Language teachers' salaries in Germany

44 posts in this topic

I was always told that you do not mention the price before you've gone to see the client and talked to them about their needs and what you can deliver.

 

The best thing to do is group lesson in companies. I know a lawyer friend who asks EUR 90 per 45 minutes for a group of lawyers and gets it. He specialises in legal English and as he is a lawyer, he knows the language needs of lawyers.

 

Read marketing books, go to marketing seminars, read books about language teaching and acquisition. Do a qualification to teach business English (they were around even in the late 90s when I did my CTEFLA and I know one German English teacher [whom I thought was a native speaker - that's how good she is] who did this month-long course in Berlin and it has stood her in good stead.

 

Think hard about your teaching style, what you believe about language acquisition, how you prefer to learn languages (if you've never had language lessons start taking some so you know what it's like from the other side). Put together materials (while crediting your sources).

 

Put together some leaflets (e.g. at a small print shop). Get a good business card. Smarten up. Maybe even do some courses on negotiation, rhetoric and doing presentations (e.g. at the VHS or the local chamber of commerce).

 

Start contacting companies - you have to learn how to sell (you can read up on this).

 

Keep good records of who you contact. Do not mention price until you have met them, given them your talk, shown them how marvellous you are and what you can offer their employees and then you can mention the price. Do not make it too low because otherwise they think you are no good. It would be like paying the price of a cheap car for a top-class Mercedes. They'll think.. she/he can't be that good, then.

 

Basically, be like a language school but without the premises.

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Reading some of these posts, I feel pretty lucky. Here I was thinking that it is tough doing this, yet there are others who are struggling a lot more than I am.

 

When I first arrived in Germany a few years ago, I was being paid €15 per 45 mins, and struggling just to get 5 classes a week. Some days I would wake up for a class from 7:30-9 am, and then have nothing until 5 pm that evening.

 

Now I earn €21-€25 per 45 mins working for language schools, and upwards of €26 per 45 mins when dealing with private students.

 

I am tempted to ask for more money from the language schools, but I also don't want to become too expensive for them, and start losing classes to other teachers that will accept far less. I also average about 20 classes per week with very few cancellations (the joys of dealing with big groups) Each class is 90 mins long. So it works out pretty well for me and with this I support my family.

 

Both schools that I work for pay travel costs. Luckily, all my classes are about a 10 min drive from my home. I am also very fortunate to teach at companies where the classes do not have to be held in the early morning hours or in the evenings. So I work throughout the day.

 

It takes time to build up a reputation for yourself, but you will get there. When I first started I really struggled to get enough classes to make ends meet, but as time went by, things go better. I am fortunate enough that now people from the companies I teach at, specifically ask to be in my classes due to word of mouth from my other students.

 

I have no delusions that this sort of thing will last forever. I am working hard each day to try and move on to something much more permanent and secure. For now, I just take it one day at a time.

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If more teachers refused to accept less than a certain amount, we could all end up making a lot more money. It scares me a bit when I speak to some of my colleagues and they tell me they are making €15 per 45 mins. When it comes the profit, most of these companies will go for the cheaper option to maximize their profit.

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plantwhisperer, I wonder how long you've been doing this job? Earning more comes with time, experience and reputation. When I started out, it was much the same, I took any job I was offered just so I could build up some experience. After a few years, people started coming to me and I could then carge more and gradually I was able to build up my own business.

 

I've only been at it since October, and even that is stretching it a bit because nobody even offered me a lesson until well into this year.

 

 

If you're not making an income from being a native English speaker, then you're just not business-minded enough. Get some business books, learn about marketing, pinch some teaching/course ideas off the Internet. But become a better business person.

 

I'm working on it. It wasn't until I was actually here that I realised how much I would have to learn on top of improving my teaching skills. Sadly my best paying course is close to ending, and it doesn't look like it is getting renewed (unless they spring it on me at the last minute). I'll admit, though. The course came through a company I expected to be very cold and business like, but have actually been the first company to really give me a chance and provided me with support.

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I woke up this morning thinking this: "What if they're in the wrong place?" Maybe you're just not in the right area? If you're in a rural place, where people do not need English so much.

 

When I moved back to Germany, I thought D'dorf was a pretty good location: 600,000 people, near the Ruhr (industrial area), lots of companies, the Landtag, embassies and so on.

 

If you're in the wrong area, then maybe a move should be considered.

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If more teachers refused to accept less than a certain amount, we could all end up making a lot more money. It scares me a bit when I speak to some of my colleagues and they tell me they are making €15 per 45 mins. When it comes the profit, most of these companies will go for the cheaper option to maximize their profit.

 

While this is true, it is also not really very feasible for a lot of native English speakers who come to Germany. However, you have glossed over what is a real travesty.

 

Take Berlitz (my favorite whipping boy):

 

They pay EUR15/45 on a good month. They put the teachers in mismatched classes of individuals who do not know each other. Each student pays EUR39/45 min. You can do the math. Upside - they have no anti-poaching clause in their contract. You can leave with as much business as you can carry.

