Mobile menu

Jobs for an English speaker (American) in Germany with a lack of German
Thread poster: Sarah Downing

Sarah Downing  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:43
German to English
+ ...
May 19, 2005

Hi everybody!

I'd really appreciate some advice on behalf of a friend of mine who is looking for language work.

Said friend is an American who is currently based in Bochum, Germany and looking for work as a language teacher. He already has a couple of people whom he is giving private tuition to, but is looking to branch out as his partner is soon going to be earning less. The problem with private tuition (in my experience) is that is doesn't tend to suffice to get you by full-time.

Anwway, yesterday we went to an interview at a language school and the guy who interviewed my friend seemed kind of concerned because my friend has only been speaking German for 4 months - he tries but obviously if you've only been speaking for 4 months, your vocab etc. tends to be kind of limited. Personally I find this slightly irrelevant for the job for which he is applying, because he wants to teach English and from a certain level of learner it is probably best to teach in English anyway.

What I wanted to ask is - how important is it, in your opinion, that a language teacher speak the language of the country in which he/she is based?

The other question is: Does anyone have any suggestions as to what kind of work someone who speaks English could do otherwise? I was originally thinking trade fair work, but this is difficult because he'd have to speak German, too. Another thought that occurred to me was market research - I have done a couple of car clinics etc for which they needed English natives. I also thought of PR and marketing, but this kind of stuff is, in my experience, hard to get.

The frustrating thing is that my friend is, in my opinion, very talented, but his lack of German is going to make getting even the most basic of jobs (e.g. waitering) rather difficult.

Any suggestions would be really appreciated because I'd really like to help him.

Thank you very much in advance!

Sarah


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Steven Sidore  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 18:43
Member (2003)
German to English
English Tutoring May 19, 2005

Had a similar situation with my wife a few years back when I was an exchange student in Bonn.

I'd recommend private English tutoring to students and businesspeople. Start by hanging up signs all over the university there in Bochum, then at the many other universities in that part of NRW. It takes time to build a base, and will cost some money to build up a good collection of exercises (printing cost), but you can build a client base and support yourself this way.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Gillian Searl  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:43
Member (2004)
German to English
Educate the Germans!! May 19, 2005

I ran a language school in London for several years and there was no common language among the students except the English they were learning. Therefore all the learning and administration was completed in English from Day 1. If this language school expects the teacher to speak German to the students they are so far behind in the teaching of EFL that it's not even amusing! If on the other hand they are concerned that he won't be able to complete the administration he is required to do or won't get the right money at the end of the month then it's time the school changed it's systems because they are in an international market place.
I love living in Germany but these people need to wake up and smell the coffee!

Gillian
(frustrated again this morning by idiotic questions from my German landlady - "I just wanted to check that you did register the address at the town hall when you moved" - 18 months ago!!)


Direct link Reply with quote
 

sylvie malich
Germany
Local time: 18:43
German to English
Dear Sarah, May 19, 2005

15 years ago when I first came to Germany I was also faced with a similar situation. My German was rough, but I wanted badly to work. I started teaching English in a private language school while I was attending a fulltime German course.

In my experience, the absolute beginners were the ones who needed a bit of encouragement in German now and again, the parallel class was taught by an American who had zilch knowledge of German and the students were more than frustrated.
The Intensivkurs I taught to Germans who just needed to freshen up their knowledge was the most successful.

Your friend should concentrate on Germans who want to improve their English or on Business English. Steer clear of the beginners.
BTW, I made my most money back then giving private instruction. But I'll grant you it's a temporary solution.

sylvie


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Steven Sidore  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 18:43
Member (2003)
German to English
Agree with Sylvie May 19, 2005

sylvie malich wrote:

Your friend should concentrate on Germans who want to improve their English or on Business English. Steer clear of the beginners.
BTW, I made my most money back then giving private instruction. But I'll grant you it's a temporary solution.

sylvie



Didn't think about this when I made my post, but this is 100% true. The university is still the place to try and drum up business, since the students already speak a good deal of English and will be looking for higher-level input, as will any business people who make the effort to go looking at the university. (And they will)


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Michele Johnson  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 18:43
German to English
+ ...
"Talented": other skills to offer? May 19, 2005

What other skills does this person have to offer? Is he a lawyer, engineer, writer, have an MBA? He could offer custom-tailored English classes in his area of specialty (I definitely agree with Sylvie here, avoid the beginners). If he has technical experience he could target local engineering and manufacturing companies. If he has a humanities background he could work with the local museum or Fremdenverkehrsamt.

