Becoming a Language Teacher in Brazil
Many foreigners coming to Brazil without any previous planning or job proposal end up as language teachers. In most cases it is only a temporary situation, but some of them want to make it a career. Whatever your case is, learn how to look for this type of job and what its particularities are.
The myth of the native speaker
Anyone walking around São Paulo city has probably seen signs with the following ad “English classes with native speakers”. Many of these teachers are independent and have no relation to any language school. It is also truth that many of them do not have any formation to be teaching, but in Brazil, the word “native speaker” draws attention.
In some language schools it is common to see students fighting over the native speaker teacher as they believe this is the best way to learn a foreign language. So do not worry if you are an engineer who has never faced a classroom before. Just learn a little bit of Portuguese (enough to communicate with students who are still in earlier stages of learning), say that you are a native speaker and you will probably get the job.
Generally speaking, there are three major ways you can teach: private lessons, school classes and “in company” lessons. Each of these categories has its advantages and disadvantages, being them:
Advantages: you pick your own students and decide when you are available to teach (at least in theory). It is deal for professionals who already have a job and are only looking for an income complementary activity.
Disadvantages: it may take some time until you have a significant clientele, what can be a serious problem if this is your only source of income. Also, there is no benefit (such as transportation costs or health insurance) and you have to afford all the costs involved in the work.
Advantages: it is a steady job and you have rights to common benefits such as transportation , unemployment insurance and social security. Also, you have a fixed income range that you can rely on.
Disadvantages: the amount paid for the classes is much lower than the prices an independent professional would charge and there is not so much flexibility regarding working hours, with the teacher being very often required to work at night and on the weekends.
Advantages: the one with the best salary range and working conditions. The teacher is usually works in as a partner for a language school and is assigned to companies. Very rarely works on the weekends or at night.
Disadvantages: it is not an easy-to-get type of job as the students are much more demanding and require a more specific teaching method. There is a tendency to restrict the learning to a certain field, so the demand for business English, for example, is going to be very high. Just like it happens with private lessons, the teacher has no bond to the school, being in charge of all the expenses involved, such as transportation, meal, etc.
Most common languages and salary range
More and more Brazil has become an internationalized country and there is a demand for several different languages. However, the most common still are: English, Spanish, French and German.
Despite the influence of the English language in Brazilian Portuguese and the constant exposure to this language, English still is the most demanded foreign language in Brazil.
Salaries vary according to the teaching modality, being the most common:
- Private lessons: from BRL 50,00 to BRL 100,00 per class/hour
- School classes: monthly salary ranging from BRL 1200,00 (usually Monday to Saturday) to BRL 3.000,00
- In-company classes: varies according to the work. If you are offering your services as an independent professional, then it is common to charge BRL 150,00 per hour; if you are being intermediated by a language school, then you will receive a part of what they charge, what varies from BRL 35,00 to BRL 75,00 per class. Also, it is common to be hired as a legal entity and work twice a week. In this case, the salary ranges from BRL 800,00 to BRL 2100,00, depending on the school, company, number of students and so forth.
Spanish is also very appreciated by Brazilians, especially due to the similarity to Portuguese. Most language schools are focused on English and Spanish and you can find one of these schools in most Brazilian cities.
- Private lessons: not so different from English, with the average prices per class/hour ranging from BRL 50,00 to BRL 75,00
- School classes: monthly salary ranging from BRL 800,00 to BRL 2.800,00 (on a CLT regime) or BRL 25,00 to BRL 50,00 per class (on a legal entity regime)
- In-company lessons: very similar to English, with prices per class ranging from BRL 25,00 to BRL 75,00.
Not so appreciated as English and Spanish (as it has little use on the business environment), French is still seen as a synonymous of sophistication. It is estimated that 82% of the French students in Brazil are between 16 and 35 years old.
The problem with French is that is still being adjusted to Brazil and there are not many schools available. Also, the demand is higher in major cities, differently from English, that is present almost everywhere.
- Private lessons: from BRL 75,00 to BRL 150,00 (one of the most expensive) per class.
- School classes: from monthly BRL 800,00 to BRL 2.000 (Monday to Saturday on a CLT regime), or from BRL 20,00 to BRL 50,00 per class/hour.
- In-company lessons: from monthly BRL 800,00 to BRL 1800,00. Working hours vary according to the school, but is usually of two to four hours a week.
As German is easily replaced by English (most Germans working/living in Brazil speak English), the language does not have a high demand. Most German students take the course because they are interested in the culture or because they descend from German ancestors. Nevertheless, the demand for this course has increased 10% in 2011.
- Private lessons: from BRL 75,00 to BRL 120,00 per class.
- School classes: from monthly BRL 432,00 (yes, this is correct) to BRL 1800,00, or from BRL 18,00 to BRL 28,00 per class.
- In-company lessons: from BRL 50,00 (one student) to BRL 100,00 (three students).
If you have chosen to work with private lessons, have in mind that you will need to administrate your money very well. Private lessons are almost informal appointments and it is not uncommon to have students cancelling the class at the very last minute, paying with delays or simply not paying at all.
How do I start teaching?
If you want to work independently, you can advertise your own work through leaflets or place signs on the walls and light poles of major roads (observe the city legislation regarding advertisement first). A good way to market your services is to place signs or distribute leaflets at universities. Companies are more likely to hire through schools.
If you want to work with schools, make a list of the language schools in your area and contact them directly. They will probably ask you to take a test and if you are approved, explain you the job conditions.
You can also use more traditional ways, such as the classified section of the newspapers or websites that assist you getting your job. “Vagas.com” and “Info Jobs” are two portals offering this service for free and Vagas.com has its content available in both English and Spanish. Regardless of how you are going to look for the job, learning some Portuguese is crucial and will definitely help you getting the job and adapting to its routine.
And what about safety?
Differently from many public Brazilian schools, known for its violence and indiscipline, language schools tend to be more tranquil. This changes a bit when it comes to private lessons. It is impossible to tell just by looking at the student if he can bring any harm or not, nevertheless, before receiving the student at your house or going to his place, try to schedule an appointment in a public place, like a café or a library, just to get to know your student a little better. Also, avoid going to dangerous neighborhoods, especially late at night.