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The wide variety of career options available for language students can feel like a daunting prospect for students searching for work experience or a job post-graduation. Teaching English as a foreign language is a rewarding way of engaging with a foreign culture on a daily basis and can be a valuable career path for language graduates interested in living abroad.
TEFL Iberia is a specialist teacher training school which provides a range of courses qualifying its graduates to teach English anywhere in the world. The school, located in the beautiful city of Barcelona, has had the honour of providing one of the world’s best TEFL courses. The UoB Linguist talked to Richard Davie, the school’s founder, about his experiences of TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language), and got his invaluable advice for anybody interested in living and working in Spain.
• What are the prospects for an English student looking to work in Spain?
Generally very good! English speaking skills are in high demand in Barcelona and it’s quite easy to find English teaching work. Most people pick up a few hours straight after completing the course and work their way up to a full timetable within one month of completing the course.
People of all backgrounds do TEFL courses but about 70% of our trainees are UK university graduates. Native English speakers with a degree and TEFL a certificate are generally the most attractive candidates for English teaching positions in Spain. Being from the UK is an added bonus as you have full rights to work here and don’t have to go through a complicated visa process, which most employers are unwilling to do.
• What advice would you give for an English student looking to work in Spain?
Do a TEFL course in the city you want to work in as they’ll have the most immediate contact with the local job market and will be able to give you very specific, useful information for job hunting. Come with enough money to survive for a couple of months, be proactive, visit the schools and be quick to reply to job offers online. English teaching jobs can become available and filled within the space of a couple of weeks!
• What kind of jobs have your graduates gone on to do?
Most graduates go on to teach a mixture of academy work, private classes and business English classes. Private academies generally involve a mixture of working with adults, teens and kids, normally in the evenings. Private classes and business English classes are very varied and depend on the needs of your students. About 80% of the course graduates stay and work in Barcelona, some go to different parts of Spain and the rest have scattered all over the world!
• What kind of courses are available?
There are courses of varying lengths and costs for candidates with different needs and budgets. The most popular and standard course is the 120-hour TEFL certificate course which is one month of full-time training and includes everything – all the grammar, methodology, teaching practice, careers guidance (CV help, interview practice, where to find a job) and most importantly the full 120-hour TEFL certificate. It also contains extra modules on teaching kids, business English and private lesson practice. This is ideal if you are completely new to teaching and want to give yourself the best opportunities after the course.
Another popular course is the 30-hour week course – it is very practical and covers the essential topics for learning to teach English. We also give you the same job finding resources as the month course. This is ideal if you are not sure if you are ready to commit to being a teacher but want a practical introduction.
Online courses are attractive to those who can’t travel or commit to full-time courses. You can learn all the theory and grammar but real teaching practice is the most popular part and this is something you lack on the online course.
• What qualifications/advantages do graduates receive?
At TEFL Iberia, once you complete the month of training you get the 120-hour TEFL certificate, access to our employer contact database, access to unadvertised positions, help with your CV and job interview preparation. You’ll also be top of the list should any positions become available in our English department.
• What do the courses consist of?
A typical day involves taking part in a morning lesson, which covers all the methodology, theory and grammar. You’ll then prepare a lesson, with help from your tutor and in the afternoon you’ll teach a group of English learners. You get the chance to observe lots of other teachers then take part in a feedback session to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the lesson. Your progress is carefully monitored and feedback is given. You’ll be amazed at how confident you feel as a teacher by the end of the course!
• How did you get into the work you are currently doing?
Like most things, it was never intended and just ‘happened’! I came to Barcelona in 2008 after graduating and my plan was just to do a summer job and have a working holiday. I decided I really liked Barcelona and wanted to get into English teaching, so I completed a TEFL course and got a job working for a couple different academies. I got lots of experience with business English and ended up working for a company that was launching their own TEFL course. They put me in charge of administering it so I learned a lot about the ins and outs of running and organising a course. There were elements of the course and company that I wasn’t entirely happy with and it occurred to me I could do a better job. I started to work on creating TEFL Iberia as a side project and when it came to finding a venue I was lucky to come across Languages4Life – they were also fairly new and had invested heavily in creating a beautiful, modern school, which is incredibly well-equipped and all done out with the latest technology. We formed a partnership and I’ve been running TEFL Iberia there ever since.
• How did you go about finding work in Spain?
Going from school to school, handing out my CV and responding to job adverts online!
• What is life like in Barcelona?
Amazing! Barcelona is the capital of Catalunya and the mixture of Spanish and Catalan culture makes it extra interesting. It is a beach city but also has the Pyrenees mountains just a short drive away. At Easter for example you can choose between going to the beach or skiing for the day! There are also lots of parks, outdoor swimming pools, nightlife for every musical taste and lots of affordable bars and restaurants. You don’t earn as much money as you would in the UK but on an English teacher’s salary you can rent a nice flat, do tons of activities and go out for dinner / lunch several times a week.
• Top three places to visit in Spain?
Apart from Barcelona I’d say Cadaqués for the beautiful beaches, Madrid for the nightlife and Toledo to take a trip back in time.
• Favourite Spanish dish?
A Catalan-style bbq! All the meats – chorizo, morcilla, butifarra and jamón.
• Favourite Spanish memory?
When I arrived I spent my first few nights in a hostel until I found a proper flat. I have a very clear memory of arriving in that flat, lying on the bed in my bedroom and thinking ‘oh my god, I live in Barcelona now!’
Katya Browne & Mary McGowan
The UoB Linguist Magazine
Guild of Students,
University of Birmingham