If you look at an advertisement for an apprenticeship in Vietnam, you will see that most of them have a few requirements. These requirements are often the same for most jobs. With a bachelor’s degree, a TEFL certificate and 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 in teaching English as a foreign language. But what exactly does it mean to be a native English speaker?
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. There are many countries that fit the definition, but there is more to Vietnam than that. Not every country classifies the same countries as native English speaking countries.
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Vietnam considers the United States, United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa as English speaking countries. Therefore, job advertisements that include the requirement of a native English speaker refer to teachers from these countries.
English lessons in Vietnam
But if you’re reading this and aren’t from one of these countries, you should read on a little because there’s some good news for you.
Vietnam is a country that often gets overlooked when traveling as its neighbors Thailand and Indonesia draw the most tourists, but those who give Vietnam a chance often don’t want to leave. In the past, people in Vietnam were mainly teachers because they were travellers, deciding not to leave and after applying for a few teaching positions in Vietnam, they had a work permit, an apartment and a new exciting life ahead of them us.
So when you read online about being an English teacher in Vietnam and see that it might not be possible, it can be devastating.
In Vietnam there are many expatriates from European countries and Russia. These are countries where English is not spoken as the main language. There are also emigrants from India, the Philippines and even Ghana. These people are not native English speakers living in Vietnam and many of them work as English teachers. So if they can do it, so can you! Vietnam is a very open country and the Vietnamese are extremely hospitable to foreigners no matter where you are from.
Teaching English to non-native speakers in Vietnam
But if you’re 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 teacher recruitment. There are 2 main reasons. If you understand these, you can apply in a way that improves your chances. You must also learn to emphasize to employers and recruiters. Many of them have never left Vietnam or even the small town where the school is located. So you don’t know much about people from countries around the world.
You may have just seen other schools hiring teachers from these English speaking countries and started doing the same. So let’s look at the 2 reasons why native English speakers are preferred.
The first reason is related to your accent. Put simply, some people speak English more clearly than others. Sure you are fluent, but schools assume you are not because you are not from the countries they have been told you can speak English fluently and clearly. By knowing this, you now have an advantage. You can show them how fluent your English is and how well you speak 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 introductory video. Or at least have one ready on 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 if they didn’t know that people from your country can speak clear English they will hire you. Some schools are very specific when it comes to accents and may even reject speakers of British English, preferring American English, for example.
The second reason is related to culture, understanding and looks. This means that English classes in Vietnam are meant 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 may have seen in English films.
If only grammar, spelling and vocabulary mattered, schools could just hire Vietnamese English teachers. That’s why appearance matters. Schools are looking for 2 things. Be a good teacher and be a foreigner. If you’re from Europe, Russia, Africa and South America, you might not be a native speaker, but you look like a foreigner, so you’ll fit the role well.
Final Thoughts on Teaching English in Vietnam
The last few years have been a bumpy ride for the TEFL industry as borders have closed and schools have closed, but for now English teaching is increasing 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 position.
Lucky for you, Vietnam is one of the best places to teach English to non-native speakers!