If he is going to be doing anything remotely independent, I believe he will need to get his German skills up to snuff very quickly. While admirable, Gillian's suggestion to educate the Germans is quixotic at best. Lack of German might work out OK if he is an employee at a language school but if he wants to establish any kind of (lucrative!) independent language courses, it is imperative that he can at least field calls, negotiate, make a short presentation, sell himself, etc. I do also think it is important to have an understanding of the foreign language, even if you are teaching 100% in English.

When I first moved to Germany and was in a similar situation, surprisingly enough the Volkshochschule "recruited" me and started marketing custom courses to local companies. This was a major step above the usual astrology/Trennkost/origami classes they offered and they did separate marketing for this, independent of their regular course catalog. It was nice because they provided most of the equipment, books, etc., acquired customers, took care of all the phone calls and administration, but allowed me a large degree of freedom (and a certain amount of financial security, because I was billing them, not companies X, Y, and Z). Perhaps your friend could strike up a similar partnership with the VHS Bochum, at least for the initial 1-2 years: http://www.bochum.de/vhs/


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Michele Johnson  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 18:43
German to English
+ ...
Is the university really that attractive? May 19, 2005

Steven Sidore wrote:

Didn't think about this when I made my post, but this is 100% true. The university is still the place to try and drum up business, since the students already speak a good deal of English and will be looking for higher-level input, as will any business people who make the effort to go looking at the university. (And they will)


Honestly, I'm not so sure about targeting the "starving student" population. I personally would go more for quality (i.e. a few well-paying industry clients) than quantity. I haven't been in the teaching business for quite a few years but colleagues in Erfurt are earning EUR 5-10 per hour teaching students one-on-one. I can't imagine it's all that different in Bochum. At this rate he's going to have to teach 12 hours a day to even make his rent at the end of the month.

The university language department might be a more interesting option. Again, they could assume responsibility for much of the organization, equipment, classrooms, advertising, etc. Maybe high-level English courses directed towards the scientific staff? I think it's important to find a niche and exploit it.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Steven Sidore  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 18:43
Member (2003)
German to English
Not a problem in our experience May 19, 2005

Michele Johnson wrote:

Honestly, I'm not so sure about targeting the "starving student" population. I personally would go more for quality (i.e. a few well-paying industry clients) than quantity.


I can only speak from experience, my wife's and my own. We had no trouble attracting clients whatsoever. Mind you, these were generally business students or other pre-professionals who also had paying jobs, not humanities students, but we earned DM40 per hour and few balked at that price. (This was 2000-2001.)

(The trick is to offer an 'American hour,' or 60 minutes. German 'hour-long' lessons usually only run 45 minutes, so the students think they're getting a deal).

Furthermore, we had many business clients (i.e. non-students) who found our ads on the university campus. Given the population density in the Bochum area, I don't find it hard to believe at all that a sufficient pool of people would be willing to pay for good English instruction.



[Edited at 2005-05-19 10:55]


Direct link Reply with quote
 
Karin Walker  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 18:43
German to English
+ ...
Er, universities? Good pay? May 19, 2005

Michele Johnson wrote:

>> I personally would go more for quality (i.e. a few well-paying industry clients) than quantity. >The university language department might be a more interesting option. Again, they could assume responsibility for much of the organization, equipment, classrooms, advertising, etc. Maybe high-level English courses directed towards the scientific staff? I think it's important to find a niche and exploit it.


Michele - a bit of a paradox (quality - pay - universities). I teach at the local University English department and the pay is a complete joke. (I like to think of it as my ticket to heaven). But I totally agree with people's advice to steer well clear of beginners. They do need someone with good knowledge of German as you won't be able to put complex grammar and vocab points across to them in a language they hardly speak.

In terms of working for 'organisations' such as universities and language schools, I'd be a bit careful committing myself to that kind of work if I didn't speak German. Your contract will typically be in German and you need to know your way around the bureaucratic aspects of them, as well as be familiar with German 'employers'' expectations. The universities are a case in point - I have never seen such a bureaucratic organisation i my life (the simple act of obtaining a key to a room requires several Rechtsbehelfsbelehrungen). Alternatively, take along a German friend to help during the interview (but this might not make a great impression) or get them to read any contract you might be given to sign.

