How to Teach English Online as a Non-Native Speaker

By Chad Emery

Over the past few years, the online education market has exploded. There are always new companies popping up and a seemingly endless line of people applying to teach online. Because it’s becoming more and more competitive, making yourself stand out as an English teacher is also becoming more difficult. This is especially true for non-native English teachers. 

There are some helpful ways you can rise above the competition as a non-native English teacher though, and that’s what we’ll cover in this article. It’s easy to give up in a competitive market, but following these tips can help guide you to a successful career as an online English teacher.

Get a teaching certificate

Due to a high demand for online English teachers, companies are loosening their hiring requirements. Some companies hire people if they have experience babysitting children or if they have a Bachelor’s degree in an unrelated subject. Most new online teachers don’t have a degree in education, and they certainly don’t have a recognized certification as an English teacher. This is where your opportunity lies. 

Getting your TEFL or TESOL certification can show companies that not only are your English skills up to par, but that you actually have a passion for teaching English. It’s important to study for a recognized certificate though, so make sure to do your research when choosing the best one for you. Some of the top certifications in the industry are CELTA and the Trinity CertTESOL.

Have confidence in your abilities

Obtaining an English teaching certificate and actually teaching English are two very different things. After hours and hours of studying to pass your certification exam, you may still feel that you’re not ready to actually teach. You passed the exam for a reason though! 

Believing in your abilities and showing confidence in front of students can make your classes more productive and attractive to students. Learning English can be difficult, and you already know this as a non-native speaker. When you show confidence during your classes, students will trust you to guide them through their language learning journeys. And when students trust you, they’ll keep coming back for more of your classes!

Be persistent in your job search

While being confident in front of your students is important, you first need to make sure you actually have students! Finding a job teaching English online as a non-native speaker can be difficult. Some online ESL companies prefer to only hire native speakers because they think native speakers are the most qualified to teach their language. Ask most native English speakers what a past participle is though and you’ll find that’s not the case. 

Finding a steady stream of English students can take some time, but with persistence, you’ll eventually find them. If you have a certificate to teach English and show confidence during your interviews and trial classes, your hard work will soon pay off.

Emphasize your value as a non-native speaker

While some companies tend to think that native English speakers make better English teachers, they ignore one crucial fact about non-native English teachers. Non-native English teachers actually went through the process of learning English. This experience is often overlooked, but it’s so important for different reasons. 

First of all, not everyone has learned a second language, including language teachers. The language learning process itself can be frustrating, stressful, and overwhelming. As a non-native English teacher, you can help guide your students through this process in a way that native speakers can’t. 

In addition, you probably remember which topics you struggled with while learning English. You can identify these topics and prepare an effective way to teach them to your students, while newer native-speaking teachers may not know how to address these topics. Knowing your value and emphasizing it during interviews and trial classes can jumpstart your online teaching career and help you connect in a special way with students.

Learn how to market yourself

Knowing how to emphasize your value goes hand-in-hand with marketing yourself as an online English teacher. Whether you’re applying to teach English through an online company or looking to find your own students online as an independent teacher, knowing how to market yourself is an essential skill. Here are some quick tips to market yourself effectively.

  • Make sure your CV is up-to-date with your professional and educational experiences and certifications.
  • If you don’t have any experience teaching, get some! You can volunteer, offer to tutor your friends and family as practice, or even browse online forums and respond to questions from other people.
  • Be prepared to answer questions about teaching English, ranging from technical questions about grammar to general questions about how you would help students in different situations.
  • Believe in yourself and your ability to teach English. When you believe in yourself, this shines through in interviews and trial classes! 

While teaching English as a non-native English speaker does present some challenges, it’s definitely possible. It mainly comes down to confidence, persistence, and being prepared. Using these tips will help you find a job teaching English online, and help you maintain a steady stream of new students who are eager to learn from you!

Written by Chad Emery for TEFL.net February 2021
Chad Emery started Langoly to help people learn and teach languages more effectively. As a longtime language lover, Chad enjoys finding the best resources to help people achieve their language goals.

One Comment

  • lala says:

    I really want to enhance my English skills in order not to look as a foreigner

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