Author Topic: Have you taught ESL in Spain? What is it like?  (Read 900 times)


  • Bristles
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Have you taught ESL in Spain? What is it like?
« on: January 03, 2021, 08:43:07 AM »
In about two-to-three years I expect my current job to sell. I have a lot of options and expect a significant windfall when that happens - enough to let me pay off my house and to push me solidly into lean FIRE territory. My original though when taking this job was to take a year off after the exit and planning out my next opportunity.

Recently, I've been reaching about teaching ESL in a foreign country. Getting the TEFL certificate seems relatively straight forward and it seems like there are enough opportunities where both my wife and I could do it together. I'm looking at Spain because I've always wanted to learn Spanish and doing it in my home town just doesn't give me enough opportunities to practice. Plus, it seems like the pay isn't terrible and most of the expenses are covered (housing, healthcare, visa costs, etc). Not only that, but Spain is both an awesome country and close to places like France, Germany, the UK, etc. where I've wanted to visit and have friends.

Has anyone gone abroad to teach ESL in a foreign country? Has anyone done it in Spain? What are the pros and cons? What are some things I might not expect?


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Have you taught ESL in Spain? What is it like?
« Reply #1 on: January 03, 2021, 08:45:08 PM »
I had a friend who did this. My sense is that the pay was enough to live on, if you don't need to save and are willing to have roommates. As an American (not sure of your citizenship / visa status) it's hard to get work in Europe. She found it possible through a student visa, so she taught something like twenty hours per week and took Spanish classes for twenty hours per week. I don't think it would be easy to do with a regular work visa; many Spaniards are pretty fluent and can teach English. When I did a CELTA certificate twenty years ago, we were told that American English was preferred in Asia and South/ Central America, whereas British English was preferred in Europe, which influenced where you could get jobs.

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  • Stubble
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Re: Have you taught ESL in Spain? What is it like?
« Reply #2 on: January 04, 2021, 01:15:48 AM »
Taught ESL in Japan; it's a common foothold for non-Japanese. One thing to keep in mind is that you generally won't be using or learning Spanish while you're teaching, unless you already know some and can learn backwards (i.e., learn from what the students struggle with or say among themselves). If the teaching takes up too much of your time, that can make it challenging to do the other things you're going over there for.

To learn Spanish, you'll want to surround yourself with people who don't care to speak English. I don't suppose that will be as difficult in Spain as Japan (Western-looking foreigners are magnets for English enthusiasts), but the point stands.

Hula Hoop

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Re: Have you taught ESL in Spain? What is it like?
« Reply #3 on: January 04, 2021, 03:09:04 AM »
I taught ESL in Italy when I first moved here.  I was unable to find a school to sponsor me so had to wait until I had a work permit (though my spouse) before i could find a job teaching English.  The English school where I taught only hired native English speakers with European work permits so British (obviously this no longer applies), Irish, Italian-Americans, Australian-Italians etc and assorted native English speakers who were married to Italians.  If you don't have citizenship of an EU country then I imagine it will be difficult to get a work permit for Spain.  But maybe you can study Spanish and go the student visa route, as someone suggested above.

Also, since Spanish is so widely spoken, why not go to Latin America?  That's what I'd do if I wanted to learn Spanish as the cost of living is a lot cheaper and it just sounds fascinating. 


  • Pencil Stache
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Re: Have you taught ESL in Spain? What is it like?
« Reply #4 on: January 04, 2021, 09:19:33 AM »
Former ESL teacher (in Korea) and fluent Spanish speaker. I've never looked into Spain, but my general impression was finding work in Europe (for Americans and Canadians) was much more difficult and might require more than just a certificate program. Also the money wasn't great.

I've spent quite a bit of time in both Chile and Peru and I'd agree with Hula Hoop that it might be worth looking for something in Latin America. It doesn't pay well compared to Korea or the Middle East, but it sounds like that's not important to you. Doing a stint teaching ESL in Colombia is one of the things I'm considering doing for a while once I FIRE.


  • Bristles
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Re: Have you taught ESL in Spain? What is it like?
« Reply #5 on: January 05, 2021, 07:49:33 AM »
I really appreciate all the feedback!

I'm looking at Latin America as well. It's obviously closer and there's a lot of amazing places to go and to learn. Plus the Spanish I'd be learning is much similar to the Spanish in my home state than that spoken in Spain.

The real draw of Spain would be to be in Europe during that time. Being able to travel across Europe on the weekends, during holidays, etc. would be a pretty nice perk.


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Have you taught ESL in Spain? What is it like?
« Reply #6 on: January 09, 2021, 06:16:40 AM »
I have heard from a couple of friends that teaching in Spain (one was Barcelona, im not sure the other place) was a bit of a mixed bag and it really depends on the school and director - one friend had a terrible stressful time and the teachers were not treated well at all. But the other friend loved it and was having a great time. Sorry that's not too specific. I think if you do a lot of research and can get personal recommendations for a specific place then im sure its fine.

If you are looking at S.America, I heard so many good things about Montevideo. I've not been there myself but have spoken to people who have and I did a fair bit of research about teaching there before covid hit.

For the love of god though never ever ever teach private school (called hagwon) in Korea - I did this for a year and it was an absolute nightmare (sadly the horror stories you read online are generally speaking not exceptions). Korea as a place to visit is incredible however and I would very highly recommend it for that. 


  • Bristles
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Re: Have you taught ESL in Spain? What is it like?
« Reply #7 on: January 09, 2021, 08:31:05 AM »
I've thought about this over the years and know some people who have done it in Japan as well as China. In your case, wanting Spanish, I'd agree with all of the above and look at South America, I have met some folks teaching ESL in Chile and Peru.

Additionally, if you're looking to learn Spanish, I met a few Americans who moved to Argentina for 3 months to immerse themselves, they also took a program 2 days a week and both said that after the 3 months they were pretty fluent.


  • Magnum Stache
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Re: Have you taught ESL in Spain? What is it like?
« Reply #8 on: January 09, 2021, 08:54:58 AM »
Sorry! Never have done this but am fascinated by the idea so PTF.


  • Bristles
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Re: Have you taught ESL in Spain? What is it like?
« Reply #9 on: January 09, 2021, 11:15:49 AM »
I appreciate the additional comments! Hopefully this thread can keep growing as more and more folks who have taught abroad provide their feedback.

I hadn't really thought about South America, but all of these recommendations are making me consider it. Obviously, politics are a concern looking at a lot of the South American countries, but I'm still a few years away from pursuing anything.

I'll definitely look into all of these places. Montevideo, Chile, Peru, Columbia, Mexico. Lots to look into over the next few years if this is something we decide to do.

Again, Spain was my main consideration because it puts me (1) in a Spanish speaking country and (2) puts me in Europe, where I can visit friends who live in Germany and the UK. But also of these Latin America recommendations really have me interested. I'll definitely be diving deeper into the options!