Teaching English in Europe
for Teachers: The Realistic Guide
|View of the Alhambra in Granada,
Spain. A great city for students. Photo courtesy of ITTT.
As the European Union has expanded and
reciprocal links between European nations have strengthened,
the availability of employment opportunities for non-Europeans
has declined. Yet thousands of Americans live and work in
Europe, many of whom have arrived in the past year or two
in search of a niche. The business of teaching English absorbs
a considerable percentage of these temporary European residents.
North Americans with a professional
background in language teaching — e.g. a degree in
applied linguistics and some relevant experience — might
find an employer willing to sponsor them for a work visa.
Just as desirable in many cases is a solid background in
the business world, since the majority of language teaching
in Europe is to businessmen and women who want practical
language tools for the workplace and prefer to be taught
by someone with experience of this world than by a fresh-faced
college graduate. Opportunities for non-Europeans are more
plentiful in some countries than others, easier in Germany
than Spain, for example. The alternatives are to teach on
a voluntary basis or on an informal freelance basis.
Some teachers work for an employer willing to turn a blind
eye to official requirements (which often implies a similarly
casual approach to pay and working conditions). In European
cities of any size the pool of native speaker teachers on
the spot is so large that language school proprietors almost
always have a choice of hopeful applicants to interview.
In most cases a speculative application and resumé sent
from the U.S. will not meet with a favorable response.
The majority of North American
language teachers and trainers in Europe work on a freelance
basis. This can take the form of private tutoring whereby a native
speaker goes it alone, finding private clients independently
by advertising, etc. The more common way of freelancing,
however, is to do it through an agency that provides language
teaching, primarily to businesses. Freelancers work on short-term
contracts or on an hourly basis. They are paid by the course
or by the hour, but are not eligible for paid holidays or
the other benefits of long-term employment. They must also
worry about paying their own taxes plus they may have to
pay compulsory contributions into a pension scheme (as in
Germany) or to cover social security.
Independent freelance tutors will find
it difficult to start teaching without contacts and a good
working knowledge of the language. When they do get started,
it may be difficult to earn a stable income because of the
frequency with which pupils cancel. It is unrealistic for
a newly arrived freelancer to expect to earn enough to live
on for at least the first six months.
Getting clients for private lessons
is a marketing exercise, and all the avenues that seem appropriate
to your circumstances have to be explored, for example putting
up notices in schools and universities, supermarkets and
corner shops, running an advertisement on local free community
noticeboard sites like Craigslist, targeting likely businesses
such as exporters, distribution companies, travel agencies,
hotels, etc. With luck and perseverance, these methods should
put you in touch with a few hopeful language learners. If
you are good at what you do, word will spread and more paying
pupils will come your way, though the process can be slow
Working solo has disadvantages. Everyone,
from lazy Italian teenagers to stressed Frankfurt businessmen,
cancels or postpones one-on-one lessons with irritating
frequency. Since your clients are paying for your flexibility,
you can’t afford to take too tough a line. Unless
your accommodation is suitable for teaching, you will have
to spend time traveling to your clients.
If you are more interested in integrating
with the local culture than making money, exchanging conversation
for board and lodging may be an appealing possibility. This
can be arranged by answering (or placing) small ads in appropriate
places. The American Church in Paris notice board is famous
When you arrive in a likely place your
initial steps might include some of the following: copy
a list of schools from the Yellow Pages (many are now available
on-line such as the Pages Jaunes in France or the Gelbe
Seiten in Germany); check local papers, websites and notice
boards in likely locations such as universities, TEFL training
centers, English language bookshops (where you should also
notice which EFL materials are stocked), or places frequented
by expatriate teachers.
After putting together a list of potential
employers, get a detailed map and guide to the public transport
network so you can locate the schools. Phone the schools
and try to arrange a meeting with the director or academic
director of studies. Even if an initial chat does not result
in a job offer, you may learn something about the local
TEFL scene that will help you at the next interview, especially
if you ask lots of questions.
In some circles it is fashionable to
learn American English which means that, despite the visa
difficulties for non-EU nationals, it is possible for North
Americans to find work. Many institutes claim to have no
preference as to the country of origin of their native-speaker
teachers though most expect to hire foreigners already resident
in the area and with appropriate working papers. Most students
are happy with a friendly, competent and enthusiastic teacher,
whatever their nationality, who is able to adapt to their
needs and supply them with materials and learning situations
relevant to their situation.
