EFL in Spain: The Lowdown
If you are contemplating moving abroad to teach English, and fancy a dose of la vida loca, Spain could be just the place for you; a country with a knack for being ridiculously successful at sport, a dedication to good food and drink, and where to fiesta until the very early hours is the norm not the exception. Add to this a large demand for EFL teachers and Spain is without doubt an excellent location for the EFL teacher.
As you can’t help but be aware, Spain has had a pretty rough deal recently, a huge economic crisis has resulted in scarily large unemployment figures particularly among young people. The generally agreed view among the Spanish is that one way to resolve this crisis is to improve their level of English. Unemployed workers are admirably committing to learning English while they search for work. Likewise employed workers are keen to take English classes to help secure their jobs as are their companies equally committed to providing English classes for their staff. Also the Spanish education system has re-examined the way English is taught and is now very much geared to having native English speakers present in schools. This is a general rule for the whole of Spain, with the highest demand for EFL teachers in Madrid and big cities (with the exception of Barcelona). This explosion of EFL work in Spain over the last few years means not only is it relatively easy to find work but you also have choice over they type of EFL work you want to do.
Finding TEFL Jobs in Spain
If you are keen to solely work with adults then the best way forward is to sign up to an agency which finds you jobs giving in company classes to workers. For this type of job you’ll mainly teach general English but you may also need to make classes more business focused. Many teachers like the flexibility (choosing only to take classes Mon – Thurs and then having a 3 day weekend is pretty popular) and variety of this type of work, however you have to factor in the time you’ll spend travelling to various locations. For this sort of job you can expect to earn between 11-16 euros an hour. This type of work is normally found once you are in Spain.
Another way of working with adults is to find a job with an English academy, however in Spain, if you work for an academy you will normally also be expected to give classes to children and teenagers too. The positives of working for an academy are being able to have block hours and regularity, as well as many academies (such as International House) offering teachers free Spanish classes as part of their contract. Again, salary will be between 11-18 euros an hour. To find work with academies the best way is to use popular TEFL job websites. For Madrid and Barcelona there are also many academy jobs advertised via the website lingobongo.com. And again, you normally will only get a job with an academy once you are already in Spain and can attend an interview.
If you prefer working with children and teenagers and want to gain school experience, or if you want to obtain a job before moving to Spain, then there are plenty of opportunities for classroom/conversation assistant (commonly referred to as a auxiliar de conversacion) roles in Spain. Programs through the British Council, the Auxiliar programme and Up International Education place you within schools throughout the whole of Spain. This work will be more focussed on speaking and communication but you probably won’t have as many provided materials to base your lessons on. Hours will be between 16 and 24 a week and your monthly salary will be around 800 to 1,000 euros. This type of EFL work can be really enjoyable as you have the opportunity to become part of a community and it also has bonuses such as paid school holidays and free lunches (often a substantial 3 course lunch).
Another avenue that leads to working with children is getting a job with EFL summer camps, which are hugely popular between June and August throughout Spain. There are many different varieties but they all follow a pattern of learning English alongside other activities (horse riding, water sports, etc). These can be a great way to test out EFL in Spain, on top of which they are normally very well paid and will have everything set up for you, including accommodation, making the move and first week smoother and less daunting. This will often lead to the offer of more work with the company that ran it once the summer period is over, perhaps with their corresponding academy or on future programmes. Some camps will want TEFL certificates, but due to the emphasis on social activities it’s also possible to find work on these summer camps just by proving you have some experience working with children.
Finally, a great way to supplement your pay is to pick up a couple of students for one on one tuition. This is without doubt the best paid work in Spain and also perhaps the easiest type to find – purely through word of mouth, as soon as people hear you’ve come to Spain to teach English you’ll be inundated by offers from students. In my first week in Spain I was overheard speaking in the post office queue and was approached by the lady behind me to ask if I could tutor her. lingobongo.com has a job board of students advertising for private tutors. For this type of work for your own safety you need to be slightly more cautious and arrange classes in a coffee shop, library, etc. It’s also up to you to negotiate your pay rate. Standard hourly rates change depending on where you are in Spain but it’s normal to charge people 20 euros an hour, which is not bad especially as many students just want the opportunity to have conversational practice and in return will give you a great insight into the area of Spain you are living in.
