Have you ever wondered if your native language could be of any interest to someone on the other side of the world? Has the idea of teaching your language to a foreigner ever crossed your mind? Well, Tatiana Nieto didn’t ask herself those questions when she arrived in Korea in 2014. The young woman from Bogota only came to Korea for tourism, but she ended up becoming a Spanish teacher.
Tatiana is 31 years old. She has a degree in Education with concentrations in Humanities and Spanish from the Javeriana University. Additionally she has taken several courses and has two certificates with a Spanish entity, part of the University of Cervantes for teaching Spanish to foreigners.
Where do you currently work?
I work at three different places.
The first place is an educational service agency called “In touch“. They offer different education programs for companies. The class consists of a phone conversation program (not video calls, but through an application created by the agency). The student schedules their class, and we talk about two to three times a week.
The duration of the conversation varies depending on the time that the student schedules. It can be 10 minutes or even half an hour. We talk about the news, what they did that day, etc. In Korea many people take these classes to maintain an acquired level or to improve the language skills they already have.
I also work at Kyunghee University in Seoul, they offer open programs to learn Spanish.
Finally, like any other language teacher, I also do personal tutoring both in person and online.
How long have you been working in Korea?
I started teaching Spanish in 2014, it is the only job I have ever had.
Why did you want to work in Korea?
It’s funny because I really had no intention of staying, nor of teaching Spanish. At that time I was 23 years old, and I had no teaching experience. I didn’t speak Korean and my English was not good.
I came to Korea for tourism, and to visit friends I had met in Colombia. But, life happened and I ended up staying to teach Spanish. I started working on the recommendation of mutual acquaintances and friends at a company that provides educational services to large companies. Then, had the opportunity to work at KOICA, the Korea International Cooperation Agency.
How was the training to become a Spanish teacher in Korea?
It can be said that at that moment opportunities found me. I realized that I really liked teaching, and with the experience gained, I decided to study for a career in teaching Spanish. The Javeriana University in Colombia offered a distance program, so I studied completely online.
Was it necessary to apostille your university degree in Korea?
In my personal case, they did not request apostilled documents. This is possibly due to the long experience I have in Korea from before this rule was in place. However, there are places where they request apostilled documents.
In fact, when I did not have as much experience and was still studying at the university, what I did was present a certificate that confirmed that I was going to graduate soon. I also added a large number of specialized courses to make my application more outstanding.
Can any native Spanish speaker teach the language?
Not just any native speaker can teach the language. My clearest example is that we can all cook – even if it is something basic, we can all cook something edible. However, that doesn’t mean we all can become chefs.
The same thing happens with Spanish, speaking it does not mean that we can teach it professionally. Pedagogy training is necessary: every educator must have pedagogical training tools.
In addition, an advanced knowledge of the language is required. Spanish is a difficult language. That is why training is required to teach it correctly.
What university degrees are ideal for teaching Spanish in Korea?
The best majors for learning to teach Spanish are to peruse degrees in Spanish, Linguistics, and/or Literature.
Humanities degrees are also in favor. Human Sciences in general: Philosophy, Social Sciences, Communication and Journalism can be useful. Some people start teaching Spanish having had other careers, but over time they must be trained in order to maintain long-term jobs.
What is the selection process to work as a Spanish teacher?
First, send the resume.
Then be interviewed. (Usually in English and not in Korean because they work with many foreigners).
Lastly, the teacher must teach a test class. Agencies usually record the class and send it to the company that is looking for a teacher.
How big do you think the demand is for Spanish teachers in Korea?
Learning Spanish is becoming a worldwide phenomenon.
In fact, the Cervantes Institute has a report called “Spanish: a living language”, and it shows the growth figures for Spanish. It is one of the most used languages in the world after English and Mandarin Chinese.
As Spanish is booming, it is reflected in the demand for teachers around the world, and that, of course, includes Korea. We must use that to our advantage.
What do you think is important to highlight in your resume to increase the chances of being hired as a Spanish teacher?
It depends on where you want to apply. If you plan on applying for a position at a university, a Master’s degree is required, although the ideal is a Doctorate. In addition to publications in academic journals or articles will makes your application more attractive. And of course, experience is necessary.
In Korea, the name of the University you graduated from counts a lot, so training has paramount importance.
If we talk about Language Institutes, Undergraduate or Master’s studies, and specialized courses increase the attractiveness of the application. Experience and training are also of great importance.
Personally, in my resume I highlight my experience teaching at large companies and government agencies, that gives my resume more relevance.
What do you consider more convenient between working in a language school or working as a freelancer?
Both options have advantages and disadvantages.
When working in a company, the company manages everything. They sponsor the visa, social security, and everything that is covered by having a formal contract. In my experience, I have never worked as a full-time employee, I have worked up to four places at a time on my own, organizing my schedules.
Teaching methodology in Korea is more structured, more focused on memorizing. I have had the freedom to go with my material, my proposals and teaching strategies, as an employee.
On the other hand, I have been working as a freelancer since before the pandemic, personalized students. I used to work on an application that connects services with users. And the students I had rated me very well, the review system in Korea is super important, so if they see that you have a good rating, they look for you more.
Could you tell us where to apply for these Spanish jobs?
LinkedIn and Indeed work well for finding Spanish teaching jobs in Korea
In addition, the “Instituto Feliz” is a language institute. It is one of the most recognized institutions for learning Spanish in Korea. They receive applications from teachers teachers directly.
Finally, the Cervantes Institute, associated with the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, offer Spanish courses. There you can also apply for jobs with them.
What recommendation would you give to people who want to teach Spanish in Korea?
Training and experience are necessary. Teaching Spanish is a competitive job market. Korea is a very demanding country in terms of academic training and education. Not only do you need to be a Spanish teacher, but to communicate in Korea to get a job, you must speak English, and knowing a little bit of Korean is great.
I feel that teaching Spanish is a very flexible career in the sense that if someone really likes to teach and proposes it, they can train in education and they can achieve it.
Finally, Tatiana tells us that she has more experience teaching adults and university students, but lately the demand for children and adolescents who want to learn Spanish is growing. In fact, there are some educational institutions that already teach Spanish in Korea, and in countries like China and Japan it is the same.
So if you are also passionate about teaching, and you have the necessary academic training, you could become the next Spanish teacher in Korea.
Not interested in teaching? Don’t worry, there are lots of jobs out there for foreigners in Korea if you know where to look! Click Here to learn about a few of the options out there for non teaching jobs in Korea.