The big chains are probably a good bet
for the novice teacher because of the stability of hours
they can offer, though wages tend to be entry-level. Berlitz
is one of the largest language training organizations in
the world with franchised locations throughout Europe and
the world. The company’s core business is language
and cultural training, and teacher vacancies occur most
often in Germany and Spain. All Berlitz teachers are native,
fluent speakers and university graduates, and all must undergo
training (unpaid) in the "Berlitz Method," a direct "see-hear-speak" teaching
approach that does not rely on translation. Usually, Berlitz
schools employ teachers directly, usually on a part-time
basis initially; the relevant webpages are linked from Berlitz. Another
international organization is Inlingua,
with language centers worldwide that operate autonomously.
At the time of writing there were vacancies in its European
A good website for lists of language
schools is www.eslbase.com/schools.
Schools that call themselves names like the American Center
or American Teachers may be more favorably disposed to North
Throughout Europe, summer camps for
children and teenagers often offer English immersion alongside
sports and activities creating a demand for native speakers
to act as teachers-cum-counsellors. Relevant companies are
included below. The Canadian agency Scotia
Personnel runs several organized schemes whereby young
North Americans are recruited to teach in France, Italy, Switzerland and Spain in exchange for pocket
money or a small stipend.
Anyone with a recognized Certificate
in Teaching English as a Foreign Language is in a much stronger
position to get a job in any country where English is widely
taught. Certificate courses provide a rigorous introduction
to teaching English in just one month full-time or part-time
over a period of months, and so anyone interested in spending
some time teaching abroad should seriously consider enroling
in such a course. The Cambridge Certificate (CELTA) and
the Trinity Certificate in TESOL are both highly regarded.
If you are serious about teaching English in a particular
country, it is worth considering doing a training course
in that country. Most intensive courses last four weeks
and lead to a Certificate qualification; expect to pay about €1,400
plus accommodation. One of the major providers is International
House which offers the CELTA course in a number of European
cities. Some other suggestions and leads are given below.
In order to work legally in
Europe, it is almost always necessary to have a residence
permit, social security number (which entitles you to
use the healthcare system) and tax registration. Without
these official documents, it is not possible to work
legally. Short of marrying an
EU national, these are normally not granted to people of
non-European nationality. You could investigate whether
you might be eligible to apply for an European Union passport
on the grounds of ancestry, for example if you have a grandparent
born in Italy or Ireland. Most unemployers are unwilling
to consider candidates on a student visa, since it will
restrict the number of hours they are permitted to work.
The only other option is to find an
employer willing to tackle the lengthy procedures involved
in obtaining a work permit on your behalf. He or she will
have to obtain official certification that the job on offer
has been advertised locally and in Europe, and that no suitable
European candidate has applied. Then an appointment must
be made with the relevant Consulate in your country of origin
in order to process a dizzying array of documents which
can take months.
All non-EU nationals must obtain a Schengen
visa to enter the Schengen zone which consists of most of
the countries of continental Europe; the visa is valid for
90 days within a six-month period and the fee is €60.
In the past, long-stay residents of European countries would
cross the border to leave the Schengen area to renew their
tourist visa. However when the regulations changed to limit
stays to 90 days in six months, many non-EU semi-residents
had to depart.
French Majors Encouraged to Apply
Advanced TEFL qualifications
seem to be less in demand in France than business qualifications
and experience or even just commercial flair. Anyone who
has a BA and is comfortable in a business setting has a
chance of finding work as a formateur or trainer,
particularly if he or she has a working knowledge of French.The
main impediment is visas.
Taking a TEFL training course in France
will provide inside access to the local job market. For
Paris offers a four-week certificate course with start
dates throughout the year, which attracts a considerable
number of Americans, some of whom go on to find teaching
work in France. ILC
France is affiliated to the worldwide organization International
House and offers full-time and part-time training courses
leading to the CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching
to Adults) which is recognized around the world.
As throughout the European Union, non-EU
nationals are not allowed to work without the appropriate
working papers. Apart from marrying a French national, one
option is to enrol in a French course or university course
and apply for a student visa which allows the holder to
engage in up to 20 hours of paid work a week in term-time
and full-time in the vacations. If you are accepted onto
a university course (including at the Anglophone American
University in Paris), you will be sent a letter of enrolment
which can be used to apply for a student visa in your home
country. In the US, you are required to go through CampusFrance for
which you will need an official translation of your diploma
and numerous other documents. More questions on long stay
student visas can be answered on the French
Otherwise, you will have to find a French
employer not only willing to hire you and but also to wait
while you obtain the work visa through the French Embassy
in your home country, which takes about three months. When
job-hunting bring your birth certificate and CV in both
French and English, handwritten cover letters in both languages,
passport photos and college transcripts.
At a more casual level, language exchanges
for room and board are commonplace in Paris; these are usually
arranged through online advertisements or word of mouth.
