I’m feeling bitter that I’m not considered a ‘Native English Speaker’

I’ve been so engrossed in doing some online learning that I’ve neglected to blog regularly for a while. And now, after several weeks of sleepless nights, I’m finally done with my TEFL course and now I’m certified to teach English as a foreign language 🙂


It probably sounds strange because prior to coming to Rome, it has never crossed my mind to teach English. But after two years of living here, I was starting to get restless. I miss being able to contribute my skills and getting paid for it.

Ever since I’ve lived in Rome, I’ve been looking at online advertisements like wanted in Rome and sent in my resume, some to companies finding English speaking travel writers, some looking for someone good in social media who are English speakers. But with the influx of people coming into Rome, jobs like that are snapped up quite quickly.

And that was when I contemplated to teach English. As much as I preferred to teach computing, it seems that there is a higher demand here for English teachers. I tried sending my resume to a few private schools. And tried to a few more. And then to a few more after that.

No response.

The last straw was during the beginning of February, after I’ve sent my nth resume and nothing happened. Not even a reply to tell me that I was rejected. It was very frustrating. This gives me the impression that 99.9% of these private schools are only wants Native speakers.

What does Native speaker mean? Does it mean that only people coming from countries like USA and UK, Australia and Ireland are considered Native speakers?

I strongly disagree with that.

I do consider myself as a native speaker because Singapore is an English speaking country. Even though we have a mother tongue, we are educated since young in English and we communicate to each other in English. Many of us are able to balance our bilingual trait. I myself feel comfortable speaking in Malay to my parents and English to my friends. Perhaps we might not sound English because of our accents. But it is English.

Its a huge fallacy that just because one does not come from an “English” country that they are not able to speak English well. In fact, only 3% of Britons speak queen’s English while the rest of the population speak in a mix of cockney and all sorts of other regional dialects.

But I can understand why too many Italian private schools have that perception. If you wanted the best Tom Yum Goong, naturally you’ll think of Thailand. The Best Sushi? Japan. Best Pizza? Italy. And so on. It’s a strong mindset.

I do understand.

But it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s true the entire time. I just cannot accept that ONLY Italian people are fantastic pizza makers for example, and ONLY the Japanese are great at making sushi.

And so, I started to take up my online course more in anger than anything else. I felt so maligned and felt judged that I wasn’t even given a chance. I needed to do something to prove that I am just as qualified.

And so I took an online course with i-to-i TEFL course. I’ll probably write more about my experience in another post but all in all, it has been a positive one.

Of course learning in a class is superior compared to learning online. But despite what many might think, it’s not necessarily easy. There are pre-requisites for being certified and for me, I was required to pass all my modules. If I fail one module three times, regardless of which level, I’m out of the course.


All in all, I think that online learning isn’t for everyone. It takes a lot of self discipline to sit down and study and write your homework without being distracted by external factors.

In the end, perhaps my certificate might not be worth it in the end because it’s an online course but with the new knowledge that I’m equipped with, I feel more ready to teach.

At the moment I’m tutoring two kids. Things look fine so far. And I’ve been trying to apply the new things that I’ve learnt and my long term goal is that they do better in school. I’m looking forward to having more students if possible. Teaching has been quite enjoyable for me and I’ve always liked sharing my skills.

As for private English schools? I’ll just give them a passover for now.


27 Replies to “I’m feeling bitter that I’m not considered a ‘Native English Speaker’”

    1. It *could* make sense when you think about it :

      Apples with us (We have apples)

      Toys with us (We have toys)

      Jobs with us (We have jobs)

      But it sounds so awkward when used in this form. It would be much more effective if they used “Jobs we offer” or “Work with us”

  1. Congrats!

    Wherever you go in the world, English is adapted to suit local needs, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but those Italians probably want to have taught, and learn, American or British standard English. A native speaker would be more likely to know the nuances of the language, like slang, what words mean in different situations, and business English. Things that are funny in Singapore, or the way words are used there, might come across as stupid or ridiculous in England, America, or a formal business meeting where English is the language being commonly used. “Please revert” is a good example. Revert doesn’t mean to reply to something, by email or any other way. It means to change something into a previous state, like melting ice to revert it to a water state, but it’s a commonly used phrase in Singaporean business emails. But, just to teach basic English skills, I really don’t think it would take a native speaker. It just requires an understanding of common vocabulary and grammar rules.

