Are you thinking about teaching English in Spain?
There are thousands of English teachers working in Spain. Why are they here? What keeps them here? Why don’t they go home? What’s life like here for English teachers?
Let’s be honest: Who wouldn’t want to live and work in this wonderful country? The sun, the sand, the sea, the siesta, the sangria, and lots of other things being with the letter ‘s’.
Just like most things in life, living and working in Spain has its pros and cons. Speak to a few people who have been here a few years and they will tell you some awful stories about problems with landlords, bosses, bureaucracy, surly waiters and so on.
Most fluent English speakers living in Spain teach English at some time or another. A few do it for a couple of years while they are finding their feet and learning / failing to learn Spanish.
Other people do it to supplement other work (writers, musicians, artists) and there are even a few odd people (like your humble writer) who end up working in the English teaching industry for good. All in all, it’s not a bad life…
So, in this post, I’d like to answer a few questions about teaching English in Spain. My answers are based on personal experience, anecdotes, observations, and my knowledge about the industry here.
To begin with:
Are you the type of person who is cut out to teach English as a foreign language in Spain?
There are a couple of essential requirements:
You must speak and write English reasonably well. You don’t need a degree in Linguistics, but you need to communicate clearly. The CEFR (Common European Framework of Languages) should help you here. As a teacher, you should have a C1 or C2 level in English. Most educated native speakers of English will have this level and many non-native English speakers (people who speak English as a second, foreign or additional language) have this level too.
You need to have a patient and friendly personality – or have the ability to fake these qualities! Being fairly organised helps, as does having the ability to manage stress levels (yours and your students).
There must be other qualities or requirements to teach English in Spain!
The honest truth is that there are some oddballs teaching English in academies all over Spain. Spanish language academies can be a little lax in terms of letting teachers into English classrooms. This lack of regulation combined with a massive demand for English teachers means that there are people working in classrooms who shouldn’t be working in the industry.
Things are looking up, however, and these teachers (many of them unqualified) find it increasingly hard to find work.
In fact, it might be more useful to list what requirements you don’t need to teach English:
You don’t need to be a native speaker of English. Some of the best teachers are non-native English speaker teachers (sometimes known as NNESTs).
You don’t need to have a university degree, but it probably helps. In some countries, only graduates are employed as EFL teachers; not in Spain.
You don’t need to speak Spanish, but that also helps. Lots of teachers work with young learners so learning to say ‘Shut up’ and ‘Pedro, stop stabbing Miguel in the leg with your pencil’ may be useful in terms of classroom management.
You don’t need to have a TEFL certificate, but would you really want to teach without any experience or training?
Do you really need to take a TEFL course to teach English in Spain?
Teaching English, whether to young learners or adults, can be challenging. Kids can be terrifying if you don’t learn the basics of classroom management and adults will complain if you are not able to answer their questions about grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation.
Training is required if you want to teach well and keep your job. Most TEFL courses will teach you the basics of language awareness – I had a degree in English literature but didn’t know what an adverb was before starting my training.
You will also learn lots of practical techniques and strategies for planning and delivering effective classes.
My advice here is simple: get trained up!
So, which TEFL course should you take?
There are several options:
- Online TEFL courses
- Weekend TEFL courses
- Blended TEFL courses (online and face-to-face)
- 4-week full-time TEFL courses (120 hrs +)
- Part-time TEFL courses (120 hrs+)
Unless you have significant teaching experience in a related area, I would always recommend a full-time or part-time face-to-face TEFL course, because you will get real teaching experience.
There is nothing like practical training to prepare you for the language classroom. Online courses are fine to help you learn some theoretical knowledge about second language acquisition and the technical aspects of the English language.
What you get on a face-to-face course is the opportunity to put what you learn into practice. Most TEFL courses require you to teach for a minimum of 6 hours and these lessons will be observed by your trainers, who will do their best to help you meet the standards required of the course.
But, there are lots of different 4-week TEFL courses? Which ones are the best?
Like many things in life, you pay a little more for quality. Here are the basic requirements for a TEFL course:
- 120-hrs or more
- At least 6 hrs of observed teaching practice with real learners of English
- Qualified and experienced trainers
- External moderation / assessment
Courses which are externally moderated or assessed cost more because the training providers have to pay for the accreditation to ensure quality control.
Unaccredited courses may be excellent, but there is no guarantee that they meet international standards.
Many TEFL trainees are left rather disappointed when they receive their TEFL certificate after four weeks of blood, sweat and tears, only to find out that nobody wants to employ them because their certificates are not recognised.
There are two brand leaders in the TEFL world: Cambridge and Trinity College, London. These venerable institutions validate CELTA (Cambridge) and Cert.TESOL (Trinity) courses.
These two certificates will increase your chances of finding work in Spain because many employers respect and trust the quality of the training.
They are also the best choices if you are considering forging a career in English teaching, would like to work at the British Council or International House, or would like to work in the UK at an English school.
In other words, these courses are more expensive but they will open more doors.
So, where should you do the course? Spain or your home country?
There are lots of CELTA and Trinity Cert.TESOL courses but you might want to consider doing one in Spain if you have the time and the money. There are several reasons why this is a good option:
- Teaching Spanish students will prepare you for teaching in Spain
- Learn or brush up on your Spanish
- Get a feel for the culture
- Make some local contacts
- Start applying for jobs (most academies want to meet you in person before offering you work)
- Build up a support group of fellow trainee teachers who also want to live and work in Spain.
I hope I have convinced you to take your TEFL training in Spain.
You could do a lot worse than come to Granada…..
- low cost of living
- wonderful monuments (The Alhambra! Swoon!!)
- surprisingly varied nightlife and cultural events (punk rock to flamenco to poetry)
- lots of demand for English teachers (It’s a university city)
- easy access to the mountains (Sierra Nevada) and the beach
- Free tapas with every drink!!