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Working in Spain without Speaking Spanish

Creative Ways to Find Jobs Teaching English in Valencia

A castle in the old town of Valencia, Spain.
A castle in the old town of Valencia.

I came to Valencia, Spain, qualified in IT but “unqualified” in Spanish. Naturally, my first thought was that I could teach English for a few months until I learned the language and could get another job. This ended up becoming a little trickier than I had expected, but in the end, I managed. This article tells you what you need to know about possibly getting a job in Spain.

Can I Work in my Professional Occupation without Knowing Spanish?

Being fluent in English and experienced in information technology, I hope that with my fundamental knowledge of Spanish, I can get a job working in my field for a Spanish company with international ties. My assumption was false in Valencia.

Madrid and Barcelona are Spain’s largest and “most internationalized” cities. Jobs are regularly advertised in English or require English natives, so depending on your field and skills, it may be possible for you to get a job there knowing only English. Outside of Madrid and Barcelona, you will currently find it tricky to find a white-collar job if you don’t speak Spanish.

There’s Always Teaching English, Isn’t There?

I briefly visited Valencia about six months before I was actually going to move here. I went to all the English schools (escuelas de idiomas or academias de inglés) in and around Valencia, about 10 of them. All showed interest, took my resume, indicated that I should contact them when I returned, etc. However, there was very little interest when I moved to Valencia in July and returned to the schools. This taught me perhaps the most important lesson about English schools in Valencia:

Demand is Extremely Seasonal

Research is essential to complete before you come to Valencia wanting to work. For example, everyone goes on vacation the entire month of August, and the city virtually “closes down.” So, one can imagine the response I received from most of these schools as I showed up mid-July trying to get a job!

Teachers are Fleeting and Schools Know This

If the school does not need your services right now, they are unlikely to enter you into their database and call you as soon as a position arises. You should return every few weeks to show that you are still interested and to see whether a job has become available. Teachers come and go; people get other jobs, so schools do not make a great effort to keep track of old applications — but they are more likely to give a job to someone they know is interested right now.

Guaranteed Work?

There are various opinions on the likelihood of gaining work as an English teacher. Some say it’s pretty easy or virtually assured. Others say you need qualifications to Teach English in these times. The truth, at least in Spain, is between these two extremes. Some institutions demand their teachers have a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certification. Other institutions prefer that their teachers not have traditional qualifications because this inhibits them from learning to teach using the school’s methodology. Getting a job without a conventional qualification is possible, but having a qualification opens up more opportunities.

Often, schools look at you as someone they see as much more important than paper qualifications. Can you encourage students and communicate effectively? Are you likable and fun? Generally, these skills are much more important in teaching English. Nevertheless, always take people’s words about the ease of gaining a job with a pinch of salt. Many will tell you this, and many companies will even tell you how interested they are in you and the great possibility of work at some future stage, even “soon,” but be aware that Spanish is quick to talk yet tends to be a bit complacent when it comes to action. Until you teach your first class, you would be advised to retain a little healthy skepticism about people’s words.

My Work at a Language School

So what happened to me in the end? Abla Lenguas language school took me on, initially to help with their website and IT issues, and eventually to teach English. The school became the “young, dynamic and fun” counterpart to the older, more rigid, long-established schools like Berlitz and Wall St. Institute.

The Bottom Line

Like everything in the economy, jobs are based on an equation of supply and demand. There is no guarantee of work, but if you turn up at the right moment — when schools need staff as courses are starting — you are more likely to have luck. Mid-to-late September is an excellent time to look for work teaching English in Spain. If you are outgoing, enthusiastic, and fun, you are probably a good fit for the job, and schools will notice this when they meet with you.

Editor's note: On top of the information above, the new Digital Nomad Visa for Spain is now an option in Spain, allowing for longer-term residence if following their requirements, allowing for multiple income streams.

English Teaching Resources for Jobs in Valencia, Spain

One of the best ways to find work in Spain, especially for Americans, is to go through a TEFL training program that will help place you.

The International TEFL Academy offers certificate courses in Barcelona will help you find work in locations such as Valencia, as this first-hand story of an English teacher who found work in Valencia describes.

The ITTT TEFL branch in Barcelona will do the same if you take their TEFL certificate course.

Then ESL job sites will also help provide you leads, as well as the local Yellow Pages (navigate in Spanish)..

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