Teaching English in Spain, jobs, how does it work and what’s it like?
In general, teaching English in Spain is the same as teaching English in any other country except that your class will have Spanish as its local language.
Different types of schools
Private language schools: The vast majority of English in Spain is taught by private language schools so these are the places where it is easiest to find a job teaching English in Spain. Private language schools are known as “academias” (academies). As they are private businesses, they’ll hire whoever they feel can best do the job. The “academias” that will hire you for jobs teaching English in Spain work in a similar way to language schools around the world. They’ll have a bunch of students that want to learn English and you’ll teach them either in the academy’s classrooms, in a company or in their home. It all depends on what the students’ preferences are.
State schools K-18: It’s almost impossible to get a full-time job teaching English in Spain in a state school as they require that all state school teachers have a bachelors degree in education and have passed the Spanish civil service exam for teachers, aka. “oposiciones”. The civil service exam is no joke and takes at least a year to prepare for. After you’ve passed it you aren’t even guaranteed a job. All it does is allow you to apply for jobs in the state school system.
Private and semi-private schools K-18: Spain has two other types of K-18 schools where it is possible to find a job teaching English in Spain. These are private schools (no state funding) and semi-private state schools that are part funded by the state and part funded by a private entity, usually the Catholic Church. The latter type of school is known locally as a “Colegio Concertado”. “Colegio” in Spanish means school, it does not mean College.
Teaching English in Spain with an “academia”
It’s virtually guaranteed that your first job teaching English in Spain will be with an “academia” so this is what this article concentrates on.
The students that you’ll teach will be private paying clients of all ages. There’s no typical student and there’s no typical job. This applies around the world and is not exclusive to Spain. The age range varies from a little person who is capable of understanding and learning (usually from the age of 4) all the way through to as old as a person can get who still wants to learn. We’ve known people in their 90’s who attended English classes. The social status of your students will also vary. You could be teaching someone who is unemployed all the way through to the President of Spain. If someone wants to learn English, you can be there to help them by teaching English in Spain.
You may end up teaching English in Spain on a one-to-one basis or to a group of students. A big class would be 10 people. On average, a group that is taking English seriously won’t have more than 5 or 6 students. They know that the bigger the class, the less they will learn and the slower they will learn.
You’ll find that they are keen learners as well. They are jovial and will interact with you and with their peers in a generally pleasant and outgoing way. Of course there are exceptions but it is not common to find someone that is paying for their English classes behaving in a way that impedes their learning. If you do encounter the latter situation, there are ways around it.
There are some idiosyncrasies regarding the mistakes they make that are directly related to the structure of the Spanish language. A common mistake is the misplacement of prepositions. For example: instead of saying “ask him” they will say “ask to him”. The reason is that in Spanish you must put the preposition “to” in front of “him”. The infinitive statement in Spanish is “preguntar a él”. “Preguntar” means “to ask” and “a él” translates to “to him”. Another common (and sometimes amusing) challenge is a set of words called false friends (“amigos falsos”). Spanish and English contain some words that are similar and sometimes identical. “Arena” is one such word. In English its a stadium, in Spanish it means sand (as in what beaches are made of). Fun ones include embarrassed and “embarazada”. If you show a lower skill level student a photo of a pregnant woman and ask what the photo is about, the student may say “She is embarrassed.” She may well be but she’s also pregnant. Yes, “embarazada” translates to “pregnant”.
The Spanish like to learn from books and frequently judge their progress, not by what they know but what page they’re at in the book. If you see them bragging to each other about what page they’re on, ignore it.
Have a quality pocket dictionary with you at all times in class. A pocket thesaurus is a good idea too. Make sure that they are good quality: Merriam-Webster, Oxford, Collins, Larousse, etc. These books provide spelling, definition, synonyms and antonyms. They are 3rd party as well so if anyone ever does challenge you on a word definition, its spelling or associated words, etc. use them. They can argue with you but they cannot argue with a dictionary or thesaurus. Using these from your laptop is possible, but it’s better to have the print versions. My preference for dictionaries is Merriam-Webster as it has regional versions of words a s well, UK spelling, US spelling and meanings if they vary between English speaking countries e.g. “lift” (UK) and “elevator” (USA). You have no idea how useful this is until you take over from a teacher who was not from the same country as you. “You’re wrong, colour has a ‘u’.” or “You’re wrong, color doesn’t have a ‘u’.” The dictionary is your best friend and you just have to tell them that there are differences in the English language depending on the country where it is spoken. For a bit of fun, look up “suspenders” for the British version and the American version.
You’ll get paid on a monthly basis. Getting paid weekly or every two weeks is not at all common-place. The normal procedure is at the end of each month to tell the “academia” how many hours you worked and they pay you a few days later.
We probably don’t have to tell but here it is anyway. Spain is a great country with a lively and friendly culture. The Spanish are generally outgoing, helpful and very willing to help you learn Spanish. It’s got clean beaches, mountains, skiing, surfing, good food, great weather, etc.
Teaching English in Spain is a great option. There are plenty of jobs. If you want more details or have questions about training with EBC and teaching English in Spain, get in touch. One word of warning, we only help our course graduates find work. If you are already TEFL certified please don’t get in touch if you’re looking for a job and didn’t study with us. Ask the company that trained you.