What Companies Hire Non-native Speakers as ESL Teachers? *updated August 2023
Many online ESL companies hire non-native speakers to teach English online. I repeat you do not need to be a native speaker of English to be a successful online English teacher.
Having said that, I have updated this post to reflect the reality of teaching English in 2023. Since the Chinese regulations a few years ago, the market for online English teachers has been in a bit of a slump. Currently, non-native speakers are competing against a lot of teachers that lost their job during the great Chinese crackdown. So, their pay has dropped quite a bit and it’s been harder to get hired.
Realistically, a non-native speaker will be earning $5 an hour or less teaching for online English companies. Remember, however, that you can always freelance teach and command your own rates.
Who qualifies as a native speaker of English?
First of all, there is much disagreement about what constitutes a “native speaker“. Due to the colonialist and globalist history of the English language, the notion of a native speaker is problematic at best and often just classist or racist.
However, you are probably not here to debate the degree of racism that is inherent in the notion of a “native speaker.” You just want to get hired!
What ESL Jobs for Non-native Speakers Can I Apply to?
So, here are the top companies that will hire you even if you do not hold an American, British, Australian, Canadian (and so on) passport.
ESL companies that hire non-native speakers
- Palfish (Yes, Palfish Freetalk is hiring now in 2023!)
- TOPICA Native
- First Future
- Engoo (formerly Bibo Global Opportunity)
ESL Platforms that hire non-native speakers
Pay for Non-native Speakers
Many ESL companies pay teachers less if they consider them “non-native speakers”. Similarly, companies like itutorgroup will tie your hourly pay to the living wage of your country of residency, regardless of whether or not English is your native language. While a “native speaker” with a BA typically earns $15-20 an hour, a “non-native speaker” even with a BA may earn $5 an hour. This is due to supply and demand: companies know there are many educated professionals in Eastern Europe, for example, who can speak English fluently and teach it while living in a country with an exchange rate that favors the dollar.
In this respect, I think Cambly should be really appreciated. Cambly, though it pays relatively poorly at roughly $10/hour, pays South Africans the same as an American teacher living in New York City.
What does “native speaker of English” mean?
In the wider world, there is much disagreement about what constitutes a “native speaker.”
As you can imagine, “What does a native speaker mean?” is a politicized question. It is mired in complex cultural and even socio-economic implications. If you are asking, “What does it mean to be a native speaker of English?” then the answer is deceptively self-evident: a person whose first language, the primary language used by their family, school, and peers, was English.
However, people don’t only speak English in America, Canada, and the United Kingdom. People also speak English in Australia, New Zealand, and Ireland. Additionally, people speak English as a lingua franca in the many former territories of the British Empire, Liberia, the Philippines, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and Palau, which were American territories. English is also the sole official language of the Commonwealth of Nations and of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). We could go on and on.
Then consider that many parents raise their children bilingually. Some parents raise their kids in America, speaking English, but they don’t give their kids American citizenship. They may only have a green card, and ESL companies might not accept that. They often ask for a passport only. Additionally, other English teachers grow up in countries with a legacy of colonialism. English is one of their country’s primary languages, but foreigners may not associate English with their country.
Countries not accepted as native
There are a lot of countries in which most people speak English, yet they aren’t considered “English-speaking” countries by most companies. Here are countries that companies don’t usually accept, though English might be the applicant’s primary language:
- Antigua and Barbuda.
- The Bahamas.
- St Kitts and Nevis
- St Lucia
- St Vincent and the Grenadines
- Trinidad and Tobago
The bottom line is that different companies qualify native speakers differently. For example, some do not accept teachers from South Africa or the Philippines, though South Africa and the Philippines list English as an official language. Are Indians native speakers of English? Depends on the company’s policy.
Some companies qualify these many applicants as native speakers and others do not. Note that even the American Dialect Society says there is no agreed-upon definition of who can be considered a native speaker of English.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I teach for an ESL Company online if I have an accent?
Then, to add to the confusion about native and non-native speakers, some companies want specific accents. Some would like British English, and others (like VIPKid) only want American accents. If you are British, you are in luck! Many companies are specifically interested in a British accent.
Remember, being a successful English teacher is not solely determined by being a native speaker. Non-native speakers can bring unique perspectives, relatability, and valuable teaching skills to the table.
Is it hard for a non-native English speaker to teach English?
Teaching English as a non-native speaker can present certain challenges, but it’s important to note that it’s not necessarily “hard” – it’s about recognizing and addressing these challenges effectively. Here are some factors to consider:
- Cultural Sensitivity: Non-native speakers often have a deep understanding of the challenges that learners from their language background might face. This can lead to greater empathy and effective teaching strategies.
- Language Learning Experience: Having gone through the process of learning English themselves, non-native speakers can provide valuable insights and tips to their students.
- Accent and Pronunciation: Non-native speakers might have an accent that differs from the standard English accent. While this isn’t necessarily a barrier, it could affect students’ exposure to different accents.
- Grammar and Idiomatic Expressions: Non-native speakers might need to continuously refine their grammar skills and understanding of idiomatic expressions to ensure accurate teaching.
- Confidence: Some non-native speakers might initially lack confidence in their English language skills. This can really impact their ability to teach effectively. My number one tip to non-native English speakers who teach ESL is to *not bring it up*. Don’t feel that you must explain yourselff to your students. Assume that they know you are a non-native speaker, and that they see it as an advantage. Have some prepared answers for any students who question you on this issue. For example, practice saying “I have valuable insights and tips for you, as I was once a student too.” Never, ever, feel that you must prove your fluency to a student. If a student makes you feel this way, then move on to another student. That student simply is not a good fit for you. You want a student who views you as bilingual, and a prize.
where can i teach English abroad as a non-native speaker?
Well, as the British say, I’m knackered.
Cheerio and happy teaching.
If this interests you, peruse these posts below.
- Language and colonialism. Applied linguistics in the context of Creole communities.
- English-speaking world
- The Effects of Colonialism on Language
- The Linguistic Colonialism of English