You can offer English lessons privately in people’s
homes starting at €15-€20 for a one-hour session.
Teaching Assistantship Program (TAPIF) offers the opportunity to work teaching French in a 7-month program, teaching English to French elementary and secondary school students. Each year, nearly 1,100 American citizens
and permanent residents teach in public schools across all regions of metropolitan France and in the overseas
departments of French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique and Réunion. The program offers a monthly stipend of
approximately €790 (net). Candidates may be between the ages of 20 to 35.
Possibilities exist for Americans who
want to act as counsellors and activity leaders (animateurs) at
English immersion summer camps in France, for example with
companies such as American Village Camps.
In some cases, to be a camp counselor in France, you have
to go through training, get certified, etc. so it is not
as casual a form of employment as it is in the U.S.
Other meccas for job-hunters and places
in which to access the English-speaking expat community
include the American Church at 65 Quai d’Orsay (Métro
Invalides), the American
Cathedral in Paris (23 av. George
and the American Library at 10 rue du Général
Camou, all of which have community bulletin boards posting
job notices as well as course and housing listings. English
language bookshops like the eccentric Shakespeare & Company
at 37 rue de la Bûcherie opposite Notre-Dame, as well
as cafés, restaurants, and bars popular with the
English-speaking community distribute the free bilingual
which comes out the first Tuesday of the month. It comprises
mainly classified adverts which are best followed up on
the day the paper appears. An advert under the heading Work
Wanted in France is an idea. WICE is an Anglophone association that provides cultural, educational & social
activities to the English-speaking community in Paris.
Highly qualified TEFL teachers from
the U.S. might approach a Paris company
such as Le Comptoir
who employs teachers on a short- or
Prospective teachers should not automatically
head for Paris but bear in mind that provincial cities have
many language schools too. Due to the many French companies
that have decided it is more cost-effective to relocate
in the provinces, many regional centers such as Orléans,
Lyon, Marseilles, Toulouse, Lille and Rouen are good hunting
grounds. Not only is it harder to find work in Paris because
of the competition, but the cost of living is higher in
the capital. In Paris you can expect at least half your
pay check to go on rent.
Teaching by Skype or telephone has become
well established in France, popular with client learners
who appreciate its convenience and anonymity. It is not
necessary to be able to speak French, though you will need
to have access to a computer and telephone. One company
which specializes in this is Telab
Cours de Langues par Telephone which accepts non-EU
nationals but only if they have working papers.
Some of the main U.S. exchange organizations, such as Interexchange, offer teaching options. GEOVISIONS offers teaching opportunities in France in exchange for room and board with a family.
Experience Can Help
Although Germany is a Eurocentric country,
it is generally more tolerant than its neighbors of U.S.
nationals working in certain sectors, including English
teaching. People with a strong business or IT background
and a knowledge of German might find their applications
acceptable to the scores of language training companies
in every German city. Both the Inlingua and Linguarama groups
have an extensive network of schools and vacancies are sometimes
linked from www.inlingua.com/jobs/main.asp and www.linguarama.com,
both of which emphasize teaching business English.
Speakers of American English will obviously
have a better chance of finding teaching hours at an institute
which caters to that market, like the Deutsch-Amerikanisches
Institut in Tübingen or American
Language Consultants in Potsdam.
American and Canadian students or recent
graduates with a knowledge of German, who find an employer
while still in North America, might seek advice on documentation
from Cultural Vistas.
Among several programs in Germany, they can facilitate the
red tape for individuals to work in Germany for up to a
Students of German who would like to
spend a year as an English language assistant in a German
secondary school (similar to the Assistants scheme in France
described above) can contact the Pädagogischer Austauschdienst,
the German organization that oversees the exchange. Application
can be made through the Fulbright
One of the easiest entrées to
the TEFL world is as a tutor on a language summer camp.
These have mushroomed in Germany, and take on lots of native
speakers to help kids improve their English through interactive
play, sports, music, etc during the school holidays. Try
for example Berlitz Kids & Teens which
take on summer native English speakers; they are willing
to provide a letter of employment to assist non-EU nationals
to obtain the necessary permits.
GEOVISIONS, an American company, offers volunteer teaching opportunities in Germany.
with Kids is the Best Bet
The demand for teachers of children
and young people is very strong in Austria. Summer programs
provide scope for EFL teachers, for example with the company English Language Day Camp in Vienna.
As in Germany, the market for EFL in Austrian cities is
primarily for business English, particularly in-company.
Most language training companies such as MHC Business Language
Training and Mind & More,
both based in Vienna, depend on freelance part-time teachers
drawn from the sizeable resident international community.
