Teaching English in Germany: FAQ

Interested in teaching English in Germany? Read on...

A lot of readers want to know more about moving to Germany. About to take the same journey themselves (or trying to match dreams with realities) they (you!) write to me with questions about visas and salaries and job oppurtunites. I’ve done a FAQ about moving to Germany to answer all of the questions about how I got here and how I got a visa and a job and a place to live. And here comes the FAQ for the folks who want to come over to teach English.  Keep in mind that I taught English from 2006 to the beginning of 2008, so some of this information could be outdated.  Check with the consulate to be sure!

How did you find a teaching job?

I came back to Germany after a two-month visit to the States, and I started throwing resumes at everything that moved. Which is to say that I looked up English-language schools in the yellow pages and sent a resume and cover letter (in English) to every single one. In a big city like Frankfurt, which is where I lived, that turned out to be somewhere between 20 and 30. Two called back: a language school at which I got an interview but no job and inlingua, where I taught for some time.

Before returning to Germany I also had a lead on a job at a start-up language school that I also taught at briefly, but which turned out to be a waste of time with more classes canceled than taught (and paid for).

What kind of experience do you have? Do I need a TEFL to get hired?

Attention all native English speakers with a college degree: you will not need TEFL, or any other certificate, to get hired. You need to be personable and a meticulous speaker of English. Seriously. That’s all. (While this is probably not true for every language school, it seems to be true of the franchise schools.)

My personal English-classroom-door-opening qualifications include my BA in English Lit and a few years spent tutoring college kids in writing at my college’s writing center where I ended up the head tutor of the ESL division during my senior year. See? No teaching certificates, no relevant degree (though it may have English in the title, I promise, being able to analyze a novel will get you nowhere in front of a business English class), and no real teaching experience.

Do I need to be able to speak German?

Absolutely not. In fact, since most language schools encourage the trial-by-fire method (aka teaching students only in the target language for ultimate furstration, I mean absorption), you will be strictly forbidden to speak it. Although I occasionally bent the rules with true beginners and students who were utterly lost on subjects of grammar, which was admittedly helpful.

What was the job like, day-to-day?

Most English classes, particularly those of the business English variety, are held before or after office hours. Which means you’ll usually have to get up early for an 8 o’clock class, and then will have the day free before teaching a second class at 5 or 6. This irritated me—I prefer to get all of my working out of the way at once instead of having it drag me out of bed far too early only to spit me back out after an hour and a half with eight more hours to feel anxious about my next class—but has its benefits.

Once in a while I taught daytime numbers that involved four hours with the same group of adults. My favorites were one-on-one classes where I would either go to a student’s home or meet her in a cafe and spend the hour and a half chatting, correcting, and role playing. You’d be amazed how many people are interested in practicing small talk. Usually classes were in students’ homes or offices, but once in a while I would teach in the company’s classrooms.

At inlingua, teachers are supplied with all the course material, so all you have to do is figure out a vague lesson plan and follow the dotted lines. It’s a method that leaves a lot of room for both laziness and creativity. (And also means you can teach someone how to talk about accounting in English without having a clue about accounting yourself.)

Was it hard to make ends meet? How much do you get paid?

Not at all, though of course you should remember that I am a pretty lo-fi person. My main expenses were my apartment (300 euros/month including utilities), health insurance (126 euros/month), and beer (a beer in a bar in Frankfurt is expensive at between 2.50—if you’re lucky—and sky’s the limit, which is why I usually bought mine at the supermarket and drank with friends in the park). I worked about 20 hours a week and had money to spare at a rate of 18 euros/teaching hour (a teaching hour is actually just 45 minutes). But! Don’t forget that as a freelancer, which is how most English teachers are billed, have to foot their own insurance and taxes, so we are talking a pre-tax number here.

Pros?

A sweet hourly rate for talking to what usually turned out to be very interesting people (and seeing their homes and offices) and a lot of free coffee. Every day was totally different, which kept things from getting too ho-hum. Oh, and when a student cancels a class same-day, you don’t have to work, but you get paid anyway (where I worked at least).

