Is it enough to have talent and be a native speaker, or is a degree advantageous if you want to become a good DaF teacher or teach another foreign language well??
I didn’t study either and still managed to successfully start my own business as a DaF teacher. Like? In addition to my story, here are some very useful tips to follow.
When I moved abroad in 2009, I first applied to a few companies for a permanent position. During the application phase I researched for other jobs and came across the portal Gumtree.pl, similar to us eBay classifieds. Here Germanists and native speakers offered their services as private language teachers.
I was surprised to find so many people working as language teachers. Apparently there was a huge demand. From my surprise came the thought: "If Polish Germanists can become teachers of German as a foreign language, then I can do it even better." Smirk! And so I advertised my profile as a German teacher. After a few days I received the first requests and began to teach part-time. This started surprisingly well.
Conversation classes are a good idea, but not enough
In the ad I wrote that I only offered conversation – no grammar lessons. There were students who were looking for exactly that. They wanted to practice the theoretical knowledge they had already learned and just talk a lot. But after the first lessons I realized that I was missing some basics. Grammar questions came up again and again, which I could answer only after longer preparation. In the long run it became exhausting and did not meet my requirements for a good teacher. So it was time to educate myself further.
My research for private methodology courses in Krakow unfortunately didn’t yield much. I could not register for the Goethe training because I did not have a university degree. So I decided to teach myself everything by self-study and learning-by-doing.
Can I become a DaF teacher by self-study?
While I was tutoring, I studied the entire German grammar system. Because I am a native speaker, but this is not a guarantee that I know and can explain German grammar. Quite the opposite. I had never before thought about what an accusative or dative was. My German came over my lips in a very automated way.
I began my self-study of German grammar and also studied all the important things I needed to know to teach a foreign language. Because after a short time I realized that grammar knowledge was not everything. I had to study:
- How the levels A-C are structured
- What topics (grammar) were covered at each level
- What vocabulary is acquired in which levels
- What previous knowledge the student needs to deepen a grammar topic
- Which grammar topic I associate with which vocabulary resp. how do I manage vocabulary or grammar?. one grammatical topic at a time
I also taught myself other skills:
- I had to be able to explain individual grammar topics in a comprehensible way
- I needed material that was best suited for certain types of learners
- Learning units had to be goal-oriented, i.e. they had to lead the learner to the goal
- I had to learn not to overchallenge my students, but not to underchallenge them either
- I wanted to present my lessons in a confident, enthusiastic and challenging way (voice, intonation, facial expressions, gestures, content, etc.).)
Of course this is by far not all. It took me about two years of self-study to be fit – however, during that time I also put what I learned into practice. The challenge was to be patient with myself and allow myself to make mistakes.
In this article I would like to show how I arranged my self-study. But before that a few words about being a private DaF teacher.
Self-study and self-reliance were not always easy
During the self-study I went through lows and highs. It was not always easy to educate myself. I lacked people who could help me and with whom I could exchange ideas and experiences. I was always interested in how others did it, but there was no community for lateral language teachers. When I started teaching German, I lived in Krakow and the classes were held at my home.
At some point, there became too many students to teach at home, so I started a community myself in the form of a coworking office for language teachers. This was a big milestone in my life. Because now I was able to exchange ideas. The conversations eventually turned into real meetings and later on into workshops for prospective language teachers. It was great! For me, it was a unique and optimal starting point to pass on the knowledge I had acquired and to keep learning myself. Self-study has now turned into learning by teaching.
In this article, I’ll walk you through all the steps that make a good teacher and good teaching, you’ll find numerous links and materials here. However, I have also compiled my years of experience in a book. In this book you will find all this knowledge in a compact form and a step-by-step guide on how to acquire all the important knowledge to start successfully as a private language teacher.
Click on this link to learn more: Become a language teacher e-book.
The 10-step roadmap
for a successful self-employment
Video course Methodology in DaF lessons on. In today’s world, learners place a lot of emphasis on learning in a practical way. Personally, I consider speaking to be the most important skill, but I would never focus my teaching only on speaking. A good mix of all 4 skills is optimal.
Grammar and vocabulary
As I mentioned at the beginning, many people have already thought about which order makes the most sense when learning a foreign language. This goes hand in hand with what content you teach and in what order. This knowledge is best taken from language teaching manuals. Learning a foreign language within the framework of the 4 skills mainly involves grammar and vocabulary. Most languages are taught according to a very similar grammar and vocabulary scheme, i.e. in a similar order. In my article Teaching German Effectively you can download checklists for the content of grammar and vocabulary topics for the levels A and B. You can find more such checklists with all explanations and tips in my book "Sprachlehrer werden – leicht gemacht".
