5 things not to ask an EFL teacher


Strange questions are abound in our field so we thought we’d add to the list of peculiar inquisitions we put up with in our most humble of fields.

1.Are you a native?/ You speak very well for a non-native.

Guess what people, not everyone is a native speaker, judge me on my qualifications and experience not my passport. Yes yes ‘student preference’… ‘ EU discrimination’ and so the wheel turns but it is infuriating and inevitability followed with “wow your English is good for a non-native”. Well no shit Sherlock I’ve been studying it for 20 years.

2.Can you work on Saturdays/ bank holidays?

You would be surprised how many times teachers are asked this by academies and private classes alike. Some people want to do it some people don’t. I prefer not to be asked because I spend my weekends planning for the following week whilst trying to defrag from the previous week. A response to refusing this generous offer can often be “well, if you managed your time better you could work on weekends” If I managed by time better I could also finish that book I want to read and get jogging again but…. I am a human too.

3.Do you enjoy your 3 month holiday? (i.e you don’t work a lot do you?)

Firstly, we all have to admit that following the academic year does have its perks. However, a lot of teachers find it impossible to make ends meet throughout summer and often do summer schools or carry on their private lessons. It can be a mad dash at the end of the academic year trying to find that lucrative summer school job that might give you the chance to earn a bit of money over the summer. And if you happen to live in Spain you quickly find out that no one does anything over the summer anyway so they can get on their bike.

4.Can you do a conversation class with my 4 year old?

Perhaps a minor exaggeration but how many times have we been asked to do the impossible? I will try my best but I am not sure I can help you pass your B2 exam this year when you aren’t really B1 yet. Sometimes the expectations put on us are too high and sometimes the learners’ expectations are too high also. Aim for the stars but be a little realistic whilst you’re at it.

5. If you are in our country why don’t you speak our language?

This is a funny one and one I’ve been asked so many times in Spain. My response is a mixture of “did that guy really just ask me that?” and “it’s just as well I don’t have the skills yet to take you down”. I am here to help people in your country learn a language that is vital in the grand scheme of things. I am learning your language, trust me, in Spain it makes things so much easier to get some of the language under your belt; everyone who comes to Spain quickly realises this.

If you have any more things to add, about what not to say, put them in the comments or in a local Facebook group. The questions will never cease but there is nothing wrong with having a bit of fun mocking them every now and again.

Author: Teaching in Spain

Two teachers who like to write about travelling, and you guessed it, teaching. One of us is from England and one of us from Greece. If you like what we write then subscribe and enjoy!

22 thoughts on “5 things not to ask an EFL teacher”

  1. “Can you teach me English?”
    Yeah, I’ll try, but you do know it’s not instantaneous, don’t you?

    “I want to understand songs.”
    Sure, but you’ll never actually use that vocabulary again.

    “Why don’t you travel more?”
    Because lots of holiday time doesn’t mean lots of free time and certainly doesn’t mean lots of money.

    “My cousin / mum / sister / friend says English classes are useless, you can’t learn a language unless you live in the country.”
    Why are you here, then?

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Yeh I agree, my point was that countless times I get asked why aren’t you speaking in Spanish. Well, I came here to learn it and I’m not good at it yet. I never advocated not learning it, just that people don’t get that you can’t be a master in a few months.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice post!
    One question and discussion I always get into every year is:
    Student: Can you help me pass my exam next month?
    Teacher: Which exam?
    Students: Well, I need to pass with a B2 or C1 level, but I haven’t studied English since school. (like 15 years ago).
    Teacher: Do you know your actual level?
    Student: Yes, the school I went to before coming to you said my level was A1+. Teacher: How much time could you spend studying English?
    Student: Do you think two hours is too much? …
    Teacher: Why did you not do the course in the other school?

    Blah, blah, blah. We are Language teachers, not miracle workers.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think many schools now are selling their own special method. So they train their teachers in their method, all materials are provided with lesson plans or books and hey presto. A school without a standardised method, which depends on individual teachers with only 120 hours of training is surely doomed.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Couldn’t agree more however there are so many academies I have seen in Spain that hire auxiliares people with no qualifications at all other than the fact that they are from America or England. I don’t get it, the students suffer, the standards go down. It baffles me.

    I read your blog post about your job offer and not being able to reduce your hours to look after your kids. Have you considered EU law on this issue It could be seen as indirect discrimination which is worth a look, I am sure it is applied to reasons for not hiring someone. Let me know what you think.


    1. This comment was supposed to go on your CELTA post – there was a mix up on my phone … thank you for your suggestions, but I prefer to let it go – it wasn’t the right job for me anyway, all about sales, I prefer marketing or business management on a different level.
      The auxiliary issue is interesting, schools receive a lot of money from the government, they don’t pay for the auxiliaries themselves. Auxiliaries are in such high demand that they will take anyone. But at the end of the day, an auxiliary is exactly that, you work alongside a qualified school teacher (4 year university degree) and read stories or do activities with the students as required. They don’t want your lesson planning, or spectacular teaching methods, at the end of the day you are only with each class (of 29 children) 2 or 3 hours a week. They want the star against their name, to tick all the correct boxes and to be able to claim they are a bilingual school.
      Schools in Spain are a business, in my home country I would say it they are a service, it is your right to a good education. Here Spanish parents are sucked into the sales spin and the idea that you have to pay to get quality education, and the expectation of quality means that there are native English speakers, this is also one of the requisites of the governments in order for schools to tick those boxes and be awarded the denomination of a bilingual school (which also attracts the paying parents).
      Another thing is how auxiliaries are paid, many who work through government schemes are brought over from America, on a half made-up student visa, they are paid a grant, so they are not entitled to job seekers allowance for the four months that there is no work (last two weeks of June until the 2nd week of October). Others are forced to work as freelance, again losing the right to ‘el paro’. Others are contracted through a teaching agency, with a contract, not through the government grant scheme, but they only put half the salary through the books, taxes and social security are not paid properly.
      I personally think they would be wiser investing the money in decent training for their Spanish school teachers, but that is the system here. As you say – it changes every few years anyway.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh well not to worry, I am glad you left a comment anyway. I do like your writing style, if you are interested in doing a guest blog or vice versa that would be great! Either way I look forward to reading more of your blogs.


  6. the other day..i also got exacerbated..i totally get where you´re coming from by the way..i have been teaching in Spain for the past 4 years and..it´s been quite the education..so i posted this on my tusclases blog https://www.tusclasesparticulares.com/blog/frequently-asked-questionsfunny-dialogues ..if it makes you feel any better, you would have similar experiences in France..the tefl scene in the rest of europe is quite different;speaking from pesonal experience.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. ‘Can you teach my 4 year old’ is probably the one I’m going to resonate with…a lot. They barely have a firm grasp on their own mother tongue let alone have a someone teach them a second language. Children should learn in the environment, and until they learn some classroom discipline I don’t think anyone has the pleasure of teaching young children in a foreign tongue.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Language is a beautiful thing to learn! I love to hear different accents because they are so sexy to listen and beautiful to know😂 Don’t say the following to non indigenous people, I can’t understand your English! It is very insulting regardless either we understand it or not! We should encourage them to speak more to us instead of dehumanizing or belittling them! A beautiful thing can happen in this life if we encourage each other to learn more about other people cultures or languages instead of judging them!! Just an insight from a former teacher ~

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Adult learner: “I’m a beginner in my listening skills and my speaking skills. I want to watch some easy TV shows for adults. Can you recommend any easy TV show for adults?”
    Me: ”Nope, not even the TV shows for 4 year olds are easy.”

    Liked by 2 people

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