Native English Teacher vs. Non-Native English Teacher ✅ What are the differences?
Welcome, my name is Linda nice to see you. I’m a TEFL and TESOL professional at ITTT and I’ve been living and working in Asia since 2012-ish and I live in South Korea and I’ve been here for five and a half years. I also taught English in China and here in Korea as well and I also work for ITTT and we have a guest so to speak but also from ITTT but joining us for the first time my colleague Lisa.
My name is Liza. I’m a TEFL and TESOL expert at ITTT as Linda and I’m also a former ESL teacher. I’ve been teaching online this year but before I worked in China as a lead teacher in a kindergarten so that was quite fun and I'll share my experience today.
Watch the live session here
Where in China did you teach?
Well the first city was close to Beijing. It was Tianjin and then I moved to Xi'an, which is in central China. I could try different parts of China and it was quite a different experience. I’m in Korea right now and it's Friday afternoon I’m about an hour and a half south of Seoul and Lisa where are you I haven't mentioned that I’m currently in Russia. I’m in my hometown in the comfort zone of my home office so I don't need to take time to get somewhere.
You probably already know today’s topic because you read the title but it's basically native English teacher versus non-native English teacher.
So, what are the differences when it comes to teaching English abroad and online?
I’m going to talk about my experience as a native English teacher abroad and Lisa is going to talk about her experience as a non-native English teacher abroad and online. So, let's jump right in.
Let's start so we just want to start a little bit with the demand for English language instruction because we get asked that a lot at ITTT.
What's the demand? Can I find a job? I want to teach abroad. What's the demand like?
We're listing here the four major points about the demand what's actually really interesting. According to the British Council, there are about two billion people learning and using English worldwide in 2020 so, that's a lot of people and that means the demand is really high. 300 million of those people are in China. So, China is actually the largest market for teaching English and both of us, Lisa and me, we actually taught in China so, and I know a lot of people who also have taught in China. It has a lot of opportunities there. It's one of the easiest places to find a job as a non-native teacher and as a native teacher as well because they basically have a lot of offers currently. Especially, when all of the borders are closed, they have a huge demand within the country and I still have friends working there, they say that it's like crazy because there are not many people available not many teachers available and recruiters and different employers, they look for just someone to work for them and they even offer higher salaries during this period because they basically just don't have any other options.
I also see a lot of even like online positions there are schools in China but they are looking for teachers to teach online. That’s actually what many of my friends working there were doing during the quarantine in China.
They still had to deliver online classes from time to time because some children or some students have to stay at home for different reasons. Because of this online way of delivering classes is available now they just offered this option and it's a special offer in different schools.
Are there teaching jobs for non-native teachers in china?
Definitely there are many positions opened all the time you just have to look for job offers online. We at ITTT have a special section and we have partners who share their job offers but there are also other resources like for example in China's Ecities they constantly post different jobs and you can find a recruiter or a direct employer, right there another option is to upload WeChat which is the biggest social network in China they have groups there for native teachers, for non-native teachers and for both teachers. You can look for offers there as well so it's just up to you if you really want to find a job in China or wherever you want do that. A college degree is required in China, four years. Well, actually you have to be over 18 first, and the second requirement for the Chinese visa is to have a bachelor's degree. If you don't have a bachelor's degree then it's better to get a TESOL certificate.
Then there's also a lot of we're talking about this point right here a lot of government-funded programs in many countries around the world so for example, the EPIK program here in Korea, a lot of teachers get placed into schools in South Korea public schools' private schools through the EPIK program, and also the JET program in Japan those are very competitive and popular programs.
Then there's also the TAPIF program in France and the NET Scheme in Hong Kong and there are a lot of other programs like that from the official government of the country that really want to attract English teachers to their country and to teach their local people. There so, that's another great way to get to teaching abroad, another thing that's really interesting is that actually 50% of all the teachers teaching abroad they are staying for a second year. So that kind of tells us two things. Basically that half of them, they really love it and they stay obviously and then the other half move on to maybe another destination or they go back home. Also, it's a great turnover every year so that every year there's new positions opening up for new teachers who want to go abroad and teach so it's a revolving door of job openings for anyone. The demand for teaching English abroad is really big and also online obviously because of the current situation.
