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Getting TEFL Certified as a Non-Native English Speaker: What to Know

By on Friday Aug 18, 2017

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Are you a non-native English speaker who is considering getting TEFL certified? If so, you are not alone! Roughly 20% of the students who enroll in BridgeTEFL online courses, such as TEFLOnline.com, speak a first language other than English. We understand that non-native English speakers may have unique concerns before enrolling in a TEFL course, so we’re offering some TEFL information tailored specifically to you!

What you should know before enrolling in a TEFL course:

You won’t be required to test or prove your language level to take a TEFL course.

As an advisor, sometimes people will ask me if they need to submit the results of English proficiency tests, such as the IELTS or TOEFL before enrolling in a TEFL course. The answer is no.

Most people who plan to make a career of teaching English have a high enough English level to succeed in a teacher-training course. However, if you are feeling unsure of your level and you have taken a proficiency test, you can check your score against suggested guidelines for our most popular online course. We recommend a score of at least a 5.0 on the IELTS, for example, or a 64 on the TOEFL iBT, which would be equivalent to a B1 level (Threshold), according the European Framework.

However, the schools and language centers to which you apply for jobs after your course may ask for your scores on proficiency tests.

As a non-native English speaker, schools and language centers you apply to may need an indication of your proficiency level in order to consider you for an interview. Proficiency test results are one way to show your English level. Other ways you might demonstrate proficiency (and land an interview!) would be listing any studies you completed in an English-only school, time spent studying or working abroad in an English-speaking country, or English teaching experience.

TEFL courses do not focus on spoken English or pronunciation.

Most TEFL courses, unless they are in person in a traditional classroom, do not evaluate trainees’ speaking or pronouncing abilities. In our TEFLOnline.com courses, for example, you won’t talk to your personal tutor during the course, but will instead submit written assignments to him or her for feedback and a grade.

TEFL tutors are not grading you on your English, but like all trainees, you are expected to have a strong command of the language.

TEFL students, regardless of their first language, will complete quizzes, short written exercises, essays, and lesson plans as they work through their course. Your written submissions are not expected to be perfect, but they should contain few grammatical and spelling errors, in order to meet course standards.

To make yourself more competitive for jobs, take an online course of more hours, or even an onsite TEFL course.

There are ways to stand out from the competition when applying for English teaching positions:

  • Take an online course of the most hours possible, such as the 120-hour TEFLOnline.com Master Certificate.
  • Take a university-level TEFL courses. The 150-hour IDELT Online (International Diploma in English Language Teaching. can be take for 3 graduate-level credits from either University of Northern Colorado or Texas A&M University – Texarkana.
  • Take an onsite TEFL course, which is 4 weeks of in-person training with an included teaching practicum
  • Specialize your general TEF certification with additional training courses in high demand areas.
  • Gain experience either through paid or volunteer teaching.

Knowledge is power, so hopefully this information about getting TEFL certified as a non-native English speaker will take some of the guesswork out of getting started. Would you like to read more about teaching English as a non-native English speaking teacher (NNEST? Hear from Krzl, teaching in Chile, on the advantages NNESTs have in the EFL classroom.

Editor’s note: This article was updated and republished August 2017. 

Jennifer Collis

About the AuthorJennifer Collis


Jennifer is from Tampa and graduated from the University of South Florida with bachelor’s degrees in English and psychology. After working in the field of social work, she eventually gave in to wanderlust and became TEFL certified, going on to teach in Costa Rica, Morocco and Spain. She also enjoys volunteering, and has worked with ESL students in San Francisco, foster kids in Costa Rica, and rescued donkeys in Spain. She started at BridgeTEFL as a Program Advisor in 2011, and is now the Content Manager.

 
  • Josanne Salvaleon

    Is it easy to get a certification? I am officially training at the school in our area. I also enrolled in Preply.com ( http://preply.com/en/skype/english-native-speakers ) to practice how to talk to native English speakers thru online classes. I am a Filipino but I have an accent. I’m wondering how this will affect my chances.

    • Bridge Education Group

      Hi Josanne,

      We have many non-native English speakers in our TEFLOnline.com courses, and yes, it is easy to get the certification if you are dedicated to the course and have an interest in learning to teach English. The fact that you are already studying how to teach will be a big advantage— and this course will provide the certificate that is needed to get hired at most language schools. I agree that having an accent can be a bit of an issue in getting hired as an English teacher, but there are also advantages to being able to speak a student’s first language and explain concepts more easily than someone without knowledge of the student’s mother tongue.