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Teaching English in Latin America: Articles, Schools and Jobs
Teaching English Abroad

An Overview of Job Prospects for Teaching English in Latin America

Work in Latin America

English Language Links Visitors and Residents

Map of  Latin America

The vast continent of South America holds an almost infinite range of opportunities for anyone who aspires to share his or her native English. From the specialized training for the business communities of Santiago and Caracas to the informal conversation exchanges with Mexican fishermen and Peruvian waiters, the English language provides a key link between visitors and residents.

Apart from a few popular cities, seldom do you find the glut of teachers you find elsewhere in the world, possibly because South America is often pictured as a place of poverty and crime, danger and corruption, dictators and drug barons. In fact, South America is home to a staggering variety of charming and generous people from café-culture urbanites to street kids, many of whom are eager to meet travelers and improve their knowledge of the gringos’ native tongue. The stampede to learn English seems unstoppable.

In the big cities the greatest demand for English comes from the business community. And because of the strong commercial links between the two American continents, the demand tends to be for American English. The whole continent is culturally and economically oriented towards the U.S.

Novice teachers are more likely to be employed by one of the language school chains like English First and Wall Street Institutes which at first offer part-time contracts and relatively low wages. For contact details for indigenous schools in a number of South American countries see links from the website www.inglesnet.com.

Several South American nations have American- or British-style bilingual schools and colegios. Although they normally hire state-accredited teachers, a number take on students and university graduates looking for brief periods of work experience as classroom assistants

Voluntary and international exchange organizations which arrange for fee-paying young people to do English tutoring include WorldTeach, with programs in Costa Rica, Chile, Ecuador and Guyana. An increasing number of language schools offer Spanish instruction to paying foreigners in the mornings and arrange a community volunteer program in the afternoons, for example, CIS-MAM in El Salvador. Bridge-Linguatec Language Services based in Denver, www.bridgetefl.com, is a language training company which offers TEFL teacher certification and job placement programs in Latin America and worldwide. TEFL training with Bridge Linguatec lasting from two to four weeks is available in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Mexico and Peru. Other TEFL training colleges in the U.S. like Transworld Schools and the Boston Language Institute send a number of their graduates to posts in Latin America.

Even the poorest of Latin American nations offer possibilities to EFL teachers, provided they are prepared to accept a low wage. In contrast to an hourly wage of $10-$30 in Europeanized cities like Santiago and Rio, the wages paid by language schools in La Paz and Quito may be closer to $3.

Picking up Casual Work

Many aspiring teachers find that the response to sending their resumés to addresses abroad is disappointment. It is better to present yourself in person although having sent a “warm-up” resumé beforehand can do your cause no harm. Finding casual teaching work is a matter of asking around and knocking on enough doors. Check ads in the English language press such as Mexico City’s Herald or the Caracas Daily Journal. Now that Argentina is beginning to recover from its economic crisis, the Buenos Aires Herald is again becoming a promising source of teacher job vacancies.

English language bookstores are another possible source of teaching leads; try for example the English Book Center in Guayaquil (Ecuador) or Books and Bits in Santiago (Chile). Many foreign teachers are simultaneously learning Spanish, so a good place to link up with people in the know is to visit the local Instituto de Lengua Espanola para Extranjeros or its equivalent. Check the telephone directory for schools or agencies. In Lima and Quito the clubhouses of South America Explorers (see below) keep a list of language institutes and the expat staff will be happy to share information with members.

Credentials Not Always Required

Teachers tend to agree that Latin American students are a joy to teach because they love to talk. If you have plenty of enthusiasm in addition to a good education, are carrying references and diplomas, and are prepared to stay for an academic year, it should be possible to fix up a contract with a well-established language institute. Many institutes offer their own compulsory pre-job training.

The academic year begins in February or early March and lasts until December. The best time to look for work is a few weeks before the end of the summer holidays. However, many institutes run 8- to 12-week courses year round and will hire a native speaker whatever the time of year.

In-company teaching usually takes place early in the morning; a popular starting time is 7 a.m. People learning English outside their workplaces usually sign up for evening lessons. Most teachers enjoy the off-site teaching more than classroom teaching, which tends to be more textbook-based.

Work visas require gathering a battery of documents—including notarized and officially translated copies of teaching qualifications, a police clearance, etc.—and paying a hefty fee. Consequently, a high percentage of teachers work on tourist visas. These must be kept up-to-date by applying for an extension from the immigration department or by crossing into and back from a neighboring country.

Not only will a stint of teaching be good for learning a language, it will give you the chance to experience the notorious Latin zest for life.

 English Teaching Contacts in Latin America
 Argentina

Road2Argentina. Cultural exchange and language immersion program with possibility of ESL teaching and training courses.

 Brazil

Britannia Schools, Central Department. Employs native speaker teachers with TEFL certification for schools in Rio de Janeiro and Porto Alegre. Despite name, North American teachers are hired. CELTA Certificate course offered.

New Start Comunicacoes Ltda. TEFL certificate required and preferably professional experience in a non-teaching area.

Schütz & Kanomata ESL. Exchange program of ESL teaching for Portuguese learning.

 Chile

Typically these schools may offer a newcomer no more than a few hours of teaching work, gradually working up to a full timetable after a probationary three months. American job-seekers, especially those with a TEFL background, should approach one of the Institutos Chileno Norteamericano including the one in Santiago listed here.

Berlitz Language Centers. Several other branches in Santiago (affiliated with berlitz.com).

EF English First. 3 EFL branches.

