Becoming an English teacher in Germany

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Posted

Hello everyone. I'm at a stage in my life where I'd like to go and live abroad. I'm 27, have a degree in English Literature from a good UK university and a Trinity certTESOL, as well as a year teaching in a good London language school. Before that I worked in the music industry after leaving university, but well, we all know the situation there. By my own admission, I think I'm a good teacher. I'm very personable, present a fun lesson, get on great with students and from the feedback I can gather from students/colleagues/boss, I am a good communicator and teach well. I really enjoy passing on my knowledge of the language, and find linguistics fascinating, in all regards, really.

I've wanted to live in Germany for a while now. I'm sure I don't need to explain why to people on here. Ideally I want to live in one of the bigger cities, but as I understand it, particularly in Berlin, the TEFL market is saturated and doesn't yield particularly great results. I have no problem teaching business English. I have no problem supplementing my income with bar work or something similar. I'm about to start intensively learning German while I get my finances together so I can come out there with a nice bit of dosh. I'm eager to learn the language, I have no interest in hanging round only with native English speakers once I get out there. So...where should I go? I want to live somewhere with a great buzz, plenty of live music, good food, good beer, plenty history. Munich? Berlin? Hamburg? Apologies if this has been covered in various guises in the past. I've searched extensively through the search function but found the results rather convoluted and lacking.

Thanks

B

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Posted

I meant to say the job market in Berlin for TEFL isn't really very lucrative. It's a shame since Berlin looks like an amazing place with so much going for it. I don't want to live in poverty or be unemployed though.

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Posted

Cologne or Dusseldorf isn't too bad. Lots of companies there.

Supplementing teaching with bar work. You do realise that you'll be teaching in the evenings until 9 o'clock (sometimes later), don't you? That's what my French teacher had to do yesterday. It's what I'm having to do today (group lesson, has to finish by a certain date, got to do it even though it's my bloody birthday - teaching to 8.45 p.m.)

Might be possible at the weekend, although I even taught then as some business people can't manage it during the week.

If you come here, you will need to pay in to the German pension system (19.5% of your pre-tax earnings), then 19% in taxes. Rent - two months to the estate agent, two months' deposit, one month's rent in advance. Teaching English as a foreign language is now rather badly paid - even worse since the economic crisis of 2008 (even for teachers who have been doing this for decades). Prices - and so pay - are being driven downward. Hell, why do you think I don't do it any more?

Best to just get bar work.

Actually, if you want a gap year working your way across Europe, I'd go to the Mediterranean in the summer and do bar work, tourism work, crewing, whatever.

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Posted

English is taught in german schools. And allot of germans speaks it with very good knowledge level. My wifes best friends son who is 8 years old is learning it in school and enjoys speaking it with me when we visit. So it is not a high demand area in germany for english teachers. So it is not very lucrative.

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Posted

Put it this way, years ago, I wanted EUR 20 at least for a lesson (45 minutes). You'd be hard pressed to get that with most schools these days. Berlitz, I hear, is paying EUR 11 per teaching unit.

You're too late. The heyday was the early 90s.

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Posted

I don't want to live in poverty or be unemployed though.

You don't think the language schools will actually employ you, do you? Not with the high employee overheads.

The only one that might employ you is Linguarama. And Linguarama is a fairly decent school. They are interested in quality, not just 'bums on seats'.

Stay away from Berlitz and Inlingua. Dante's inner ring of hell. They will make your life a misery - timetable changes from week to week with no knowing who you will teach next. Wall Street also underpays people. They are basically the McJobs of the teaching world.

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Posted

So basically you're all saying that it's impossible to make a decent living out of teaching English in Germany? Anywhere?

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Posted

If you are teaching English freelance for a variety of clients, then yes, nearly so. If you manage to luck into a University position, or a position with a good-paying client (in Nürnberg I, and several of my friends, taught for Siemens) you can get a decent hourly rate. But those jobs are few and far between, and there's a lot of competition for them. And to teach at Uni you must have at least a Master's degree.

I do know a few people who do fairly well as English teachers, but they're the exception, not the norm. And they've been doing it for a while and have built both experience and contacts. I wouldn't want to be starting from scratch at this point.

