March 16, 2018 Catherine Mendoza 40Comment

“Hi, teacher, thanks for contacting us. How much is your salary expectation?” the interviewer asked me.


“Twenty dollars an hour; that’s the amount I used to get when I was in Hanoi teaching at a nursery and kindergarten school,” I answered.

“Okay, we’ll get back to you to discuss this teaching opportunity soon!”

“Thanks! Looking forward to working with you!”


He sounded enthusiastic, perhaps thinking that he could finally find someone to teach at his academy. A few moments later, he sent me another message.


“Excuse me, teacher, where are you from?“

“I’m from the Philippines.“


He never replied to me.


I wasn’t bothered by the fact that he didn’t get back to me.No, I didn’t feel bad that he didn’t pursue to interview me or hire me to teach at his academy. I just never stopped wondering why employers would hire only native speakers and not someone from Asia or someone from a non-native speaking country.


Personally, it’s not the first time I was rejected by an employer. Even online, once they learn that I’m from a non-native speaker country, they instantly reject my application.


All my qualifications such as an experience of five years in teaching English and a 120-hour online TESOL Certificate don’t count simply because I’m a non-native speaker. Funny thing is, I’m from a country where English is frequently spoken.


Working as a freelancer, I try to get as many gigs as I can. Although I have an online job for more than 5 years now, I want to have another part time job, either offline or online.


In Hanoi where English teachers are most in demand, the competition is undoubtedly high.


Despite numerous reasons for not wanting to come back in a city I'm not a big fan of, I had nevertheless one major reason to stay. And that reason is enough for me to live by. Sometimes, all we need is one ☝️ but powerful decision to live our lives. Teaching in Hanoi, or at least doing cover teaching is worth it, it's just that, it's undoubtedly competitive. Regardless, believe in yourself. ❤️❄️🇻🇳❄️ . . . #travel #hanoi #iamtb #wanderer #wanderlust #travelbug #instagram #instadaily #englishcenter #photooftheday #travelblogger #travelwriter #escapesanddiaries #passionpassport #globetrotter #glt #gltlove #winter #english #englishteaching #oldquarter #wheninhanoi #coverteaching #coverteacher #competitive #tripmaximizer

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You can opt for full time or part-time. You can also cover for other teachers. All you have to do is join Facebook groups for hiring English teachers.


For example, when you search Hanoi Massive English Jobs on Facebook, the group will automatically pop up. And you can decide if you want to join the group. I must warn you again, though, competition with native speakers is unbelievable and I will not lie about that.


You’ll get multiple rejections if you’re a non-native speaker, but as long as you’re passionate about this job, for sure, you’ll get an opportunity. Keep searching for that teaching job you really want regardless of your nationality. And to be more realistic, prepare your documents if you really want to stay longer and motivated. For instance, prepare your visa, passport, diploma, certificates, and other related documents.


And to be honest, that even though Hanoi is not my ideal place to stay longer, I still ended up here as many opportunities pop up here and there specifically when it comes to teaching English. Tho, the competition is high that most academies and schools prefer native speakers. One shouldn't be bother regardless, for as long as you're passionate at what you do. What's stopping you? ❤️☕️ . . On the other hand, my quest for instagramable cafe shops never stops! ☕️😍 here I found one that's next to my doorstep! 😍☕️❄️ . . . #iamtb #travel #coffeeshop #coffee #hanoi #wanderer #wanderlust #travelbug #travelblogger #travelwriter #escapesanddiaries #passionpassport #k8cafe #globetrotter #glt #gltlove #winter #coffeelover #oldquarter #wheninhanoi #tripmaximizer #nativespeaker #teachingjob #opportunity #englishteacher #englishteaching

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Just be extra careful about the recruiters who promise to give you high salary and bring you to the countryside. Sometimes, they’re scam.


And here’s another example of rejection from one of my non native friends, Kate Flores who also teaches English abroad! 


