In order to succeed in this highly competitive and culturally bustling city, English is a tool required in most fields, especially tourism, commerce and business, as many of the office buildings around the city centre are owned by multinational companies. Most of these companies hire freelance teachers of English for group classes, or private individual lessons, generally at lunchtime. The fee could range between 80 and 100 pesos an hour. These lessons might have to focus on skills such as fluency and public speaking for business meetings and presentations. I have taught in companies for almost 10 years, and it can get really laid-back, as the student is constantly on the phone, or being summoned by his manager; or if he is the manager, he may have to call off your lesson unexpectedly, and you may find yourself with some free time on your hands. It is of vital importance to agree on a cancellation policy beforehand with your students, as they may not want to pay for a lesson they have not taken, but if for example they have cancelled 2 hours before the lesson, you may charge for it anyway, as you have invested time in preparing it and that time is part of the fee.
What these people are interested in is fluency and conversational skills. They may be required to conduct interviews in English and also conference calls, so get ready to focus on activities that enhance not only formal public speaking and transactional language, but also some colloquial expressions and idioms for them to be able to create a relaxed and authentic atmosphere while with overseas prospective clients or colleagues.
Some in-company students might even take a course to prepare some international exam in order to apply for scholarships or a job abroad; among the most popular we can list IELTS, BEC, ILEC or the American TOEFL.
Teaching Teenagers and Children
Buenos Aires has a huge number of bilingual schools that require full time teachers, not only to teach EFL but also ESP, such as Biology, Social Studies, Literature and History. These schools, located in the northern area of the city and also in the outskirts, offer a salary of up to 5000 pesos a month, which can be a good salary for a city dweller. Non-bilingual schools also have English as a Foreign Language among the subjects that make up their curriculum of studies. In order to apply for a teaching post in one of these schools, either if they are private or state schools, the applicant should register with the Ministry of Education, which is a simple procedure, enabling one to work in any school within the chosen jurisdiction. Most of these schools were founded by catholic congregations, and becoming a teacher in one of these places may mean that you will have to conform to some of their rules, such as attending Mass or some other religious ceremonies. For making a good impression on prospective employers, apart from finding out about available jobs in schools on the internet, it is recommendable to send personalised emails to the head of the schools and not apply through a “job hunting” website.
Private schools of English are also very popular in Buenos Aires, due to the fact that the level of English taught in most state schools is not outstanding. Language schools can be found in almost any neighbourhood and they offer general English courses for children, adolescents and adults, conversation courses, and they cater for all levels. Some of them run their own examinations and some others prepare their students for Cambridge Exams. As regards language schools, it is worth bearing in mind that they do not often pay very well, and may not be able to offer a full time job to a successful applicant, as it depends on the quantity of teachers and of students, and, of course, the time classes are scheduled. The most popular times for courses for adults are before 9 am and after 6 pm; whereas courses for teenagers and children are mostly attended between 2 pm and 6 pm. Per hour, language schools can pay around 20 pesos, but it also depends on how large the school is, the area where it is located, and the kinds of courses that are taught; e.g. Cambridge courses tend to be better paid.
You may be wondering how you should step into a, say, teenagers class if you do not have a lot of experience with that age group. Well, the truth is, you may have to pluck up courage and teach adolescents or children at some point as these age groups are the most likely to get you a good job and the kinds of courses that are most available. The key is, keep them busy and interested by making your lesson varied and dynamic. Play games, but also turn every boring bit of grammar exercise into competitions so that they feel their effort makes sense (other than learn grammar, which may not constitute a value in itself for some teenagers!). Working with films and sitcoms is a must, as teenagers love them, and the amount of vocabulary and idiomatic expressions that can be learnt is infinite.
In order to be eligible to work as a TEFL in Buenos Aires, it would be ideal to have a DELTA, CELTA, Trinity TESOL Certificate or TEFL certificate issued by one of the Argentine Universities or Training Colleges that offer those courses of study. The most prestigious ones are Instituto del Profesorado en Lenguas Vivas Juan Ramón Fernández, Instituto del Profesorado Joaquín V. González, Universidad Católica Argentina and Universidad del Salvador. In these institutions you can get legally qualified to work in a bilingual or state school and this enables you to enrol at the Ministry of Educations. Training to become a teacher of English in Argentina is a lengthy and winding process, as the training course may last for over 4 years and final dissertations always pose a major challenge, as they have to feature some research work in the areas of Literature or Linguistics.
