How long have you been teaching English in Brazil?
I taught English in Brazil for two years, although at the moment I’m giving only online classes.
Please tell us about your job?
The English school where I worked offers both small group (8 students or fewer) and private classes to adults. Most of the students are professionals aged 20-50 who work for multinational companies or whose job requires them to interact with English speakers and/or travel to English-speaking countries. For a number of them, their companies subsidize the costs of the English classes. Unfortunately, due to demanding jobs and family life, many students miss or cancel up to a third of their classes, which can sometimes make planning difficult.
Teaching hours are typically 6:30-9:30 PM on weeknights, although I also had a few private classes scheduled from 7-8:30 AM. If you wish to work Saturdays, it can be a good way to get a number of consecutive teaching hours, as the school offers Saturday classes from 8 AM to 5 PM. I worked about 15 hours per week.
The semesters in Brazil typically run from March to mid-July and August to December. Some schools also offer intensive courses during the summer vacation in January and February. Vacation and public holidays are unpaid for English teachers.
I’m located in the city of Salvador, in the northeast region of the country. Many teachers prefer to go to the southeast (such as the cities of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo) because the pay can be better; however, the cost of living is higher as well. The pay at my school was around $13/hour; if you give private lessons outside the school, you can charge up to $25/hour.
How did you find your job?
When I arrived in Salvador in June, I simply looked up the English schools in the area and sent my resume and cover letter unsolicited to all of them. Several called me for interviews, and I was hired in July to start in August.
Does your school provide accommodations or pay for your travel expenses?
No; unfortunately, an English school covering travel or housing expenses for a teacher is virtually unheard-of in Brazil.
Is it necessary to have teaching certificates or training to find employment?
It can be helpful, but is not a strict requirement. Some schools use a specific methodology and may require you to be trained in their program before you can start.
How did you get your work visa?
I’m married to a Brazilian, so the visa wasn’t an issue for me. However, it is extremely difficult for an English teacher to get a work visa; the process is lengthy, costly, and bureaucratic. Many foreign teachers simply give classes while on a tourist or student visa and are paid in cash, although this is technically illegal.
One of the few programs that provides a legal means of teaching English in Brazil is the IICA cultural internship, where you teach English classes as a trainee, receiving a small stipend and staying with a homestay family.
Is it possible to arrive without a work visa and find work?
Not legally, no.
What is Brazil like?
Brazil boasts an extremely rich mixture of African, European, and Indigenous cultural elements – now with an increasingly international flavor as well. Although Carnival is the most well-known event, there are dozens of smaller festivals throughout the year as well as interesting regional traditions.
Brazilian cuisine features a lot of rice and beans, meat, and seafood in coastal areas. Vegetarians are not common in Brazil, but in the bigger cities there are some markets with vegetarian and organic products. The food is not typically spicy, but often comes accompanied with hot pepper sauce on the side should you want to add it.
Most of Brazil’s population lives in the coastal areas, and there are an infinite number of spectacular beaches (especially if you get away from the main cities) and opportunities to practice water sports. The inland areas have plenty of attractions for nature-lovers as well; there are many spots for hiking and adventure sports.
Music and dance are big parts of Brazilian culture, and there are musical styles for all tastes; from festive samba to relaxing bossa nova, cutting-edge rock and hip-hop and playful and romantic forró(Brazilian country music). Shows and parties are common and most sizable Brazilian cities have a very active nightlife.
What is your cost of living?
I pay about $400/month for a small furnished apartment in the city center (utilities and internet included; not cable TV though – that would add about another $40). A meal out at a restaurant can be as cheap as $5 for a basic lunch or as expensive as $50 for a full-fledged Brazilian steakhouse and buffet experience – which is definitely worth it every once in a while! Bus fare is $1.50, a beer is about $1.75, a movie is around $8, and clubs and shows can range from free to $20 all the way up to $100+ for access to a VIP area during a major concert.
Is it possible to save much money teaching English in Brazil?
Teaching English will put you in the lower middle class, and unless you’re extremely frugal, you probably won’t save much. Come to Brazil for the lifestyle, not the money!
Are there opportunities to earn income on the side?
I never had private students outside the school, but many teachers do, and the pay per hour is much better. The key is networking; word of mouth spreads quickly and people are happy to recommend a good English teacher to their friends and colleagues.
As for me, I continued doing some freelance website work for clients in the U.S. as well as Portuguese to English translation in order to supplement my teaching salary.
Please tell us about EspressoEnglish.net.
I launched Espresso English on January 1, 2012 to provide short and sweet online lessons for students who might not always have time to get to class or study for long periods of time. At the moment, the site offers free English tips on the blog as well as intensive courses which last 30 days and focus on one particular aspect of English, such as Business English or Idiomatic Expressions. The readers and students really enjoy the material and the site is growing month by month.
Do you recommend Brazil for other English teachers?
Brazilian students are a pleasure to teach because they generally have positive attitudes and are very personable; they love to talk, laugh, and have fun in class. The quality of life is good – not in terms of the level of luxury and comfort you’ll be able to afford on a teacher’s salary – but rather thanks to the tropical climate, warm people, delicious food, and rich culture.
Would you recommend a particular city to teach in?
Each Brazilian city has its own characteristics, so it depends on what type of environment you prefer: Sao Paulo is like the “New York City”of South America; it is an enormous metropolis that is a hub for business and culture. Rio de Janeiro is a little more laid-back, with a strong beach and music scene and an absolutely stunning landscape. Salvador is known for its Afro-Brazilian culture, religion, percussion, and capoeira (Afro-Brazilian martial arts/dance). There is also Manaus, which is located in the middle of the Amazon Rainforest.
What advice would you offer for others thinking of teaching English in Brazil?
If you’re adventurous and flexible, then you’ll enjoy Brazil. I wouldn’t recommend coming here if you’re impatient, easily stressed, or (as previously mentioned) if you’re looking to make a lot of money. Living in a developing country comes with its share of inconveniences, so you need to roll with the punches and keep a positive attitude.
Definitely learn some Portuguese! Most Brazilians do not speak English, so being able to speak even basic Portuguese will make your experience in Brazil easier and much more pleasant – both from a practical standpoint and in terms of your social life.
Finally, although your teaching schedule may make it a bit difficult, do your best to carve out some time to learn or try something that you might not have the opportunity to do elsewhere – take a samba or percussion class, learn to cook Brazilian cuisine, attend a cultural or religious festival, etc.
Can you please provide some links to online sites geared towards foreigners in Brazil?
Brazzil.com and Brazzilmag.com regularly post English-language news and editorials from Brazil, and Gringoes.com is a great site for foreigners in Brazil with articles on culture, language, employment, sports, and the arts, as well as a classifieds section.
There is also a new site launching December 15, 2012, called Real Life Brazil – it will be a comprehensive resource for anyone looking to live, work, and/or teach English in Brazil.