Linguatec Language Center. Large branch of U.S.-based teaching organization; head office 915 S Colorado Blvd., Denver, CO 80246; 303-777-7783. Compulsory 1-week training course for all accepted teachers which is unpaid but guarantees the offer of some hours of work on completion.

Sam Marsalli. Hires North Americans on 1-year contracts.

 Colombia

Colombia is even more strongly oriented towards the U.S. than elsewhere in South America with an extensive network of Colombian-American Cultural Centers around the country including the following which teach English:

EF Education First. Part of the EF chain.

 Costa Rica

Idioma Internacional. Qualified and serious candidates only for business-oriented English teaching.

Intercultura Language and Cultural Center. Teachers must have TEFL/CELTA certificates to teach 4-60 year-olds.

Pro-English. Corporate language training.
 Ecuador

The market for English, particularly American English, continues to thrive despite economic difficulties in the country. Dozens of language academies and institutes can be found in Quito, the second city Guayaquil, and in the picturesque city and cultural center of Cuenca in the southern Sierra.

CEDEI - Centro de Estudios Interamericanos. Needs university-educated native speakers to teach for at least 6 months. Recruitment information available online. CEDEI offers TEFL training courses.

EF English School Quito (English First). CELTA-qualified teachers required. Accommodations arranged.

Inlingua. Seeks native speakers. Preference given to those with inlingua experience.

Nexus Ecuador. 10-week semesters begin; January, April and October. Hiring takes place 2-3 months before this.

 El Salvador

CIS Centro de Intercambio y Solidaridad (MAM Language School). Volunteer teachers to give evening English lessons to further social justice. Training provided, and also Spanish classes and a 2-week political-cultural program.

 Guatemala

Casa Guatemala. Runs an orphanage in the Petén region that needs volunteer teachers and nannies, among other tasks including bar and restaurant staff for backpackers’ hotel.

 Mexico

Teach English in Mexico based in the US runs a placement service for ESL teachers and provides information and resources on teaching English in Mexico.

Berlitz Mexico is one of the large chains with locations around Mexico and worldwide.

Dunham Institute. Students may volunteer to teach English classes or tutor local students in exchange for Spanish classes for 2-5months.TEFL training courses available.

Teachers Latin America. TEFL certificate course and practice teaching program followed by job placement assistance. .

Wall Street Institutes. One of the most important language training organizations with more than 20 franchise schools, most of which are located in greater Mexico City.

 Peru

TEFL Peru via the TEFL Institute offers courses and job placement.

TEFL courses in Peru via ITTO offers job placement.

 Venezuela

Despite the anti-American rhetoric once coming from the Venezuelan President, Hugo Chávez, the English language is still a valued commodity. A number of Caracas-based agencies continue to recruit teachers for in-company language training, though native speaker teachers are far less numerous than they once were.

Iowa Institute. Teaching opportunities for trained TEFL teachers and for Americans with camp counseling experience to teach children.

 U.S. and U.K. Placement

Association of American Schools in South America (AASSA). Coordinates teacher recruitment for about 50 international schools in 18 South American countries. Candidates who attend a recruiting fair in November/December must be state-certified teachers and pay a registration fee.

ELTAP (English Language Teaching Assistant Program). Placement of students and adults for 4-10 weeks as teaching assistants, starting at various times of the year in Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Honduras and Peru (as well as countries worldwide).

LanguageCorps Inc.. Programs in Argentina, Brazil. Chile, Costa Rica Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, and Peru provide TEFL training, job placement, and support for a fee.

Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, English Language Specialist Program. Part of the State Department, this office runs a network of overseas field offices based in U.S. Embassies, many of which have English teaching programs employing native speakers of American English. Binational Centers offer English instruction in most of the countries of Latin America; contact details are available online.

Projects Abroad. Volunteer English language teaching assistants placed in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, Mexico, Peru and many countries worldwide. No TEFL background required.

South America Explorers. Annual membership fee. Allows access to SAE clubhouses in Lima, Cusco, Quito and Buenos Aires with useful notice boards and contacts. Also maintains an Explorers Volunteer Resource section, a database of volunteer opportunities to which members can gain access.

WorldTeach. Nonprofit organization which places several hundred graduates as volunteer teachers of EFL or ESL in several countries including Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Guyana for the summer or for 1 year.

SUSAN GRIFFITH is co-editor of Work Abroad and author of the book Teaching English Abroad. See Susan's bio for more information about her extensive bibliography or to purchase her book.

 Featured Articles on Teaching English in Latin America
Remote Knowledge: Teaching English on Location in South Americal by James Burt
Teaching English in Latin America: Practical Information You Need to Get Work by Michael G. Hines
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How to Get a Teaching Job Your First Week in Mexico City by Andy Peloquin
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Teach ESL and Live in Mexico as a Freelancer by Ted Campbell
Teach English and Live in Chiapas, Mexico by Lisa Evans
Teaching English in Costa Rica: How to Prepare by Geraldeen Woods
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Teaching English in Ecuador: Adventure Awaits at Latitude Zero by Newley Purnell
Work Teaching English in Ecuador by Christopher Sacco
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TEFL Jobs in Chile: The Need for Teachers is Urgent
Teaching English in Chile: Living and Working in Santiago by Britta-Lis Perry
Teaching English in Peru: The Ultimate Guide by Sharon de Hinojosa
Teaching English in Panama by Kevin Rovolinski
Teaching English in Buenos Aires by Cara Pulick
Teaching English and Living in Brazil by John Clites
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