Where would be the best place to start teaching English?
January 19, 2011 6:11 PM   Subscribe

Where would be the best place to start teaching English?

I'm an American with a BA and I'm planning on getting a CELTA this summer. I'd like to work legally. I'm most interested in Western Europe (Spain would be ideal) but I understand it's very difficult for an American to work legally there. Would South America be a better place to start? What would you do?

posted by saul wright to Work & Money (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
What are you trying to get out of this? What is your degree in? Why do you want to teach English. It's tough to answer your question without knowing a bit more. Many places are "best," depending on one's interests, knowledge and concerns.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 6:13 PM on January 19, 2011

I did my CELTA at CLIC in Seville and can strongly recommend it, if you're thinking about doing your course out there - the teaching was of a really high standard and there's a nice atmosphere at that school. Just watch out for the scorching heat in July/August. But I'm English, not sure about the visa difficulties if you're from the US for finding a job afterwards.
posted by creeky at 6:20 PM on January 19, 2011

Response by poster: Sorry, more information:
My degree's in Film and Media Arts. I have basically no experience teaching. I want to teach English mostly because I want to travel and live abroad. Also, I'm 25 and feel like I need some sort of more legit job. I've traveled a bit in Asia but I don't think I want to live there.

learning Spanish
big cities
opportunities for travel

getting a crappy job
going somewhere and not being able to get a job
posted by saul wright at 6:24 PM on January 19, 2011

Response by poster: I was thinking about doing the CELTA in San Francisco. I have a place I can stay for free, so I think it would be much cheaper than going somewhere and doing the CELTA.
posted by saul wright at 6:28 PM on January 19, 2011

Think about teaching in Argentina if you want to live in a cosmopolitan Spanish-speaking country where it's easier for US citizens to get work visas than in Spain.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:32 PM on January 19, 2011

From what I've heard (I considered trying to jump to Europe after my first couple years in Asia), British English and accents are largely preferred in Europe. Aside from ease of use, there's also the rules and visa laws. Holding a British passport makes working in E.U. country simple, and many employers would rather not deal with the hassle of arranging a work visa if they don't have to.

And, although I know you're looking at mostly Spanish speaking countries, my two cents: avoid Japan. The EFL industry is in a huge slump, and salaries are much, much lower than they were even five years ago, and conditions aren't likely to improve any time soon.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:03 PM on January 19, 2011

Argentina is a tough place to get by in just by teaching English although it is a great place to live.

I'd recommend reading the forums at Dave's ESL Cafe to get an idea of the teaching situations in various countries.
posted by Gomez_in_the_South at 10:39 PM on January 19, 2011

As a different perspective, I would caution against getting one's sole view of teaching in a particular country from the Dave's ESL forums. They're populated in large part by the lowest tier of EFL teacher, who disdain qualifications & hard work and who frequently have a naive and xenophobic view of their host country. Admittedly, I've only spent time reading half a dozen of the country forums and it could be that the others are different. All I'm trying to say is just because the Dave's forum is full of people complaining about their lives, that does not mean the country is a bad place to teach.

South America does sound like the best place for you to start. I know very little about the differences between countries there from a teacher's point of view, although friends of mine have enjoyed working in Columbia, Venezuela and Argentina. As usual in EFL, the difference between employers in a particular country is generally greater than the differences between the general working conditions in those countries.

Some Americans do manage to legally teach in the EU. Frequently that's because they've got the qualifications and experience to make the extra hurdles of employing them worthwhile for the school which employs them. For that reason and because it's generally a good idea, I'd suggest you choose your first employer at least partly on the basis of the in-service training they can offer you.

I took my CELTA in one of Europe's most beautiful cities, which meant that the only jobs going there were with bottom-rung employers. So I took a job in one of Europe's ugliest cities, but with a school with a peerless teacher development programme which is why, over a decade later, I've got my dream EFL job.

While I appreciate there are financial advantages to doing the CELTA in SF, one excellent way to get a good job is to take your CELTA in the place where you plan to work. The best course participants sometimes even get hired off CELTAs by the school running it. Even if that doesn't happen, you'll be able to attend job interviews in person, keep an eye on the local job advertisements, ask around the local ex-pat teacher community, ask the tutors and share experiences with the others on your course. Plus you'll have settled in by the end of the course and be ready to start job-hunting in earnest in a city you already know. Finally, there's the advantage that the students on your CELTA will be similar to those you end up teaching.

Assuming the course fees were the same, you might pay an additional $560+ for the accommodation over the four weeks of the course in Bogota. I'd say that was worth it as an investment in your future job.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 4:25 AM on January 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

Have you considered working as a language assistant? The Spanish Ministry of Education has a programme open to Americans and Canadians, which you can do for one year or renew for two. The pay is just 700 euros a month (health insurance included), but it would get you to Spain legally. Apparently you work 12-16 hours a week for eight months between October 1 and May 31. The application deadline for this year is March 31. From the manual:

What does the program entail?
The program is an academic “continuing education” grant provided by the Ministry of Education of Spain. The program sends 2000 American and Canadian participants to Spain each year to serve as teaching assistants, sharing their native knowledge of the English or French language and North American culture in Spanish public K-12 schools. Occasionally public language schools also request an assistant for their classrooms. The program, though fairly young, has been gaining popularity quickly with more and more demand each year for such a unique experience!

Who may participate?
Candidates must hold a U.S. or Canadian passport. The candidate must be a native or bilingual English or French speaker. The candidate shall hold a minimum of a BA or BS by the end of the academic year preceding the start of the program or be an upcoming Junior or Senior student at their university or be a university graduate. Candidates must be in good physical and mental health. Candidates MUST have an intermediate level knowledge of the Spanish language at minimum.
The average age of a participant is 21-35, as long as they meet the profile listed above and submit the documentation listed in the “Requirements” section below; candidates older than 35 are subject to regional evaluation depending on the region’s needs at that time.

posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 6:17 AM on January 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers so far.

I've read a bit on Dave's ESL but need to read more.

The language assistant program would be great but my knowledge of the Spanish language is well below intermediate. Maybe I could do it in a couple years after learning Spanish elsewhere.

I'm not entirely committed to taking the CELTA in SF and certainly job placement is a huge concern of mine. I would definitely take it somewhere else if it would be easier to get placed in a good job.
posted by saul wright at 4:56 PM on January 20, 2011

I worked for the language assistant program for three years. It's incredibly disorganized but a good way to get over to Spain for awhile, especially for Americans who have a harder time securing work visas. You need some Spanish to apply, but don´t let that scare you away, you´ll learn so much once you´re here.

I work teaching English in Spain, but I didn´t get a CELTA or any other certificate. English teachers here are a dime a dozen in Madrid, Barcelona, and Seville, but in small cities it´s very easy to find work, especially under the table.
posted by maca at 8:31 AM on January 24, 2011

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