Teaching English in Argentina: A Learning Experience

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Kids at RecessMany people who travel to Buenos Aires want more than just a simple vacation. It’s easy to fall in love with the city, the people, the culture, and the lifestyle. But when your money runs low, and you realize you must work to extend your stay, there are few options for an English-speaking foreigner. One of those options is teaching English. In fact, for many English-speaking expats, it’s the only option.

English teaching jobs in Buenos Aires usually require little more than being a native-tongue English speaker. Meaning, that if you were born and raised in an English speaking country, you qualify for the job. The demand for English teachers is high as well. International businesses, hotels, restaurants, tour guides, and major shopping centers need English speaking employees to accommodate their clientèle. While there are many native Argentines who can teach the language, having a native speaker is clearly a better choice.

Most expat teachers start off in language institutes. These are usually informal schools, made up of a few classrooms, where students pay to take either full-time or part-time courses. The institutes typically charge between $50 and $70 pesos per hour, and pay their teachers around $15 to $20 pesos per hour, which is quite a decent salary in Argentina. There are a few catches, however. Classes are scheduled in hour-long increments, and many institutes will require you to teach off-site, at a student’s house or office. This means lots of travel time, which is not paid for. Also, on some days you may find yourself teaching only one or two hours, based on how classes are scheduled.

That being said, your average teacher will only be in class, getting paid for around 10 to 15 hours per week. Once you factor in the average travel time, this could take up to 30 hours per week in total, though you’re only getting paid for half. Payment is another issue. Chances are, if you’re teaching here, you’re working “in black” as they say. This means that you have no work visa or contract which guarantees your job, wages, or pay dates. Most institutes pay by the month, and late payment is not only common, it’s expected. Many times, teachers will have to budget themselves for up to six weeks in advance of their expected payment, and if the payment is not made, there is no legal safety net to guarantee it will happen.

Teaching your own private classes separate from the institutes are a much safer bet, but finding clients and negotiating prices tend to be more difficult. Locals trust the institutes over the individuals as far as credibility, so you have to drastically lower your private prices to compete with them. Online bulletin boards such as Craigslist.com may appear to be a good option, but most Argentines don’t read them in English, and they will be less inclined to trust a web posting over a reputable school.

Your best, and most secure option is to find a client who wants intensive English immersion, and can afford to pay the fee. Businessmen and women, privately educated children, and frequent travelers fit this bill perfectly. Obtaining these types of clients can be tricky, but with a lot of networking, a professional attitude, and a little luck, it can be within your reach. Whatever you do, remember to be patient. Working culture here operates very differently from that of the US or Europe, and it can take some getting used to. If you stick through it, and are willing to adapt, teaching English in Buenos Aires can ultimately be a rewarding and educational experience that will extend your stay and enhance your travels.

9 Comments

[…] Teaching English is a popular job for many expats living in Argentina. There is a great demand for learning English in Argentina due to an increased tourist industry, and a more globalized business market. The problem, as blogger Coog from Coogling Argentina writes, is that many students put too much emphasis on accent, don’t practice enough, and study because they have to, not because they want to. For many schools and businesses, learning English is a requirement, and with many native speaking teachers coming from all over the world, accents often vary. Coog insists that accent is less important than one thinks, and that practical usage, practice, and writing are tantamount to learning the language correctly.  […]

OurExplorer on May 7, 08

“International businesses, hotels, restaurants, tour guides, and major shopping centers…”, so big the demand of English-speaking countries!

OurExplorer on May 7, 08

So big the demand of English-speaking people!

Cath on October 5, 08

Personally I wouldn’t call AR$20 an hour a ‘good’ salary here. Inflation really erodes your earnings, and rent is expensive.

[…] is spoilt for choice for English Language Schools in Buenos Aires and with a bit of persistence and elaboration you could soon find yourself […]

chaz on June 12, 09

I’m teaching here in a language institute.

It not that easy to find work and between December and March it is difficult.

It’s expensive to gain a TEFL certificate so unless you are serious don’t do it. I’d say 80 per cent of my TEFL course left BA within 6 months of the course.

If you have to pay rent you will find it difficult if not impossible to get by on teaching wages.

BA is a facinating place but be warned.

Spanish Classes on July 16, 09

Most teachers have to supplement with private lessons on the side and branching out to find their own clients.

Teacher in Buenos Aires on August 6, 09

A good and thorough article, I also read one one here http://landingpadba.com/teaching-english-buenos-aires/ which is good too. Teaching English in BA is a great way to get to know the city, learn the language and get a different insight (whilst earning money!) than the usual tourist. I’d thoroughly recommend it if you can handle it!!

Alex Hudson on November 2, 09

Hey I will be coming over to BA late December for about 2 months and would love to get involved in teaching English. Don’t really mind where or who I would be teaching i would just love the experience. I’m 22 and don’t have any qualifications although i am a University student who is articulate and i think i would be good at teaching.

Gracias, Alex

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