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Teaching English in Paraguay

South America boasts numerous familiar destinations for ESL teachers. But one location remains relatively unknown: Paraguay—that’s Paraguay not Uruguay. Spanish is spoken, but the language of the majority is Guarani. Temperatures soar above 100 degrees, but you won’t find a beach. Paraguay has been called “an island surrounded by land.” ESL teachers can explore this curious “island” while working in a truly unique cultural and psychological environment. Seasoned travelers will appreciate the challenges, but Paraguay is not the best destination for first-timers abroad.

Securing Employment

Conditions will vary dramatically depending if you opt to teach in the private or public sector. Regardless of where you search, however, the key to landing any job in Paraguay is to network, build relationships, and present a professional appearance. The school year runs from late February until December, but hiring can occur at any time. Many businesses close for vacation in January. Your safest bet is to initiate email contact with a local school before arrival—especially if you don’t speak Spanish or Guarani.

TESL credentials are appreciated, but not a requirement. It’s not even necessary to be a native speaker of English; few tourists visit Paraguay and your “qualifications” as an international teacher will take you far. In fact, foreign teachers add prestige to any organization, so watch out for your rapidly growing ego as locals roll out the red carpet! You might find yourself teaching members of the U.N., famous soccer players, or hob-nobbing at important social events.

Private vs. Public Sector

Teachers looking for a comfortable environment should focus on the private sector, which caters to the small but very influential Paraguayan elite. The capital, Asuncion, provides the most job opportunities, but you can also try key cities like Encarnacion or Ciudad del Este. Private schools boast attractive, gated facilities with air-conditioning, cultural activities, stocked libraries, computer labs, and English-speaking staff. Class sizes range from one to 15 students and discipline is generally not a problem.

On the other end of the spectrum is the public sector. Funding is limited and conditions are not ideal. Think of it as extreme teaching where the work is rewarding and stamina is tested. It is a great chance to share your culture and lend a hand to people who may never meet an international teacher. Classrooms are very basic—most have dusty floors, poor acoustics, and not enough desks. You may have 40 to 70 students in one room and no materials. As one Paraguayan teacher put it, “We need everything here so any effort is appreciated!”

To experienced teachers, Paraguay offers fantastic opportunities to gain skills in teacher training or materials development. With some networking and volunteering it won’t be long before you are presenting teacher training workshops or designing materials. The best place to initiate contact is with the leaders of the English department at one of the state teacher preparation “institutos” or professional English teachers’ associations like PARATESOL or APIP (Asociacion de Profesores de Ingles de Paraguay). These individuals are talented and dedicated. They welcome the chance to collaborate with trained international teachers.

Outside of academia, you can increase your hours by promoting classes in travel agencies, government offices, home-tutoring, or grassroots cultural cafes. Money is tight so people are open to exchanging English classes for Guarani or Spanish lessons, coaching from a personal trainer, housekeeping services, or guitar/art/dance classes. Be open to suggestions and consider every outing a chance to meet prospective students or employers.

Getting Started

Contact the nearest Paraguayan consulate for a tourist visa. Once you have landed a job, you can inquire about a work visa, which may or may not be required.

Paraguay is one of the continent’s least developed countries and average monthly wages are roughly $165. At $1 to $2 per hour, teachers earn well over minimum wage. You should not expect to make more than $60 per week.

However, arriving with just a few hundred dollars will allow you to lead a glamorous life. Imagine renting a modern, spacious apartment with views of the city for $100 per month or paying a dollar to dine out on hearty meals of fresh vegetables and fine cuts of beef. You can indulge in luxuries a teacher’s wages usually can’t afford: therapeutic massage, visits to the salon, sessions with a personal trainer, tailor-made clothing—all for under $5.

Whether you are backpacking your way through South America, interested in expanding your teaching skills, or just hoping to get to know an exotic location without spending much money, Paraguay could be the place for you.

Teaching English in Paraguay Resources

Stael Ruffinelli Ortiz Institute, (ESL, music, and Trinity Certificates).

Private Language Institutes, C.C.P.A., Avenida Espana 352, Asuncion, Paraguay.

Public Schools

Instituto Superior de Educacion (Teacher Preparation), Asuncion , Paraguay.

Instituto Superior de Lenguas (Teacher Preparation), Asuncion, Paraguay.

Related Topics
Teaching English Latin America

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