The hourly rate at reputable institutes starts at €26.
well represented with multiple separate premises in around Vienna and Austria.
All centers recruit new English trainers of British, Irish,
American or Australian nationality; however candidates must
already have permission to work in the EU. Unfortunately
Austria is one of the hardest places in which to gain permission
to live and work. Everyone must complete a Meldezettel or
residence registration form for which they will need the
signature of a landlord and a 12-digit number. Employers
are unlikely to consider applicants without this documentation.
Italy: Work Permits
Difficult to Obtain
The red tape is just as daunting in
Italy, and so there is a pronounced bias towards hiring
Britons as indicated by the names of the main language school
chains, the British Schools Group, British Institutes, Oxford
Schools and so on. Yet there are also those willing to hire
Enrollment in English language schools
continues steady among ordinary Italian families, and there
will always be schools that choose not to comply with the
strict labor regulations. Milan is considered a promising
destination, even for unqualified non-Europeans. Yet it
is not just the sophisticated urbanites of Rome, Florence,
and Milan who long to learn English. Small towns in Sicily
and Sardinia, in the Dolomites, and along the Adriatic all
have more than their fair share of private language schools
and institutes. Check under the heading "Scuole di
Lingue" in the Pagine Gialle (Yellow Pages) which can
be consulted at www.paginegialle.it.
Paid work is available at a number of
summer camps offering English instruction, a good opportunity
for young people to spend a summer in Italy and learn more
about teaching English to young learners. Some programs
involve teaching through the medium of theatre, so anyone
interested in drama will be attracted by this idea. This
opportunity is open to non-European nationalities, since
the work period is so short. Some teacher training is often
provided by the schools and companies that run these camp
programmes (see links on www.teachingenglishinitaly.com,
a company run by an American that offers TEFL courses in
Florence and online).
A longstanding company, ACLE
Summer & City Camps, takes on 400 summer
staff for camps in 200 locations in Italy (the deadline for applications
Some of the main U.S. exchange organizations, such as Interexchange, offer teaching options. GEOVISIONS offers volunteer teaching opportunities in Italy.
Spain: Market for
English Teachers Flagging in Current Economic Climate
The years of unprecedented economic
growth in Spain have crashed to a halt, as unemployment
has reached record levels. Even if young Spaniards are desperate
to enhance their resumés by speaking English, many
are not able to afford to enrol in courses at present. Yet
the thousands of Academia de Ingles (private language
institute) remain in business and continue to hire native
speaker teachers. Supplementing the private sector, Escuelas
Oficial de Idiomas are enormous state-sponsored official
language schools with up to 10,000 students in the major
Once again work permits for non-Europeans
pose a major problem. Work permit applications must be lodged
in the applicant’s country of residence and collected
there as well, sometimes months later. Although teachers
from outside the E.U. are occasionally hired on the spot
by back street schools and paid in cash, the wage will normally
be below the going rate. A knowledge of Spanish is virtually
essential if you are going to teach young children (with
whom the total immersion method is not really suitable).
For aspiring teachers who decide to
look for work after arrival, the probable scenario is that
he or she will elicit mild interest from one or two schools
and will be told to contact the school again at the beginning
of term when a few hours of teaching may be offered. Spanish
students sign up for English classes during September and
into early October; consequently, the academies do not know
how many classes they will offer and how many teachers they
will need until quite late. It can become a war of nerves;
if you can afford to stay you have an increasingly good
chance of picking up some hours.
The website www.madridteacher.com is
a comprehensive source of information about teaching opportunities
in Madrid (specifically), and also in the rest of Spain.
It is run by a group of freelance teachers who teach in
small and mid-sized companies, academies, schools and with
private students in Madrid. Most jobs posted require EU working papers.
Local magazines may advertise the possibility
of intercambio which means an exchange of English
for Spanish or Catalan conversation practice — a great
way to meet locals. Some Irish pubs not only offer the opportunity
to meet other expats but often organize weekly intercambio nights,
which will be listed in the English-speaking press.
People from outside the EU who want
to experience Spanish culture might like to consider a live-in
position with a family who wants an English tutor for their
children or a voluntary position as an English assistant
on summer language/sports camps. Further details may be
sought from club rci, a youth exchange organization which places
native English speakers with Spanish families who want to
practise their English in exchange for providing room and
It is also possible to arrange an informal
exchange of English conversation for a free week in Spain. Diverbo
Pueblo Ingles offers an excellent program whereby holiday
resorts in Spain are "stocked" with native
English speakers and Spanish clients who want to improve
their English. English native-speaking volunteers participate
alongside about the same number of Spanish adults in an
intensive six-day "talk-a-thon" on a one-to-one
basis. In exchange for making English conversation, participants
receive free room and board, and transport from Madrid. Reserve ahead, as they are often booked months ahead due to demand.