Now we're kind of moving into comparing native versus non-native English teacher on a couple of different categories and keep throwing questions at us.
Let's look at the first one: Where can I teach English as a native English teacher and as a non-native English teacher?
So, for example as a native English teacher I think you are pretty much super flexible in terms of where you can teach because a lot of there's a lot of countries and a lot of schools that are kind of exclusive and only hire native English teachers. So, from that point of view native English teachers do have an advantage and they can pretty much teach anywhere they like. However, for places in Europe, it can be a little bit more difficult for someone without an EU passport to be hired there and find a job and get that work visa because of the restrictions but pretty much you are flexible as a native English teacher when it comes to teaching locations.
What about the non-native English teacher?
Well I should say that we are flexible as well because the demand is quite high all over the world. For example we take Russia; it is an absolute requirement to have a degree in teaching here but you still can work as a tutor so it's not an obligatory to have a bachelor's degree in education to work as a tutor privately.
At the same time you can go to teach abroad for example like to China or Thailand. I also know some people who work as non-native English teachers in the US or in Canada because there are also TEFL students from other countries and they need this non-native English help and assistance to get to know the country to get involved with the school and so on. So it basically again depends on your personal experience.
What do you think is like the top destination for non-native English teachers for teaching abroad?
I would say China because they have a lot of options, especially at smaller schools in the suburbs. They are not that obligatory to hire native English teachers because native English teachers charge higher rates and such schools and such language centers don't have as much money so they actually are okay hiring non-native English teachers. So, well if I found a job right now abroad I would choose China because it's like the easiest way to work abroad. Then maybe once you are in China and you gain some teaching experience, then you have even more options after that.
China can be your first experience and then you look for some other employers in other countries and you already have this in your resume. So, it can be a great first step.
Do you need to have teaching experience to get a job in China?
Basically yes and no. If you apply for a work visa you definitely need experience but it is not a requirement to have teaching experience. It is said on the Chinese embassy site for example it is said that you need to have two years of working experience. So you can be a teacher or you can be another employee but you need to have two years of working experience after your graduation but these requirements change frequently. So, it's better to check if they still have this requirement or not.
You have a good point about the regulations always changing so that's why we are actually putting this disclaimer on here the regulations are changing frequently in all the countries they always change their laws. So, always do your research and check with official authorities because those things change frequently and so just make sure you're on the most up-to-date kind of information.
Okay then, let's take a look: What about teaching online?
So I think for native English teachers. It's about the same also pretty flexible a lot of platforms also do only hire native English teachers I know that and then even some platforms they will be like we only hire North Americans because they like that accent or some platforms would only hire British English speakers. So that can also happen. It just depends on which platform you're working for. There are so many different teaching platforms available.
You can really pick and choose so just pick one that fits your skill set and your preference and then you'll be fine.
What about the non-native English teachers for teaching online?
Yes, it's almost the same so there are many offers and during this year there have been so many online schools opened. I tried to work for a Russian online school. It was great. They had their own platform and they had their own methodology. So, I basically learned a lot of stuff through their webinars for teachers and the whole platform was very easy to follow. It was pretty convenient to work with the students and the biggest benefit was that they found students on their own and just scheduled them according to your hours you wanted to teach, for example at five o'clock you just entered the space and you had a student at that time but I should say the salary was pretty low because of the Russian situation. Our currency is quite weak compared to the U.S dollar so they paid a little money but I looked at that experience and I accepted that experience as an opportunity to learn the online way of delivering lessons and it's worth it. But there are also other options other schools that pay higher wages and there are such well-known platforms as iTalki and Cambly.
