If you’re thinking about becoming a languages teacher you will be embarking on a career that has many diverse opportunities but is highly satisfying too. 

Greater immigration and globalisation means schools are constantly recruiting for high calibre languages teachers and you will find yourself in demand, particularly for widely spoken languages such as Spanish or French.

We’ve put together a guide on what training you need and how you can get qualified. 

What qualifications do I need?

If you want to be a languages teacher then naturally, having languages skills are essential and you must be fluent in both English and your target language. You’ll also be expected to know about the culture and history. 

You’ll need to prove fluency in your language skills and most teachers do this by having a bachelor's or master’s degree in their chosen language. You’ll also need to get Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) and you can do this by following a programme of Initial Teacher Training (ITET) at a university, school or training centre.

If you have a languages degree you can then take a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) at a university during which time you will get lots of practical classroom experience. Instead of university, you can opt for a school-led teacher training programme where you will receive guidance from experienced teachers and work within a number of schools. This will also lead to QTS and in many cases, PGCE as well.

If you don’t have a degree or a degree in a subject other than languages but have language fluency, you may be able to take a Subject Knowledge Enhancement (SKE) course to boost your knowledge. 

There is plenty of financial help available and you could be eligible for a training bursary of up to £25,000 or if you train directly with a school you could receive a salary.

What experience do I need and how to I get it?

You must have experience working in schools within the age group you want to teach, whether that’s primary, secondary or college and a minimum of two weeks are required. Not only does it help you decide if teaching is right for you, it demonstrates to employers you have the commitment and interest in the job.

To get work experience:

  • Contact schools, colleges and nurseries directly, writing to them to ask about volunteering or shadowing teachers. Visit Edubase for a full list of schools.
  • Some universities run mentoring programmes or organise placements as part of your degree or training. Check with your university to see what is available.
  • Look out for taster days or open days at schools that can give you an insight into teaching
  • Ask family and friends if they have any school-based contacts
  • Contact local education charities and see if they have any volunteering opportunities available.

What can I expect in the role?

A role as a languages teacher can be challenging but extremely rewarding, allowing you to make a real difference in pupils’ lives. On a daily basis, you will be involved in lesson planning, teaching practical classes and testing pupils’ performances.

As a newly qualified teacher you will start on around £22,000 a year, more in London and salaries are revised annually. As your career progresses you can move up the chain of command, becoming head of the language you teach and eventually an entire languages department. You can also move into education management in assistant, deputy and head teacher roles.

Which languages are in high demand at the moment?

Given our proximity to mainland Europe, French, Spanish and German are always in demand. Spanish, particularly, is considered desirable because of a large number of Spanish-speaking countries around the world.

Increasingly though, Chinese, Japanese, Russian and Arabic are becoming more sought after. 

Languages teacher job application checklist.

  • Don’t forget to list qualifications, most relevant first, particularly all your teacher training and qualifications
  • Detail all school work/voluntary experience you have
  • Research the school, read its Ofsted reports, look at its website
  • See if you can visit the school prior to applying
  • Tailor your covering letter/personal statement to the role, why you would be suitable and what benefits/experience you can bring.
  • Check spelling and grammar thoroughly
  • Make sure you have suitable referees and they are prepared to receive requests