How to learn the grammar of your native language
For my self-study I had to teach myself the grammar of my native language German. As a native speaker, I used the language flawlessly on a daily basis, but I had no idea what grammar actually was, much less how to teach it. That’s why I learned it first with the help of DaF textbooks. For this I compared several textbooks and developed a learning plan for my self-study from them. If I would recommend textbooks* to you, then for example the following:
Next, there is the question of whether you should use textbooks or create your own worksheets. My tip for complete newcomers to language teaching: first rely on textbooks and learn how to explain grammar. Because in textbooks you will find numerous grammar explanations.
I have also used grammar books* to learn grammar. So I could not only learn grammar, but also learn to explain grammar in a simple way:
All three books are from Schubert (my favorite publisher :)).
As soon as you feel confident, you can start creating worksheets yourself.
3. How to structure and plan good lessons
Good teaching needs a clear structure. This helps your learner to understand which sub-goals need to be learned. And it helps you to keep a common thread in your teaching program in the long run. The structure and flow of foreign language teaching depends on what format you are teaching in. Group lessons at a language school will be structured differently than private lessons with a single person. You’ll do different exercises for each format and progress slower or faster.
Regardless of whether you give private or group lessons, one thing is very important: structure.
Your teaching program should always be based on the learning objective. What are the learning objectives?
What are the learning goals in DaF classes??
Learning goals depend on where your learner is and where they want to go. The learning objective thus implies a transformation of your learner. He stands here and wants to go there. Where to go? Of course you should find out before you start the lesson. For example, use the preliminary interview or the trial lesson.
Examples of learning objectives
- Pass the exam and get a certificate
- Speak better German
- Finding a job in Germany
- To speak better German at work
- Reach another level (e.g. B. from A2 to B1)
- Getting tutoring for school, etc.
You can find out the current level of your learner by means of placement tests, which you can find free of charge on the Internet. You can also create an oral placement test yourself.
Creating a lesson plan for foreign language classes
Learners need your guidance in learning a foreign language. Therefore, it is important that you create a structured lesson plan. Even if it’s just for the next 10 lessons. Learners learn best when they know for what purpose. Even if you think you want to adapt to the individual needs of your learners, you should guide them and show them what they really need to learn. Feel free to build in individual and free lessons in between, but it is up to you not to let them get out of hand. If you teach only as needed, you will quickly lose the thread and under- or over-challenge your learner. In our video course "Structuring and Planning Lessons Kato and I will show you step by step how to create a useful lesson plan.
4. How to measure the success of your learners
Let’s come to the most exciting topic in foreign language teaching. Your personal requirement is that your learners achieve great results, or? How can you perceive and measure these successes?
The easiest way: conduct tests and exams from time to time. You can find many sample tests on the Internet. Also, you can write a dictation here and there or check the vocabulary with a vocabulary test. If you prepare a teaching program, you can, for example, do a small test every 10 lessons. There are no limits to your ideas in this respect.
Examples of tests to measure progress
- Vocabulary test
- Cloze texts
- Storyboard from pictures
- Storyboard of vocabulary
- Written grammar test
- Oral test with audio recording
- Sample test for a certificate
How to gain enough confidence as a DaF teacher without studies?
Many career changers ask me how they can gain more confidence in the classroom. When I first started, I also had a lot of doubts about my ability to lead my learners to success and meet their needs. After all, people pay money for me to teach them something. And my goal was to achieve visible success with them.
The best thing you can do: Don’t pretend to do something you can’t. If you have never done something before, then communicate that also. If you get a question about grammar that you can’t answer right away, say so. Prepare yourself and answer the question next time. There are many other challenges in working with people, including learners who want to
- do not speak much
- Not wanting to be taught anything
- Have constant objections
- Never do their homework and are unprepared
- Learners with a high need for explanation
- and many more.
Don’t be too perfectionistic, but be well prepared for each lesson. It takes a lot of time in the beginning. But once you have a clear teaching goal and therefore a clear line and structure, objections and the individual personalities of your learners cannot easily upset you. Experience makes perfect. Over time you will learn how to handle individual personalities. And certainly it will happen that you can’t work with everyone. This is completely normal. You do not have to. Each of us teaches differently and learns differently. Think about an exit strategy for learners you are not so good with. Offer them an alternative teacher, for example. In our language teacher Facebook group you will find many other teachers that you can recommend to others.
Do you need a certificate from the Goethe Institute to work as a DaF teacher??
The advantages of a solid education are obvious when looking for a job. If you can show a certificate, you are more likely to get a job at language schools and institutes. But I know enough teachers of German as a foreign language, who work at language schools without studying. I myself have also worked for several language schools. Whether you can become a DaF teacher at a language school depends more on your sales talent and experience. In addition, language schools are not the only option to get started as a language teacher.
Working as a DaF teacher without a degree at a language school?
Yes, it is possible in Germany as well as abroad. See my two interviews with an experienced language teacher and a language school from Krakow:
If you work as a language teacher without studying together with a language school, you can also earn a salary? Maybe you have completed a distance learning course at the Goethe Institute? Share your experiences with us in the language teacher community.