You don't need to be a native teacher; you just need to be an experienced teacher with the right qualifications to compete with others there but you can also find students easier because these platforms are special for English and other languages. So, it's pretty convenient to work online and the other option which I love most is teaching online with your private students. So basically what you need is to find students on your own and design the whole course as a professional teacher for them online and this way you can charge higher because you spend time on planning you spend time on delivering these classes and it's like special. It's private so I should say if you want to try online teaching look for such an opportunity to work with some private students or maybe with some small groups but look for students on your own because this way you won't pay any fees to third-party platforms.
Where do you find private online students?
It's pretty easy. I found one of my students by word of mouth. I go to a gym and I just talked with one woman there and mentioned that I teach English online and she said that her daughter needed a tutor and that was the way we started working together. I found other students on social networks, on Instagram particularly, and Instagram is probably one of the most important platforms in Russia. We have huge communities there and it's really easy to find students of different ages on Instagram as well. It can be different for other countries because I know somewhere Facebook is more important than Instagram and maybe LinkedIn is popular somewhere else as well so any platform can be suitable for finding students.
The ideal requirements for teaching English
I think it's kind of similar between both native English teacher and non-native English teacher; they're pretty much similar but the requirements always do depend on where you want to teach. Different countries have different regulations. They have different regulations for getting their work visa some countries are okay with teachers teaching on a tourist visa some countries are definitely not. So, it really depends on where you want to teach and you should always do your own research and reach out to maybe the local embassies of that country where you want to teach and check that out but basically the ideal requirements for teaching English abroad or online are definitely a TEFL certificate because that really teaches you how to teach and also is an official certificate so that the employer really sees that you are serious about teaching and you really want to do it and another thing also is obviously experience.
If you already have some experience that's always a plus even if you're still young but you're like volunteering in your community or you are tutoring somebody that's also a positive thing that you can mention on your resume.
I would also add that if you are a non-native teacher it's better to get a language level certificate because it will show an employer that your language level is at an advanced level and you are actually able to deliver classes well. It's not only about your language level of course it's also about your teaching skills.
It's another point when we are not native teachers and we can't prove our ability to speak with just a passport. It's better to have a language certificate. For example, I got IELTS last year. I didn't have IELTS before but some employers asked me if I had it when I worked in China because it was real proof of my language ability.
Do you have to have a degree to teach English?
There are a lot of countries where you do need a degree in order to get a work visa. Again, it depends on where you want to teach. Some countries yes, you will need a degree for some countries you won't need a degree and that's a four-year bachelor's degree but also the bachelor's, it can be in any major so it doesn't really matter. It doesn't have to be a bachelor's in education, a bachelor's in TESOL, it doesn't really matter.
I had a Bachelor's in Business Administrations and I was still able to go to China and Korea to teach so as long as you have a Bachelor's Degree that's enough.
I also have a friend who majored in Economics and he's been teaching English in China for seven years already. He just changed his career path and he chose teaching So, it really depends like on your background and where you want to teach but usually everything is possible.
What are the benefits of being a native English teacher versus a non-native English teacher?
Well, I think one of the biggest benefits of being a native English teacher is that you are a little bit more flexible maybe in your location choice because some schools will be pickier. Maybe you do have access to more higher paying positions. But I would say that's about it. I feel like it's pretty much the same.
I can say about non-native English teacher benefits yes, we can't pretend, native teachers probably get higher salaries sometimes but we definitely have this English learning experience first hand which is a little bit different from being just a native speaker.
We know from the very beginning how it all works so that's a real benefit. We can deliver classes differently according to our personal experience but it also depends because teaching is something to learn how to do as well and another point is that non-native teachers can actually be probably more empathic to other non-native students so something like that because you went through the exact same process that your students are going through. You know exactly what they're struggling with in terms of grammar or pronunciation and stuff like that. Native English teachers usually don't know what it’s like so I think that's definitely a huge benefit for non-native English teachers and I think not enough schools or employers recognize that.
