Teaching English in Europe
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 and gradual.
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 for this.
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 www.berlitz.com.
Similarly the chain of Wall Street Institutes has scores of institutes in Italy, Spain, Portugal, Germany, etc. with current vacancies (which are more often outside Europe than in). Another international organization is Inlingua with language centers worldwide that operate autonomously. At the time of writing there were vacancies in its European schools in Italy and Germany.
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 American applicants.
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 work on language and sports camps in 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.
France: 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 example TEFL 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 consulate website.
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.
The Centre International d’Etudes Pédagogiques (CIEP) in France offers thousands of assistantships in France for students from many different countries. Undergraduates and graduates under the age of 30 can spend an academic year working as English language assistants in secondary and primary schools throughout France. In return for working a scant 12 hours a week, conducting conversation classes, providing classroom support and teaching pupils about their own country, assistants receive a gross allowance of approximately €950 a month (€770 net) for seven months, beginning 1 October. Similar posts are also available in other francophone countries such as Belgium, Canada (Québec) and Switzerland.
Assistants must have a working knowledge of French so modern languages students and those who have studied French at secondary school are encouraged to apply. Some posts in primary schools require degree level French because discussion of pupil progress, curriculum, lesson planning, etc. is likely to be conducted only in French. It can be instructive browsing the forum for language assistants at www.assistantsinfrance.com/forums.
American students can participate in the scheme by applying through the Assistantship Program at the French Embassy in Washington; for further information browse highereducation.frenchculture.org/teach-in-france.
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 like NACEL International (www.americanvillage.fr/en/recruitment/recruitmentnews.php) and Telligo (www.telligo.fr). Recruitment for the following summer normally opens in November. 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 US.
Expatriate grapevines can be found all over Paris and are very helpful for finding teaching work and accommodations. The noticeboard (panneau) in the foyer of the Centre d’Information et de Documentation Jeunesse (CIDJ; www.cidj.com) at 101 Quai Branly (Métro Bir-Hakeim) can be good for occasional student-type jobs, including occasional ads for a soutien scolaire en Anglais (English tutor). It is worth arriving early to check for new notices (the CIDJ opens at 10am except Thursdays at 1pm and Saturdays at 9.30am).
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 V; www.americancathedral.org) 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 newsletter France-USA Contacts (FUSAC; www.fusac.fr), 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 starts at €36. WICE (www.wice-paris.org) 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 some of the important Paris companies such as Le Comptoir des Langues (12 rue de Madrid; 75008 Paris; www.comptoirdeslangues.fr) and Executive Language Services (50 rue Saint-Lazare; 75009 Paris; www.els-paris.com), who between them employ over 100 teachers on a short- or long-term basis.
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 centres 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 (www.telab.com) which accepts non-EU nationals but only if they have working papers.
Germany: Business 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 (www.dai-tuebingen.de) or American Language Consultants in Potsdam (www.sprachschule-potsdam.de/en/jobs).
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, formerly CDS International (www.culturalvistas.org). Among several programs in Germany, they can facilitate the red tape for individuals to work in Germany for up to a year.
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 (www.kmk-pad.org), the German organization that oversees the exchange. Application can be made through the Fulbright Program (www.fulbright.de).
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 (www.berlitz.de) which take on 250 summer native English speakers; they are willing to provide a letter of employment to assist non-EU nationals to obtain the necessary permits.
Austria: Working 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 (www.englishforchildren.com). 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 (www.mhc-training.com) and Mind & More (www.mindandmore.at), 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.
Berlitz is well represented with four separate premises in Vienna alone (www.berlitz.at). All centres 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 qualified Americans, such as CLM Bell in Trento (www.clm-bell.com)
Yet 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).
Longstanding companies include ACLE Summer & City Camps which takes on 600 summer staff for camps all over Italy (the deadline for applications is mid-March) and Lingue Senza Frontiere (www.linguesenzafrontiere.org) which pays €450 for a two-week camp.
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 cities.
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. The Expatriate Café website lists some job vacancies and other useful information about TEFL training and employment.
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 Relaciones Culturales, the youth exchange organization which places native English speakers with Spanish families who want to practise their English in exchange for providing room and board; the placement fee is €150 for stays of up to three months, €350 for a year.
It is also possible to arrange an informal exchange of English conversation for a free week in Spain. Diverbo Pueblo Ingles offers a 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.
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 Institut Nord-america (Via Augusta 123, 08006 Barcelona), 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.
Many language schools and youth organizations run summer schools and camps for children and adolescents. For voluntary work as an English assistant on summer camps, try Relaciones Culturales, a youth exchange organization at Calle Ferraz 82, 28008 Madrid; 011-34-91-541-7103, fax 011-34-91-559-1181; www.clubrci.es, which also places native speakers with Spanish families who want to practice English in exchange for providing room and board. Some of the main US exchange organizations like Interexchange also arrange family placements.
Portugal: Demand 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 may be more prepared than other schools to employ Americans teachers. The expanding company Fun Languages runs 29 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.
Scandinavia: Where 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 in Finland. These are run by a Russian company that teaches Russian teenagers; details of Nordic School's camp program can be found at www.nordicschool.ru/eng.
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.
Switzerland: Some 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. This 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. Net salaries are US$2,100 for counsellors and US$3,200 for EFL teachers. American staff may be eligible for a SFr1,300 contribution to their transatlantic airfares and Europeans up to SFr500.
Another key employer is Village Camps, whose summer camp is at Leysin near Lake Geneva in French-speaking Switzerland.
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.
SUSAN GRIFFITH is author of the book Teaching English Abroad now in its 13th edition. See Susan's bio for more information about her extensive bibliography or to purchase her book.