On account of its central-alpine location Switzerland is a fascinating synergy of French, German and Italian culture. It is also the worlds most prima face democratic nation, a land where the population regularly participate in referenda deciding matters of state. General tidiness and seamless efficiency abound in the operation of services and the maintenance of public spaces. For those who enjoy alpine pursuits Switzerland obviously offers amongst the best skiing in the world, not to mention hiking, Hang gliding and all the rest. If this doesn’t grab you, then you are at least guaranteed breathtaking scenery at almost every turn.
German is the principal official language spoken by about 66 percent of the population. Next up is French spoken by 19 percent of the population. Interestingly, several cantons in 2001 elected to make English the official second language - to the consternation of some! English is widely spoken, particularly in the main tourist areas and amongst the young. Switzerland is home to a population of just over seven million.
Despite the growing enthusiasm for English, TESOL work can be more difficult to come by than in other countries, and, as one might expect in such a well-ordered society, you may need more advanced qualifications to obtain work. In addition to this it take persistence and tenacity to get a work permit and a job, there being a slight ‘chicken and egg’ situation where employers won’t hire anybody who doesn’t have a work permit and you can’t get a work permit if you don’t have an employer. The key to this, for the determined, is to get a temporary job doing anything, and work your way up from there.
Geneva, Interlaken and Zurich are the principal population centres, and have all the things that you would expect from a cosmopolitan culture with history that stretches back to Roman times. The skier will be confronted with a truly bewildering array of choices, but confident in the knowledge that it is hard to go wrong.
Anyone wishing to teach in a state or private school can expect to have a degree, a Post-Graduate Certificate in Education and a TESOL qualification. As with most teaching opportunities in Switzerland, two years’ language teaching experience is a requisite.
With language institutes you can, in the main, expect to find yourself teaching adults. Enthusiasm for English amongst the general population is reasonably high but not as great as it is in Germany or Holland, meaning both the market is not as broad, and the motivation of those being taught is not quite as great.
In the main you will find yourself teaching students who have many years experience of English and other languages. Hence, expect intermediate, upper intermediate and advanced students. Whilst it is exhilarating and rewarding to teach such students, it is important to prepare your classes well and make sure you are clear about the areas you are teaching - particularly with grammar. You don’t want to find yourself being corrected about tenses by your students!
Getting a Job
When trying to get work in advance it is useful to contact the British Council in Geneva. They keep a list of language schools, both private and state. In addition to that the on-line Yellow Pages is worth consulting.
The new arrival would do well to seek out any English language press, and to find out where English-speaking expats congregate.If your achievements are not quite up to the august requirements of Swiss officialdom it is perfectly feasible to put up notices in the larger town offering conversation practice.
Because of the difficulties with work permits and positions summer schools are a hot ticket, and well worth trying. In these positions you can expect to be teaching, for instance, sport and English. Hence try these summer schools:
Aiglon Summer School, 1885 Chesieres - Villars (24) 495 2348.
Beau Soleil Holiday Language Camp, EPTA Organisation, CH 1994 Villars-sur-Ollon.
Institut Le Rosey, Camp d’Ete, Rout Des Quatre Communes, CH-118 Rolle.
Institute Le Vieux Chalet, CH-1837 Chateau d’Oex.
Institut Monte Rosa, 57 Avenue de Chillon, CH-1820 Montreux.
Leysin American School in Switzerland, CH-1854 Leysin (24) 493 37 7
St George’s School in Switzerland, 1815 Clarens/Montreux.
Surval Mont-Fleuri, Route de Glion 56, CH1820 Montreux 1.
TASIS (The American School in Switzerland) Summer Language Programs, Via Collina d’oro, 6926 Montagnola-Lugano (91) 960 5151.
Visas and Regulations
Some state schools and private schools may not prepared to go through the difficult process of hiring native English-speaking teachers without a work permit. However, in some cases it is easier to place teachers from the US than from other countries, such as Australia and New Zealand. Non-EU citizens should check with the Swiss consulate in their native country to look for language exchange programs, etc. Americans may wish to contact Interexchange, of New York, who run an exchange programme.
Switzerland now has a reciprocal arrangement with the EU, and hence EU citizens are permitted to enter Switzerland for three months in order to seek work. Therefore, one of the recommended tasks for EU and non-EU alike is to enter looking for temporary work, or through an exchange programme, such as with summer schools, and to use this as a spring-board for a full work permit.
Most individuals working for institutes are self-employed, or ‘freelance’.
Therefore, they are responsible for paying their own tax and social security. New arrivals are required to register with the police, organize a bank account into which their wages will be paid, and get a tax number from their local tax office.