Published 31st August 2021
Sunshine, sangria and siestas, what more do you want from life, am I right? It’s not really surprising that Spain is not only one of the top tourist destinations in the world but also one of the most popular countries to teach English as a Foreign Language.
In fact, you’ve probably considered moving there to be a TEFL teacher, haven’t you?
Of course you have – we all have.
If you’re still weighing up your options before making a decision on where to go, have a read of these seven things you probably didn’t know about teaching English in Spain.
1. It’s not only Young Learners
Because Spain is not an English-speaking country you might be tempted to think you will find yourself teaching Young Learners in a state or private school. While that is most certainly a very real scenario in Spain, there are also a number of other TEFL options available to you.
There are tons of language schools dotted around the main cities in Spain. From Berlitz to the British Council to Wall Street there are bigger chain schools as well as smaller boutique schools. These schools offer after-school or holiday lessons to children and teens, but they also offer evening and weekend classes for adults. These students might need English for their jobs or because they want to live and work or study abroad, so they enrol in a language skill to improve their English or maybe take an exam.
Read more: What Job Can I Get with a TEFL Certificate?
2. You might be a teaching assistant
Many TEFL teachers in Spain are actually teaching assistants, or, more specifically, Language and Cultural Assistants. The Spanish Ministry of Education runs a programme that places Canadian and North American TEFL teachers in primary and high schools across the country as teaching assistants. While they are not the main teacher, they are still involved in planning and co-teaching the English lessons. They also help the Spanish teachers in other lessons.
Teaching assistants work 15 to 20 hours a week and earn between €700 and €1 000 a month. Their job is to help with the teaching of the English lessons, but also introduce cultural knowledge to Spanish students. In this way, the students will become familiar with the North American culture while also learning English.
Read more: Co-Teaching in the EFL Classroom
3. You can live with a host family
Many TEFL teachers come to Spain for the cultural experience and what better way to appreciate the Spanish culture than by living with a Spanish family. It’s quite a common practice, as many families agree to host a TEFL teacher in exchange for English lessons for the family. Your accommodation will be free – and possibly meals too – and while you won’t earn a salary you might be given a monthly stipend.
One of the benefits of a cultural exchange like this is you are not strictly speaking employed, so you don’t need to have a certain passport or the right to work in the country – a massive bonus to non-EU TEFL teachers. Also, living with a family is the best way to learn Spanish. If you are surrounded by Spanish in your daily life, it’s much easier for you to pick it up. But if you live alone there’s a good chance you’ll find friends who want to practise their English with you, which means you won’t be forced to use your Spanish. So if you are serious about learning Spanish and experiencing the true Spanish way of life, this is an option you should definitely consider.
4. Spanish students like to talk!
Of course, we try not to generalise but one thing you’ll notice immediately about your Spanish students is that they can talk the hind leg off a donkey. Teaching methods that incorporate participation and interactivity are generally preferred to note-taking and listening to lectures. This also means you might need to be mindful of controlling the lesson so you don’t get side-tracked too often. And don’t forget your sense of humour at home – Spanish students also love to laugh!
5. Punctuality is relative
Time is relative anyway, isn’t it? This is just something you need to accept and expect: your Spanish students are going to be late. Your lessons are going to run past their end time because they will probably start late. Students might arrive late for class and not be very apologetic about it. This is not something you can hold a grudge for, because, to be honest, it’s a losing battle, but rather just something you need to accept and incorporate into your planning. Having said that though, as the teacher you are still expected to always be on time!
6. Spanish is not always Spanish
You might already know that the Spanish spoken in, say, Argentina is different to the Spanish spoken in Spain. But did you know that many Spaniards speak more than one language? Castillian Spanish is the most widely spoken language in the country, but some Spaniards also speak Catalan, Galician or Basque, depending on where they live. Two other languages which are spoken are Aragonese and Asturian but these are not recognised as official languages. And while they are all unique languages in their own right, they are quite similar, so don’t be surprised if you can’t differentiate between them!
7. Siestas are a thing
It might sound too good to be true but Spain really does stop for a couple of hours every day to have a nap. Schools generally have a two-hour lunch break in which the students and the teachers can go home for a long rest, or they might start early and finish their day at lunchtime. You will find that many shops and restaurants close at that time too. On the flip side, nobody eats dinner before 8 pm – 10 pm – which means you’re in luck if you’re a night owl!
It usually doesn’t take much to convince someone to visit Spain. There are so many reasons that make living and working in Spain a very attractive option. Luckily for us, TEFL jobs are plentiful all over the country, so if you are looking for a Spanish adventure, there really is nothing stopping you.