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Teaching English in Europe – My Personal Experience

Teaching English in Europe – My Personal Experience
MBL Editors

How I Taught English In Europe

By Dahlia Nethersole

Looking for work in Europe can be a daunting process.  Having a particular talent or skill that is in demand could land you the right opportunity! My mother tongue of English was the only requirement needed to secure me a teaching job within two weeks after arriving in Paris!

Having studied French at Boston University naturally my chosen country of work was France.  Soon after my study abroad program in Grenoble and graduation from BU I was off to Paris. Normally, the law is that Americans must secure an offer for employment and work visa in the US prior to travelling to France. However, I was already in France on a student visa with the Alliance Francaise that allowed me to transition to a work visa. I was soon offered a teaching job at Le Comptoir de Langues in Paris training executives to speak and write Business English. I secured a carte de sejour.

My clients were executives for companies such as BNP Paris, KPMG, Cap Gemini, Loreal and even Danon Yogurt! Though a young, recently graduated novice, I felt like a “professional” working in the corporate world with a real job making my own hours in my dream city and it was exhilarating!

The classes I taught were one on one so I could tailor my class to the client’s needs. Working with French companies was great. I got to experience a different work culture. Dressing stylishly for work was a nice added bonus, always donning a colorful scarf around my neck and wearing an elegant shoe. My clients classes were scheduled around long lunch hours. So I had time to explore the city, grabbing a baguette and cheese on my way to the next client. It was great time in my life and I am happy I made the effort to experience it. I was also a damn good teacher. It was a pleasure to see my student’s faces light up with achievement.

dahliamermaidIn Germany I also taught Business English in companies. My German was not as good as my French. But being married to a German was enough experience for me! And the students are only allowed to communicate in English so an in-depth knowledge of German was not necessary. I landed a position in Munich with Nations and Inlingua and later with Technik Für Bürokommunikation when my husband got a transfer to Berlin.  It’s advisable to register with, multiple language institutes if you are a freelance worker and not an employee so as to have more hours of teaching.

In comparison to my teaching position in France, the German companies had bigger groups of students. It wasn’t as much fun yet it was more challenging. Also, it was more serious as the level of English comprehension one needed was much higher. In my experience, most Germans in the corporate world already speak very good English in comparison to French companies. Therefore in Germany, I found myself teaching advanced language classes and correcting and building upon the students or clients presentation skills.

Culturally my heart was not in Germany like it was in France but it was good pay and experience.

Now things have gotten somewhat more challenging for Americans since the opening of the European Union. One can use that as an advantage as even more EU countries now need to communicate with one common language, English, so more work for English trainers. But the challenge now is that not only are you competing with fellow Americans, Brits, Australians and the like. Other EU nationals can also speak English so may be given preference as no work visa/sponsorship is needed for them as with Americans.

So, it’s not about what you know but how creatively you market yourself in finding a niche that works. Teaching general English is great and will get you jobs. But the key is to differentiate yourself by teaching English to a specific market. For example, if your background is in Engineering, Medicine or Law it might be a good idea to teach English in that industry to those types of clients. You can actually build a business doing this. If your French (or whatever chosen language) is good it can also lead to translation jobs where you are working from the second language into your native tongue.

Voila! So eat that baguette in Paris or try that bratwurst in Munich! Ultimately keep and open mind and remember to share not only your language skills but also your passion for cultural exchange.

Bon chance and Viel Glück!

  • Lorraine Spencer

    I absolutely loved this piece as it was very informative. Well done Dahlia. You are going to inspire many with these few words. So many sisters are looking for opportunities to travel, work and live abroad and this is most certainly a wonderful way to go. Danke and Merci!