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Non-native speaker teachers

April 09, 2009

Hello again,

I recently received the following query:

I need to know whether I am entitled to apply for...

... any teaching post in Europe in countries like Greece despite the fact that I am not a native speaker of English. I have a substantial experience as I have worked for a decade at the British council teaching centre. I am Greek and I wish to work for a reputable institute. Can you help me?

There are two aspects to the answer to this question. The first is the legal aspect. As a Greek citizen, the questioner is free to apply for and accept posts in any of the EU countries. EU citizens have the right to travel to other EU countries to live and work. So, technically there is no reason why she should not seek a teaching post in the EU country of her choice.

However, the second part of the answer concerns the preferences of schools and students for native- speaker teachers. It remains true that there is a very strong bias towards native-speaking English teachers by both employers and learners. Thus the applicant might go through the application process only to be turned down in favour of a native English speaker.

So what advice can we give her? Firstly, she should ask for a strong testimonial from the British Council. Enclosing this with her application may influence a potential employer. Secondly she might think about potential institutions that would welcome her knowledge of Greek. Some international schools that have mixed nationalities from across the EU would probably find somebody who is a native speaker of one of the countries from whom they take students very useful indeed. When it comes to the pastoral aspect of teaching, especially of children, the ability to speak to the student in their own tongue is clearly helpful.

My suggestion is, therefore, that she does some research on such schools and applies to these institutions. She might also seek to come to the UK as an accompanying teacher with Greek summer school students to give her an initial taste of working outside Greece.

I hope this helps.

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  1. Charles Lwanga Says:

    Just like the problem of the Greek lady above, what happens to Africans who wish to work maybe in Europe or Asia and cannot do so because it is said that they are not native speakers. I'm a member of CAMELTA, Cameroon English Language and Literayure Teachers' Association, which is an affiliate of the British council and the American Embassy. I've been teaching for half a decade now but all my efforts to work in Europe or Asia have been shatered by this same issue of native speaker thing. What help can you give me?
    Best regards

  1. Anne Mac Leish Says:

    I like your Brenda! I've been teaching efl everwhere in Rome,Italy. Companies & schools. This year probs with non native teachers! I do the Trinity exams too. Italian teachers have 3 months hols! I'm freelance! Thanx 4 tips1 I could give alot too! Best Wishes Anne Mac Leish.

  1. Mari Says:

    I live and work in US but I have EU citizenship as well and English is not my mother tongue.
    I would like to know how difficult would be for me to find a job as an ESL teacher in Italy?

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