Cons?

Weird hours, Saturday classes (four hour blocks blarg!), dress code, apathetic students.

Do you still teach English?

No. While I loved teaching one-on-one lessons, I don’t have the energy to stand in front of rooms full of apathetic adults who expect both entertainment and knowledge. I much prefer freelance writing, where I don’t need to be “on” ever and can work at home in messy hair and dirty pajamas.

If any of you have any more questions, include them in the comments and I’ll answer them there (and include them in future FAQs).  This post was originally published here.  To read more of the author’s adventures in German expat-dom, visit ClickClackGorilla.com.

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16 thoughts on “Teaching English in Germany: FAQ

  1. Kristi

    Thanks for your post! I’ve just moved to Germany and have just started trying to get English teaching jobs (have taught just one cover class so far) and it seems that there is a shift and a lot of schools are wanting higher education as well as TEFL certificates. I’m sure you can still get jobs without them, but that’s just my experience so far. Thanks for the tips though!

  2. kartlı kilit

    English is an easy language. But there must be an English friend. You can visit my card lock site. :)

  3. Sally

    Hello! I’m going to go in frankfurt:) I know english not bad, but I don’t have experience to speak fluently, as I see many foreignes know english and I think I have chance to contact and speak in english and I can improve my english . Do you agree with me?:)

  4. Ronny

    By far this has been the best article regarding teaching in Germany. I have been over here since June, 2012 and applying like crazy. Finally, I found a company called Berlitz. I have BBA and a ton of military experience, speak 3 languages and would enjoy teaching. My question would be, how do I negotiate the pay? I have dual citizenship, which limits the visa issue, plus I attended a German high school as a teenager, hence fluent in German. Can I expect more because of this? They offered me full time, or is that a joke? I have an interview next week. Your insight is greatly appreciated.

  5. Nick

    I thought the site was quite good as well. I also am in the process of applying for a German passport. I have dual Canadian/German citizenship through my Grandparents, and am looking to head over with my wife and two children sometime next year. Do you think it would be possible to arrange teaching at the same school with my wife, and have our children (ages 10 and 5) attend an English school? My wife does not have German citizenship, however she is a teacher in Canada. I have a Bachelor’s degree, professional certification, and a host of other post secondary classes from various institutes. Do you think we would be successful in finding something?

  6. Franki

    I found your website interesting and quite helpful. Myself and my boyfriend are currently looking for teaching jobs in Germany but are having no luck in finding anything. We both have degree qualifications and TEFL certificates but have no experience. We don’t really want to move without any job security. We have sent our CVs and cover letters etc to many employees but everywhere we turn we keep hitting a brick wall. Could you direct us to anything that may help?!

    Thanks.

  7. nikki

    Ronny: How did it go? Did you get the job? Pay was non-negotiable when I was signing up at inlingua, which is very similar to Berlitz. So they offered you full time or didn’t they? I was a little confused by that sentence in your comment. All the best!

    Nick: I think that is really going to depend on where/if there are openings. The best thing to do would be to start sending out resumes and see what response you get. I have no experience teaching at a school for kids. Your qualifications sound promising though.

    Franki: Did you already try inlingua and Berlitz? Those are the two biggies, but I think you need to apply in the city you are looking for. It could be that they aren’t willing to talk jobs with anyone who is not yet in the country.

  8. Martin Karl Osten

    Hallo:

    In brief, we immigrated from Germany when I was 3, my older sisters, and both parents. We are all long lines of German ancestry, in fact my father was unfortunately captured (Oberfeldwebel) during the Stalingrad disaster, and was one of the 6,000 survivors of one million men dead, then spending 5 years in POW camp in Siberia while my mother in Koenigsberg was hiding the neighboring Jews in the attic when the SS made their rounds.

    We came to the US aboard the Copenhagen which hit the Andria Doria on its return voyage. We all became naturalized citizens of the US when I was 8.

