How to Teach English in Chile
A Guide to Work and Living in
of Santiago de Chile.
I went to perfect my Spanish. I had
studied Spanish in school, but being able to live in a language
requires more than isolated college courses. It requires
immersion in the culture. Teaching English, I realized,
was the best way to accomplish this. Despite the fact that
I would still be using my native tongue, it was the most
feasible way to extend my stay in the country.
College graduation, for many of us,
brings with it the double fear of living without a job and
living with a job that won’t let you out until retirement.
I determined that I would not let that happen. One day I
talked to a friend of my parents who taught ESL classes
at the local vocational school and he recommended teaching
English overseas. He gave me a few websites to look up and
magazines and books to read, and suddenly the whole world
opened up. Since my goal was fluency in Spanish, all of
Latin America was available to me. I could stay in one place
long enough to get to know the people and the culture, as
well as the language, and I could finance it at the same
My next hurdle was deciding
whether to get a Teaching English as a Foreign Language
(TEFL) certificate or not. Obviously, the benefits to
having certification are great, but unfortunately, so
are the prices for the courses. I couldn’t afford
to take an intensive, month-long course, though it was
certainly appealing. After searching through websites
like Dave’s ESL Café, I finally decided
on one of the many online
TEFL certificate courses now available.
I ordered a copy of Susan Griffith’s
book, Teaching English Abroad, and sent my resume by email
to some of the schools and institutes she mentioned. I never
received a response, but when my certificate came in the
mail, along with a course book that covered all the principles
I had learned, I took off for Chile anyway. A friend of
mine had spent a semester during college in Santiago, so
he suggested I go there, and he sent me off armed with information
about locomotion in the city, slang terms in Chilean Spanish,
people to call if I got in trouble, and a list of places
to visit outside the city.
I found a hostel comfortable and affordable
enough to stay in for a long period and combined the addresses
I had in Teaching English Abroad with many more that I found
in Santiago’s yellow pages, or Amarillas de Publiguías.
I listed them by comuna, or region in the city, and every
weekday set out with copies of my U.S.-style resume and
my TEFL certificate. After a week and a half of knocking
on doors, filling out applications, and getting mostly responses
of, "We’ll call you," I had an interview
and a job.
The Sam Marsalli Oral English
Institute hired me on the basis of my references.
A couple weeks later the Fischer English Institute called
me and asked me to take some classes based on my resume
alone. I started teaching in November with about 25 hours
per week, but that climbed as I gained experience and
the schools gained more confidence in me.
Housing was one of my main concerns
during my job hunt. Since I was there to learn the language,
I wanted to live with a family, or at least with other Chileans
who spoke no English and could introduce me to the customs
of their country. I visited Sernatur, Chile’s national
tourism office, looked at the classified ads in the major
newspapers, and asked the hostel proprietor about what he
knew. But because I didn’t know the city and was a
little intimidated speaking on the phone in Spanish, I held
off until I found a job, with the hope that the institute
I ended up working for would have resources for me to draw
My procrastination for once worked
in my favor. One of my supervisors at Sam Marsalli was also
in charge of teacher housing, and she put me in touch with
a couple who had two rooms available in their apartment
for international students and English teachers like me.
I soon learned that teachers were constantly moving around
the city as people became friends and new contacts were
made with Chileans eager to forge international ties. It
was easy, when I was ready to be a little more independent,
to find an apartment with two Chilean women my age, who
showed me how young people live in Chile. Even after I moved
out of my first apartment, the couple continued to invite
me over for lunch or special occasions.
I discovered that there was an informal
network of English teachers throughout the city. Teachers
were always trying to pick up a few more hours here and
there, so knowing which institutes were hiring and which
were full was important.
It was also common for teachers to
take private lessons on the side as well. Some of these
were through institutes, like Fischer, which sent me out
on private lessons to the offices of its students, and some
were formed through mutual contacts and informal networking.
Still others were formed through already existing institute
classes—often students would look for ways to continue
their English education after their course had finished
and they found it was less expensive to pay the teacher
directly. Teachers found these classes to be more lucrative
as well, and friendships were often the result of long-term
Some of my most rewarding relationships
were with my students. After exams or particularly important
lessons, students would often get together to celebrate,
and they wouldn’t consider their gathering complete
without their teacher. These informal get-together were
wonderful ways to solidify my relationships with my students
outside of the classroom and excellent ways to work on my
Teaching English in Chile, one of the
most rewarding experiences of my life so far, was not difficult.
It rescued me from what I feared would be the drudgery of
a "real" job, and I formed some of my best friendships
with other teachers and with students. Best of all, I lived
Teach in Chile Information
A working visa is required
in Chile to work legally. Some institutes will
help you get one if you make a commitment to stay
for at least a year. Often, however, teachers are
paid in cash and no mention is made of a work visa,
as long as the tourist visa is valid, which is
issued upon entrance to the country and good for
a period of 90 days. A quick trip to Argentina
every three months is common for teachers without
work visas. Note: Placement agencies can often
get you around such paperwork.
a recruitment and job placement company in Santiago,
Chile that will help you find work in the country
as an English teacher.
Away, Inc is a recruitment and placement
agency that provides information and help for
you to find work in Chile.
ESL Café offers everything from international
job postings to sample lesson plans.
Susan Griffith’s Teaching
English Abroad was my lifeline for the beginning
of my trip.
Santiago’s main newspaper
is called El Mercurio (in Spanish at www.emol.com)
has classifieds for housing or to advertise
In addition, El
Rastro (in Spanish at www.elrastro.cl) is
filled with classifieds.
Chile’s national tourism office, is on the
web at www.sernatur.cl and is in Spanish.