“So what brought you to Brazil?” I was sitting in a cramped little office where I was waiting to be interviewed for an English teaching job. I was sitting at a desk that had an assortment of English teaching books of varying difficulty. Across from me at a computer was an English teacher from Austria.
“I moved here to be with my girlfriend,” when he spoke he sounded exactly like Arnold Schwarzenegger. I didn’t tell him that because he shared the former governor’s love of pumping iron and I didn’t want him to beat me up.
“Was it easy for you to get a job here as a non native English speaker?” I was curious to know just how badly Brazil needed English teachers.
“Yah, it waz no prahblem for me to get a job here. My girlfriend asked some friends for me and I found zis school. They need teachers so bahdly that any English speaker can find work here. By ze way, where are you from?”
“I’m from California.”
“Ahh Caleefornya, just like Arnold!” When he mispronounced California just like Arnold I could no longer hold back my laughter. Luckily instead of beating me up he just looked at me like he wanted to kill me.
The Demand for English Teachers in Brazil
The encounter I had with the Austrian English teacher taught me a very important lesson: Anyone can teach English in Brazil. Brazil has a huge demand for English teachers that outweighs the current supply. With the upcoming World Cup in 2014, Olympics in 2016, as well as the increasing dominance of English as the lingua franca of the world, Brazilians know that they need to learn English. Everywhere you go in Brazil you’ll see ads for the major English schools on buses, billboards, on TV and you’ll even see Megan Fox, Bruce Lee and Mike Tyson promoting English schools in Brazil.
Classes at these schools are typically taught by Brazilians who have lived abroad for some time, but what students really want is English instruction from native English speakers. Whether true or not, the perception amongst many Brazilians is that native English teachers are better than Brazilian teachers. This means that any American, Canadian, Australian, Kiwi, Brit, Irish or South African can easily get a job as an English teacher. Scottish people can too, but they have to first convince me that its actually English that they speak.
What qualifications do you need?
Because of the high demand and low supply of English teachers, plus the perception that native speakers are better teachers, you don’t need much in the way of qualifications in order to get hired. Whether it is true or not that native English speakers make better teachers is a discussion for another day. Nevertheless, as an American, Canuck, Limey, Kiwi or Aussie you already meet the most important qualification for most schools which is that you speak English fluently.
Even if you’ve never taught English before, you are still capable of being a good English teacher. As a native speaker you know a lot about the English language, even if you’ve never formally studied it. You instinctively know when a sentence bad grammar uses, and are capable of pointing out those mistakes to students. You know the correct way to pronounce beach and bitch, shit and sheet, and rat and hat. You’re also a walking thesaurus and can provide more interesting adjectives to use than good and bad.
English classes abroad are nothing like the English classes that you had when you were in school. The mental image you should have in your head of an English class in Brazil is two friends sitting at a table having a conversation, not a boring old lady lecturing in front of a blackboard. Those kinds of teaching job does exist, but it requires teaching credentials, years of experience and a college degree, which is outside the scope of this article.
Most of the students you have will be looking for one on one conversation practice, which means your job will basically be to have a conversation with them for an hour. Most schools will provide some kind of material for you to work with, so you wont be flying blind into your classes. Inside the classroom you don’t have to do much more than follow a lesson plan that you make from the book, gently correct the mistakes that your students make, and make sure that they use English outside of the classroom.
To do this kind of work, you don’t need a whole lot in the way of credentials. Its far more important that you have the confidence to do the job, the resourcefulness to put together a lesson plan that is engaging for your student, and conversational skills to keep them interested in coming back to class. There is a plethora of English teaching resources available on the Internet that can help fill in the blanks for you.
If your goal is to work at a language school or teach privately in Brazil, having an English teaching certification isn’t always going to be necessary. Its obviously not going to hurt if you have one, but only an extremely selective school will turn you away if you don’t. A good majority of the English teachers that I know in Brazil showed up without having a teaching certificate like CELTA or TESOL and it didn’t hurt their ability to find work.
Its also not going to hurt you if you don’t have a college degree when you go in for a job interview. As long as you pass yourself off as an intelligent person and have good rapport with the person hiring you, you shouldn’t have a problem getting a job. The author of this post doesn’t have a college degree and he hasn’t been inconvenienced by the lack when searching for work.
Private students will rarely if ever ask about any of credentials and will care more about the relationship they have with you, and who referred you to them. If you do a good job teaching, your students will refer you to all of their friends and family, and eventually you’ll have more work than you know what to do with.
You Can Teach English in Brazil
I hope you’re starting to get the idea that you can teach English in Brazil. By reading this much of the article, you’ve shown that you have a high degree of English fluency and have the technical knowledge required to teach English. If at any time while reading this article you’ve thought to yourself, “I can teach English in Brazil!” then you have the second necessary component, which is confidence. And when you get on a plane and fly down to Brazil you will have shown to all prospective employers that you are serious about getting hired as an English teacher, and they will act accordingly.
One important caveat here is that you need to have the proper visa in order to teach English in Brazil. While I may have given the impression that you can just come to Brazil and easily find work as an English teacher, you need to have a visa type that permits you to work in Brazil. Working on a tourist visa is illegal in Brazil and is not recommended.