Global language, global business

Posted By on 19/08/2012

This is the second post in a series about one expat's experiences. You should also read the first post in the series.

I arrived in Colombia without a job or a clear idea of what I would do professionally in the country. I had savings to last me a while in case I didn't find work, and I was inclined to work as a freelancer. I hoped that that type of work would be flexible and would mean I wouldn't need to find a full-time job to support myself. (Since I didn't have a work visa when I arrived, this was also a legal concern.) I assumed there would be enough demand for me to find some work as an English teacher.

I had no idea how much demand there would be for English teaching.

Within a week of arriving, I had been hired to teach part-time for a company that offered private English lessons. Less than a month after that, I was working more hours for another company and had begun meeting private students on my own. I continued to gain teaching work until my schedule was totally full: At my peak, between class time, commuting time, and preparation time, I was working upwards of 60 hours a week.

And I was hardly alone. All the expats I knew in Bogotá teaching English had similar professional success. There was simply enough demand to support all of us, easily.

This luxury probably doesn't exist worldwide, but, according to friends of mine living in other countries, there are many other places in the world where native English speakers, or even just fluent English speakers, can easily find work teaching the language. In fact, I had European friends who were second-language speakers who taught English. One morning on a bus, I started chatting with a Korean man who was teaching English because his skills in the language were good enough and because that kind of work was his best professional opportunity in Bogotá. (In Bogotá, there's also demand to learn other languages. I befriended German and French teachers, and I'm sure there were teachers of other languages too.)

As I suggested in my last post, the ability and inclination to look for freelance work is, among expats, mostly the property of the young. As a result, Bogotá is full of English teachers in their 20s. I suspect it's not the only city like that.

Whether it's Bogotá or Beijing, there are a lot of Americans, Canadians, British, Irish, and Australians who can support themselves easily as expats in new countries. All it takes is some preparation, some humility, and a load of confidence. Moving to a new country is a little less crazy if you know people there are itching to pay you money to teach them something you know by heart.