Several independent TEFL training organizations
train large numbers of North Americans. Acquiring an English
language teaching certificate through one of these would
be a good way of getting to know the local scene in Madrid
or Barcelona (though the work permit problem persists).
Investigate for example EBC
International in Madrid. Because schools run the whole
gamut from prestigious to cowboy, every method of job-hunting
works at some level.
One of the few organizations to favor
U.S. nationals over Europeans is the IEN
but to work for them you need at least two years of experience
in teaching both adults and children and you must be prepared
to wait 6-8 months for the work permit to be processed.
Some of the main U.S. exchange organizations, such as Interexchange, offer teaching options. CIEE offers a variety of teaching opportunities in Spain.
for Teachers Mostly in North
Unlike in Spain, some schools in Portugal
claim to be willing to hire non-European nationals, although
any job-seeker already in possession of an Autorizacao
de Residencia will be at a huge advantage. Non-Europeans
who do obtain a contract of employment should take
it to the local aliens office (Serviço de Estrangeiros
e Fronteiras) or to the local town council (Câmara
Municipal). The permit obtained here is sent off together
with the contract of employment to the Ministry of Labor.
The final stage is to take a letter of good conduct provided
by the teacher’s own embassy to the police for the
work and resident permit.
Outside the cities, where there have
traditionally been large expatriate communities, schools
cannot depend on English speakers just showing up and so
must recruit well in advance of the academic year. The demand
for English teachers is mostly in the north. Apart from
in the main cities of Lisbon and Oporto, jobs crop up in
historic provincial centers such as Coimbra and Braga and
in small seaside towns like Aveiro and Póvoa do Varzim.
Small towns can be a welcome destination for teachers burned
out from teaching in big cities or first-time teachers who
want to avoid the rat race. schools that may prefer American
speakers: any school with "American" in the title
is probably a good bet. Schools such as the American
School of Languages in Lisbon and the Centro
Anglo-Americano in Chaves and Vila Real might be more
prepared than other schools to employ Americans teachers.
The expanding company Fun
Languages runs 20+ franchised branches and Kids Clubs
throughout the country, and undertakes to help North American
teachers obtain permits.
Most newly arrived teachers work on
a freelance basis using recibos verdes ("green
receipts"), which are intended for use by temporary
workers in the country. Freelancers are responsible for
paying their own taxes and contributions.
so Many Already Seem to Speak Fluent English
Many Danes, Norwegians, Swedes, Finns
and Icelanders are so fluent in English that the demand
for native speakers is not very great. As elsewhere in Europe
the greatest demand is for mature professionals to serve
a sophisticated business community. One short-term possibility
is at summer language camps held in various scenic locations
American university students and recent
graduates over 21 can apply to the American-Scandinavian
Foundation for work permits to cover a self-arranged
job or internship. At one time there was a well-developed
programme of teaching placements in Finland which has been
reduced of late, but it might still be worth asking ASF
about TEFOL positions in Finland for the academic year,
from the end of August until the end of May.
Summer Camp Openings in the Shadow of the Alps
The prospects are gloomy for people
who fancy the idea of teaching the gnomes of Zürich
or their counterparts in other parts of Switzerland, unless
they are ultra-qualified. It is compulsory for non-EU citizens
to possess a prior guaranteed job offer from a Swiss employer
before contemplating long-term work in Switzerland.
More possibilities for teaching English
exist at summer camps than in city language institutes.
The Swiss Federation of Private Schools produces a list
of summer schools in Switzerland held at its member schools,
indicating which ones teach English. The list is available at www.swiss-schools.ch.
Organizations that may need teachers or monitors (or some
combination of the two) for summer
language courses include TASIS (The American School
in Switzerland), in Montagnola-Lugano. Hiring takes place
between January and March.
Greece: An Economic
Basket Case at Present
Greece's economic woes threaten to undermine
the country. Every business has been suffering, including
private language schools because when money is tight, language
learning is one of the first things to get the chop. Therefore
traveling teachers should not pin too many hopes on stepping
into paid employment in Greece, especially candidates who
lack an EU passport. Non-European teachers need a teacher’s
license plus work and residence permits, and the Ministry
of Education delays and often refuses to grant them. Americans
of Greek extraction might consider claiming citizenship.
GRIFFITH is author of the book Teaching
English Abroad now in its 14th edition. See Susan's bio for
more information about her extensive bibliography
and to purchase her book.