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Can I really teach English in Germany?!?
The short and easy answer is “YES”.
In fact anyone who has graduated from high school and has a good grasp of their own language can make a comfortable living as a freelance trainer in Germany.
However, a little prep work is required in order to avert disaster.
Over the years I’ve seen so many people come full of enthusiasm only to leave in tears a few short months later. I can’t guarantee you success but if you follow the 5 guidelines below then your adjustment will be a lot easier.
1. Learn some basic German.
You don’t have to be a fluent speaker but a few months before your trip you should buy a basic phrase book. “Where is the train station?” “How much is this?” etc.
Make sure it has a phonetic pronunciation guide.
It doesn’t matter if your German is terrible at the start, as long as you make the effort to speak the language then most of the natives will try their best to help you.
DO NOT blurt out “Hey dude, where can a guy get himself a mickey dees and a cold bottle of suds in this town?” Although a lot West Germans had a little English in school most of them have forgotten it. How much high school French or Spanish can you remember!?!
2. Brush up your grammar.
Native speakers use complex grammar structures without thinking what they are called.
Now you need to learn the names and when they are used. DON’T PANIC!
Essential Grammar In Use ISBN 3-12-533460-8
This book is the bible for English trainers and it’s written simply and clearly.
GET IT NOW! Read it from cover to cover and do all the exercises.
Remember you are not learning the language, just brushing up.
I remember thinking “wow, so that’s what it’s called when I say that.”
Basically your learning the lingo.
A TOEFL certificate would be a big advantage and you can do the course in the evenings or at weekends. It’s worth the relatively small price you pay.
3. Observe the culture.
Search the net, read German authors and watch German movies.
Learn a little about the German culture.
Germans are a lot more reserved than British or Americans and need a little more time to warm up. Don’t mistake this for unfriendliness. Once you gain their trust you won’t find more loyal friends. Eating on the street can be frowned upon but drinking a bottle of beer on your way home from work isn’t really out of place.
4. Have your papers ready.
The people here are highly organized and for us maybe a little too bureaucratic.
Make sure you have all your relevant education papers, tax info. , social security etc.
You also have to register for a work permit but most schools will help you with this process. Although the authorities are more tolerant with non-German speakers they still expect everything to be done exactly right. If you have to organize your work permit by yourself then try to have a bi-lingual speaker with you.
5. Have a “Plan B”.
Even with the greatest preparation things can sometimes go wrong.
Make sure that you have an open return plane ticket, travel insurance and enough emergency money with you in case things don’t go as planned.
It could be that you get here and the culture shock is too great, maybe you have a skiing mishap on your day off or being an English trainer isn’t all you thought it would be.
It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Hopefully I haven’t painted too dark a picture. After all I’m married to a German woman and have happily adjusted to life here. Living and working in Germany can be a fantastic experience and totally change your life in a positive way as long as you do a little planning before your trip.
About the Author: Nigel Nix has been teaching Business English in Germany for the last 7 years and now has his own training business.
You can visit his website.