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What you need to know about teaching English in Germany

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What you need to know about teaching English in Germany
A teacher helping her student. Photo: Depositphotos/photography33
17:23 CET+01:00
Teaching English is one of the most sought-after jobs for internationals arriving in Germany. But do you have to speak German? Or be a native English speaker? Here's what you need to know.

Do I need any qualifications to teach English in Germany?

Ideally, yes. It’s best to have a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certificate under your belt such as the Cambridge ELT Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA) or the Trinity College London Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOl).

These courses usually consist of a set amount of hours of training plus teaching practice combined with homework. They can usually be completed either on an intensive course, usually lasting four weeks, or part-time, which normally takes three months.

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For some language centres, instructors only need a Bachelor's degree. But John Wills, manager at the Berlin School of English, which runs a CELTA teacher training facility, told The Local that it’s best for budding teachers to have a TEFL qualification -- even if they already have a teaching degree from their home country.

“We really encourage the CELTA course or the Trinity TESOL, even if people have a background in teaching subjects, because it does tend to give you the tools,” he said.

Wills advised anyone looking for teacher training courses to make sure that they are externally accredited and involve teaching practice.

He said some TEFL courses don’t have teaching practice in them. “I’d say that renders them virtually useless,” he added.

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Justin Beard, who co-runs the not-for-profit company InterACT English, told The Local teaching qualifications are not always needed and that it depends on the type of teaching you are doing. His company provides language training in an arts setting in German schools. 

"I'd say about 50 percent of our staff have a formal teaching English as a foreign language qualification," he said," said Beard who is a trained actor. "There are alternative approaches to the more traditionally cognitive linguistic training." 

Is there a lot of competition?

In larger cities there is a huge amount of competition, especially in Berlin which is home to a lot of internationals.

“Berlin is a very difficult market,” Wills said. But that also means that there’s high demand. “So if you’re prepared to be tenacious, keep putting your name out, keep putting your CV out you will find work and once you find work you accumulate more work quite quickly,” said Wills.

For this reason, a qualification will give you an edge. In smaller German cities or places with fewer internationals it is easier to establish yourself or pick up teaching work. 

An adult education class. Photo: Depositphotos/lisafx

What can I earn teaching English as a foreign language in Germany?

It varies and it depends on a number of things, including where you are, your experience and what training you've had. Look on sites where teachers advertise their services such as Ebay Kleinanzeigen to see what instructors' prices are. Ask around and contact teachers you find via blogs if you’re not sure to figure out the going rate. 

In sprawling cities such as Berlin you could charge anywhere between between €30 and €50 for a 90-minute class when teaching privately. Payment from language schools varies. You can earn more by specializing in a topic, such as business English, or if you teach at companies. 

Do you have to be a native English speaker?

No -- but sometimes students want a native speaker as their teacher.

Wills describes it as a “contentious issue” in the industry. “To an extent it’s what the market demands,” he said. “I think a lot of schools want native speakers because that’s what students demand but certainly we’ve had people who’ve been very good English speakers, who have grown up bilingually or studied English to a very high level.”

The advantage that non-native speakers often have is they’ve learned English themselves, rather than acquiring the language as children, so they analyze it in a different way.

“They can be very effective teachers,” said Wills. 

Do I have to speak German?

You don’t have to be fluent but it helps to know the basics. Being able to speak other languages will make you more attractive to schools and language centres.

“We’ve taken on people without German in the past but I think it would be really disingenuous to pretend that you’re not at an advantage,” said Wills.

As a teacher, you’ll be encouraging students to speak English at all times in the classroom but it’s good to know the language of the country you’re living in to hear what the students are saying to each other.  

But remember that a lot of students, especially in diverse places, will be from other countries and might not know German themselves. So try not to alienate non-German speakers by sticking to English as much as possible. 

Can I get a staff job as an English as a foreign language teacher in Germany?

It’s unusual to step into a staff job. Teachers are mainly offered freelance contracts at language schools in Germany. To prepare you have to register as a freelancer, get a tax number and get your Visa sorted out if you’re from outside the EU. 

SEE ALSO: Why you should consider becoming an English language teacher in Germany

Can I work in the German school system teaching children?

Teaching children is a different ball game to teaching adults and you may need or want further specialist training to do this. Beard, whose company is now operating in 140 schools throughout Germany, said it's "extremely difficult" to get into the system. 

Photo: Depositphotos/DragonImages

"We’ve been doing it for 10 years," he said. "When you start to operate in the school system you very much encounter the German education system and that is a complex landscape."

Beard said getting to grips with the different regulations and systems throughout the 16 states is tricky.

"As a freelancer trying to make your way through that it’s quite complex which is actually why our Organization is there," he added. "We try to leverage organizational expertise and experience in the field to try and create opportunities for instructors."

What else should I think about?

Away from the job itself, it’s important to note that freelance English teachers are required by law to pay into the German pension system. If you don’t you could be asked to pay backdated contributions if you’re found out down the line. Again, talk to other teachers and school staff to find out how they set up.

“You are required as a freelance teacher to pay into the German pension system,” Wills said.

“That does sound really scary because you have to pay 19 percent of your gross annual income into it. But what it actually does is lower your taxable income so it’s just a question of: do you give it to your tax authority or give it to your pension fund.”

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So how do I go about getting work as a teacher?

Once you’re qualified and have your documents in order, you could start by approaching language schools and centres. Wills advises going to the schools in person to make yourself stand out.

“Most schools receive about 30 or 40 unsolicited applications a week,” Wills said. He said visiting the schools wearing smart clothing, and talking to the manager or director of studies can make a big difference.

“Have a quick chat and leave your CV with them, because it gives you the opportunity to leave an impression,” Wills said. “It means you might be in the right place at the right time and it means you won’t end up at the bottom of the pile.”

Any other tips?

Emphasize your personal experience. If you've worked as an office manager, in the tech industry or with people from different countries or backgrounds make sure you highlight this on your CV. 

"If you’ve got work experience - been in a job where you’ve been to meetings, written emails, had customer or client contact then I would say emphasize those skills in the CV as well," said Wills.  "It can make your status as a business English teacher more credible."

Beard added: "There are opportunities in the start-up industry and the new corporate side of things in Germany. There's lot of international people moving to cities."

"Figure out what your unique skill set is. Our strength happens to be in the arts so that’s where we focus our efforts." 

FIND A JOB: Browse thousands of English-language vacancies in Germany

 
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