South Africans Must Take One Of These 3 English Tests

South Africans Must Take One Of These 3 English Tests

If you’re South African and you want to teach in Thailand, guess what?  You are NOT considered a Native English Speaker (NES).

  • Yes, it’s true! The rule was passed several years ago by the Thai government. And even if you have a 4 year degree and you attended an English-speaking high school and university in South Africa, you still don’t qualify as a native speakers like teachers from the US, Canada, UK, Australia, or New Zealand.

  • It’s been rumoured that South African English teachers are not allowed to get English teaching visas for Saudi Arabia or certain cities in certain cities in Chinese cities like Shanghai, Jiangsu Province and Sichuan Province.The China ruling took effect in May 2016. Beijing seems still open hiring South African teachers.  Again, it must have to do with the fact that 90% of the population in South Africa do not use English as their mother tongue. But, it could be argued that a percentage of Americans say Spanish is their first language even though they are fluent in English. And what about Quebecers in Canada? They use French as their first language, but many speak English fluently.
  • According to Wikipedia, only 9% of South Africans speak English as their native language. I wonder if this might be the reason why the Thai government passed this rule. Perhaps it could be accents. But don’t English teachers who come from the southern United States like Texas, and the Irish and Scottish have heavy accents also. And then there is the maritime accent of eastern Canada or how about the French Canadian accent? I mean where does the accent bias end? We all have some form of regional accent. Some stronger than others.
  • Off topic a bit, but to qualify as a nurse in Australia incoming nurses from Ireland must take an English test as well. Probably just a way to tax foreigners and make money off them. This is quite odd since it’s estimated 98% of the people in Ireland consider English their first language. The remaining 2% probably Gaelic.
  • Perhaps they should make all English-speaking citizens take an English test if they want to teach English in Thailand (or any country).  Not every native speaker has good grammar and not every native speaker would make a good ESL teacher. In other words, if you want to teach English prove it. If you want to be an engineer, or computer programmer, or want to drive a car,  prove it. Show your license or degree or English fluency certificate.
  • So what defines a native speaker of English? Born and raised in a country where the official language is English? Canada has two official languages, French and English. A large percentage of Americans use Spanish as their spoken language.  What about someone who immigrates from a foreign country to the US and gets naturalized and acquires a US passport a few years later. Are they considered a native speaker of English?
  • And what about Filipino English teachers? Are they considered native English speakers because some have strong accents? According to Wikipedia, the Philippines has 175 languages. True, they attend schools where subjects are taught in English and english is their official language along with Tagalog. There are many schools in Thailand that will hire Filipino English teachers.
  • If you’re not ruled as a native english speaker by the Ministry of Education in Thailand , the Thai government will request that you take one of 3 English tests to prove your proficiency in English in order to get a visa to teach in the Land of Smiles.
  • The 3 tests include the TOEIC, TOEFL and IELTS. Here’s what they stand for and a bit about each English test:
  • TOEIC is the easiest (Test of English for International Communications), TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) and the IELTS (International English Language Testing System).
  • I would say that the TOEIC test is the easiest. Hundreds of thousand of Korean and Japanese non-native speakers take this test every year in order to qualify to work at companies in these countries. It’s basic business English for office communications. I know many Koreans who have gotten a 900 on this test (which is the highest score). You’ll need a score of 600 on the TOEIC test to qualify for an English teaching visa in Thailand.
  • The TOEFL test (Test of English as a Foreign Language) is more academic. It consists of questions and reading passages which ask questions similar to what you studied in university. You’ll need a score of 550 on the TOEFL test to qualify for an English teaching visa in Thailand.
  • The IELTS (International English Language Testing System) is more challenging. It requires you to listen to recorded messages and then speak into a microphone and record your responses. It will ask you to describe a situation or give directions clearly and concisely. You have to be a very good listener and be able to convey your points well in English. Even if you’re a native speaker, certain questions can be challenging. You’ll need a score of 5.5 on the IELTS test to qualify for an English teaching visa in Thailand.
  • Of the three English tests, I would definitely take the TOEIC test. You don’t have to study for these English tests, if you’re South African, but you should at least familiarize yourself with the different sections and the question types before you decide to take any of these three English tests.

Perhaps we should step away from the entire native English speaker debate entirely. Discrimination against race and nationality is illegal in the EU.

In its answer to Question E-0941 the commission states that the term native speaker is not acceptable, under any circumstance, under community law. The Commission also states its intention of continuing to use its powers to fight against any discrimination caused by a requirement for native speaker knowledge in job advertisements.

There you go, should other countries follow suit?

Share your insights and experience on the whole “native English teacher” debate.

Note: This post is a work in progress and requires your contributions. Please excuse any temporary grammatical or spelling errors, factual inaccuracies, or omissions.


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