more tutoring you do, the less commission you pay (it varies from 33% to 18%).

It motivates tutors to maintain or even improve their level of teaching, to have a fixed timetable, to attract more students and to keep the older ones for long. The most popular teachers may earn here up to $550 per week.

*Just visit the website of any of these companies (click at the chosen school/platform, mentioned above) to know more informationб and to apply immediately for their vacancies as a non-native speaker.

How to be hired anywhere you want

TEFL/TESOL certificate

As you may noticed TEFL/TESOL certificate is an essential qualification required by most English language schools, to become a sough-after professional teacher, you need to make just 4 steps:

  1. First of all, enroll in the course. It takes less than two minutes to get an access to your TEFL/TESOL course;
  2. Study online when and where you want. You just need your computer and an access to the internet.
  3. It will take just 120-hours to finish the course. It means that you will need just 2-3 weeks to end each module of the curse and pass the examination.
  4. When you complete all the course assessments (all the lessons of the course), you will finally earn your accredited TEFL/TESOL certificate. It will display your name, your certificate’s unique ID number, date of completion, and the details of the course modules.

What profits will you get if I earn a TEFL/TESOL certificate:

  • you’ll become a member of the community of global teachers;
  • you’ll improve your English skills and upgrade your knowledge of teaching;
  • this certificate will give you a bigger chance to be hired over other teachers who also want to teach overseas or online;
  • you will earn more than your colleagues who doesn’t have this certificate.

Little summary

So, if you still ask yourself: “Can I teach English as a non-native speaker? Or “Is it possible to be hired as a non-native ESL teacher abroad or online?” The answers are “Yes, you can” and “Yes, it is”.

There are companies in different countries that are eager to give the opportunity for non-native English speakers to teach language.

You obviously have a chance if:

  • your English is fluent and you can demonstrate it at the interview;
  • you are experienced in the classroom (at least 2 years of teaching are required);
  • you have an accredited certificate that proves your level of English TEFL & TESOL, etc). This point is obligatory if you want to be paid more and go teaching abroad. But it also increases your chance to be hired in any country, even if you want to teach English online, because most schools require a TESOL;
  • you keep up with times. You are always well-informed about new colloquial words and methods of teaching (upgrade your level of English and teaching, you are a member of different native and non-native speaking teachers’ chats, etc);

We hope that our recommendations were useful for you. Just do your first steps, and don’t forget about Covid-19 restrictions if you want to teach abroad!

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