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 Keep in mind that I taught English from 2006 to the beginning of 2008, so some of this information could be outdated.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.
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).
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.