There’s a high turnover of teachers in language schools and a constant demand for translators (and sometimes writers) from Italian companies.
There are literally hundreds of English-language schools ( scuole di lingua) in Italy, many of which expect teachers to have a TEFL (Teacher of English as a Foreign Language) certificate or its equivalent, although this isn’t always the case. Some schools employ anyone whose mother tongue is English provided they’ve had experience in teaching, while others have their own teaching methods and prefer to train teachers to their own standards.
Many of the best schools are members of the Italian Association of English Language Schools ( Associazione Italiana Scuole di Lingua Inglese/AISLI), a list of which is available from the Cambridge Centre of English, Via Campanella, 16, 41100 Modena (Tel. 059-241 004). Language schools generally pay less than you can earn giving private lessons, but they provide a contract and pay your taxes and social security. However, you may be able to obtain only a short-term contract or freelance work. You’re usually paid by the hour and therefore should ensure that you have a guaranteed number of hours per week. Schools are listed under Scuole di Lingua in the yellow pages.
Italians tend to favour learning lots of grammar and you also find that students know a lot about English literature, but cannot speak a word of it correctly! If you aren’t up-to-date with grammar and you want to teach privately, you should stick to teaching conversation or children.
Work is generally easy to find, particularly in university cities and towns, as students must usually study English as part of their course work. Many foreigners teach English privately and are paid cash-in-hand by students, much of which is never declared. Most people find that when they have a few students they spread the word and before you know it you have as much work as you can handle.
You could also try placing an advertisement in local newspapers and magazines offering private English lessons, although replies may be received from Italian men who think that ‘English lessons’ implies something other than language lessons! The going rate for private lessons varies, but averages around €30 per hour (it’s usually higher in major cities than small towns).
Translators & Interpreters
These are other occupations that tend to come under the heading of English teaching, with many expatriates moving between the three professions quite easily. Professional translators and interpreters are in huge demand and are usually employed by agencies.
For anyone speaking fluent Italian and wanting to work in Italy, it would be worthwhile training as a professional translator or interpreter. Professional translators are paid by the page (or line) and the average rate is €15 per page, although this varies according to the kind of translation. Rates are higher in Rome and the northern cities than in the south.
Translating is a long and tiresome business, you must usually work to stringent deadlines, the subject matter can be highly technical (requiring special vocabulary) and translations must be precise. If you don’t translate medical notes, legal papers or business documents accurately, any mistakes could have serious consequences! Interpreters are employed mainly for exhibitions, congresses and seminars. You may be paid a flat rate for the day, e.g. between €35 and €55, or by the hour, e.g. €8.
English is taught in most universities in Italy and positions for assistants ( lettori) in the English-language departments of Italian Universities are open to foreigners with university degrees. Applications should be made directly to the Rector of the University, followed by the name of the town or city, e.g. ‘ Al Magnifico Rettore, Università di . .’. The same procedure should be followed for the University Institute of Modern Languages at Feltre and Milano, and also for the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore di Milano and the Istituto Universitario Orientale di Napoli.
An excellent source of information is Teaching English in Italy by Martin Penner. For a more general overview you could try Teaching English Abroad by Susan Griffith (Vacation Work) or Teaching English as a Foreign Language and Teaching Abroad published by AGCAS, Direct Prospects, CSU, Prospects House, Booth Street East, Manchester M13 9EP, UK (www.prospects.ac.uk). Another useful resource for English teachers is the monthly El Gazette, PO Box 464, Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire HP4 2UR, UK (Tel. 01442-879 097, www.elgazette.com). Finally, make use of the British Council (www.britishcouncil.org), which recruits English language teachers and supervisory staff for placements in its language centres. It’s necessary to have an RSA diploma or PGCE in TEFL and two years experience for most positions. For managerial posts, postgraduate qualifications and a minimum of five years experience are required. For information contact The British Council, Teacher Recruitment Unit, ELT Group, 10 Spring Gardens, London SW1A 2BN, UK (Tel. 020-7389 4167).
This article is an extract from Living and Working in Italy from Survival Books.