 

Some schools fail to pay on time. If their contract has written indication of what on time is, you notify them in writing by registered mail that they have breached the contract thereby voiding it and you can proceed to ignore their anti-poaching clause. I poached a major hospital client off of an EUR80 lack of payment for 180 days. There's nothing they can do about it. HOWEVER, do not accept or acknowledge any type of termination letter that they send you or you can revive the contract.

 

I don't care if other teachers take lower wages so long as they are smart about it and protect themselves. For myself, I refuse now to work with any more language schools. I charge EUR60/hour and I allow clients to buy in pro-rated increments. Bear in mind that I have been the signatory on bank accounts up to $500k USD and I have managed assets up to $22million. My charges are commensurate with business experience.

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Cultural differences: It's important to understand that in Germany you typically have to invoice the business that employs you in order to get paid. On my first job, I signed a contract with a salary number on it, gave them my bank info, taught the class, and waited... (In the US, they would automatically credit my account when the contract was complete.) Some places pay in lump sums at the end, so you may need to have some cash saved up to survive on.

 

Also keep track of travel costs. My current employer reimburses for public transportation expenses, but some don't. It's my understanding that freelancers may be able to claim some tax refunds.

 

I also found that my VHS students were highly unmotivated. It was like teaching to a room full of wet blankets. Everyone was tired from working all day, and no one bothered to do any preparation or homework (except me). "Who cares?" you say... Well, for someone that was teaching advanced courses at the university level in the US, this apathetic environment was very discouraging.

 

I happen to have taught at two local universities, and I have found the students much more motivated and the pay much better. That said, it is very difficult to make a career out of it. There are limits to how many courses you can teach per university, per semester. Some universities are interconnected and limit the total number of classes you can teach in their system at a time. This makes it very hard to make a living since you are not paid for preparation or grading (and no, the 15 minutes extra you are supposedly paid for each hour just doesn't allow for planning 45 minutes of activities and grading the papers).

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AlexTr, I have noticed that only one of the contracts I have signed had an anti-poaching clause, but I would generally just feel wrong about poaching clients like that. Maybe I am just not ruthless enough.

 

One problem I have got, which I was reminded of by a phonecall today. Everyone always wants lessons at the same time!

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AlexTr, I have noticed that only one of the contracts I have signed had an anti-poaching clause, but I would generally just feel wrong about poaching clients like that. Maybe I am just not ruthless enough.One problem I have got, which I was reminded of by a phonecall today. Everyone always wants lessons at the same time!

 

If that's the requirement of your market, then I recommend that you set premium hours and charge more. If you have times that are hard to fill (my Friday afternoons come to mind) then give a happy hour discount. It's as simple as writing a fee schedule. I also double my cancellation charge for peak hours.

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You'd be best off applying at the universities. The hours and pay are better and as far as I know, they only accept people who have been teaching for at least two years...and preferably "real" teachers, that is people with a degree in teaching and not any old person with a CELTA certificate.

 

 

Not true.

 

A Lehrbeauftragter in Thüringen earns only 19€ per 45-minute unit. In contrast, in Thüringen, at a reputable language school, a trainer can expect to earn 25-30€.

 

Most universities require a minimum of a MA, plus previous experience teaching English as a foreign language, not just a minimum of having taught for two years.

 

Also, there has been a huge push at the university level throught Germany to ensure that instructors have a strong pedagogical background. If an individual does not have a degree in language pedagogy, then the university at least likes to see that the person holds a CELTA certificate, or one of the other major certificates. This is true for Lehrbeauftragter as well as two-year employees in the Sprachpraxis.

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I find it hard to believe that any language school in the former East pays anything over €20.. In terms of ESL pay there is definitely still a two-tier system in Germany, the rule being that pay is less in the East.

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Skype anyone?

That's how my wife teaches Japanese. Not to classes, but only ont-to-one. In her case it's particularly convenient because outside Japan both teachers and students are very sparse. She started in 2008 during pregnancy because commuting was no longer convenient, it's been good since.

 

The bad thing: some students are young and immature, often they "forget" lesson, get the time zones wrong (if YOU told me 10am UK time, you should have turned up, no excuse you had not realized thats 4:00am in your country), try bizarre tricks not to pay...

 

Other bad thing: anyone who never trained for language teaching can turn up one day and claim to be a teacher. Students are naive and at first they don't realize the difference between a professional teacher, and someone who just does not know what else to do. This pushes down your earning.

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Thanks a lot everyone for all the info, especially the practical overview of the cost of living and all the recommendations. It is really helpful. As for my location, I plan to move to the vicinity of Frankfurt.

 

But with some of the experiences of teachers I read here... hmmm, doesn't sound like the language schools treat their staff too well... :(

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As a freelancer, it's more just the nature of the job/situation/market. There are definitely awful schools out there, but IMO it's not even really the schools' fault. If you've got half a clue you can eventually just not work for the bottom-feeder bad ones, and if ness just use them as a stepping stone when starting out. It's frankly just the situation as a whole that sucks(long term anyway..): an oversupply of young, native-speaking warm bodies willing to work for peanuts, too many schools, competition driving prices down, high social costs, among other things(especially the trend towards 90- or even 60-minute lessons, and the difficulty of stringing enough of them together to live on..)