I think they should recognize that more. They underestimate it and I have a friend who recently finished his master's in education and she mentioned that nowadays, it's prohibited to call English teachers native and non-native in the academic world because there is actually no subdivision to such groups.
An English teacher is just someone who teaches English and he or she was taught how to do that, he got this experience on how to deliver lessons, how to plan things, and so on. So, when employers write something like native English teachers only, they basically are just not as educated as they can be because they just don't know anything about this academic world. Some non-native teachers spend a lot of time, many years, learning how to teach properly and if you, for example, know about such certifications as DELTA you must know that it's pretty hard to get this certificate. So some non-native teachers spend a lot of time working on their skills and it is underestimated.
You see a lot of strange job postings all over the internet for teaching jobs with people like U.S. teachers only or only female, only male - it's just like it cuts so many people off right off the bat. It's just not right,
Okay, I wanted to comment on something about iTalk. I applied for q teaching position on iTalk and I uploaded all of my certificates. I’m not sure about the current situation but well like maybe a year ago they required to at least provide a TEFL certificate, and if you have a language certificate if you are a non-native teacher so I’m not sure about a degree probably it's not a requirement but they needed some proof that you are that you have this teaching skills.
What are the misconceptions about native English teachers and non-native English teachers?
So, from my experience as a native English teacher and I’ve worked with many native English teachers and worked at different schools, many employers think just because you're a native English teacher you know everything about English and you know all the grammar and that you know everything basically and obviously that's not the case, and that's something what we just talked about that, non-native English teachers know the grammar better.
Because we were taught how the language works from this perspective and for example I majored in English linguistics and I was taught by Russian English teachers and they could explain some peculiarities of English that native English teachers can't explain. For example, currently I’m preparing for the CPE exam and my teacher is native. He is professional in DELTA and he is professional in preparing teachers to pass this particular exam CPE.
When we ask him questions, they are so picky sometimes he just says like well I'll write it down let me check it and I'll reach you back. Because I can't answer this straightforward like, it's just a difficult question.
A lot of schools or employers just think because you're a native English speaker you know how all the grammar works and that's usually not the case, and that's always especially I think especially for native English teachers they should definitely take a TEFL course. For example, our ITTT TEFL course it's kind of like the standard one, 120 hours that's the one we always recommend as you know a first step basically. It teaches you how to teach and also half of it is kind of English grammar so it's teaching you how English grammar works and also most importantly the parts of English grammar that most non-native English speakers, your potential students, have problems with and how to deal with those problems, how to teach grammar in a way that they will understand.
So I think that's the biggest misconception on our side. What do you think for non-native English teachers?
Well, there is such a misconception as accent.
It is believed that if you don't have an American accent or a British accent then you are not a professional. You are just useless as a teacher. It's not true because there are so many different accents all over the world even in the U.S there are so many different regional accents. So, it's hard to say that one accent is better than the other. What’s really important is the pronunciation. It is really important to know some basics of the pronunciation and stick to it just pronounce words correctly but it is still underestimated. Taking China for example, most of the employers, especially in smaller cities, they don't know anything about English and they just try to hire someone who from their perspective is better. In speaking they judge by their own experience, they judge by their own preferences, and so just don't think that, if you speak English with an accent you're bad - it's not true.
Right, and I think that's a great point because there's definitely a difference between having an accent and pronunciation. Those are two different things. Like you said, I think having good pronunciation is the main thing. What your accent is like, because everyone has an accent right, it's just some feature that you have and that shows from where you are, where you belong and it's part of your identity. It makes you who you are. Why take that away or why see that as a negative thing?
I want to say something about this comment:
I come from Singapore I started speaking English since I was a child and my whole family speaks English but because I come from a Malay background many do not consider me as a native speaker.
That's kind of like the sad thing about this industry, and this industry is always changing and developing for the better but it is kind of black and white at the moment where in the TEFL teaching industry, people or like the employers basically consider native English speakers people from Canada, USA. UK, Ireland, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. So, those seven countries usually that's considered native English speakers and everything else is non-native English speakers.
