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Teach English Online – South Africa Teacher Guide!

Are you from South Africa and wanting to Teach English Online? But perhaps you’re having a hard time finding online teaching jobs that actually hire South Africans?

Here you will find a selection of ESL companies that accept applications from South African teachers!


Trying to get Online English Teaching jobs for teachers from South Africa can sometimes be quite frustrating as many Online ESL companies don’t accept South African teachers. I know. It’s incredibly unfair.

Especially when you tick all the other boxes that the companies require. Don’t despair however – there are still plenty ESL companies that do accept teachers from South Africa to teach English online to their students.

It’s often just a case of finding the right places to look, which we will discuss here.

Why Is It So Hard For South Africans To Get Online Teaching English Jobs?

Let’s first look at why it can be a challenge for teachers from South Africa to find teaching English jobs online.

The Official Language of South Africa Isn’t Just English

South Africa has 11 Official languages (English of course being one of them).

English is an incredibly prominent language in South Africa and is the dominant language used in business, education, the Government and in the media there.

Despite it’s prevalence and a large proportion of the country being able to speak English fluently, English is often not the first language of many South Africans.

It is actually declared the 4th most prevalent home language in South Africa, with less than 10% of the population using it as their first language at home (Zulu, Xhosa and Afrikaans precede English).

This absolutely doesn’t mean they aren’t fluent at English – many of them will complete their whole education in English (so obviously are fluent in it), but because their main language at home is say Afrikaans, it means English is their second language, despite them being able to speak both languages equally fluent.

Like in other countries around the world, English is also becoming increasingly important in South Africa for job opportunities etc. One or two generations ago many white South Africans didn’t speak English.

But nowadays if you head to the main cities of Cape Town or Johannesburg you’ll be hard up to actually find someone who can’t speak English fluently.

Most ESL companies see the fact that South Africa has 11 Official languages as quite confusing and as English isn’t the only “official” language of South Africa the companies often feel that the fluency of English of South Africans may not be as fluent as compared to an American or British person who is brought up only speaking English so their English accent isn’t influenced by any other accents.

Which of course as someone who has many South African friends, I find this baloney as they all speak English just as fluently as me. It’s very political.

Whilst many South Africans who want to teach English online are completely fluent in English, the online ESL companies are just looking at the percentages of the country as a whole, and not at individual’s circumstances.

It’s also not fair because the ESL companies will happily hire Canadians, but there are many Canadians who have French as their main language and English as their second.

French is the mother tongue to a whopping 20% of Canadians!

It can feel incredibly discriminatory, and even as someone who doesn’t come from South Africa, when I first found out that some Online English Teaching companies don’t accept South Africans as teachers I was pretty shocked.

Perhaps that’s because I’ve actually been to South Africa many times and understand the country and it’s people/politics/the languages a lot more than someone in an ESL hiring office who has never stepped foot in South Africa and puts South Africa and the whole of Africa under the same bracket.

If it’s any consolation, there are some Online English Teaching companies that even reject us Brits, Aussies and Kiwis and just want American and Canadian teachers (VIPKid for example).

You just gotta roll with the punches and work with what you’ve got.

My advice for any South African who happens to also have a British passport for example (because of their heritage for example) is to definitely apply with this passport instead of a South African passport!

It won’t matter that you live in South Africa as Online English Teachers can live anywhere in the world to Teach English! As long as you have a stable internet connection you can teach from wherever.

Non North American Accent

Another reason why some Online English Teaching companies don’t accept South Africans is because they don’t have a North American accent.

These are the same companies that don’t accept British, Australian or New Zealand nationals to teach on their platforms.

For example as mentioned earlier, VIPKid and GogoKid only accepts teachers who have American or Canadian citizenship/legal residency and a legal right to work there.

Students often have a preference for what accent they would like their teacher to have. For example whether they would like to be taught by a teacher with an American or British English accent.

I have had potential students in the past say they would prefer an American teacher as opposed to me as they just find it a lot easier to understand as that is what they have been exposed to before.

Just try not to take it personally and know your worth. You definitely aren’t an inferior teacher because of your accent.