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Not exactly on topic, but does anybody have a good template for a contract for English teachers?

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Most universities require a minimum of a MA, plus previous experience teaching English as a foreign language, not just a minimum of having taught for two years.

 

Also, there has been a huge push at the university level throught Germany to ensure that instructors have a strong pedagogical background. If an individual does not have a degree in language pedagogy, then the university at least likes to see that the person holds a CELTA certificate, or one of the other major certificates. This is true for Lehrbeauftragter as well as two-year employees in the Sprachpraxis.

yomintyfresh, perhaps you are right but I would guess this isn't always enforced. I know three people who teach at a university, none of whom have a masters, just CELTA and several years experience. They all said they were expected to have minimum two years experience. Here in Berlin, they earn much better at the universities than at private language schools (though not as good as the VHS.)

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I find it hard to believe that any language school in the former East pays anything over €20.. In terms of ESL pay there is definitely still a two-tier system in Germany, the rule being that pay is less in the East.

 

Not true. Business in Thüringen is booming. Jena is #12 on the list of the most expensive cities to live in in Germany. In addition, a number of research institutes have new campuses in the area. There is actually a shortage of native speakers to teach classes for all of the businesses who want to offer their employees language courses, because Thüringen isn't on most English speakers' lists of hot destinations in Germany. Other than at Volkshochschulen, the lowest pay I have heard of in the area is €22.50 an hour. That said, I have heard of language schools in Leipzig that have been trying to build up business and have been vastly underpaying their trainers.

 

 

yomintyfresh, perhaps you are right but I would guess this isn't always enforced. I know three people who teach at a university, none of whom have a masters, just CELTA and several years experience. They all said they were expected to have minimum two years experience. Here in Berlin, they earn much better at the universities than at private language schools (though not as good as the VHS.)

 

Berlin is the exception to the rule, because the market is so flooded. I know people living in Poland and Hungary who are making more as language trainers there than they would in Berlin. No joke. If a language trainer would otherwise make €9-12 in Berlin, of course €19 an hour as a Lehrbeauftragter sounds good. In contrast, on the market in Thüringen, if you can make a minimum of 22€ as a native speaker, making 19€ as a Lehrbeauftragter is kind of lousy.

 

At this point, I have been a student at or have worked at three German universities. All of them have expected their Lehrbeauftragte to have a minimum of an MA and previous teaching experience. I have had to keep my eye on the job market lately, since my current two-year contract is up for renewal soon. On AREAS, every job posting requires an MA (PhD preferred) and, if possible, certification.

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Update

 

:)

 

I bit the bullet. I took this thread into consideration, and in a meeting with a potential client this morning I asked for 30€/45min. Retrospectively I think I could have charged 10€ more and got the job, but the terror of getting nothing was high enough as it was.

 

I think my experiences when I first got here scared me more than they should have done* - this morning has given me a new confidence!

 

* When I first got here, I tried charging 25€/60min and my first client stopped coming after one lesson. She said she got offered lessons through her company, which I believe, but it was still a blow. Other people told me that 20€/45min was too much, and that was that. I definitely learned from those mistakes, and now I don't mention a price on the telephone, but today is the first time I dared to ask for more.

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I've been working as a freelance English trainer since January and I think all the information posted is accurate. When I first started out, I had three contracts from language schools in Stuttgart. As time went on, I found that one emerged as the best one to work for (best pay, organized office, nice admin people, timely pay, good curriculum, paid my travel expenses), so I always accept classes from this school over the other two. At the beginning, I accepted all classes, but after a while, I started to see the advantages and disadvantages of each and "found my way". You will too. Good luck!

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I'm an American and have never had a problem getting a permission to work here in Berlin (that includes me not being able to speak German when I first arrived). Once I showed them that I had health insurance, money in the bank and two or three letters from language schools saying they'd give me work, they were satisfied. Of course, they asked me to bring a boat load more to the Auslaenderbehoerde (e.g.-diplomas, CV).

 

I mainly started out teaching at private language schools because they're a bit more willing to give you a letter for the immigration office. Some schools also, ahem, started giving me work before checking to see that I had a proper visa. The pay was anywhere from 15 euros to 20 euros. If you teach for a school that has both regular language classes and company classes, sometimes they'll pay more for the company classes. Some schools will pay for travel (i.e.-distance of the class from the school) while others will only pay for travel if it's outside of Berlin.

 

I now mainly teach at the university level and let me tell you that they don't play around with having the proper work permission. They've even contacted me when my visa expired to bring in a copy of the newly issued visa. The pay there can be anything from 21 euros (crappy Brandenburg) to 38 euros. Pay at the university can also depend on what qualifications you have.

 

Also, I showed up in Berlin, not speaking a word of English. I basically made a list of all the schools in Berlin and walked around, CV in hand. After a few weeks, two different language schools gave me some courses. It's a little bit of a waiting game sometimes, but once you get in and start networking, you can fill up your schedule fairly quickly. So be encouraged!

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