“I’ve met Shayne, from Scottland. He has a what-they-call “farmer accent”. He is a high school drop-out, tired of the system in UK, a self-confessed rebel from his family, a night-owl party goer and habitual drinker, plus I don’t want to mention his craving for drugs during his classes but I did. He is a nice guy, yes, but I disagree with the employer when they chose him over ME during our application in a prestigious learning center in Vietnam. 
On the other hand, I am from Philippines, an B. Education graduate with a TEFL certificate and two-years of teaching experience across Asia. I was not accepted to do the teaching job because I am not and would never be a “native speaker” no matter how educated and qualified I am. 
This is Professional Racism. I have heard a lot of stories like mine. Another thing is that it’s not just teaching English where Professional Racism is happening but even in marketing jobs, tourism and medical field. Your salary will depend on your passport – and I think Philippine passport is one of the unfortunates – because it cannot sit with the first class Passports – and ouch. Reality Bites. 
Back to teaching – Shayne now, after years of not seeing him, I’ve heard how he jumps from one learning center to another – because of his unprofessional behaviour and high demands. Well, then, 
he is a native speaker anyway – but who is suffering? Not him. Never. He will leave your center helplessly looking for another teacher – yet he will find another job again because the native speakers are still in the market. 
I don’t have any grudges from native speakers – most of my friends are respectable native speaker teachers around the world – and they are but qualified. But people like Shayne – English centers in Southeast Asia specifically must re-think of how they consider native speakers and nearly-natives. The students, the learning, and the business are suffering. How can our future passport holders compete with the world if – even in the English Language – they know nothing but a “farmer” accent?
Let’s rethink our education system. Do we really want to learn English and be progressive? Or we want to build a country being named as a “sweet escape” from the west. “


Despite the countless rejections I/we received, we’re still glad that we have a job. And I know, more opportunities are coming my way.


Remember: Being a non-native English speaker and the rejections you receive are not hindrances to do the things you’re passionate about. Just know your worth and keep moving forward.


Want to know more about how to get a teaching job abroad? Stay tuned! Posting soon! 

40 thoughts on “The real feel of looking for a teaching job when you’re a non-native English speaker

  1. Very well said Cathy! I feel you!
    This is in fact a manifestation that racism still exist. Amidst all the anti-racist campaigns – this is an evidence! Nevertheless, there is no need to be bitter with this reality, its not our lost if they don’t get the chance to experience teachers with great calibre and that’s us! We are Filipino teachers!

    God bless you more!

    JM Kayne | <3

  2. Hi JM! Thanks for your comment! Indeed, racism still exists but doesn’t really matter for as long as we love what we do! No one can stop us! Cheers to all teachers especially amazing Filipino teachers! xx

  3. I have been rejected for being a non-native speaker several times already as well although I have studied, lived and worked in English-speaking countries for altogether almost six years. I guess the only thing we can do it to keep trying and prove people wrong about our language skills and abilities.

  4. @ Eva – Couldn’t agree more to that! And even if we get a lot of rejections just because we’re none of them, it’s not the end of the world! the most important is, we love what we do!

  5. Although I have never tried to apply online for an (English language) teacher’s job, I can totally relate to the feeling of being written off as an expert in the language just because you’re not a native English speaker because I get that a lot myself (I am from India). People might hear me speak perfect English or see me write good English but when it comes to a place where they need expert opinion, they always approach a ‘native’ speaker!

  6. It’s always a challenge to do something different like this especially when you are a non English speaker. Life is always full of challenges and its what you do to overcome them that becomes the effort to strive for better.

  7. It is so sad that even today people discriminate others on the basis of their race and nationality. Wish people were judged on their skills and not their passport. I completely understand you. This is a great post. Thanks for writing it.

  8. I have a number of friends who teach, but I must admit their first language is English so I have not heard about the problems and the rejection that you have experienced. I am quite horrified that it still exists.Well done for your perseverance.

  9. @ Janine – I see! For most native English speakers, the language wouldn’t be a problem at all. Tho they might have an issue if the school or center needs a qualification such as teaching certificate or experience. Yes it does. Tho, we never let it let us down! Thank you!

  10. Totally agree with your overall point. Nothing should come between you and your goals. Glad you persevered and still got your teaching job. Persistence pays! Great reminder!

  11. Thank you for sharing your experience. It’s very unfair and wrong that non-native teachers who are equally, if not more, qualified than native speakers to teach English are not able to do so, or are paid less than their counterparts. My partner and I have been teaching in Asia for six years now, and we’ve worked with amazing teachers from all over the world. We are both American, but we’ve seen the Professional Racism Kate mentions and it’s very disheartening. I’m glad you wrote this to encourage non-native speakers to still follow their dream of teaching abroad!

  12. @ Jen Joslin – Oh awesome! Teaching has always been my passion! You and your partner are truly great for having to teach in Asia with not so much trouble or problems encountered like Kate and me. Thanks for liking the writing! This is for anyone who wants to pursue the dream of teaching even tho non native but has a deep passion for it!

