Published 25th January 2018

Many people believe that if you speak English you are able to teach English as a Foreign Language. If you have even been in an EFL classroom or taught English to a language learner, you will know this is totally untrue. Teaching English as a Foreign Language is not the same as speaking the language. In order to become a TEFL teacher, there are a number of requirements you need to satisfy.

The first, and most obvious, is you need to be TEFL-qualified. You need to take (and pass) a TEFL course – preferably one with at least 120 hours. Another requirement is your own level of English proficiency. If you are a native speaker of English you don’t need to worry any more, as that is proof enough. However, if you are a non-native speaker, you may find you need to jump through a few more hoops for potential employers.

There is a big debate about the differences between native and non-native EFL teachers. Some countries unfortunately are not very open-minded when it comes to this and may not be as welcoming to non-native teachers as they should be. So if you are a non-native teacher, here are a few things you should know.

Who is considered a non-native speaker?

Native English speakers are citizens of the USA, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Even if English is spoken as the primary language in your country but it is not on this list (such as The Philippines, India) you will be considered a non-native speaker.

Where can I teach if I am a non-native speaker?

In theory, anywhere. There is no reason a native speaker should be given a job over a non-native speaker if their level of English is high enough and their qualifications are good enough. Sadly, this is not always the reality so non-native speakers may find it harder than native speakers to find a job. Unless you look in the right places!


If you are an EU citizen, you should have no problem finding a job in other EU countries and in Eastern Europe. If you are not an EU citizen you will find it difficult finding a job in Europe but this is an issue for any teachers because of visa regulations. The one exception is Turkey, which is more than happy to offer jobs to non-native speakers and it does not have the same strict visa rules.


Some countries in Asia are generally welcoming to non-native speakers, regardless of nationality. Thailand and Cambodia are good choices, while Japan, South Korea and China are stricter. However, if you went to an English-medium school for twelve years and did a degree in English, then you’ll qualify to apply for jobs in Japan, but the rules are very strict. There is also a small chance of finding a job in China but legally this is not allowed so if you do find a job you won’t be able to apply for a working visa – so we don’t recommend this option.

Central and South America

Central and South America are other good options as most countries will have good opportunities and do not differentiate between native and non-native speakers. Mexico, Costa Rica, Argentina and Brazil are all popular options.


As you can see, there are numerous places you can find a TEFL job if you are a non-native speaker. In fact, there are more countries you can teach in than you can’t. So don’t let the small detail of your first language put you off wanting to pursue a career in TEFL. The bottom line is, if your level of English is high enough, you can teach English as a Foreign Language and get a job as a TEFL teacher.