Now, obviously that's not the reality because like this person is from Singapore and they speak English there. There are so many countries where English is an official language but sadly in this industry still it's just not. We're just not there yet and that's a problem for sure.
Secondly, if you look for a teacher, don't be afraid that they will have some accent. It's just normal.
What you need to look for is their teaching skills and what you as a teacher need is teaching skills.
I think we actually had this question in the comments before about the salaries:
The pay what does it look like for a native English teacher versus non-native English teacher?
So in my case at the school that I worked at in China, I was actually the only teacher there so I’m not sure I couldn't compare but at the other school there were only native English teachers in Korea.
So, also, I’m not sure about comparing with non-native English teachers but I know that for example at my Korean school there were local Korean teachers and they were sort of like my co-teachers. We were like the main teachers and they were the co-teachers so they would earn less than us but actually worked the same hours and they probably even had more work to do.
Then, the same in China. So, but also, they are not actually English teachers they're co-teachers so it's kind of different but, I actually think, I heard from a lot of people that native English teachers do get paid more.
Lisa, you mentioned that earlier that with the bigger cities they earn more and then the rural villages they would hire non-native English teachers because they could pay them less, is that what you were saying?
That's what I was saying, but the situation is not the same all over China and some non-native teachers who are really experienced and who've been working for a long time already, they definitely get paid higher. I have several friends who are still working in China and they are doing that just for ages. They get paid almost as native teachers and with this situation, with this quarantine situation, they even started getting more money because of the demand and another point is your employer, it's really important, some employers are just really bad.
They offer poor conditions, they don't care about your life situation. When I worked in China, I found a really good employer, who offered different benefits like insurance, roundtrip flights twice a year.
They also provided me with sick days, some schools don't do that. Most of the schools don't do that so if you want to get higher salaries you also have to look for better employers, which is not easy.
You need to spend time actually.
That's actually a good point about the sick days. The school that I worked for in my first year in Korea, I was teaching full time at a private school and we didn't have any sick days. So I was sick one time and then they actually took money from my paycheck. So it depends on the employer.
It's like some just some equality from this point of view because when I worked in China, what was really difficult was to cooperate with the Chinese teachers.
They probably had something, they didn't like English teachers because of this inequality with the salaries. They knew that we got paid higher and we worked much less than them. It can create an awkward work environment for sure.
How to enhance your teaching resume?
So, how can a native English teacher enhance their teaching resume? Definitely by taking a TEFL course, and then, also if you already have the standard TEFL course you can take specialized TEFL courses. For example at ITTT, we offer three specialized sort of add-on certifications. They are teaching business English teaching, English to young learners and teaching English online. So, you can get one or all of them and then you know you can definitely enhance your resume with that.
Then obviously work; any kind of work experience is going to enhance your teaching resume. And also in terms of like, career development, so, if you are planning to teach for a long time or a longer time and you, for example, want to stay in the same country for example, like Korea, where I am and you're aiming for a higher position, it's definitely recommended that you maybe learn the local language. Because then, you're also going to have an advantage, you're going to have access to more local resources, you can go to like trade fair job, fairs, symposiums, all this kind of stuff that actually would not be available to other foreigners. Because they don't speak the local language so I definitely think that's a good step.
What about non-native English teachers?
It's pretty much the same. I would say take a TEFL course is the first step in your teaching career, and then look for some other opportunities to work on your professional development for example, there are many MOOC courses if you know what is that so basically free courses like on Coursera or Future Learn. They are not as advanced as paid courses but they also provide you with some useful information in teaching or education and so on I personally took such a course on Future Learn. It was devoted to English in early childhood. It was from the British council and it gave me some insights in how to work with really young learners.
Sometimes general courses just don't have this aspect even teaching young learners is not the same as teaching young early childhood so that course really helped me, when I worked with children about two or three years old in China.
