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A language teacher teaches foreign languages to native English speakers.
With the advent of a global market economy and relatively cheap long-haul flights, speaking another language has never been as important or popular as it is today. Whether it be for business or personal reasons, speaking a foreign language opens up a world of possibilities and opportunities for further learning. It is a well known fact that the only way to understand another culture completely is by learning its language, as nuances in grammar, diction and etymology are bound to the history and character of those who speak it.
Language teachers immerse their students in situational learning roles where the object is to learn to converse, read, write and even learn in a language other than their native one.
Language teachers who work in schools are paid a yearly salary. The salary for secondary school teachers is as follows:
- An NQT (Newly Qualified Teacher) starts on a salary of £20,627 per annum.
- This rises incrementally until it reaches a maximum of £30,148 per annum.
Language teachers working in private or group adult classes usually receive between £20 – £30 per hour.
A language teacher’s daily responsibilities include the following:
- Preparing original class materials
- Organising a schedule across several locations
- Preparing written and oral tests for students
- Conducting private or group classes
- Marking homework and tests
- Invoicing clients for work completed
Language teachers are usually expected to be either native speakers of the language they are teaching or hold a university degree in it. Native speakers should have a good level of secondary school education and preferably a degree also.
There are professional courses for the continuing development of language teachers, such as the following:
- CILT The National Centre of Languages
A language teacher should have the following skills and personal attributes:
- A patient and calm manner
- Excellent organisational skills
- A love of teaching and passing on knowledge
- Interest in language and culture
- Superb communication skills
- Authority to control and direct a group of people
Language teachers work mostly from a classroom, or in the case of private students, in their place of work or at home. Most of the work is done in these arenas, but in addition there is marking and preparation to be completed, which takes place either in an office or at the language teacher’s own home.
Secondary schools operate from 9 am to 4 pm for a five day week, 39 weeks of the year with the rest as holiday. Marking is additional to these hours and also eats into the designated holiday. Because of the amount of marking required, secondary school teaching actually has quite long hours.
Language teachers working in a private school or college, or for a language agency have extremely variable hours. Teachers in this situation are free to make up their own schedule as and when classes are available for them to teach. For example they may choose to teach private classes during the day to business customers at their place of work. Alternatively they may opt to teach evening classes at a language school or institute, or a mixture of the two options. Weekend work is also an option.
Teaching a group of adults can be demanding although it is generally not as stressful as teaching a group of children. Besides this, long hours, marking and preparation make language teaching a demanding job. The joy of seeing students progress and helping them to achieve their goals makes it an extremely rewarding job, however, and well suited to those who enjoy personal interaction in their careers. The freedom of a flexible routine also appeals to those with multiple commitments.
Language teachers should have a solid knowledge of their speciality language and culture. Time spent working or studying overseas will look good on a CV. Look into exchange programmes and immersion courses overseas. Any teaching or supervisory work is also beneficial, as is working with groups of people, either adults or children
Private language agencies and schools are by far the biggest employers of language teachers. Check your local listings for schools in your area and contact them directly.
Language teachers often go on to become teacher trainers who instruct other professionals in teaching theory and practice. Supervisory or managerial roles are also open to language teachers with some years of experience.
Also known as…
A language teacher is not known by any other title.
What’s it really like?
Vicens Colomer, 43 is ADos (Assistant Director of studies) of Modern Languages at International House in London.
How long have you been in the language teaching industry?
For a long time now; I have been working as a language teacher since 1992 and as a language teacher for foreign languages since 1999. I’ve worked in Spain, France, Ireland and England.
What did you do before becoming a language teacher?
I’ve always been a language teacher. I started out teaching Spanish grammar and literature in Spanish secondary schools. Before that I studied a degree in Roman Philology at the University of Barcelona and did my final year at the Sorbonne in Paris.
What do you do in a typical day at work?
The first thing I do in the day is to check how many classes I have, as they are often in different places, colleges and language agencies. Then I check the level of the students and I start the day preparing my lessons. After that I usually have my first lesson, for example at 11 am in a city bank with a one to one student for business language; usually these classes run for an hour and a half. I may have three different lessons during the day from several different companies. Every evening I have one class of two hours in International House. Sometimes they are language based classes and sometime teacher training classes. I train other teachers and also observe them at work.
What do you like most about teaching languages?
It is a really, really creative job. Even though you are using books and materials that are already published you still have to create your own classes and this is really exciting. The job offers a lot of freedom as you can decide how many hours you want to work a day and you don’t have an office timetable starting at nine and finishing at five. You can start at ten or twelve o’ clock; it all depends on how much you want to work. You are always in touch with new people and usually students are very motivated people; they are adults that have clear objectives and really enjoy the classes. I’m a passionate person and I’m always learning new things about my own language. This itself is incredible; you don’t stop learning even if you have been working ten or fifteen years as a teacher.
Is there anything you dislike about the job?
Well, it works the other way too. The benefits that I enjoy can also work against you. It’s not a stable job. During the summer months most of the one to one students stop the classes and that can mean you don’t have enough work. But if you plan your courses with a bit of intelligence you can work around it. In terms of money it’s not as good as a regular or stable job. That’s the price you have to pay for the freedom.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of becoming an language teacher?
OK, first of all they must be a really, really motivated person with a good knowledge of their language. Sometimes we think it is enough that a language teacher speaks the language as a native but this is not the case; they must also have very good background knowledge. It’s not necessarily about having a degree in linguistics or philology; we have teachers without that. Although we don’t teach grammar alone, we must have an excellent grip on all aspects of it. You have to work continuously and create new classes for new students focussing on different specifications.
What job do you think you might do after this role?
I would like to become a trainer full-time – to use all my experience in classes in methodology to teach and train new people to become language teachers. I am now working as an Assistant Director of studies, planning courses, syllabus etc. and I want to continue doing that.
What other inside-information can you give to help people considering this career?
I always say that it’s really important to think about training; you have to have some. It’s not easy – I worked for six years as a secondary school teacher and for that I had to take a training course after that. The methodology and the approach to being in a class with adults is absolutely different to being in a class with young people. You need to keep up with your training throughout your career. It’s important for the teacher and important for the students.
Do you mind us publishing your salary – this is very helpful for job seekers?
My salary as a teacher is around £20 – 25 per hour.