“I’m an excellent English speaker and I know I can teach it well. If this is the only language I know, how I’m supposed to teach it in a country where people speak Spanish? How I will live there, communicate with society and give instructions to the students who are not good at understanding my language?”
If these questions sound familiar to you and tangled in your mind after you have finally decided to move to Madrid for adopting a TEFL abroad career, then worry not. We have created this post to clear out all such concerns and misconceptions. In fact, this is the most widely asked question by most of the prospective TEFL graduates that whether not knowing a foreign language makes TEFL a no-no career for them? The answer is; this is not a barrier for them because you are going to teach a language you know and not the one you don’t know and also, language schools in Spain do not have any such requirement as they encourage to follow the language immersion style within the class where all the communication take place in English only and speaking Spanish is discouraged during the English class hours. Knowing your students’ language sometimes helps because you know what they are whispering to each other. But there is an opposite side of the picture as well. Not knowing the language of your students is one of your biggest assets because the students will be aware that by hook or by crook, they have to communicate with you in English because you don’t know their native language. In this way, they can’t switch from speaking English in case they got stuck at some point. In the end, they will force themselves to find a way to communicate in the language in question. This will help to create a great English immersion environment within the class.
Owing to our years of experience in the TEFL industry, let us answer the common questions and myths related to teaching English without knowing the local language.
So, Can I Really Become an English Teacher in Madrid Even if I Can’t Speak Spanish?
YES! You can. Language schools here encourage English immersion learning style rather than Bilingual one. You can teach in Spain if you have the following things:
- Bachelor’s degree
- Fluency in English
- A TEFL Certificate (recommended)
[don't have one? Check out our TEFL courses offered at TEFL Madrid Academy]
However, it can be a bit more challenging to make the transition here and to find accommodation without having basic knowledge of Spanish. But it is not that much of a problem as Madrid is a famous international city, home to a large number of expatriate population and people here are quite familiar with the things like facing and dealing with foreigners.
What About the Interview and Getting Hired?
The job is all about teaching English at a professional level because of your ability and fluency in English. Therefore, the interviewer will be least interested in the fact that whether you can speak the local language or not. Also, all of the candidates who apply for an English teaching job abroad are interviewed in the same language and you don’t need to worry about presenting your resume in the native language of that country.
And My Survival in A Different Country?
After getting a job, the next major concern of TEFL teachers is to actually live and thrive abroad by performing the daily life rituals of shopping, traveling and building relationships in a foreign country. Those who can’t even understand simple words of the local language, they tend to be more worried about their survival abroad. If this is the case with you, then worry not because Madrid is a well established and famous city where it is not very difficult to communicate with locals in English. Some TEFL adventurers often experience a culture shock while trying to make a transition at a different place with diverse cultures and people. They find it overwhelming and think of quitting everything. So, it is better to learn some of the common phrases to make yourself comfortable and getting used to this adventure abroad.
What’s Better for the Students, Bilingual or English Emersion Style?
Both of the styles have their pros and cons. In the field of TEFL, students mostly expect that the teacher will use a mix of English and native language to teach them. This type of expectation may result in the form of resistance in the start. But if they are taught via this easy-going way, it will hinder their performance as they will always find a way to move away from the purpose of becoming fluent in English. On the other hand, English Emersion is believed as the most effective style to help the students excel in this language. They also develop a complete understanding of the language being taught to them. The basic reason is that the students are left with no option than to communicate in English. This leads them to create new words and sentences to convey their message just like small children learn to speak. This approach also improves the listening ability of students many times.
How Can I Teach If I Don’t Know My Students’ language?
In an ESL class, the chances that you will meet a group of English learners who are absolute beginners are very few and most of them usually have some basic understanding and exposure to this language. And if they actually are beginners, different activities and games can be used to stimulate their interest in the start. And in case you if know their language a little bit, it is not recommended as per the modern English teaching standards to divert the classroom setting away from the English-only environment. Also, getting a TEFL course beforehand is beneficial as it provides all the professional skills and expertise to communicate effectively with the non-native speakers anywhere abroad. Here are some more tips and strategies that you can use in class when you don’t understand the language of students.
- Communicating expectations: It is important to define the objectives and outcomes that you are expecting from the class. When they are made aware of the type of environment you will create as their instructor, they will immediately start to develop a picture in their mind about how to stand out and perform well.
- Using Non-verbal Tools: If you find yourself a little uncomfortable because of the fear of not communicating well due to the language barrier, it’s perfectly fine because you can use a number of non-verbal tools to teach them effectively. For example, you can use pictures, objects, postures, and body language to explain the meaning and usage of English words and phrases. In this way, the learning can be carried out in a playful way and by not using the students’ native language.
- Speak clearly and repeat: When the students don’t understand much of your language, you and your students both are on the same page. Now it’s your turn to find ways and to create a communication channel. One way is to speak very clearly because your fast speaking accent may be a problem for them. The more you speak slowly and clearly, the more it will be easy for them to capture the meaning of your words. Repetition is also important when the learners have a little knowledge of grammar and pronunciation. At some point, you may feel that if I repeat a phrase anymore, it will annoy them but in reality, their purpose of being in the class is to master the language and they will find it useful to hear your repetitive sentences and phrases in order to develop a clear understanding.
- Paying attention to their responses: As you would not be able to communicate freely in their own language, one way to find the usability of your teaching methods is to closely observe them that how they are responding and performing after a lesson has been delivered. If you find that a few students are confused and fail to demonstrate what you have instructed them, try using a different approach next time for teaching the same lesson. Soon, you will get to know the best method to suit their needs.
Not being able to speak Spanish will be a challenge, but only at the start of your session. Because you'll learn the meaning of simple words and phrases and this learning continues over time. This will also develop a sense of empathy about your students and the difficulties they face while learning a foreign language. Find out some more reasons that why learning Spanish while staying in Spain will help you during your stay.
Don’t let your fear of not speak Spanish in the way of your dream and begin a new life by taking a TEFL course in Madrid.