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Posted

Yes, Berlin is quite full but at least you are qualified and have some good experience. That puts you above a significant amount of competition. It's certainly harder to find work since the financial crisis started, but I still meet teachers who are new here. Come at a good time of year (autumn or new year), hawk your CV in person. Join ELTABB or the equivalent in whichever city you choose. If you are looking for a career for the rest of your life and expect high comfort in your lifestyle from the word go, then there are certainly other easier routes.

Is it what it was? No. Is it still doable, even in Berlin? Sure. That's no guarantee, but where there's a will... And no, it won't set you up for life, though you can always put down roots in time.

Oh, you absolutely need to be looking at business English, just to state the obvious. Pays much better. And look for smaller schools, not the big chains.

I did hear from a colleague who moved here from the Ruhr area, who was shocked at the difference in rates - much higher there. You will need to come with funds to live on for a month or two (or more) before the work picks up. A school takes you on but builds up your classes drip-feed.

Good luck. The mentality you often come across on forums is a pull-the-drawbridge-up one, to be honest (though what Nina says is true (though, also, I'm teaching a number of classes at or above her named rate, and that's here in Berlin)). It's the bloodyminded people, perhaps dumb enough to ignore the naysayers, that get on and find some work. Maybe I was lucky, though.

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Posted

there's just far too many people your age with English degrees these days; sorry. (that's why i got chemistry degrees, i'm 30 and a lot of my college friends are in the same boat as you right now. the English majors, i mean. not the chem/physics/math majors.)

i think it's a damn shame. my dad has a BA in English, and a Master's in theology. i was taught to respect the work that goes into these degrees, unfortunately they've lowered the requirements for getting English degrees in a lot of colleges since his day (mostly the USA ones, you can blame my country for that). my father's employed, but not in anything related to his degrees (he sells annuities and insurance nowadays).

meanwhile, a lot of the literature i read in my field (cancer diagnostics) is reeeaaalllllyyyy badly written since the Science/Medical Bachelor of Science kids never had to take a proper college-level English course. the Editors in my fields are actually really starting to crack down..."needs to be edited by a Native English Speaker" is a pretty common Editorial complaint these days for a lot of articles that have perfectly good science explained very poorly....

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Posted

So basically you're all saying that it's impossible to make a decent living out of teaching English in Germany? Anywhere?

Well, the teacher I admire most (and they are few and far between) lives in a small flat (bedroom, living-room-cum-kitchen) and can no longer afford to pay into her private pension. Another teacher with a teenage son and a doctorate degree has had to take out a loan to keep going (and she has no extravagant lifestyle, her son also looks for work where hecan).

Now, some people do manage to get a living - but usually, it's from running their own language schools. And even one guy (English, very nice and affable, been going for about 10 years) says he has needed the help of his bank manager to keep going through two hard periods. Another one has had big financial injections from the family.

Basically, you need to be a bloody good business person with a high sense of worth and able to negotiate with the powers that be in companies. If you have a USP, then you could do well. One guy I know is a trained lawyer. He prefers English-teaching to being a lawyer. So he specialises in teaching English to law and tax professionals. He has even written his own book for tax professionals and he is now writing a second one about legal language.

Frankly, you'd have been better off studying economics or business. I did some economics as a subsid at university (majoring in German) and that has stood me in good stead - as has the 4 and a bit years spent working for two pharma companies in Germany and London (both Japanese companies).

You'd be better off gaining some experience in industry or commerce and then, if you want to come here, you can do things like interview techniques, how to give presentations and the like.

I'm not pulling the drawbridge up as I am now out of teaching apart from this one course a week and that's only been since September.

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Posted

Can you make a reliably good living over an extended period of time? No.

Can you just get by, live in a WG, possibly not pay tax or health insurance(screwing those teachers who do..), have the exploitative schools send you off on a one hour bus or tram ride or whatever at 7 in the morning for a 90 minute lesson, often with no travel pay, and struggle to string as many of those 90-minute lessons together as possible to try to get by and pay the month's bills? Well, yeah, possibly...

