Monday, April 14, 2014

FAQ: Teaching private English classes in Spain

Many native-English speaking expats in Spain tend to teach private English classes for a little extra cash, whether they're studying or working abroad. Here are some FAQs to help new arrivals get started teaching private English lessons:

Teaching private English classes in Spain - FAQ via Oh No She Madridn't

How do I find private English lessons to teach? 

What types of private English classes can I offer?

You'll want to specify in your advertisement what type of classes you're offering. Based on your experience and preference, that could include any of the following:
  • Conversational English
  • Business English
  • Grammar-intensive classes
  • Cambridge Exam preparation (Specify which: PET/FCE/CAE/CPE)
  • Level: Beginner / Intermediate / Advanced
  • Grade/Age: Primaria / ESO (Educación Secundaria Obligatoria) / Bachillerato / Universidad / Adult
... or whatever other area of English that you can teach!

How much should I charge for private English lessons in Spain?

I don't have an exact answer, as rates depend on your experience and the "going rate", but I'll share my experiences. When I first started giving private English classes in 2009, I didn't have previous experience tutoring ESL/EFL. Our study abroad program advertised private English lessons for 15 euros/hour, so when I got my first student via my study abroad program, that was my rate. I also taught five siblings from a family of eight who lived rather far outside of Madrid (Las Rozas). They paid 18/hour plus the 5 euros it cost me to get out there and back by bus from Moncloa. It really was a hike to get there, but the family was so great I would have done it for free.

I attended a 2.5 hour Introduction to TEFL Workshop put on by Canterbury English once I started giving those private lessons, and taught for the year.  Partway through I added two more students to my weekly classes (cousins of my first student).  Back in Madison I volunteered as an ESL tutor at Literacy Network the summer after graduation. So with all that as my experience, I upped my rate to 16/hour when I returned to Madrid in 2011 to work as an English teacher in the public schools. I also taught a student from my first year, so we kept the rate at 15 for him.

That was my second year of private classes, and first year teaching English in public schools. I volunteered as an ESL conversation partner back in Madison for a few months when I was home and completed a 100-hour TEFL certification course online early in the summer of 2013. When I finish my current contract here in Korea I'll also have a year of full-time EFL teaching in an elementary school under my belt. So with that experience, plus the quality of lessons I'd guarantee, if I returned to Spain today to teach I would start my rate at no less than 20/hour.

You'll hear all sorts of opinions and debates about what to charge for private English classes in Spain. I knew a girl who found a play class from a flyer (play with two young girls in English for an hour) that paid 25 euros. Other people think you should charge higher if you're a native, regardless of experience - but I think experience is important.

Feel free to offer discounts for number of students (For example: 16/hr/student - 1 student, 10/hr/student - 2 students, etc.). That way if friends want lessons together it's more affordable for them (10 euros instead of 16 euros), yet you can make a little more because you've got to pay attention to and work on strengthening two different students' English skills.

I recommend browsing some native English teachers' postings on Tus clases particulares or Lingo Bongo to get a general idea for current rates, too. Looking today, in April of 2014, I saw a range from 10 euros/hour to 22 euros/hour between all the posts I looked at. The high of 22/hr was posted by a 37-year-old with over 10 years of ESL teaching experience.

What factors should I consider while choosing a rate?

  • Your ESL/EFL teaching education
  • Your ESL/EFL teaching experience
  • The quality of lessons you will provide
  • The location of the lessons (Your apartment? Their apartment? How far are you willing to travel?)
  • The status of Spain's economy

How do I get paid for teaching private English classes?

I always got paid in cash at the end of each lesson, and think this is the norm. One time a family asked if I preferred to be paid every week or once at the end of the month, but I chose to get paid weekly.

What tips should I know to receive payment smoothly?  

Decide with the student (or his/her parents) how often you'll be paid before you begin tutoring.

Since I charged 16/hour my second year, which isn't an even 5 or 10, I always made sure to have change on me. Make it easy for the parents/students and be prepared to give change for a 20 (or whatever bill makes sense in your situation).

Also, be sure to keep track of each payment you receive -- write it down in the same place every week. Every now and then some situation would arise where the parents forgot to leave money with their kids, or they wanted to pay for both Tuesday and Thursday's classes on Tuesday. Regardless of the reason, I always jotted it down in my private lessons notebook. That way I never got confused if I'd been paid or not.