My advice would be - depending on the person in question's background and qualifications - stick to independent corporate clients (many businesses are desperate for decent (business) English instructors) and they do pay rather well, you just have to negotiate well.

HTH (and hi, Sarah)
Karin


Direct link Reply with quote
 
Rosa Maria Duenas Rios  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:43
Editing at a local publication May 19, 2005

Hi Sarah,
I am extrapolating in this case, but I guess it might work.
When I lived in Mexico, I met a US citizen who did not speak any Spanish (he was in Mexico to learn, of course), but had been able to land a job at Mexico City's only English newspaper (The News, at that time), doing editing work. He was proofing and correcting English materials written by locals, and he needed very little Spanish to get by. Needless to say, this was also a temporary solution; as soon as he was able to speak better Spanish, he found a more challenging job. Good luck to your friend!


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Michele Johnson  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 18:43
German to English
+ ...
University pay: everything is relative? May 19, 2005

Hi Karin, your point is well taken!

But I guess what I meant is that for instance a full-time BAT II position at a university http://www.uni-tuebingen.de/uni/qqp/Verg-BAT-Euro.html, let's assume our friend is betwen 30 and 40 years old = EUR 2600+ - 3000+) is probably more interesting for a complete newbie, non-German-speaking teacher than say making one's way completely on one's own, establishing a website and client base, constantly acquiring new customers, having to negotiate a new contract every time in a language that one doesn't understand at all, etc. Heck, even a half-time BAT II job could be more interesting, if it offers me security that I don't have because my German language skills are not up to par.

Obviously the question arises of how realistic getting such a position is

My idea is that perhaps one could commit oneself to this type of work, say for the next 1-2 years, while one developed one's skills, much more easily than negotiating individual contracts every time, in "fancy-schmancy" German, with every Tom, Dick and Harry who want me to teach them.

By all means, develop relationships with corporate clients! This is the key to the future IMO! But perhaps hedge your bets for the time being, when you don't have *so much* yet to offer(i.e. fluent German).. Diversify and cover all bases.


Direct link Reply with quote
 
Karin Walker  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 18:43
German to English
+ ...
Full time posts May 20, 2005

Michele Johnson wrote:


But I guess what I meant is that for instance a full-time BAT II position at a university http://www.uni-tuebingen.de/uni/qqp/Verg-BAT-Euro.html, let's assume our friend is betwen 30 and 40 years old = EUR 2600+ - 3000+) is probably more interesting for a complete newbie, non-German-speaking teacher than say making one's way completely on one's own, establishing a website and client base, constantly acquiring new customers, having to negotiate a new contract every time in a language that one doesn't understand at all, etc.


Michele, I'd never even considered a full- or part-time position (I was thinking purely in terms of freelancing for several students/clients). And you're right, the pay for actual positions at a university is not that bad (just that there's not much money left in the pot for their Lehrbeauftragte!)

Of course once the initial hurdles are cleared and you actually have the job, it's a nice starting point for you to go somewhere else. In fact I know someone who did exactly that, he's a colleage of mine at the university and pretty much fits Sarah's friend's profile. Sarah, e-mail me privately if you want his contact details, he may be able to help out if not with an actual job, then with some advice.

A good weekend to all
K


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Sarah Downing  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:43
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you to everyone ... May 27, 2005

... on behalf of my friend Jayson and I. Your valuable tips were greatly appreciated.

All the best,

Sarah


Direct link Reply with quote
 


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:


You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

Jobs for an English speaker (American) in Germany with a lack of German

Advanced search






Déjà Vu X3
Try it, Love it

Find out why Déjà Vu is today the most flexible, customizable and user-friendly tool on the market. See the brand new features in action: *Completely redesigned user interface *Live Preview *Inline spell checking *Inline

More info »
SDL Trados Studio 2017 Freelance
The leading translation software used by over 250,000 translators.

SDL Trados Studio 2017 helps translators increase translation productivity whilst ensuring quality. Combining translation memory, terminology management and machine translation in one simple and easy-to-use environment.

More info »



All of ProZ.com
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs