Tag Archives: teachingenglishtips

How-to Guide: Learning a Language Independently


In this how-to guide for teaching English, I wrote about tips on how to continue learning a foreign language outside of the classroom. Here are some tips that you can give your students that promote independent learning.

Speak to Yourself

Try to force yourself to think and speak in the target foreign language.  This is incredibly helpful for not only remembering vocabulary but to practice the language. Pro Tip: We learn languages faster when we are capable of thinking in the language. This takes a lot of work and practice, but it can pay off in the long run. If you have friends and/or family who can speak the same foreign language, speak with them in it! Every little bit of practice helps.

Make Flashcards

Consider making flashcards around various themes and practicing them on occasion. Some example themes could be as basic as animals, colors, numbers, etc., or as advanced as full phrases for expressing remorse, asking for help, or telephoning. Just make sure you say the words/phrases out loud. To make the activity more engaging, you could practice using the word in a sentence.

Play Games

There are so many games that are fun to play which will help improve your language skills. I also like the website Breaking News English, which has many lessons and games that are fun for learning English. Consider games such as cross-word puzzles, word searches, trivia, etc.,

Chat with Native Speakers

Find message boards or online forums in the foreign language that you wish to learn. There are so many forums online that include almost every topic known to man! Find something that you find interesting and interact with others. It can be a bit scary at first, but this can be a great way to practice your foreign language skills!

Listen to Music

Do a search for the lyrics of your favorite song(s) and read them while you listen to it. This could be a great way to have fun while learning new vocabulary.

Watch a Movie

Watch a movie in the foreign language.  Just be careful with subtitles. Here’s why:

  • The translations are often very different. For example, I have heard that sometimes translators use the original movie script and not actual lines from the movie. This can not only be confusing, but lead to inaccuracies. I once watched a Star Wars movie in English with English subtitles. The subtitles were, at times, different than the actual spoken language.

Basically, if you watch a movie in a foreign language, do yourself a favor and turn the subtitles off. If you don’t understand a few things here and there – it’s okay. Just enjoy the film.

Social Media

Similar to the idea of message boards, go on YouTube and watch videos from native speakers. YouTube is great because the videos are often shorter than films and you can search for things that are interesting for you – culture, news, reviews, tourism (just to name a few!). Moreover, follow people on Instagram, Twitter, etc., to have short conversations and dialogues with other native speakers.

How-To: Preparing for a New Class


How-To: Preparing for a New Class (TEFL, ESL, English Trainers)

Research the Company  


(Image Source: Flickr, requested return link – http://www.visioncreation.co.uk/)

If you are teaching English at a company, research the company. Find out if they have multiple locations, subsidiaries, what they do, and learn their company history. If the company is a production company, try to find out a little bit about their production. This will help you so much in the future. Students will often try to explain things about their job and need assistance with the vocabulary. If you are familiar with their company, you will be able to help them so much better. Moreover, you will be able to tailor the lessons more specifically to their job.

For example, if the topic includes something about processes. Get them to explain their processes. Maybe even have them create a flow-chart documenting how their product is made. By researching the company in advance, you will be much better equipped to help them.

Study the Students

There are several things that you should try to find out before the class starts. If you don’t have everything sorted out before the class starts, then try to learn as much as possible on the first day. Here is a short list of some things that I try to find out about all of my students.

  • Their current language level and target language level
  • When and where they use English
  • Their job tasks and responsibilities
  • Which department they work in
  • The last time they had an English class

Note: The reason why I try to find out the last time they had an English class is because if it has been a long time, chances are that they have a much stronger passive understanding than an active one. This means that typically they demonstrate a stronger level in comprehension as opposed to actively speaking.

Motivate Them


I try my best to give lots of energy in all my lessons. But we all have days where we don’t feel our best or didn’t get enough sleep the previous night. However, for the first lesson you really need to bring it! Tell them how excited you are to be there and how much they are going to learn by the end of the course. Say things like: “I’m really excited to be here and to meet all of you. By the end of the course you can expect to have learned X,Y,Z.”

Tip: Be careful that you don’t overpromise and underdeliver. If promise your students that they will be amazing English speakers and by the end of the course and they don’t feel “amazing”, it could make your life difficult. It’s better to promise specific learning objectives (to get them motivated) rather than subjective things like fluency, confidence, or abilities to do certain things in English.


Do you agree with my tips? What are some things that you do to prepare for a new class? Have I forgotten something important on this list? Please let me know!



find tefl work teaching in english


Teaching at Language Schools

This is probably the fastest way to build contacts and find work teaching English in Germany. When I first started, I did a Google search for language schools in Wuppertal. Then I searched for language schools in nearby cities. After that, I made an excel document. Unfortunately, after my hard drive crashed I lost the document or else I would post it here as an example. (I made a post about this here.)

But basically, you just need to create a list with several rows listing the language school, location, phone number, email address and if they are currently looking for trainers. Just a quick note – Any school that was looking for trainers was highlighted in yellow on my list. I contacted a few of them immediately and saved the rest for future purposes.

Private Clients

You can make more teaching privately. However, you have to first find private clients which can be quite a challenging task for new English teachers in Germany. The best tip I can give for this is to use the local classifieds. There are websites where you can post advertisements for free. I recommend using the Ebay Kleinanzeigen (https://www.ebay-kleinanzeigen.de).

Just make sure you consider things like travel time, lesson preparation, and course materials as you set your prices. I would also look to see what other certified TEFL trainers in your area are charging.


Network with other English trainers in your area. At first, this might be difficult. However, you will find other English trainers at language schools. After you get to know them, you can ask them (privately – outside of the school) if they can recommend other places to teach. You will often hear stories as well.

I also want to mention that I have made great friends from teaching English at language schools in Germany.

(Photograph by Yusuke Umezawa Photo (via flicker) via freeforcommercialuse.org)

5 Time-Saving English Teaching Tips

5 Tips for English Lesson Plans That Save Valuable Time

When I took my TEFL class, I received a lot of training on lesson preparation. This was extremely helpful for learning things such as target language goals, target activities, and different methods to engage various learning styles. However, one thing that my class didn’t really prepare me for was for how to manage time effectively when you have a high number of classes. As a TEFL English Trainer in Germany, I teach a lot of different courses – about 15 to 20. I wrote down a range because some of the classes I teach only meet once a month.
So in a perfect world, I would create detailed lesson plans for all of my classes – but that would be impossible. Here are a few tips to help you save time preparing for your English lessons that I have learned from my experiences.

  • Take Notes

Whenever you start a new class, always take notes on the students. Find out their jobs, their hobbies, and a few fun facts. I do this every time and it helps me not only manage remembering things about all my students, but keeps me focused during the introductions. Moreover, once your class finishes for the day, write down what you did. This doesn’t have to be a detailed list. I typically just write down the page numbers from the book, conversation topic, and if something was particularly difficult for the students. Additionally, I write down a few things I want to do for the next lesson. This helps me save time later as I already have a general idea of what I want to do for the next class.

  • Make Your Lesson Plans Once a Week

Set aside time once a week to do ALL of your lesson planning. I know some teachers who plan lessons every day. This is not a bad practice, if you only have a few lessons per day. However, after a long day of 8-10 lessons, I don’t want to go home and have to do more work.

First of all, I use Google to schedule all of my appointments and lessons. This way, I can quickly see where I have to go the next day and what I need to do. Moreover, I set aside time (typically Sundays) where I plan everything I need for the week. By using Sunday, I can mentally prepare myself for the week and prepare all of my classes on the same day. If a class requires you to make copies or prepare something more time-intensive block off an hour during the week to do this. I often plan my lessons and Sunday and if I need to make copies, I go to the school to save my ink (my printer was relatively cheap and thus the ink is a bit expensive).

