Often wrongly just referred to as South America, Latin America covers the huge area from the US-Mexican border to the tip of Chile some 6000 miles further south. One of the main reasons for anyone moving to the region to live and work must surely be the chance to experience the vibrant and colourful culture and to live life as the natives do, rather than for the money. The principal draws to Latin America lie at the opposite end of the spectrum to those of teaching in the Middle East.
Wages are undoubtedly low compared to levels in Europe, the Middle East and parts of Asia that are popular destination to teach English overseas in. However, the low cost of living goes a long way to help offset this. Throughout the region those who teach English can expect to make a reasonable living and should be able to easily cover all essential costs, such as accommodation, travel and food. Savings though may not be a viable option.
The first language of most Latinos is of course Spanish, with the notable exception of Portuguese in Brazil. Knowing just a little of the language is going to help in a big way. Even if you are unable to be interviewed in anything but English, your chances of finding a good job will improve if you can speak a little Spanish or the local language. Like most areas where you can teach English overseas new arrivals happily get by knowing the mere basics.
Much of what is shown on the news in the West shows the region in a negative light. Poor living conditions, crime, inflation, political unrest do certainly exist but are often overstated. In Columbia, for example, there is a thriving English teaching community where most teachers never experience any trouble. The vast majority of visitors to Latin America find the people very warm and approachable.
The North American influence reaches across the continent especially in all the big towns and cities. It goes without saying that the preferred or expected form of English will be US but non-Americans will not be at much of a disadvantage and should find work easily.
As most work is low-paid and there is usually a steady supply of teachers, the majority of jobs are only advertised locally. ESL websites may have some listings but finding work will certainly be easier once you have arrived. Checking the English language press, getting advice from other teachers and expats and cold-calling on employers with your resume will get results.
Getting a work visa and residence permit is rarely easy and all too often a bit of a nightmare for anyone teaching English in Latin America. Officially teachers will need an employment contract and usually a whole array of other documentation, from police reports to medical tests. Even then the process can take months and applications are often rejected. In reality, though, many English teachers don’t have papers and never experience any problems. Providing you stay on the right side of the law and you don’t outstay the time limit for tourists, the authorities should turn a blind eye. A weekend “border hop” every 3 months or so will mean you can carry on living and working as “self-employed” in the country.