I said it in the other recent thread about this: I like the actual teaching and working with (most - some, like in all jobs.., suck..) people. But making a life out of it, especially in the long term, is very hard going. The social costs are seriously nothing short of preposterous(The schools couldn't care less..) And really long-term, like up into the late 30's, absolutely forget about it.

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Posted

Yeah, it gets harder as you get older. I am so glad I don't need to get up somewhere between 5.30 and 5.45 any more.

You do realise that classes start by 8 a.m. at the latest most of the time? I came across a file the other day and I found that I had started a 60-minute class with one Japanese businessman at 6.30 in the morning. I had a private lesson that started at 6.30 in my place, too. Sometimes, though, classes started at 7.30 or 7.45 a.m. And the last lesson of the day will usually finish at 9 p.m. Then you can go home and start preparing for the next day.

As someone else has pointed out, it's not the place for English teaching any more. Go East, young man. Try China.

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Posted

I'm not an English teacher but a lot of my friends are and I can only concur with what others have posted here. I suggest you save up a bit more money, and just travel around the continent/Germany, doing language courses and working in bars/tourism/hostels as someone else suggested or get a voluntary work placement on a social project. I say this because from your post you sound like someone who is looking for a fun adventure abroad, rather than someone who has to settle in Germany and is therefore prepared to undergo all the stress involved with teaching English and being freelance here. I feel sorry to burst your bubble of excitement about the prospect, but it's better you find out now than six months down the line when you're being exploited by a school and travelling 2 hours round trip for a 90 minute unit.

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Posted

Wow, I'm sorry to see so much negativity. No, I don't want to permanently relocate. I am looking for an adventure to an extent, I just thought I may be able to eek out a living doing it, and earning some other money on the side doing something else.

Shared apartment is no problem, in fact, better. Enough money to eat and go out socially.

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, I just thought I may be able to eek out a living doing it, and earning some other money on the side doing something else.

It's to 'eke out a living'.

Socialising? During the week when you're teaching? Puhlease.

I once tried to get three other English teachers together for a meal. It took 18 months before we found a date that we could all agree on.

Meeting up with people during the week ain't possible. You'd be better off finding an office job here.

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I'd like to add another point for consideration. The hours you get (and therefore what you earn) can vary greatly from month to month depending on way too many variables, so it becomes almost impossible to predict and have a good budget unless you have a decent savings cushioning you. To give you some idea, over summer my worst month's income was under 200€. This month is looking to be 10 times that. Who knows how many cancelations I'll get over December with Christmas and people getting ill in the cold weather. I could be back below 500€ again.

So, on the one hand it's ideal if you want to travel around and take time off because it's flexible. But if you're using it to try to fund and plan a budget for any of your fun time while you're here, it's very unreliable.

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Posted

Good point.

I translate and I had a good month in September (the best so far this year). I earned more than twice as much as I had earned in June, July and August put together. I had a catastrophic time. You need really good nerves to be a freelancer. (This fallow period is why I took on this course I'm teaching this evening - after a full day of translating.)

However, in the early 90s, I read a statistic that said that at any one point, 20% of German adults were doing some course. A lot of them paid for private mini-intensive courses out of their own pockets. I found that even though companies might cancel courses during the summer months, I would get lots of students using their summer holidays to do one-to-one English courses. I still have fond memories of some of them. And of course, when other teachers went on their summer holidays, I would keep their courses going by standing in for them (and getting paid for it, of course).

There is no guaranteed income, basically, and you might have to wait for a few weeks after you hand in the invoice before you get paid. (It's even worse with translation customers. Some pay within a few days of getting the invoice; others wait for a month or two until they have been paid.)

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Posted

Right. Well, thanks for all of your help. And also for the spelling correction. <_<

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Sorry, but I translate and proofread. I get paid for pointing out the mistakes of others. I can't help it (Once a pedant, always a pedant.)

Anyway, off now to teach a 2 and a quarter hour course. I've spent over 30 minutes preparing for it and it'll take me another 30 minutes to get there, stopping along the way to make photocopies (and that's using my bicycle). It's not an easy life. Really. It's a dog's life.

The teaching bit is fine. Like the translating bit. It's just everything around that bit that's ... bleurgh.

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