  13. Working as teachers or any type of education profession is always so hard, specially because that Native speaker parameter counts a lot. Before we moved to Ireland to work as social pedagogues for 2 years, we passed through a series of interviews, and all because we were ”to young”, so the kids could not take us seriously. After all we passed, we went there and we return with the feedback that they never had anyone better than us, because our curriculum are just a bunch a words, what matters are our actions, our ideas, our strengths, our power of will and our passion to leave a mark in the world!
    Sending good vibes only,

  14. @ Freeoversea – Agreed! Yea, sometimes age does count! Glad you still made it tho! Ireland is such a beautiful country and we also love working with kids! Thanks for the kind words! What matters is that you love what you do and everything will come out right! Sending you good vibes back!

  15. Wow, this is an issue I’ve never thought about. How is this still happening in 2018? If you speak English and are capable of teaching it, why does it matter where you were born? I’ve taken French, German, and Spanish classes here in the USA and NONE of those teachers have been native speakers, because it doesn’t matter!

  16. @ Mags – Well, unfortunately, it still exists and it does matter in some countries like what I’ve mentioned, Hanoi. Couldn’t be helped, sad but true. Thanks! Good luck on the foreign language! I’m learning German too! Such a challenging language to learn!

  17. That’s so frustrating! It shouldn’t matter if English is someone’s native language if they can speak it properly. And even more so with all the qualifications you have! Good to hear that you can still find a job teaching English if you keep at it-dedication definitely pays off! Good luck with the teaching!

  18. @ Jenna – Yes I truly wish that even if I’m not a native speaker, would be as easy to get a teaching job but like what I said, in most centers, they prefer the native ones! Tho, that’s alright, it’s always part of the rejection! We keep moving! Thanks so much!

  19. Oh well, don’t really know what to say other then – keep it up! This is one of those situations that tend to tire you down one way or the other. But the worst thing to do would probably be to give up. So, it’s really admiring to see how much energy you’re putting into it despite all the obstacles, and you still strive to do the thing you love. Good for you! 🙂

  20. @ Danijela – Thank you! That’s how we should be, despite rejections and things that tend to tire us down, we don’t keep up. We struggle but it’s not the end of the world! Positive energy it is !x

  21. I think a lot of people assume that it’s always easy to get a job teaching English in another country but obviously, this isn’t the case. I hope a lot of people read this so they can know about the different challenges they might face.

  22. @ Vanessa – yea you’re absolutely right! I actually was one of them! haha Especially when you get a certificate and non native. Ain’t easy really! I hope so too! The struggle is real! LOL

  23. It really is interesting how being “native” seems to trump having qualifications – I get the general idea that you think a native speaker would have more control over a language, but it’s not true, and a lot of the time non native speakers will actually have a more technically correct understanding of English than many native speakers do … because they grow up with slang, and colloquially incorrect terms. I like your encouragement though to be ready for the rejections but not to give up – I agree that eventually, if you’re truly passionate about a job, you will find your way into a position who truly values you 🙂

  24. @ Meg – Thanks Meg! haha I can agree to some extent of what you said. I have many native English speaker friends and they’re teachers, too and they admit that they know the language very well but they’re not so certain how to teach it! I like people like them who are fun and cool about things such as teaching English! Thank you! Passion and dedication are mighty important!

  25. Oh wow I had no idea that it was so tough for aqualified non-native speaker. What an absolute hassle for you

  26. This was really interesting and as someone that has never taught English, I haven’t actually thought through the issues and implications of this problem you present. It is a shame, as you say, as you have all the qualifications and experience, and believe me as a native speaker, I can say that not all native English speakers would make good teachers! I wish you all the luck in the future.

  27. @ Samantha – Thanks so much Samantha! So many non native are English teachers and sometimes they don’t really have problems or big issues in applying. Only in some centers or schools, passport does a big count. Thanks, you too!

  28. What you said in the last line can be applied to literally anything in life…”the rejections you receive are not hindrances to do the things you’re passionate about. Just know your worth and keep moving forward.” Never stop believing in yourself.

  29. I love your spirit and passion. The “never say die” attitude will really take you places. I agree that one or multiple rejections should not discourage you but instead get your resolve stronger. I can see that with you. Keep that fire burning and don’t give up. Cheers

  30. I am not into teaching but I know what you are talking about.
    I have come across this as a writer. It is just the mindset. A native speaker is supposed to be better at the language, although I know that I can do a better job than most. I have worked with a lot of foreign clients and the only reason they are seeking a non-native English writer is to save their costs!

  31. @ Jitaditya – Interesting! I also write too! And yea, you’re right! Sometimes the reason why they choose non native is to save costs! Funny but it’s true! Ya! It’s all in the mind sometimes, but again, nothing against native speakers here. We have many native speaker friends and they’re awesome! Thanks!

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