You’ll find particularly in China many companies and parents/students are looking for teachers with a neutral North American accent.

Teach English Online Companies That Accept Teachers From South Africa:

  • Cambly
  • Magic Ears
  • Amazing Talker
  • iTalki
  • Palfish

*Note that Magic Ears, Palfish and Amazing Talker are all based in China and you should be familiar with the changing regulations before you apply (iTalki is based in Hong Kong and Cambly is based in the USA). 

Do bear in mind with all the regulations about China and ESL companies rapidly changing, that you shouldn’t rely on Chinese ESL companies as your sole income.

Some Chinese ESL companies shut down overnight due to the regulations. Always have a backup. The Chinese ESL companies listed here are currently still operating until further notice.*

We will therefore look at Cambly first as this appears to be the most stable platform right now out of those listed.


Cambly is one of the most well known ESL companies. It is an American company that focuses more on free talk and natural conversational English as opposed to structured formal lessons like you’ll find with most ESL companies.

Students at Cambly are mostly adults but there is also Cambly Kids which you can sign up to which is dedicated to teaching children if you prefer.

Personally I love Cambly as even thought the pay isn’t as high as some other ESL companies, the classes are so relaxed – it’s just like having a conversation with a friend.

Every single class is different. Students are based all over the world so you meet a real variety of people – not just Chinese children like you will do with the majority of ESL platforms.

Many of my students were from the Middle East and South America and Europe so there was a real mix of people and as the lessons were informal conversation you got to learn so much about different cultures!

Plus Cambly is incredibly flexible – you can teach at any time of the day – the platform is open 24/7 and there are always students online waiting to learn, so it doesn’t matter which time zone you live in, you can teach at a time that is convenient to you.

This is a huge advantage compared to Chinese ESL companies for example, who only offer lessons at selected hours of the day (which could mean a 2am or 5am start if you live in the West Coast of America, or a midnight start if you live in New Zealand!).

With Cambly you can literally log on and earn money whenever you feel like it. You don’t have to book a timetable (of course you can if you want to build up regular students and teach the same students every week) – it is so flexible.

Plus as you are paid by the minute you can always end a lesson early if something crops up, or you’re just not gelling with the student, and you won’t get penalised (unlike many Chinese ESL companies who will deduct money from your pay check if you leave the class early!).

Another great thing about Cambly is the hiring process and requirements are so simple compared to many other online English teaching companies.

You only need to be a native speaker of English – a Degree of a TEFL/TESOL Certificate isn’t mandatory (only recommended)! Plus you don’t need to have a Degree.

The application process is much more straightforward than other ESL companies too. There is no trial class to do (only if you want to sign up to Cambly Kids).

You just need to fill out the application form and send them a 2 minute video about yourself that will appear on your profile for your students to see.

With many other ESL companies you will have to put in several hours (unpaid) to learn the syllabus, do marking and grading students. With Cambly there is none of this which makes teaching here so simple!

The pay is a little less with Cambly ($10.20 per hour) but the company is so flexible and there are no minimum hours required.

I have gone several months at a time without teaching on Cambly and they will always keep my position open for me. I love to have Cambly there as a backup as an extra way to make money when I have free time.

Pay with Cambly Kids is slightly higher than on regular Cambly ($12 per hour).

Cambly Requirements:

  • native English speaker

apply to Cambly tutor ESL teach English online teaching

Magic Ears

Magic Ears is a Chinese company that has a really flexible timetable and cancellation policy (many ESL companies are not this relaxed and even deduct money from you if you cancel lessons!!).

They also don’t have a minimum amount of hours you need to teach each week, so you are not bound to a schedule.

Lessons are 25 minutes long and the pay is quite good – the base pay is $18-$26 (the better your teaching credentials and the more your teaching experience, the higher your pay).

Most teachers will start at the bottom of the pay scale (so $7.50 per 25 minute class).

Plus you get bonuses and incentives based on your attendance, the number of classes taught and whether you teach during peak hours (8pm-10pm Beijing time).

