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How to Earn a Living Teaching English Abroad
Have you always dreamed of living in the land of tortilla española, bullfighting, sexy señoritas, or reliving an Ernest Hemingway novel? If you are a native English speaker, teaching English can be lucrative way to make your dreams of living in Spain come true! With the demand for learning English spreading wildly across Europe in recent years, Spain offers a multitude of ways to earn a living teaching your native language. Check out some opportunities to ensure you will earn enough to cover your living expenses while still pulling an all-nighter in the club and enjoying the rich culture that España has to offer.
Become a North American Language and Cultural Assistant
If you are a native to North America (preferably Canadian or American) and relatively fresh out of college, this may just be your ticket to making a living for a year or more across the country of Spain. Officially known as “Auxiliares de Conversación,” this assistant program was developed by the Spanish government in partnership with the US government a few years ago to help encourage Spanish students to catch up with their English learning.
While English classes and a high level of English proficiency is relatively common throughout the major countries in Europe, Spain was still considered to have a lower level of proficiency. The North American Language and Cultural Assistant program was designed as a cultural exchange: US teachers spend a year teaching English and providing English conversation in Spanish bilingual schools and Spanish students have the opportunity to teach Spanish in schools across the United States.
You must apply for the program, via an online application and you will be placed in a specific region (you can specify your top 3 choices) and assigned a school. Most assignments typically last during the school year, but you have the opportunity to reapply. Most teachers who are already in the program have a very high acceptance rate for subsequent years.
What you need to know:
You need to have at least a basic knowledge of Spanish.
Travel and visa expenses will be yours, but once you get your visa it’s good for 1 year.
You won’t get rich, but this program will cover your living expenses and leave a little left over for an occasional night on the town and exploring Madrid, Barcelona, Granada, Pamplona or whichever region you are placed in.
You typically work 12-16 hours a week so there is plenty of time for sightseeing or picking up extra tutoring gigs in your spare time.
Once you arrive, you are responsible for finding your own housing.
You can apply at this link: http://www.mecd.gob.es/eeuu/convocatorias-programas/convocatorias-eeuu/auxiliares-conversacion-eeuu.html
Teach in an adult school
Because of the rise in popularity and growing necessity for Spanish professionals to learn English proficiently in recent years, many Spaniards sign up to take English lessons at private ESL schools all across the country.
What you need to know:
Typically you need to have prior experience teaching English in Spain.
Most adult ESL schools require TEFL or TESOL certification of all teachers.
Most adult ESL schools prefer native English speakers from Canada, the US, or UK.
You may need to submit various applications, based on need.
Try websites like www.eslbase.com.
Madrid, Barcelona, Granada, and Seville are the 4 most popular cities where you can earn the most teaching English and where there is higher demand for learning English. They are good places to start your search.
Try sending your resume to various schools in the city you are interested in.
Teaching in an ESL school is a good option if you are already in-country (i.e. if you want to extend your stay after study abroad, after spending a year as an Auxiliar de Conversación, or if you are not worried about making money right away as it could take some time to get hired and ok’d to work depending on the school year or class schedule start dates).
Give private lessons
If you show up in Spain without a permanent placement via a grant or with an ESL school, never fear. The amount of people wishing to learn English is abundant which means gigs are never few and far between – you just have to do a little leg work to get those gigs to start coming in. Here’s how!
How to find gigs:
Advertise, advertise, advertise. Look for gigs on craigslist and online message boards.
Hang up flyers. Posting public flyers on the street and on shop bulletin boards is hugely popular in Spain. Use a bright color or graphic to really make yours stand out so it doesn’t get lost on the crowded lamp posts.
Go to “intercambio nights.” These are language exchange nights where native Spanish and native English speakers can get together and practice their 2nd language with one another. Look on Loquo Madrid – similar to Craigslist – to find local bars and restaurants that sponsor events or to hook up with a partner who is looking for language exchange. Remember, if it’s an exchange it may not be a paying gig, but if you’re in it to improve your own Spanish skills it may also help you expand your social circle.
Use your network. Once you establish an intercambio partner or frequent intercambio night events, ask around to see if anyone knows someone looking for a long term tutor or teacher. Ask the businesses to post your business card or flyer for you.
If you work in a school, ask your colleagues if they know someone looking for private tutoring. You can easily charge 20 – 25 euro per hour one to several times per week with each student to bring a little extra spending money in.
Native speakers are in demand and earn more
There’s no question that Spanish citizens and especially professionals want to learn English from native speakers. If you are from the US, Canada, or UK, you will have much better odds at landing gigs than non-native speakers and you will be more in demand. So make sure to advertise your native fluency on your job applications, resumes, and when hunting for tutoring or gigs.
Other considerations before you make the move
Make sure you have a cushy savings account before you make the move. Ensure you have enough to cover your plane ticket and food and travel expenses in addition to at least 1-2 months rent or money to use to stay in a hostel when you arrive until you start pulling in gigs and earning some cash.
How do you plan on earning money teaching in Spain?
Commit to at least a year. To really be successful at earning money and seeing all that the country has to offer, commit to at least a year abroad. This will ensure that your employer knows that they have an employee for the duration of the academic year, allow you to immerse yourself into the culture, really get good at speaking Spanish, and make friends that will last you a lifetime.
Once you find your placement and have steady income coming in, finding affordable housing may be your next challenge. Don’t fear – there is an abundance of housing in most major cities across Spain, especially for students and young travelers looking to rent. But trying to afford an apartment by yourself is next to impossible with the skyrocketing rental prices in most major cities. Look online for rooms to rent or consider staying with a host family – you will be sure to pump up your Spanish skills in no time flat and may even be able to negotiate an “intercambio” or English exchange in exchange for part of your rent/stay.
Have you ever taught English in Spain? What advice would you give prospective English teachers considering a teaching gig? Share your advice and other tips for ESL teachers abroad in the comments!