Can You Teach English In Vietnam As A Non-Native English Speaker?

If you look at any job advertisement for a teaching position in Vietnam, you will see that most have a few requirements. These requirements are often the same for most jobs. Having a bachelor’s degree, a TEFL certificate, and being a native English speaker.

We all know what a bachelor’s degree is, and a TEFL certificate is simply a certificate awarded to teachers who have completed a short training course on teaching English as a foreign language. But what exactly does it mean to be a native English speaker?

Vietnam streets

What Does It Mean To Be A Native English Speaker In Vietnam

A native English speaker is someone who grew up in a country where English is the primary language spoken. There are many countries that fit the definition, but in Vietnam, there is more to it. Not every country classifies the same countries as native English-speaking countries.

Vietnam considers The United States, The United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and South Africa as native English-speaking countries. So job advertisements that list the requirement to be a native English speaker are referring to teachers from those countries.

Teaching English In Vietnam

But if you are reading this and are not from one of those countries, you will want to read on a little bit more because there is some good news for you.

Vietnam is a country that is often overlooked when it comes to travel, with its neighbors Thailand and Indonesia attracting the majority of tourists, but those that give Vietnam a chance, often don’t want to leave. In the past, the main way people become teachers in Vietnam was by being a traveler, deciding that don’t want to leave, and after applying to a few teaching jobs in Vietnam, they had a work permit, an apartment, and a new, exciting life ahead.

So when you read online about being an English teacher in Vietnam and see it might not be possible, it can be devastating. 

In Vietnam, there are many expatriates from European countries and Russia. Those are countries where English isn’t spoken as a primary language. There are also expatriates from India, The Philippines, and even Ghana. These people are non-native English speakers living in Vietnam, and many of them are working as English teachers. So if they can do it, so can you! Vietnam is a very open country, and Vietnamese people are extremely welcoming to foreigners, no matter where you are from.

Teaching English in Vietnam

Teaching English As A Non-Native English In Vietnam

But if you are classified as a Non-native English speaker in Vietnam, it’s important to understand why teachers from native English-speaking countries are preferred over you when it comes to hiring teachers. There are 2 main reasons. By understanding these, you will be able to apply for jobs in a way that improves your chances. You need to also learn to emphasize with employers and recruiters. Many of them have never left Vietnam or even the small town where the school is located. So they don’t know much about people from countries around the world.

They might have just seen other schools hiring teachers from those native English-speaking countries and started doing the same. So let’s take a look at the 2 reasons why native English speakers are preferred.

The first reason is related to your accent. Simply put, some people speak English more clearly than others. Sure you might speak fluently, but schools assume that you don’t because you are not from the countries they were told can speak fluent and clear English. By knowing this, you now have an advantage. You can show them how fluent your English and speaking, is by finding a way to let them hear you speak before they read your nationality. The absolute best way to do this is to send an introduction video. Or at least have one ready upon request.

This can be a simple video where you just introduce yourself and say a few things about why you want to teach in Vietnam. That way the school can hear you speak and then if they didn’t know people from your country could speak clear English, they will hire you. Some schools are very specific when it comes to accents and might even turn down British English speakers as they prefer American English for example.

The second reason is related to culture, understanding, and appearance. This means that English education in Vietnam is intended to be immersive. They want their students to be in the presence of someone who has lived in an English-speaking country and experienced things that these students might have seen in English movies.

If grammar, spelling, and vocabulary were all that mattered, the schools could just hire Vietnamese English teachers. That’s why appearance also matters. Schools look for 2 things. Being a good teacher, and being a foreigner. If you are from Europe, Russia, Africa, and South America, you might not be a native Speaker, but you do look like a foreigner, so you can fit that role well. 

Final Thoughts On Teaching English In Vietnam

The last few years have been a bumpy ride for the TEFL industry with borders being closed and schools closing down, but right now, English education is on the rise in Vietnam and things are not going to slow down. There is a massive shortage of teachers, so there has never been a better time to apply for a teaching job.

Luckily for you, Vietnam is one of the best places to teach English as a non-native English speaker!

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