    Also, “jobs with us” is commonly used on American websites, government or private.

    1. Haha! “Please revert” is widely known by educated Singaporeans that it is used by people who *thinks* that they are using a high level and profound language to make themselves more important than they are.

      It’s mainly used in offices. I have never heard it used in schools or any educational institutions before. There is even a campaign going on to enlighten the masses about that.

      Secondly, with globalisation, increasingly people could learn about other people’s cultures through television, internet, etc. and spot out the way that they talk.

      The important thing is that the person speaks GOOD english and is able to teach good english. Like I’ve mentioned, there are a lot of dialects in the different region. Be it in UK, Canada, USA … A person in texas talks very different from a person from the Bronx for example. And I had a very hard time trying to understand a movie like Brokeback montain because of their very thick accents as well as their slang. They *are* speaking in English. But I doubt that it would be easy being their English students.

      And yes, Jobs with us *could* make sense when you think about it :

      Apples with us (We have apples)

      Toys with us (We have toys)

      Jobs with us (We have jobs)

      But it sounds so awkward when used in this form. It would be much more effective if they used “Jobs we offer” or “Work with us”

      1. That’s one thing I miss about Singapore. Those funny ‘awareness’ campaigns. =) Like the one on the trains about germs.

        I haven’t been everywhere in the US, but I’ve lived in quite a few places. I’ve never had any problem understanding people. I’ve never met anyone like the Cajun swamp dwellers they show on TV, and even in the Southern states, Georgia at least, the accent is neutralizing.

        “jobs with us” does sound awkward, but it’s just widely used. It’s one of those things that sort of catches on and becomes normal usage, like “ain’t”. WTF is “ain’t” short for? Nothing, but it’s in the dictionary now. It should be “isn’t”.

        1. With all due respect, even if it is in the dictionary, I wouldn’t teach anyone in an English class to use “ain’t” … it sounds uneducated and too colloquial to be used in essays and other school work :-p

          I have a firm stand about this. It’s not only about English. I’m against anyone bastardizing my beautiful Malay language by saying “Goreng Pisang” … Just because a lot of people use it, doesn’t mean its right.

  2. many congrats, Rinaz! I opened the website where u got ur certification and was interested in the teaching internship. But then I saw the eligibility and Indonesian passport holder is not eligible. Sad!

  3. first, congrats.
    second, while i see your point in being firm in your stand with respect to “jobs with us” (and other phrases of like), it might be a value-added perspective when you’re an instructor when trying to help your students understand differing use of words in various colloquial phrases – afterall, it’s somewhat likely that students will have different aims and objectives for taking up language classes that differ from your background and experience. so, please, don’t rule it out just yet.

  4. Congratulations! By the way, I think you’ll make a fantabulous English-speaking tour guide.

    I think “jobs with us came through simplication.
    Year 1900: Get a job with us.
    Year 2000: Get jobs with us.
    Year 2005: Jobs with us.
    Year 2011: jobs with us

  5. Hey! It’s nice to see someone else has the same peeve with the English native speaker thing… =) I was getting rather self-conscious back in Australia, and I realised that it is true that they have a different way of speaking (but so do the Irish, and the Americans, and the Canadians… so there!) Besides, I think it is quite acceptable for a language to adapt itself to the different environments in which it is spoken.. tho I do also understand the reason people would go for the ‘English-English’ speakers…

    Fact is though, here in Rome the cultural differences hardly count…. since what you really want are the basic grammar rules, and we’ve got those pretty well down, I think… =) Nice to hear from a fellow Singaporean here in Rome!

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