Teachers are required to do a couple of mock classes to a moderator before they are accepted onto the program.

HOWEVER note that teachers from South Africa get a much lower rate of pay than other native English speakers with Magic Ears.

South African teachers can only earn up to $12 per hour when they work with Magic Ears.

Magic Ears Requirements:

  • Native English (includes South Africans)
  • Bachelor’s Degree
  • TEFL/TESOL Certification
  • 1+ years teaching experience

Click on the image below to apply for Magic Ears!

teach English online Magic Ears ESL company

Amazing Talker

Amazing Talker is another Chinese teaching online company but it works more as a marketplace for language teachers. Teachers can set their own rates and class schedule.

There is no minimum set amount of hours each week you must commit to. Once you have registered and completed your profile to the required standard you will be invited for an interview and mock class.

Many teachers from South Africa like using Amazing Talker as they are more in control of what rates they set. South African teachers earn around $10-$15 per hour on Amazing Talker!

Amazing Talker is also great as it doesn’t just teach English – there are Spanish tutors, French tutors, Maths tutors, Korean tutors – the list is endless!

You will find adult and children students on the platform, which can be a nice balance as opposed to always teaching one age group.

Amazing Talker Requirements:

  • native English speaker
  • TEFL/TESOL Certificate
  • Previous teaching experience



iTlaki is similar to Amazing Talker in the sense that it is a marketplace for language teachers. On the iTalki platform teachers can list their classes and charge what they like.

Lessons are available in over 150 languages, so you can even teach a second language too if you are fluent in more than one language!

On iTalki you can apply to be a Professional Teacher or a Community Tutor, depending on what you are looking for and your expertise.

To become a Community Tutor is a lot easier as you don’t need a Degree or any Teaching Certificates(which you do if you want to be a Professional Teacher).

Another great thing about iTalki is that it doesn’t just accept native English speakers! As long as you have a C2 in English you can apply to teach! Many South Africans teach on iTalki and have great success with this platform!

iTalki Requirements:

  • native English OR C2 in English


Palfish Free Talk

Palfish has two teaching courses: Palfish Free Talk and Palfish Official Kids Course. Teachers from South Africa are only able to teach on Palfish using Palfish Free Talk.

Unfortunately South African teachers will not get hired to teach the Palfish Official Kids Course. South Africans have given positive reviews about just teaching on Palfish Free Talk though!

Palfish Free Talk is similar to Cambly in the sense that it is free talk and a structured curriculum isn’t followed. It is great in the sense that you can set your own rate, and teachers can make between $10-$30 per hour!

And whilst you will need a teaching certificate to be accepted onto the Palfish program, you don’t need to have a Degree!

It’s also great that you are able to teach from a mobile device (many online English teaching companies only let you teach from a computer and there is no option to teach from a mobile device!).

You will need to download the Palfish app to apply for Palfish.

Palfish Requirements:

  • native English speaker
  • TESL/TESOL Certificate
  • No Degree Required!

Final thoughts on Teach English Online for Teachers from South Africa:

There are many options for ESL teachers from South Africa to teach English online.

The competition in the online teaching industry can be competitive, so to make sure you stand out create a great and professional looking CV/resume on a free platform such as Canva.

Clearly show your teaching experience in your resume.

If you haven’t done a TEFL/TESOL Course, make sure you do one as this will significantly increase your chances of securing a Teaching English job online.

You can find many 120 hour TEFL online courses, or you can attend a TESOL College to gain a TESOL Certificate.

These are looked upon more highly than the online TEFL courses, however sometimes it may not always be practical to attend classes in-person.

Teachers from South Africa have had a lot of success in being able to teach English online. Yes it’s true it may be a little bit harder to secure the jobs, but it is definitely achievable!

Good luck and don’t hesitate to reach out if you need any help with mock classes, CV/resume creating or anything!

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Rozanne Michaels

Thursday 9th of November 2023

Thank you for this wonderful review. You have helped me significantly! 👌👌


Tuesday 21st of November 2023

Aw you are welcome, so glad it was helpful Rozanne! Happy teaching!