Published 24th July 2019

What level should my English be to teach abroad?

Doing a Teaching English as a Foreign Language course can be the beginning of a whole new life for many people. Having a TEFL certificate opens the doors to travelling and teaching wherever your itchy feet want to take you. 

Sadly, many people believe that because a TEFL course is 120 hours that it isn’t a “real” qualification and anyone can do it. Those same people are probably the ones who think that if you can speak English, you can teach English, which anyone who has spent an hour in an EFL classroom will tell you is utter rubbish (to put it politely).

A TEFL course is a legitimate teaching qualification needed to teach English as a Foreign Language. As with any qualification there are a few requirements you must satisfy to be accepted on a TEFL course.

What Level Should My English be For a TEFL Course?
What Level Should My English be For a TEFL Course?

What requirements do you need to do a TEFL course?

Some TEFL courses require you to have a Bachelor’s degree, while others only require a school-leaving certificate. All TEFL courses only accept TEFL trainees who are older than 18 years of age. You will need to find out the specific course requirements of the TEFL course you want to do.

However there is one TEFL course requirement which all TEFL courses have.

To be able to teach English as a Foreign Language effectively you need to have a solid foundation in the theories of teaching and learning, a good grasp of the English language and a certain skill set, all of which are dealt with on the TEFL course. Consequently, there is a language level requirement to sign up for a TEFL course. 

Native speakers of English will naturally be above the minimum standard of English needed for a TEFL course while non-native speakers should have an English level of C1. 

What does C1 mean?

A person’s level of English is commonly measured by the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, which describes language ability on a 6-point scale. If a language learner measures as a Beginner or Elementary learner they are classified as A1, as Pre-intermediate they are A2, Intermediate B1, Upper Intermediate B2, Advanced C1 and Proficiency C2. (Don’t get your knickers in a knot over the levels just yet – you’ll learn more about them on your TEFL course).

Someone who wants to do the TEFL course will need to measure at a C1 or Advanced level of English in order to do a TEFL course. This is similar to any other course of study that is conducted in English. A certain mastery of the language is needed to deal with the course materials and texts, more so in this case because it is an English teaching qualification. 

How do I know what level I am?

In order to test any language learner’s level, there are a number of language tests that can be taken. A C1 according to the CEFR is equivalent to the following:

The Pearson Test of English (PTE) General Level 4
Trinity ISE III
Trinity GESE Grades 10 and 11
Cambridge CAE (Grade A,B or C)
Cambridge Business Higher
IELTS score 6.5-7.5
Michigan ECPE
TOEFL score 95-120
TOIEIC Listening: 490-495 Reading 455 Speaking: 180 Writing: 180

If you haven’t taken a formal test and would like to gauge your level, you can do a quick level test on any of these websites:

The British Council

Cambridge English

Exam English

When you apply to do a TEFL certificate and you are a non-native speaker, you may be required to provide proof of your English language ability. This can be done with a certificate from one of the exams above or through an interview with the TEFL school.

Is being a non-native speaker a disadvantage?

Absolutely not. Don’t let this requirement put you off doing the TEFL and becoming a TEFL teacher. There is no reason why a native speaker would be a better teacher than a non-native speaker purely through the fact that English is their mother tongue. In fact, because non-native teachers have learnt English as a Foreign Language themselves, many argue they have an advantage over native teachers, in that they have been through the same process their students are going through.

Sadly, the reality is that even though being a non-native teacher won’t affect your teaching ability, you still might find it a bit challenging to find a job in some countries as they prefer native English-speaking teachers. There are many other opportunities out there, but you will just need to find them.

  1. As a non native speaker being african is it challenging to be employed as they prefer native speakers,this is really not encouraging at all,so far on the pictures of students i see native speakers yes and the videos you have but i didn’t let that discourage me but now reading this above leaves me worried honestly as a non native speaker.
    I am kindly asking for a much fair explanation please
    Your assistance in this would be appreciated
    kind regards

    1. Hello Lebogang, there are a huge amount of opportunities for non-native speakers. We have a high number of non-native speakers who have completed the course and gone on to find jobs all over the world. We have sent you an email with information about finding jobs as a non-native speaker. I hope this will be helpful in your search and if we can answer any further questions you have, please don’t hesitate to send an email to our student services team at the following address: 🙂

    2. How do I register with the TEFL academy and is it a free course or registration fee and course fee is needed, cause I am very much interested.
      Your assistance will be appreciated

      1. Hello Maria, it is possible to enrol for the course either through our website or over the phone. The course we offer is a level 5 168-hour TEFL course. You can choose to study it as an online only course: or as a combined course with a 20-hour weekend: The most up to date prices for the course are available on our website at the following link: 🙂

    1. Hello Vuyisani, we have sent you an email with our course information and a prospectus. I hope this will be helpful for you. 🙂

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