Teaching abroad in Spain?
July 23, 2012 1:48 PM   Subscribe

Advice on teaching English in Spain (Barcelona)?

Posted for a friend:
I'm an American college graduate trying to go to Spain and teach English in the fall. Currently, I am doing an online course to become certified in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL). What are some things I need to know about getting a job in this field and living in Spain? The company I am getting the certification can give me job guidance and contacts in Barcelona, but I feel like there are some things I have not factored in to my plans.
posted by dkleinst to Work & Money (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Work visa?
posted by Jehan at 2:25 PM on July 23, 2012

Stating the obvious, but Spain is in the middle of a recession and thus the job market is particularly tight at the moment. Barcelona has several very well-known ELT teacher-training centres and schools there thus have a regular supply of qualified teachers willing to work for them. Online ELT qualifications are not seen as terribly valuable compared with face-to-face training courses which generally include a minimum number of hours of observed teaching practice. Then there's the fact that someone without an EU passport will always require more paperwork and bureaucracy on the part of the employer to take on, so I wouldn't be very hopeful about your friend's prospects of finding a job in a hurry.

Having said that, ten years ago I knew an American who got a job teaching in Barcelona. However, he trained there, got a strong grade in his course and used local contacts to find a school that was desperate for teachers that month, which was a time when there was a lot more money sloshing around the Spanish economy.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 2:26 PM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, the obvious is that Spain is financially screwed. I think their unemployment rate is 25%? Youth unemployment about 50%. Big protest in Madrid the other day. I imagine foreigners would not be thought of too highly in the work department outside of maybe tourism.
posted by heyjude at 2:40 PM on July 23, 2012

Does the online certification have any classroom practice? Without it, he/she's up against people with this or this, both of which are internationally recognized and DO include actual observed teaching practice.

I've been teaching English abroad for 6 years now and have been in on recruitment with some of the schools I've worked at; without actual classroom practice and references from people who have seen them teach, I'd be very hesitant to hire someone totally unproven in the classroom.

Without a work visa your friend will struggle to ensure they're treated fairly by their employer, even if they do manage to get a job that pays all the bills. And renting a flat or getting a library card or getting a bank account and a contract mobile phone - or even getting the utilities switched on! - will all be vastly helped by him/her being legally in Spain.

posted by mdonley at 2:49 PM on July 23, 2012

Response by poster: Friend is planning on working under the table.
posted by dkleinst at 2:49 PM on July 23, 2012

Friend is planning on working under the table.
You friend needs to rethink their plans. There are plenty of legal workers, and far fewer jobs. They are opening themselves up to be exploited.
posted by Jehan at 2:54 PM on July 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

Private lessons and one-to-one students might be the best of a bunch of unpleasant options then. Hopefully he's/she's not paying this company to give them "job guidance" when that appears to be "put up some posters and advertise online".

It would be easier, by far, to go somewhere - almost anywhere - else to start teaching; Barcelona and Madrid have more qualified, experienced English teachers than almost any other cities in Europe. Competition will be fierce and distinguishing themselves in a saturated market that is demanding lower prices constantly will be really tough.
posted by mdonley at 2:55 PM on July 23, 2012

Response by poster: He says it might be naive, but he doesn't think the company he's using would still exist if people couldn't find jobs.
posted by dkleinst at 3:05 PM on July 23, 2012

The company has his money for the course already, I assume. That's how they continue to exist.

Working illegally in a bad economic situation is probably not wise. He'll be open to exploitation by employers, since there will be no recourse to the authorities if they decide to pay wages late (or not at all) or require excessive hours and/or bad conditions. How will health care work?

I don't know how the Spanish authorities treat those who come to their attention while working under the table. It might be just taking him to the airport and putting him on a plane (at his expense and with no time to pack) or it might involve a fine, imprisonment and/or a ban from re-entering the country (or any other Schengen country) for many years. All those things happen elsewhere in Western Europe to Americans who work illegally. Does he want to spend his time in Spain constantly looking over his shoulder?

I know it happens and many people don't get caught. That doesn't make it a good idea.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 3:13 PM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

He says it might be naive, but he doesn't think the company he's using would still exist if people couldn't find jobs.

Your friend needs to rethink this, see the University of Phoenix.
posted by bswinburn at 4:17 PM on July 23, 2012

I am Spanish and this sounds like a really bad idea in about 10 different dimensions.

FYI, on the other side of the planet - in Bangkok, to be more precise - it is almost trivial to:

A) find a English teaching job - even for non-native speakers with a college degree and fluency in the language

B) Legally

C) With a relatively decent living wage

D) In a cool place

People have been doing it forever and it works, at least temporarily - making a career out of it is a different matter. It will get you classroom experience, though.
posted by magullo at 4:29 PM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

He says it might be naive, but he doesn't think the company he's using would still exist if people couldn't find jobs.

How many successfully employed former customers has he talked to?
- If none, then what makes him think they aren't churning out disgruntled failures?
- If he has the ability to contact these successful people who are now teaching under the table in Barcelona, then he should be asking them these questions, because they have exactly the experience he needs. That he is asking here suggests that he is not in touch with any of them, and therefore that he does not have the required evidence for it being a plausible option.
posted by jacalata at 5:36 PM on July 23, 2012

How long is he intending to live in Spain? As USA citizen you can stay in the Shengen Zone legally for only 3 of the last 6 months.
Yes you could overstay that illegally - but if you fly anywhere from Spain or happen to be questioned on a train say crossing a border you might find yourself in trouble. or sent back to the USA.

Other things of issue will be Health Insurance may be problematic if you are illegal.

Also keep in mind that this might stuff up any future plans to spend time in parts of Europe.
posted by mary8nne at 6:27 AM on July 24, 2012

American teaching English in Spain, here. Yes, this sounds pretty sketchy and if wants to do things legally it's going to be tough finding a job here. You can only be here for 3 months on your passport and visas are hard to come by.

Come as an auxiliar de conversación (too late for the upcoming schoolyear) or married a Spaniard to be able to work.
posted by maca at 6:35 AM on July 24, 2012

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