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Teaching English in Greece

Teaching English in Greece

by Emmanuel Mendonca

The employment situation can be quite uncertain for newcomers to Greece and therefore many people choose to try teaching English as a foreign language, on a full or part-time basis. Even if it is not want you want to do on a permanent basis, it can be a useful way of earning some income until your preferred career choice pans out.

There are many language schools or "frontistiria" in Athens and all over Greece, to which you could apply for work. In order to get a job in one of these schools, it is still not strictly necessary to have a formal teaching qualification such as TEFL. Often all that is required is a university degree (in any subject) from a UK or US university. That said, if you are uncertain about your ability to teach English and want to ensure that you start off in this line of work with the necessary skills, a course would be useful. It would provide you with some teaching theory, knowledge of English grammar (let's face it, many of us have never formally studied English grammar in any great depth, even though we speak and write English everyday) and give you some valuable experience of teaching in a classroom, since this is included in most courses.

Something to be aware of is that the pay and conditions offered by language schools will vary enormously, so it is important to check these out in detail first before accepting a contract. As with other types of employment, think carefully beforehand if you are asked to work a "trial period" for no pay. If time is on your side, it may be worth speaking to several schools before taking a job. Also, if you work in a "frontistirio" it is quite likely that you will be working mainly in the afternoons and evenings, since this is when children and adults are free to take their lessons. Teaching English as a foreign language jobs are widely advertised in newspapers and on the Internet all year round and most often from August to October. It does not matter if you do not speak a lot of Greek. Native English speakers are often valued for other reasons such as having what is seen as having a "proper" accent. Many people also swear by the approach of not speaking in your students' language, so that they hear only English being spoken from the beginning to the end of the lesson. You will find ways to make yourself understood. In my experience of language teaching, it can even be counter-productive if your students know that you speak their language well, because they may be too tempted to speak to you in Greek when they find it hard going.

I have heard several people suggest that working in a language school for a few months is a good way to meet students and advertise the fact that you do private English lessons, on a one-to-one basis. I myself do English lessons of this type. It can be difficult to get the first few lessons, but then through word of mouth you'll get more if you do a good job - that great social network of mums and dads on the school run can work wonders! The University of Cambridge ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) exam system seems to be the most widely known and respected in Greece. It is worth familiarising yourself with the system - there is an enormous amount of free information on the Internet, including lesson plans, tips, exam practice etc. The exams which are most commonly sat by students are the "First Certificate in English" (which many people still refer to by its old name: "Lower"), "Certificate of Proficiency in English" (known as "Proficiency"), and "Certificate in Advanced English" (commonly referred to as "Advanced"). More information is available from the Cambridge ESOL web site.

What students will want from you varies a great deal. Some may just want a conversation class, others may just be starting on the Cambridge examinations path and there will be some who are already at a very high level and may need detailed coaching on specific grammar points or on vocabulary for a particular purpose e.g. business English. And given these differences, the amount of preparation required on your part and the fee per hour you are able to charge will probably vary too. I'll finish with a word on advertising. My experience has been that I have paid out money for two newspaper ads, which got back zero replies! What has worked well for me is local advertising - you need to use your imagination. I put a card in local shops and a small notice in the back window of my car and you can see people reading it at every traffic light! Just beware of getting calls on your mobile while you're driving - not good! As I said before, word of mouth should kick in too once you have your first couple of lessons.

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