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Teaching English in Brazil

Brazil, the largest country in South America, is more than a popular vacation destination; it happens to be an excellent choice for teaching ESL. From modern cities, beautiful scenery, and miles of beaches to Carnival and worldwide sports events, Brazil is definitely an exciting place to live. There are good opportunities to teach ESL in many of the cities including Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, the teaching centers of Brazil, as well as in Recife, Fortaleza, Natal, Belo Horizonte and Salvador, known as the capital of happiness.

If you're new to teaching ESL, perhaps the best places to apply would be private language schools, which offer a variety of assignments from classrooms to businesses and personal residences.

Credentials/ Qualifications/ Documentation / Hiring process

ESL is taught in most schools in Brazil to promote career growth and higher education among their students. TESOL, TEFL, or CELTA certification is almost always required, especially if you plan to teach in one of the larger cities like Rio de Janeiro or Sao Paolo. Occasionally, the supply of ESL teachers is insufficient to meet the demand, and employers will waive certain qualifications. However, the better qualified and more experienced you are, the better the pay and benefits.

Citizens of the United States, UK, Ireland, South Africa, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand can apply to teach ESL. ESL teachers with two or more years of experience and a 4-year degree in a relevant field are needed at public and private elementary, middle, and secondary schools, as well as at universities and by large corporations. Candidates should have good communication skills, adaptability, and respect for the differences in social customs and religion. Some knowledge of Portuguese is definitely beneficial, as the Brazilian people appreciate your trying to speak their language. Fortunately, many schools do offer free language instruction in Portuguese for their teachers.

Some ESL teachers live and work in Brazil with a tourist visa, which is renewable up to six months; however, technically it is illegal to do so. Obtaining the legal work visa can be an expensive, time-consuming process of 2-3 months, so it may be worthwhile to consider a multi-year teaching contract at a private international school for the assistance you will need. If you establish good relations with your employer, he may agree to sponsor you in getting the permanent work visa.

Hiring is usually done during Feb-Mar and Jul-Aug, and contracts should specify hours, salary, paid vacation and holidays, and end-of-contract bonus, if any.

Work Schedules & Salaries

A typical work schedule at a public school for teaching ESL is 20-25 hours a week of classroom instruction and extra hours for preparation time. Teaching materials are usually provided. Salaries at public schools average $ 9-18/hour, about twice as much at private schools, and by contract $800-$1200/month. A few teachers have said it's possible to make several thousand dollars a month in Sao Paolo, but I can't verify this. Income taxes are high at 27.5 %, but salaries after taxes are adequate for most lifestyles. If you live conservatively, there should be enough left for entertainment and leisure travel. One teacher in Belo Horizonte works about 36 hours a week for $14/hour, and supplements this income by teaching private classes at $22/hour.

Once you're established as a proficient English teacher, there will be opportunities to tutor private individuals or teach ESL in business classes in the evenings, on weekends, or during off-duty time.

Advantages

Overall, the cost of living in Brazil varies considerably from the larger cities to the smaller towns, but in most instances, it is higher than the rest of South America, but less than the U.S., Canada, or the UK. For example, rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Fortaleza costs about $400/month, as compared to Recife where the rent is almost twice as much. Basic utilities average $100-$125/month in both towns, and food prices at the markets are approximately the same. Transportation costs more in Fortaleza with a monthly bus pass for $67, and $40 in Recife. It would be expensive to live in the largest city of Sao Paulo, with rent from $700-$800 for a 1-bedroom apartment in the city center. Although the cost of living is higher in Sao Paolo than in some of the smaller towns, there are the advantages of better pay and more opportunities to teach ESL.

Dining out is inexpensive, and in Brazil it is often a lively social event with music and other entertainment. No one is in a hurry in South America where people like to celebrate for any and every occasion and have great fun doing so.

Most of Brazil has a subtropical climate, warmer in the north and seasonal in the south. The weather is favorable for outdoor activities and travel in your off-duty time.

Free public health care is provided by the government, but you should purchase supplemental private health insurance for more comprehensive coverage if the school does not include it in your contract.

Communication is reasonable with cell phones and Internet access available everywhere.

Buses (usually crowded and not always air conditioned) and the metro are the most widely used modes of transportation. Fare - $1.50 (air-conditioned bus). Taxis are affordable for short distances. Cycling is popular in the smaller towns, and boats or ferries are fun for traveling the inland waterways.

Possible disadvantages (or things to remember)

Unless the school includes accommodations in your contract, housing can be a problem, especially in the large cities where most apartments are unfurnished and utilities are not usually included. The school may provide assistance, but you should plan on walking through the neighborhoods where "Alugo" rent signs may be posted. You will need legal assistance to verify the terms of the lease and obtain the mandatory home insurance. Rental prices are negotiable and bargaining is expected, as it is in most South American countries. Sharing accommodations with other ESL teachers is also an option.

Currently, airfare is not paid for, but some schools offer a bonus at the end of contract. Make sure you have enough money upfront to take with you for the actual relocation.

(Note: These things may change in time as the economy continues to improve and employers can afford to offer more benefits to ESL teachers.)

Job Outlook

The demand for ESL teachers is ongoing, but according to an article at braziliangringo.com, finding these jobs may not be easy. Online job boards list a few openings, or you can locate some jobs on individual school websites, but probably the best way to get a job is to travel to Brazil since employers require a personal interview within the country. Good sources on teaching ESL in Brazil include teachaway.com, gooverseas.com, oxfordseminars.com, globaltesl.com, and certificatetefl.com.

Conclusion

The emergence of Brazil as an international power and a fast-growing economy based on increased tourism and foreign trade has resulted in an increased interest in learning English. Brazil is a warm, welcoming country, with attractive job possibilities for both the experienced and inexperienced ESL teacher. You probably won't be able to save a lot of money while you're in Brazil, but you will earn enough for a comfortable lifestyle among friendly people in the fascinating culture of South America. You'll have the opportunity to expand your professional development in teaching ESL, make new friends, and enjoy the enthusiasm of the Brazilian people Teaching ESL in Brazil will be a learning experience, as well as rewarding and fun. If you are looking for a multi-cultural environment and have a keen sense of adventure, as well as the flexibility to work among a diversity of ethnic groups, then Brazil should be on your list of ESL teaching options.

Sharon L Slayton

May 2014

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