  • Save and Organize all Material

Anytime you have to create a lesson or syllabus from scratch, save it and back it up! I saved a few things at the beginning, but after a computer crash I lost literally everything (including invoices I needed for taxes). Make a folder on your desktop and inside the folder, create additional folders. I labeled mine ALevel, BLevel, Clevel, and a few others. You can decide on what works best for you.  (Note: ALevel is for beginners, B is for intermediate, and C is advanced as per the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.)

  • Ask Students to Bring in Material

This is not only a good tip for saving time but for making a better learning experience for your students. Ask them to bring in emails, marketing materials (in English!), or anything else related to their job. By doing this, you can get a better insight of their daily tasks and create more impactful lessons for your students. I do this all the time at the beginning of a class start.

  • Keep a Small Book for all Classes

Take a small book and create an ongoing to-do list. Quite often you will have small things that come up during your lessons. A few examples might be to send a reminder email, make a new attendance list, bring a copy of ABC for the next lesson, or a room change. Review your reminders often, but at the very least, review every Thursday and Monday.

5 Tips for Making a Living Teaching English in Germany


5 Tips for Making a Living Teaching English in Germany

  • For a Freelance TEFL JoB in Germany

    If you are a freelancer, set your own rules and goals. Teaching English as a freelancer is not like a typical job in the USA. First and foremost, you are a freelancer. You have the right to set your schedule, negotiate pay, and work as you want. I work with multiple language schools and teach privately. You should be doing the same. There are other ways to make a comfortable living teaching English in Germany such as job contracts or working for a school. However, I work as a freelancer so I can’t comment too much on those.

  • It’s a Feast or Famine type of gig

    Be prepared for months where you feel rich and months where you earn significantly less. I have a special savings account just for emergencies.

  • Never Settle

    Always keep one eye on the job and one eye on future opportunities.  Find out which language schools are paying (the rate varies school to school and city to city), which language schools have a good culture and are supportive, and where you can make yourself feel at home (see the last point).

  • Make the job fun!

    The job can be tough at times so it’s important that you have fun with it. You have to travel from site to site and do a lot of work outside of the classroom. Find ways to make the classes more fun by adding activities that are fun for yourself and for the students.  Sometimes I enjoy bringing in games to finish the last 10 or 15 minutes of a class session or making vocabulary challenges for the students.

  • Establish your TEFL Homebase

    Find yourself a “home school”. I teach for multiple language schools. In fact, it is important that you don’t put all your eggs in one basket. I have seen both trainers and language schools come and go. It’s important to network as much as you can. Also by finding a home school with great culture, friendship, and support, it will help with any homesickness that you might feel and provide a feeling of security.

My First Day Teaching English in Germany

My First Day Teaching English in Germany

My First Day of Teaching English in Germany

My first day teaching English in Germany – a day I will never forget. It was at a company with about eight students. I was so nervous. The “big boss” from one of the language schools that I contract with came with me to introduce the course. He gave his speech in German and I only understood about three or four words – one of them was “Arbeitslos” which means unemployed.  I came to realize later that he was only making a joke and actually gave me a great introduction, but at the time this only made me MORE NERVOUS!

So after his introduction, he said something like: “Okay. Have fun!” and then left. Then all of the students went silent and looked at me. This was quite scary. I felt like I was standing center in the stage of a large audience and had forgotten all my lines. I remember thinking to myself I have to do something and something fast. So I stood up, smiled, and introduced myself. I talked about my experiences, where I’m from, and how excited I am to be here teaching English. I then shifted and focused on the book and began my first lesson. In the end, I connected quite well to the class and even friended a few of the students on Facebook.

But, starting out it was quite scary. When I meet new English trainers/teachers they often ask: “How do you prepare for your first lesson?” I suggest that they get a feeling for the lesson material (usually involves a book or two), try to prepare for potential questions, and most importantly – relax! The two key things that I have learned from teaching English is that you need to be both prepared (mentally and physically) and flexible.

I have a question for all of the other English trainers and teachers.
What was your first day like? Do you have a TEFL Job in Germany (or TEFL-related job)?