For work in most academies and in company jobs you’ll be expected to have higher end TEFL qualifications such as the CELTA/Trinity Cert TESOL. However, smaller towns in Spain and work within schools may not require this as long as you have some sort of TEFL qualification (e.g. 100 hour online course, etc) you should be able to get by. Likewise, when working in a school you don’t need to have a teaching qualification such as a PGCE and in Spain they normally don’t require a CRB check if you are assisting in a class with another teacher.
Work Visas and Bureaucracy in Spain
Before you start working you will need to obtain an NIE number (a tax identification number for foreigners). This can be done online or by making a visit to the local police station upon arrival. However, a word of warning about Spanish bureaucracy, it’s infuriating and that’s at the best of times. I remember my appointments when trying to obtain my NIE as being a bit like chasing someone who is playing hard to get. I still don’t know why Spanish officials, in particular banks, have a tendency to over complicate the very simplest and most routine procedures (I was once told that to set up online banking I would have to do that at my home branch – which was on the other side of the country! The bank genuinely tried to insist I would have to do a six hour bus journey just to set up my online banking, yet after a bit of arguing which I felt was just for show on their part, they huffed and puffed and decided they could probably do it via fax.) When dealing with all of this it’s probably best just to share their ‘mañana, mañana’ attitude, it will get done eventually, you just need to stay calm, patient and make sure you have a coffee before every appointment. This however only goes for EU workers, if you are from outside the EU you have to brace yourself for a whole other ball game. All Americans I’ve met in Spain have had a nightmare trying to obtain correct visas and paperwork and it’s generally a lot harder for them. Most Americans come into EFL in Spain through the previously mentioned auxiliar programme (http://www.educacion.gob.es) or via a company such as Up International Education. You are provided with a student visa as your pay is through a grant and therefore you don’t have to obtain the elusive work visas. Outside the major cities it may be possible for non EU citizens to get by in Spain without a work visa through cash in hand academy jobs, and of course private students, however the expense of the flight and the greater uncertainty obviously make it quite a large gamble to take. Having said this, there are certainly many Americans working in EFL in Spain and many who have been there for years, but there’s no doubt it’s a greater decision and you will have a larger challenge on your hands than if you come over from the UK for example.
Setting up Accommodation in Spain
Now, after moaning about the ‘mañana’ attitude of the bureaucrats, let’s focus on the more positive flipside and that is the general Spanish approach to life is incredibly relaxed, unstressed and friendly which makes setting your life up pretty easy. The best way to find accommodation is through the hugely popular website idealista.es (you can set the language to English) which covers the whole of Spain. When inquiring about a flat it’s more common to do this via phone than email in Spain so you’ll probably want a Spanish speaker to help you at this point. Once you find a flat you’re happy with you’re normally expected to provide one month’s deposit, on top of rent (which ranges depending on location but can be as little as 160 euros a month somewhere like Valencia to 500 a month in Barcelona). You’ll have WIFI, water and electricity bills, but you don’t need to worry about council tax or TV licensing in Spain. If you have a smart phone then it’s a great idea to get it unlocked before you arrive and to purchase a Spanish sim card with the internet once in Spain. The Spanish company Yoigo, for example, do a pay as you go sim which as long as you have 8 euros credit each month will give you free network connection, particularly handy as nearly everyone in Spain communicates through the free messenger service Whatsapp that only requires internet connection.
The Lifestyle for EFL Teachers in Spain
While the rate of pay for an EFL teacher is not going to buy you a season ticket for Real Madrid it is fairly good, and combined with the cheap cost of living in Spain you can afford to appreciate the joys of Spanish culture. You can expect to pay around 1.50 euro for a beer or glass of wine in a bar and this will often be accompanied by a free bit of tapas. Museums and galleries normally have free opening times and discounts for under 26s. The highlight of the year anywhere in Spain will be the region’s parties to celebrate their local saint. Outdoor fiestas that can last up to a week and be accompanied by various local and historical traditions, for example the famous running of the bulls in Pamplona, are a great thing to experience as a traveller. Likewise, another joy to working in Spain is the frankly ridiculous number of bank holidays you’ll receive. Holy days in Spain are often on a Tuesday or Thursday which means the according Monday or Friday are taken off as well to create 4 day long ‘bridge weekends’. These are great opportunities to get out and do some further exploring of Spain, always opt for bus travel over the incredibly expensive train travel.
Finally, once settled in it’ll be time to adjust yourself to the Spanish schedule of life: lunch around 2 or 3, afternoon cañas (small beers) around 5, late dinners and finally partying through to the daybreak. Olé!
If you have any questions for Claire or would like to add some additional advice for prospective teachers please leave your reply in the comments section at the bottom of the page.