A multicultural country with several official languages, the average Swiss person can speak two foreign languages as well as their mother tongue. For those in the German-speaking part of Switzerland, English is a popular choice of second language to learn, but is less popular in the other parts of Switzerland where their second language might be German, French or Italian. However, English is often used as a lingua franca, and so lessons are high in demand.
The Swiss are keen to learn English as it is the language of business, so you’ll find opportunities to teach English in Switzerland to adults as well as to children. All children in Switzerland learn English in school – some in primary school, others not until they reach about 14 and have studied another language already. Language schools are often flexible to meet the needs of the clients, offering classes at varied times of day and on specialist subjects. In the summer months, some schools will specialise in catering for international students, and there are also a number of popular summer schools where TEFL teachers can find work.
A unique opportunity for TEFL teachers in Switzerland is working at hotel schools – institutes that train people in the hospitality sector who might also need to improve their English. These positions can be easier to get than those at higher education institutes (which rarely have openings as they hire experienced, qualified, long-term teachers) and private finishing schools (where the Swiss elite send high-achieving kids). Private lessons can be lucrative but it’s a competitive market.
In-house training is often offered at language schools and might be mandatory even if you’re experienced and qualified. One thing you’ll learn quickly in Switzerland is not to argue – the boss is always right, and arguing can mean making your life uncomfortable, so if you’re asked to do mandatory training, just do it. The Swiss are formal people (both in smart appearance and behaviour) so be sure to come across well, shake hands with everyone, and speak formally.