Did you know that there are magic words that will gain you access to the inner sanctum of almost any Berlin company? I’m here to share them with you. But shhh, this is our little secret. Ready? Here we go:
My name is… I’m from… and I’m here to teach English.
Daniela is a freelance language instructor, translator, proofreader, and copywriter based in Berlin.
Having taught English in Berlin for almost 16 years, I have been able to enter high security areas, see all kinds of inner workings, take a ride in a paternoster, and spend some time in some interesting (as well as some downright uninteresting) offices and conference rooms in a variety of Berlin companies and businesses.
What’s in it for you?
Teaching doesn’t only give you a sneak peek into different companies, it gives you the chance to meet many different people from different cultures and all walks of life. In my freelancing career, I have met high level executives, politicians, lobbyists, actors, and actresses, as well as bored housewives who just wanted to improve their English in their spare time. Each encounter has enriched my life and has helped me see the world through other people’s perspectives.
Freelance teaching allows for flexibility and the opportunity to establish a work-life balance suitable for students, parents, or anyone who also works in other fields, such as translating.
What’s in it for your students?
Most freelance language instructors do not have a teaching degree, so why would a student take on a freelance language instructor as opposed to someone who studied teaching, or even the language itself?
Language schools tend to contract native speakers. As a native speaker, you have an intimate knowledge of your language, its idioms, and the changes that evolve within the language. You understand when an expression has gone out of style or is inappropriate for people of a certain age. You are usually active on social media and therefore on the front line of new expressions and ways of speaking.
Learning a language should be a fun, enjoyable, and motivating experience. Unfortunately, many of my students have told me that in the public school system, where they first had contact with English, their experience was exactly the opposite. Too much emphasis is placed on memorising vocabulary and grammar and too little on fluency and actually being able to communicate. Strict and rigorous lesson plans can squeeze the life out of the learning experience. Not having this dogmatic approach embedded into the teaching consciousness can broaden both the teaching and the learning experience.
A student intuitively knows if the teacher is there to make money or to teach English. If you have a passionate teacher, learning becomes a collaborative experience that is enriching for everyone involved. Students have learned as much from me as I have from them.
What’s the catch?
Wages for teaching can vary widely. Some freelancers decide to work independently without a school as the middleman. The issue of acquisition, in a city the size of Berlin, is no small matter. The number of language institutions is considerable and the competition among freelancers is fierce. Unfortunately, they have the tendency to undercut each other as they attempt to secure contracts. This makes it difficult to get a reasonable hourly wage. This is why I prefer working for a school.
Something else to consider is teaching material. If you work for an institution, you are more likely to be given their material or access to a rich lending library with hundreds of books on different topics, which reduces your costs and, of course, the time needed to find appropriate material for your students.
Then we have the issue that all freelancers face. There are good months and there are not-so-good months. It is vital to diversify and not put all of your eggs in one basket. I would recommend to anyone embarking on any freelance career to work for more than one school. Most instructors I know have several jobs: some work as artists, yoga instructors, some as bartenders, and some, like yours truly, as translators, proofreaders, and copywriters.
Is it really worth it?
I fell into teaching through life circumstances and coincidences. In the beginning, I was unsure if I had made the right decision. However, almost 16 years later and counting, I do not regret this career move in the slightest.
So, if you are looking for adventure, have a desire to meet new people, and to take a look behind the curtains of different Berlin companies, freelance teaching might just be the right next step for you… and yes, I think it’s worth it.