teaching english in germany: frequently asked questions

A lot of Click Clack Gorilla 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.

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, 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 all the franchises.)

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 the hell out of 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.

Once in a while I taught daytime numbers that involved four hours with the same group of apathetic adults.  And those irritated me even more.  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 student’s 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.  I was a very dedicated dumpster diver at the time, though not because I didn’t have the money to buy food.  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.

Cons?

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

Do you still teach English?

Hell 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 to learn English and be entertained on a regular basis.  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).

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Monday April 23rd 2012, 9:00 am 6 Comments
Filed under: conspiracies,expat life,germany,teaching english

6 Comments so far. Please leave a comment.

Your experience sounds about par for the course for English teaching in central/Western Europe. I pressed on past the first year and found myself in a smaller pool of more experienced teachers, with much better hours and pay. The students weren’t all apathetic, either, which helped tremendously.

It’s worth mentioning that it’s (as far as I know) much harder to get work in Germany as an American now (as compared to 2005) due to the Schengen Agreement. Most people that I know who are working in Germany have an EU passport. There is a relatively short window of time to get your visa sorted if you are an American, and fewer schools are willing to deal with it when they can just get someone from the UK instead. Everyone I know who has finagled a job in Germany over the past year or two has had above-average qualifications, e.g. speaks German, former CEO, IT expert, etc.

Comment by Adrienne 04.23.12 @ 5:22 pm

Good to know Adrienne. And lucky you, with non apathetic students! The only students of mine who were really obviously into it were my one-on-ones, which was just another reason that I enjoyed those classes much much more.

Comment by clickclackgorilla 04.25.12 @ 9:23 am

So I’ve been meaning to ask you about German brothels… do you have any intel?

Comment by Tara 04.25.12 @ 7:59 pm

Tara: Heh. I wish I did, but no dice. Only know where they are, that they’re legal, and that non working women aren’t allowed in ‘em. I even just tried googling for some infos auf Deutsch, but was only getting sex review sites and nothing for workers. I’ll have to ask around to see if anyone knows where I could figure some info for ya.

Comment by clickclackgorilla 04.26.12 @ 5:09 pm

Hi Tara:
I noticed that you don’t have much advertising on your website (clickclack.gorilla.com) Have you thought about this or have deemed this to be not worth it. I agree with you that it is better to work at home rather than standing in a room teaching.

Comment by Gregory Jones 02.22.13 @ 10:56 pm

Awesome article! Good to know that because I already have a bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Education that I don’t have to take another course to teach English. As for VISA’s if you are Canadian , Canada and Germany have a youth mobility agreement so Canadians can get a year youth mobility visa to live work and play in Germany for FREE!http://www.canada.diplo.de/Vertretung/kanada/en/02/visa/yma.html

Comment by Carla 07.05.13 @ 9:31 pm




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