So, you’re thinking of teaching English in Mexico? But will life there be like what you’ve seen in the movies? Well, inevitably not. Your experience can change hugely depending on where you live in this vastly varied country of 128 million.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Mexico’s proximity to its northern neighbor means that you can find examples of Uncle Sam’s influence in pretty much every aspect of Mexican life. From the names of stores or even taco stands to international call centers, children’s names, and common English phrases which have now worked their way into everyday Mexican speech: “sorry!” (pronounced with the rolled Spanish ‘r’).
All of this means that Mexicans are always looking to improve their English skills, for a wide variety of reasons. Perhaps they need to communicate with tourists who visit, for a promotion at work or to graduate from university or study abroad.
But by far the most common reason Mexicans look for English classes is to practice and improve their speaking skills. As such, get used to preparing lots of conversation classes and helping them to speak as much as possible, about a wide variety of topics.
As you can see, pretty much wherever you plan to teach English in Mexico, you won’t have too many problems finding work as a qualified, native and enthusiastic English teacher.
At the beach
If you choose to live in a tourist beach destination like Cancun, Los Cabos, or Puerto Vallarta, most locals will speak English well. Tour guides and hospitality workers will be reasonably fluent. Even most taco chefs or bus drivers in the area will know all the basics to attend to their foreign clients.
In these areas, there are lots of private language schools catering to teenagers who want to complement their insufficient English classes at school, as well as many hospitality workers who want to learn the basics to work their way up in their job. As such, most of the busiest class times will be early morning (6 to 8 am) and evenings (6 to 10 pm), as well as Saturday morning and afternoon.
In addition, in these areas, students will undoubtedly ask you to help them develop the ‘basics’ for their job. Here more than anywhere else, you’ll probably be told that students just want to focus on speaking. Therefore, forget teaching grammar explanations and get ready to provide lots of tourism and topic-specific vocabulary, dialogues, and set phrases for hospitality workers.
You can do this effectively by posting your name on any local bulletin boards or Facebook groups. In doing so, you could quickly have your own private groups which pay more and could supplement the lower but steady income at a language school.
The ‘Gringo’ north
As you can expect, in the cities close to the border, lots of people work or have very close ties to the US.
Here, most job opportunities will involve students with a higher level of general, academic, and conversational English. These students will be looking for specialized vocabulary, exam preparation, or business conversation practice.
Expect to be able to provide assistance using technical language, especially in the fields of manufacturing, production, and technology. Normally, people here are used to reading a lot of manuals and correspondence in English at work every day. Therefore, they often want help employing this technical vocabulary within their everyday work situations.
The Big Cities
In the larger cities of Monterrey, Guadalajara, and Mexico City as well as the surrounding densely populated Bajio and Valle de Mexico area in the center of the country, there are endless job opportunities, especially if you know where and when to look.
Here, you will find students of all levels and ages, looking for classes for a wide variety of topics. These topics include exam preparation, conversation practice, catch-up classes for school, business English, etc.
The best time for job-hunting is around July or August, when the academic year starts; or January, when universities start their new semester and many Mexicans make their New Year’s Resolution to learn English (again).
Around these times, many private schools (from kindergarten to high school) will be on the lookout for English teachers. A native speaker will be an extremely tempting option for them, giving you a great advantage. The pay is steady, and most schools will also give you paid vacations. Classes here normally run from around 7:30 am to 2:00 pm. Thus, it’s easy to find some private classes on the side in the afternoons or evenings.
Universities and Language Schools In Mexico City
At universities (both private and public), the schedules will be a lot more flexible and the pay a lot better. Many teachers find this a comfortable option. As such, they have a lot of free time to fit in other private classes and long holidays to go exploring. Be warned that most universities only pay per class taught and often cannot guarantee hiring you the next semester, or assigning you the same number of teaching hours.
Another option is the vast selection of language schools. Many teachers combine working at a language school with a private school or university and fit in classes around their schedules.
After a short time doing so, you’ll likely be approached by students or parents to offer private classes. These offer even more options to boost your income.
The downside to living in a big city is that you may feel a little cheated of the opportunity to discover ‘real’ Mexican life. However, there are lots of traditional quaint ‘pueblos magicos’ (magical villages) nearby. Here, you can experience the more relaxed rhythm of life and see lots of typical local festivals.
It is more difficult to find stable job opportunities in smaller, more ‘authentic’ towns and less populated areas. In these areas, the language level is normally extremely basic, especially in the more tropical areas south of Mexico City.
This region offers some of Mexico’s most stunning natural scenery. However, it’s also difficult to access, with many trips taking several hours by bus on small country roads.
Here, the language level and economic possibilities of residents are extremely low. Yet, the gastronomy, experiences and breath-taking views are simply unforgettable.
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Something for Every Type of Teacher
So, as you can see, Mexico has something for any type of teacher or adventure. You’ll probably find yourself mixing a steadier job and stable income, with better-paying private classes to work around your schedule.
So, what are you waiting for? Enjoy the endless opportunities and diversity that Mexico has to offer: good luck!