Spain. Renowned for its beaches, tapas, wine, and laid-back culture. Foreigners flock there year after year to experience all that it has to offer, whether on holiday, to travel, or to work. Teaching English offers you a way to get the best of both worlds. You can live in Spain, experience the culture, learn the language, earn some money, and travel. Seems pretty perfect right? Well, if that’s your dream, I’m here to tell you it can be done. It might be a little challenging if you’re not European, but it’s still possible. Here are 7 pro tips to help you on your way:
1. Look into teaching programs
The North American Language and Culture Assistants Program (NALCAP) is organized by the Spanish government to promote cultural exchange and improve English teaching in native schools. Native English (or French) speakers from either Canada or the US are placed in local schools, either elementary or secondary, where they work as teaching assistants (TAs).
TAs are supervised by teachers from their schools and help out with fun activities for language learning, including teaching their students about North American culture. You’ll work for around 12-16 hours a week, leaving you lots of time to explore and experience Spanish culture. You’re also likely to be near lots of other TAs, so you’ll have people to explore with.
Usually, you’ll work from October to May, and you could be placed anywhere in the country. You get a stipend of up to 1000 euros (~1180 USD at the time of writing) and medical insurance. More than 35,000 Americans and Canadians have taken part in the program to date! So, this could be the perfect way for you to get your foot in the door and start teaching in Spain.
Pro tip: Most Spanish schools teach British English, so if you’re coming from North America you may want to touch up on the differences between American and British English.
2. Look into private academies
While Spanish schools do teach English, many parents also opt to send their children to private academies. These academies are very popular in Spain, and you’ll likely find several of them in any decent-sized town you go to. They usually teach all levels and ages, ranging from 5-year-olds to advanced level exam prep.
There are hundreds of them across Spain, including bigger companies with multiple schools like Inlingua. They often have a high turnover and opportunities are likely to come up in the few months prior to term starting in October, so keep an eye out on the job boards.
The downside is that for these types of opportunities you’ll need to get a full work visa and academies often prioritize European applicants for this reason. However, if you’re ok with a more informal arrangement, many schools are willing to work under the table and pay cash in hand. This comes with the obvious negatives of lack of job security or health insurance.
3. Figure out what you need
The experience you need depends on the kind of job you’re after. For paid, full-time opportunities at private academies, you’ll often need a degree, in any subject, and a TEFL certificate. You’ll also likely need some experience. If you don’t have a TEFL certificate yet, this teach English in Spain blog content by The TEFL Org will give you ideas on how to get a TEFL certificate.
If you’re not qualified, but still looking to experience teaching English in Spain, then there are still some options. For example, the CIEE program offers voluntary opportunities where you stay with a Spanish family and work as a language assistant. With programs like this you don’t need a visa, so it’s perfect if you’re looking for something a little less serious than a full-time permanent teaching job.
4. Take a close look at finances
This is definitely something to think about, and how important it is will depend on what you’re after with your teaching experience in Spain. Maybe you’re hoping to save money while you work to be able to travel, in which case it’s definitely something to think about.
Fulltime in an academy, you’re likely to earn between €1,500 to €2,000 (roughly $1800 – $2400 at time of writing). Depending on where you live, rent can vary between €400-600 (or more of course). Living expenses don’t have to be that high either and you can still enjoy the fun parts of the Spanish lifestyle too. Eating out is common in Spain, and often not that expensive. You can sit yourself down for your giant glass of Tinto de Verano (a must-have in the summer months) and some yummy tapas without breaking the bank. So, saving for travel is manageable if that’s what you’re after.
Top tip: many teachers also tutor to supplement their income. You can advertise locally, or you could tutor online.
5. Do some research on where exactly you want to go
While places like Barcelona, Madrid, and Seville are famous, there’s much more to Spain than that. For example, the north of Spain is far more temperate, with much cooler summers, and home to cities like Bilbao. Meanwhile, Grenada has a uniquely Arabic influence making it different from the rest of Spain. Then there is, of course, Mallorca, a paradise of beaches, bars, and culture. So, before you head off excitedly to Spain, think carefully first about where you want to live as that will have a huge impact on your experience or read some articles on how to make the best use of your time while traveling.
6. Figure out the visa situation
If you’re planning to work, then you’ll most likely need a visa. This is where things can get a little complicated if you’re non-EU. If you’re planning to teach a little more informally, then your average tourist visa is 90 days.
Meanwhile, if you’re interested in full-time employment with a private academy then you’ll need to find an employer willing to petition for a work permit – which is a lot of hassle. That’s why most places opt for the many qualified European teachers. As such, if you’re North American, then the TA program is likely the best option for you. Many TAs actually use the program as a way to get their foot in the door and go on to find full-time teaching positions.
7. Learn about the culture (and some Spanish)
If moving to Spain is your first time living abroad, it’s a good idea to keep an open mind. It’s a different culture, so things are bound to be a little different from wherever you’ve come from. A good example is the working culture, where almost everyone (and everything) takes a siesta for a few hours over the middle of the day.
As well, depending on where you want to go, you may end up somewhere very few people speak any English. In the big touristy cities this is less of a problem, but outside of these, there are many areas where very few people speak English. Aside from the practical necessity, speaking the language also means you’ll have a much deeper cultural experience. You’ll be able to make local friends, listen to the news, and most importantly order food at all the amazing tapas places.
Wrapping it up
So, to wrap it up, it may be challenging initially to get yourself a teaching position if you’re not European, but it can still be done. And it’s worth it too, with pretty good pay and the opportunity to experience all that Spain has to offer. Buena suerte!