Teaching English as a Second Language

on Friday, March 24, 2006

Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) isn’t all what it’s cracked up to be, at least here in Italy. I recently read in a forum on My Space, that in Japan for example English Teachers are better paid, but what are the working conditions like? That is not the case here in Italy. At the moment I am only doing private lessons, not working for a school, and I am charging 15 Euro an hour, which would equal about $18 an hour. You may think, “That’s not bad at all, for working from home”. Hate to burst your bubble, but I bust my butt for that, there’s the time I spend planning the lessons, money spent on ink and paper for my printer/photocopier, putting advertisements on the internet offering private English lessons. Then private students are very unreliable, they tend to cancel their lesson at last minute, thus leaving an empty time slot that could have been filled by another student, and of course unpaid. That's IF they call to cancel, there are many a people who don't even have the respect to call or text message to say they're unable to make it.

Then there are the private schools/companies that offer English classes. Here in Italy, many schools/companies are run by the British, and tend to hire or prefer a person with a British accent to other accents. Then they also ask for a TEFL or CELTA certificate, which proves you have taken a course to teach English. CELTA stands for Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. The British Council in Milan, Italy, charges 1,800 Euro, or about $2,160 for this course. Just for a certificate to say you can teach English, and it’s not even guaranteed you’ll be able to find a job. When you do find a job teaching English, don’t expect a lot of hour, at least not to be able to live off of, and be prepared to run your booty off, going from one company/school to the next. In the area I live in, near Milan, average teachers pay is about 12 Euro an hour, net.

Some companies/schools will compensate you for mileage if you have to drive to a company to teach a class, but that doesn’t happen too often, and if you are compensated, doesn’t amount to much. Especially considering here gas is so over taxed. Currently gas here is about $5.54 a GALLON.

Racism in hiring, does it happen here in Italy? You bet it does! If you’re from an English speaking country is always a plus. But if you’re anything other than Caucasian, you unfortunately will have a harder time finding a job teaching English, or anything else for that matter. English schools/companies tend to discriminate less as far as gender and marital status but does happen in other sectors/fields.

For more on Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) here in Italy, here’s a good article by Sebastian Cresswell-Turner in The telegraph.

**July 17th 2008 Update - I'm STILL teaching English. Have been since 2003. Does it pay any better than it did over two years ago? No. I'm up to almost 20 hours a week and earn about the same pay as a full-time blue collar. You may think "Ok I could live like that, working part-time on full-time wages". I bust my butt for those wages and that's providing all my students show up. Check out my post from this year about teaching.

I mentioned in the original post that gas was $5.54 a gallon. As of today it is $9.11 a US gallon. That's an increase of $3.57 in a little over two years. Partly because of the price of oil and also in part due to the decline of the United States Dollar. Welcome to 2008.

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franca said...

Hello Ann.

I took the SIT TESOL Certificate course that was offered in New York. Let's just say that except for my classmates and the few foreign students that participated, the course was not worth the $2300!!! The instructor was really terrible. The host site as well. But that's in the past now. I took the course because I was hoping to be able to teach in Italy one day. I didn't really need to take it because I was an English-Italian major in college. But anyway, the more and more I read about people's experiences teaching English overseas, the less and less I want to do it. And I honestly don't think it's fair that employers in Italy and other parts of Europe, I'm sure, look for British-English speakers more than American-English speakers. Good luck with your private lessons. Maybe I'll end up doing that myself one day. :)

Ann said...

Hi Franca,
I've heard almost the same thing about the course at the British Council in Milan, especially about being not worth the money. Sorry but have better things to spend that kind of money on, a roof over my head, gas in the car etc. Plus is no guarantee of a job in the end.

About the only good thing about teaching overseas, the experience and being able to say that you lived abroad. But don't expect to make a living doing it. Thankfully my husband has a full time job.

Tracie B. said...

hey ann--thanks for the info. i am currently tutoring one teenager for a discounted price of 15 euro, but she cancels often and never shows up less than 25 minutes late. i have heard the pay is bad if you sign up for a school, so i am looking to go the private route. luckily for me, there aren't so many native english speakers here in naples so i have a little more bargaining power.

what do you do for lessons? i would really like to get some more detailed info if you can spare the time to email me--whenever you get a chance.

Travel Italy said...

Ann, I feel your pain. Many years ago I tutored everything from Physics to Literature obviously with a good portion of English students.

The smaller towns will offer better pay. I was bringing home about 30 mila for 1/2 hour lessons.

interesting blog!

swissmiss said...

Hi Ann,

I tried teaching English for a while, too, but without the TOEFL Teaching Certificate, which I wasn't willing to get, I couldn't make enough to make it worth my while. I think most of us expats do the teach English thing at some point...my problem is that I just didn't really enjoy it at all.

