Is TEFL for native speakers only?

teachersThe status of non-native English speakers (Non-NES) has been the topic of discussion on teacher forums often, since there appears to be some discrimination in Thailand against them. Well, recruiters in Thailand have some rather odd ideas of what a genuine English teacher should be, and sometimes it has nothing to do with your mother tongue.

But the ESL world is full of teachers who don’t speak English as their home language. Sometimes, someone who had to learn to intricacies of English grammar rather than pick it up as kid, are the best teachers when it comes to ‘explaining’ English and all its quirky exceptions to the rule.

With a TEFL cert and some experience you should have no problem finding work in many places around the world, certainly if your application is written with very good English and your accent doesn’t let you down at the interview.

We have a large portion of each course filled with trainees who are not from English speaking countries. To cite our last 25 enrolments, it comprises of three French, a Swiss, an Israeli, two Chinese, an Italian, a Vietnamese, a Russian, a Thai, five Brits, two Canadians, three Americans, a Kiwi, an Aussie, a South African and…the usual token chatty Irishman.

Usually most these people find jobs within six weeks, many in Thailand. We do have to work harder to find non-NES grads jobs here, since recruiters lately have been showing a preference for ‘native speakers’ only, but they often come back to us and change their minds when they discover there is a shortage of ‘ideal CVs’ out there.

In terms of getting a teaching licence, the extra requirement for a non-NES teacher is a TOEIC score of 600+, or similar. Alternatively, a degree in education or teaching diploma (studied in English). To be clear, only the following nationals are presently considered ‘native’ English speakers: Brits, Americans, Canadians, Australians, News Zealanders and Irish. Bizarrely, South Africans are not part of the list. Of course, this is controversial since many people hold British or American passports having never mastered the official language of those countries.

All the same, here in Thailand it means you have to stump up about US$50, and sit two tests taking a total of 4 hours. You can learn more about the test structure here.

TOEIC tests are run twice a day, booked a day in advance, at the Centre for Professional Assessment Thailand. In reality, if you speak English very well you should be able to walk into the test blindfolded and achieve a suitable score. Certainly if it’s your native tongue.

At UniTEFL we interview all prospective enrollees, if we think your English is not strong enough or your ability to learn is impaired, we will decline your application. Not everyone passes our course, but we try to sift out unsuitable people beforehand to avoid disappointment. We have an obligation to try find you a job afterwards, afterall. Although we don’t guarantee a job, we try to get you placed.

Part of the appeal of our classes is that each one has a mix of multi-cultural trainees which brings fresh perspective to our training. Many of our Non-NES graduates have gone on to successful teaching careers in all sorts of countries around the world. Many of Thailand’s good teachers are non-NES, once they’ve passed some basic proficiency tests they are easily accepted as teachers.


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