So, sometimes their parents also want them to be taught this early and that course helped me so don't stop developing. Look for different opportunities and it would be really great to have it on your resume. Because, it will also show that you are not just an English teacher striving for a lot of money or something but you are really eager to develop in this career.
That's great and we actually have a question from Alan:
Allen's asking if there are any salary differences between online teaching and in a physical school?
So, I actually, I know, I haven't personally taught online but, I know that a lot of online teaching jobs do pay hourly and that actually in a school you typically get your monthly salary. So, the salary will be more different but I think Lisa knows a little bit more about that.
It can be different, first of all due to the time spent on your job, online platforms and online employers believe that you spend less time preparing, that's why they pay you a little bit less. For example, as I’ve mentioned earlier, I worked for an online platform and they paid much less because they provided me with all the teaching materials for the students.
So, basically marketing was on them. I didn't do anything myself and I spent just 30 minutes delivering a class and probably it was reasonable that I got paid less. But if you work as a private tutor online you can charge as much as you want because you spend the same amount of time preparing for such classes.
Okay, all right, so, then, this is where our 30% OFF special actually comes in. So, just quickly if people don't know about it and what kind of courses we offer. We kind of mentioned it a little bit so our courses kind of range from 50 hours all the way to 550 hours.
So, really a wide variety of courses for all different kinds of needs and we also obviously native and non-native English teachers can take the course.
You just need to be over 18 and I’m fluent in English and then the TEFL/TESOL specialization courses that I mentioned, that's business English teaching young learners and teaching online, those you can take and they're all internationally accredited and also accepted worldwide. And, now let me actually paste our discount link into the comments so that if you sign up with this link you can get 30% off any of our courses. It should show up on Facebook and on YouTube but I can also share it later again if somebody can't see it.
How long does it take to complete the 120-hour course?
So, usually you have up to six months to complete the course, but most people finish it much faster. It depends on how much time you have. It is self-study and 100% online so, you can finish it if you have more time, you finish it quicker maybe in a month, two or three. And if you have less time it's going to take you a little bit more time but when I passed IELTS with it several years ago, it took me like several weeks to do the theoretical part with all the tests. But it took me like two or three months to finish the lesson planning, that was really challenging for me because, I couldn't do it on the first attempt. So, I did it just after the second attempt and it was really hard. I was like my God, I will fail it but I didn't thank God, I didn't, cool.
Charak says I have two ITTT TESOL courses and he strongly recommends it.
So, that's great TEFL or TESOL is definitely the first step towards your teaching career.
Then we have a question about the job placement. So, can ITT provide 100% job placement for non-native speakers?
So, we do not provide 100% job placements but we have a very extensive job support and we do our best, you know to match you with a job that fits you. We also have a strong, vast network of schools internationally and employers that we work with and many of them also hire non-native speakers so definitely.
We can give you support for that, okay. Then I also just quickly want to mention the bundles that we offer. Because that's kind of a great way to get start teaching and also save a little bit of money. Because if you purchase the bundles, they're a little bit cheaper, than if you would buy the courses individually. So, we have a 220-hour Master Package, a 470-hour Professional Package and our largest package is the 550-hour Expert Package and they all have different parts. Pretty much all of them start with the 120-hour TEFL course so that's sort of the basic one, that you want to get depending on what your goal is.
If you want to teach English just for short term, short time or short term you might want to get a master package or just the 120-hour course. But if your goal is, maybe to have a career, a long-term career then you might want to aim for the Expert Package. So, it really depends. I highly recommend checking out our website for all the details about these bundles and courses and also our FAQ section.
If you get any further questions concerning TEFL or teaching in general, welcome to these lives and we'll try our best to answer you, and Franco thank you for being so active today with all of your comments that was really nice to have you. Same, very active crowd today. It was really great.
If you maybe didn't watch from the beginning, you can always go back and rewatch it and also if you have some questions after this live ends, you can still drop them in the comments and we check the comments out and can get back to you after the live as well. All right then, I think we're signing off thank you guys, see you next time hopefully. All right then see you thanks bye.
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