    4 years ago I obtained all the documents requested by the German consulate in San Francisco in order to obtain a German passport. After three months, it came upon the day of my appointment with the consulate. They called and said I also need my uhr-Oma’s birth certificate and marriage license. I actually had her birth certificate, 1874.

    At home, only German was spoken and the neighborhood in Chicago were mostly German immigrants hoping to add value to this country. I have been to Germany many times on business and am often asked why my English is so good :)

    I am single, 100% German heritage, and 25 yrs Computer Science in the Silicon Valley (TANDEM, Sun Microsystems, etc). Does anyone have input into, 1) why boulders were thrown in front of me 4 years ago at the last minute, and 2) what my success may be now. I will be leaving the US in any case, this is suddenly not the America we came to love, and I wish to be put to rest someday in my homeland. I am a product of strict upbringing, simple means, a 10,000m/day workout generating 17 scholarships, and attended the College of Electrical Engineering at the University of Illinois — at the time ranked 4th in the nation. I am blessed, please don’t get me wrong. I feel humbled and very grateful as I write this.

    Wielen Dank,
    Martin

  9. Pingback: Teaching Jobs in Germany – Everything You Should Know | Teach English in Germany

  10. Tess

    Thanks for the great article! My husband and toddler and I are planning on moving over there in the fall. We both hold Master’s degree and have taught at the college level, and we would love to have some job security before we go-if possible! How soon do you think is too soon to start sending out resumes?

  11. Steve Anderson

    Yes I need help! My Bulgarian GF is moving to Germany and I want to move there with her. I have a elementarty teaching degree…not used it much and have 23 college hours of German. I am not fluent but I love working with kids. Can you please give me some direction as to where to apply. I love this and fell this will be qa deal breaker otherwise!!!

    Sincerely

    Steve

  12. Pauline

    Hi,am a kenyan and my husband is in Germany.I have a degree in business administration and have taught partly here in kenya.I wish to join my husband in germany…could you kindly give me links/connect me to any school to teach english?I also do well with kids.

    Kindly contact me on ospabling@gmail.com

  13. Kate

    Hi! I have dual citizenship between Germany and the United States. I just had an interview with Berlitz today and it seemed to go really well. There is still one more step in the process but they are talking about hiring me on a freelance basis. This all sounds fine to me but everyone I know seems to have some piece of information to make me doubt the simplicity of finding this job.

    The main problem right now is that one of my sister’s friends worked as an English teacher on a freelance basis in Munich. She says that she had to have 3 different clients (meaning schools) that she was working for to maintain the freelance basis. The main difference is that she was not a German citizen when she came over here.

    I am having a lot of issues finding any information on English teaching freelancing rules while being a German citizen. I have no problem in working for 3 different companies, but I don’t feel okay with going into an interview with one company and asking them to explain these rules to me (i.e., asking them if I have to work for another company while working for them).

    I would really appreciate your help in this matter, but I understand if it’s over your head (I know it’s way over mine).

  14. nikki

    Well Kate, I’ve never read an official statement on the subject, but I know that the German government doesn’t like it when freelancers have only one client, as then they aren’t really freelancing are they? And the government would prefer that the company then take on the whole financial burden of that person, etc. This makes it hard for noncitizens to get a visa to teach English permanently here with only one employer. I don’t think it’s unusual to have an easy time getting a job with the big chain schools like Berlitz. I had an easy time as well. If you have the right credentials and come at the right time, well, then things work out.

    As a German citizen though, I imagine this wouldn’t be such a big deal for you (though I can’t say for certain). I am allowed to work here doing whatever I want these days (through a marriage-related visa, and I have been a freelancer in another field for a while now, and with only one client. It has never been a problem. I have heard other German freelancers talking about this though. To officially have freelancer status, you need more than one client, though I have always heard at least two and not three. Wish I could point you to a website that outlines all this, but I am unaware of the existence of one.

    Best of luck!

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