Working in an educative institution does not have to be your only option. As some of the options listed above are part time jobs, having private students is a rewarding alternative. Lessons can be dictated in your flat or where they decide, and the course is planned out by both the student and the teacher, making the student the centre of the learning process, as it would be tailor-made to suit special linguistic needs and paces. In addition, as you will be teaching privately, you can decide how high your wages will be and working hours can be significantly shortened. In order to make it easier to find a job, ideally, any foreigner should get a working visa to work in Argentina, but if you choose to work privately, or informally, you may skip that step. However, in many educational institutions, you may be asked to provide a working visa; and to apply for it, you need to provide proof of having got a job. A bit of a Catch–22 situation, but not impossible to achieve. If you want to apply for a visa, be ready to go through a lot of red tape at the AFIP (Administración Federal de Ingresos Públicos) so that you get a CUIL (an official work number similar to a national insurance number in the UK), which will enable you to get health insurance benefits and pay for your pension. Another thing you should provide is some details about your permanent residence and a Criminal Background Check from your home country.
It is to be borne in mind that a working day in Buenos Aires could be quite long for a teacher of English, as they have to adapt to their students’ timetables. You may start at 8, but may not finish before 9 pm. It is important to learn how to organise your lessons effectively so as to avoid over tiredness.
Social life is a key element in Buenos Aires, where locals usually meet their friends 3 to 5 times a week. The city centre is bustling with life until midnight on weekdays, cafes are always open, and at weekends some places do not close their doors until 6 am. This lively feature can be used as an interesting twist in English lessons, joining in Pub Crawls or simple Only English coffee afternoons. These events can be found in Recoleta and Palermo and are very popular with University students.
The most practical and probably the easiest way to find TEFL jobs in Argentina is browsing on the internet. This website has been particularly helpful for me:
Living in Buenos Aires.
The Capital City is quite expensive, especially in the neighbourhoods of Palermo, San Telmo and Recoleta, which are the trendiest. It is not always a good idea to avoid the posh areas, as the gap between the rich and poor is visible in some of the side streets and slums that surround the city, so secure areas should always be taken into account when choosing accommodation. Some of the areas that are not so expensive but are still safe are Montserrat, Belgrano, Villa del Parque and Almagro, to name a few. They are further away from the city centre but public transport is excellent for South American standards. Renting a two room apartment in Buenos Aires can range from 1500 to 3000 pesos a month, depending on location and, in some cases, maintenance expenses may be added to that figure.
Buenos Aires has a huge bus system, with services that run uninterruptedly 24 hours a day. The underground system is now being expanded and reaches the main train stations of the city, making it easier to access the outskirts. A bus ticket is around 2 pesos and an underground single ticket is 4 pesos. However, with a special travel card (SUBE), a discount can be obtained in most fares.
Eating out is a magical experience in Buenos Aires. Grill restaurants offer delicious meat cuts, seasoned and roasted the Argentine way, accompanied by some side dishes of cow delicacies that constitute a point of no return when it comes to eating beef. Red wine is poured as the must-have beverage for this kind of meal, though some traditional restaurants also offer a range of home brewed beers. Dinner of this kind may cost up to 130 pesos per person.
In my particular case, I live in Barracas, which is within walking distance of San Telmo, and I am fortunate enough to work in a language school in the same neighbourhood four days a week. I also work in the headquarters of a language school in the area of Retiro, only once a week. However, as I am not working full time for that institution I divide the rest of my time between private lessons either at home or in my students’ offices. Twice a week, I am an assistant lecturer at University (UCA), where I lecture on English and Post-Colonial literatures within the Teacher Training course of studies; therefore, my routine caters for all my interests in a way I feel challenged and at the same time motivated to continue improving on my teaching development. So, depending on how your want to organise your daily life, taking into account your level preferences and time availability, there are myriads of options for you to make your working experience in Buenos Aires a pleasurable one.
All in all, no matter what kind of English teacher you are, you are sure to find groups, institutions, profiles and locations that will suit your personal needs. If you are looking for a challenge, an energetic atmosphere and a bit of adventure, why not try Buenos Aires?
If you have any questions for Karina or also have experience teaching English in Buenos Aries and would like to add some additional advice for prospective teachers please leave your reply in the comments section at the bottom of the page.