How do I time the lesson?

I always set an alarm on my cell phone before class so that I wouldn't have to constantly be looking at it during the lesson. (Speaking of cell phones, make sure to silence your phone ringer while teaching class!).  I set my alarm to go off 2-3 minutes before time was up so that we could finish whatever we were in the middle of and end class calmly. Most of my lessons were an hour long, though the year I had five students from the same family, each kid had a half hour with me.

How do I keep track of multiple students?

I had a small "private lessons notebook" with a section for each student I taught.  I took notes during and after every lesson, which I highly recommend doing.  What should you write down?  I'd write new vocab words or the grammar unit they were currently studying at school so I could prepare related exercises for our next class. I'd write down common mistakes I heard, or things the student had difficulty with, so I could create activities to work on those particular items next time. The notebook was also a good place for me to jot down personal details I'd learn during lessons (Birthdays, interest, likes/dislikes), which helped me personalize classes and develop better relationships with each student.

I've never taught English before. What should I know?

The answer to this question could be a whole post series in and of itself, so I'll be brief and just hit a few key points: Speak slowly and clearly with your students.

You should most likely be able to understand and explain grammar to your students, depending on their age/level. If you've studied a foreign language before, you'll probably have a better idea of direct/indirect objects, transitive/intransitive verbs, verb tenses, and other grammatical topics.  Be prepared to explain, for example, the English rule about when to use how much vs. how many (Why we say "How many people?" and "How many shoes?",  but "How much water?" and "How much money?").  If you're scratching your head, look up "countable and uncountable nouns" online. You'll be seeing those again and again in various grammatical rules, so it's a good idea to learn it now.  Purdue's Online Writing Lab might be a good place to start if this is all new to you. I'm sure you can work your way through a Google search to find other helpful information to learn about English grammar.

Please make sure you know the correct usage of the basic (but way too often confused) "their/there/they're", "it's/its", and "your/you're". (Hint: "It's" = it is, "its" is possessive).

If you're American, keep in mind that most Spanish students are taught British English in school, and there are some spelling/vocabulary/grammar differences you'll come across. Here are ten differences between British and American English that left an impression on me from teaching in Spain.

I'd consider attending a short TEFL/TESOL training in your city, or see what sorts of free TESOL/TEFL training you can find online.  Something you will learn quickly is that compared to any other language, there are huge amounts of free English-learning materials available on the web (games, worksheets, flashcards, songs, lesson plans, exercises, etc.). Here are a few of these sites:

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What other questions do you have about teaching private English lessons in Spain?


  1. I love your blog! Very helpful and well written.

  2. Would you recommend teaching private classes as my only source of income in Spain? I have a TEFL cert. and two years teaching experience in a primary school in Thailand. I'm curious if the demand would be high enough in a city like Granada or another city in southern Spain.

    1. Hi Jonny! If you're really set on doing it, I think you could make it happen. I have a friend in Madrid who solely teaches private lessons now, though she's been living there for several years and has taught in some of Madrid's public and private schools. Once you build a good reputation, more lessons seem to always come at you. It could take persistence, but like I said, if that's your goal, I think you could make it happen—even in Granada or another southern city.

  3. Really really useful to read, thank you very much! :)

  4. Hi Rebecca, couldn't agree anymore, great information! One useful advice I would like to share is time management. If a private tutor manages time well, it results fruitful for the student in efficient learning and more opportunities for the teacher.

  5. Hi Rebecca, great article, detailed information and straight to the point. I am a Spanish woman who has lived in the US for the last twenty years and I am planning to go back home soon. Do you think there is a market for non native speakers or it is restricted to natives?

    1. Hi there—thanks!
      Yes, there were always non-native speakers offering private lessons as well. Usually the hourly cost was a bit cheaper than native speakers were charging, but I think your English level plus being a native Spanish speakers would be extra useful for certain English learners.
      So if you want to build a side business or even just give a couple of lessons a week, I think you could definitely do it! Once you get a couple of students, word of mouth can travel fast. ;) Buena suerte!

  6. He, Rebecca! This is a great article. Thank you for the info. As a tutor I appreciate any tips I come by< you never know what come in handy one day.

    1. Hi Kaley! Thanks, you're very welcome! Best of luck with finding private lessons.