Oh, and personally I think gas in Europe is taxed just right and that we massively UNDERtax in the US. IMHO.

Ann said...

Travel Italy - So that is what, about 15 euro an hour? I arrived in Italy after the Euro came into effect, so this brain thinks either in Euro or Dollars.

Swissmiss - I agree with you as far as teaching English. I don't necessarily enjoy doing it, but is better than nothing.

Tracie - Check your email girl! Sent you an email with info about lessons.

Travel Italy said...

Yes - even though the exact exchange is 1963 lira per Euro do a 2 to 1. Because of "rounding" and the likes it works fine.

30 mil = 15 euro

Neutron said...

Hi there. I have been teaching EFL for years here in Munich. I found the only way to make it pay is to get into companies who need English for business...in that respect I was lucky and with (highly unreliable) private students to charge them for a block of say 10 lessons and then if they don't come it is their problem.
I have started a blog for English learners too, if you want to have a look it's here:

Good luck!

J.Doe said...

I paid 1500 Euro for a TEFL certificate to teach English in Italy. At the end of the course the school had a job training interview. At my interview they told me 'try to be a secretary or something at an American university.' My response was 'Am I that bad of an English teacher?' and their reply was 'No, but if you want to live in Italy permanently there is no money in it.' I tried teaching anyway. They were right.
P.S. When the schools give out private lessons they have a cancellation policy (if you don't cancel at least 24 hours in advance you must pay for the lesson)Can you try that with your private lessons too?

Ann said...

Good point J.Doe. Will have to seriously consider that. I do have a policy if they (private students) do not cancel at all, and I have to contact them about rescheduling, they still have to pay for the lesson that they never showed up for.

Agree, there is NO money to be made teaching English, is a no win situation, as far as the teacher goes. The school makes a killing, but the teacher gets screwed.

Anonymous said...

Hi,I've taken a TEFL course,and after a lot of time studying and money spent decided to take the Celta course...what a let down,the English class system still rules.My advice is don't bother with it;if you want to give lessons fine,but do it privately.The schools insist on the old school system,and if your face doesn't fit...I'm moving to a remote part of Spain and unlike here(Germany)I'm sure the locals are not interested in the old school boy network.

Mark said...

The situation here in Taiwan is a bit different. I'm working really hard, six days a week, but I'm making almost $1000USD per week. Here in Taiwan, the language teaching market is definitely tiered. At the bottom, teachers only make about 15USD/hour and they have to do a little bit (maybe 30 minutes per day) of prep work on their own time. For teachers such as myself, who can speak Chinese and have teaching experience, the rate is over $30USD per teaching hour.

Still, I look forward to the day I can stop teaching and be a full-time student in a Chinese university.

Sarah Swanson said...

Hi my name is Sarah and I am an American citizen. My husband is from the south of Italy and we are looking to move back. I just graduated with my degree from an University in Florida. Will this help at all or do I need to take a TEFL or CELTA course?

Amid said...

Hi, just came upon your post through a search engine. To be honest the reason why people ask for a certificate is most people teaching without them have no idea what they're doing! I know I didn't in my first two years teaching. Being a "native speaker" doesn't mean you can teach the language! However what your said about racism and others mentioned about nationalism if unfortunately very true. A lot of people have check boxes that go something like a) white b) British (or American, in Japan or China!) c) attractive, with d) qualified, experienced right at the end! My advice is to keep doing what you're doing!

James said...

Hi Ann, I can feel the pain you experience. It is really terrible if all our hard work we put in is not responded properly. Every tutors feel the same problem nowadays and due to the online learning courses getting a lot of prevalence, tutors will find the job really difficult and they have to work very hard to excel in this field.

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CSG – Origin Together said...

Hello Ann.

I have also heard same thing on course at the British Council in Milan.

Could you please give some more info in detail.


Internet Tutorial said...

Thanks for making aware of this........
And personally I think certificate is contribute 50% to mark your quality and only rest is your knowledge or experience for the other people who hires you.

NYLLC said...

You've found some nice points. Both teaching and learning English are rewarding in terms of cultural integration and personal development. Thank you for your nice article.

Anonymous said...

I feel for you, tutoring is an underpaid profession. We run like heck just trying to make ends meet. Language tutoring tends to pay better, but I find tutors that can cover even high school math can usually get lots of clients.

Man, I wish I'd been blogging when I was overseas. I wish I had a great record link this of my experiences. que sera.

Great article, thanks R

Dan Hayes said...

I tried teaching English for a while, too, but without the TOEFL Teaching Certificate, which I wasn't willing to get, I couldn't make enough to make it worth my while. I think most of us expats do the teach English thing at some point...my problem is that I just didn't really enjoy it at all. learn hebrew