Teaching English in Sicily

By | October 30, 2013

Sicily, the largest Island in the Mediterranean, is an autonomous region of Italy and is placed in the southern regions of Europe, facing north Africa.

The main language in Sicily is Italian, however, the vast majority of people also speak the Sicilian dialect which is rather different from Italian and varies from region to region.  It is worth learning some Italian phrases to get by, as many shop owners and café workers will not be able to speak a foreign language.

The island is rich in history and its own unique culture, having been under occupation from the Greeks, the Romans, the Normans and the Byzantines (to name but a few).  There are numerous ancient monuments, endless churches and places of natural beauty to visit.  In addition, the island’s vast landscape expands hilltops and valleys, stunning coastlines and beaches, plus Europe’s most active volcano, Mount Etna.

Sicilians are crazy about food and wine!  Each region has its own specialty dishes, from Palermo’s panelle (fried chickpeas) to Modica’s distinct, grainy chocolate, there are so many new and exciting tastes to experience.

The island enjoys a subtropical climate, short winters and hot, exotic summers.

Why Teach English in Sicily?

Taormina Picture by Sally Squiggles

Taormina
Picture by Sally Squiggles

The island offers a wonderful mix of historic towns and cities, beautiful landscapes, tropical beaches and a range of interesting places to visit.  Towns and cities cater to a modern, European lifestyle, while remaining steeped in tradition and culture.  It really is a beautiful part of the world, with a plethora of places to see and things to do.  Whether you spend your days drinking cappuccino and getting involved in café culture, lying on a beach with a cocktail or taking in the many sights, there is always something of interest on the island.

While working in Sicily, teachers are able to integrate into local communities within the towns and cities and there is a certain amount of respect afforded to native English speaking people, due to the high-demand for competent speakers of English and particularly teachers.

Businesses in Sicily are increasingly looking for employees who can use English professionally, as the global market is becoming more and more important.  Tourism is a growing industry around the island, indeed, 2013 brought the opening of the island’s fourth international airport in Comiso, and again, this has had a affect on the need for speakers of other languages.  Furthermore, many Italian universities also now have competency in English as a requirement for all subjects.

Students are dedicated and generally feel that learning English is of paramount importance.   Lessons are taken seriously and most will want a qualification at the end of an academic year.  English teaching in public schools, both in the past and often at present, is not executed well, there is a strong focus on grammar and literature but functional skills such as speaking and listening are rarely taught with any finesse and so there are many private language schools all over the island which offer more comprehensive language instruction and internationally recognised qualifications, such as Cambridge English.

Where to Teach English in Sicily

There are language schools in towns and cities across the island.  The larger cities; Palermo, Catania and Messina, have the highest number of schools, however, there are good private schools found in smaller towns and, depending on what the teacher wants to experience while working in Sicily, these can be equally as enjoyable places to work.

Private schools will generally offer full-time, paid work, apart from in the summer months of July and August, when often the schools will close – Sicilians love to have a long holiday in the summer!

Types of Teaching Jobs in Sicily

Language Schools

Cava Grande Picture by Sally Squiggles

Cava Grande
Picture by Sally Squiggles

There are numerous language schools on the island and for those travelling to Sicily to teach, these are the best places to find work.

The schools are usually well-equipped, many will have computers, smart boards and so on and usually course material will be provided.

Students will almost certainly be working towards an exam at the end of the academic year, where they will receive a formal qualification.  Some will prefer to work in groups but there will also be individual one-to-one lessons.  Private language schools will accept children as young as three and then all age groups and teachers can expect to meet students of all levels, from complete beginners to those with a high level of proficiency and some who will want specialist training, for example in business or legal English.

Private Tutoring

In a lot of towns, it is probable that a native English speaker will find work offering private lessons in their home.  While most of the time this is fine, it can be unreliable, particularly as Sicilians are often late and can cancel at the last minute.

Teaching Requirements and Qualifications

If you want to work for a professional language school anywhere in Italy, you will be expected to be a qualified English Language Teacher. Most essentially, you will need a professional certificate, such as CELTA or TESOL, most schools will not accept online TEFL qualifications.  In addition to this, most schools will expect the teacher to be a graduate, particularly as many rely on projects in association with public schools, where graduates only are accepted.  Degrees in any discipline are acceptable but some schools prefer language or arts graduates.

In the case of private tutoring, no formal qualifications would be required.

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Expected Salary and Living Costs

Visa Requirements

As part of the European Union, most schools will favour applicants with European passports as no visa will be required.

Given the number of British and Irish teachers looking for work, it is unlikely that schools would assist in organising and funding visas for teachers from outside of the E.U.  In this case, teachers would need to organise the correct documentation from their country before they leave.

How to Find a Teaching Job in Sicily

Modica Sunset Picture by Sally Squiggles

Modica Sunset
Picture by Sally Squiggles

Most language schools will advertise online and interview by Skype.  Probably the most used website by Sicilian language schools is www.tefl.com, though there are others with decent jobs posted.

Alternatively, you could arrive on the island and take your CV personally to the schools speculatively, during the academic year it may well be the case that you arrive at the right place at the right time and this would give you a better idea of the area you want to stay in and what the school is like.

Teaching English in Sicily

There are always positives and negatives, wherever you decide to live and work.  Sicily is not without its faults; the public transport system is archaic, things move slowly and some things don’t work as efficiently as you might expect in modern Europe.  However, it really is a stunning island with lots to discover.

It wouldn’t suit those who are living the backpacking lifestyle and teaching along the way but if you’re looking for something a little more refined and want to enjoy European culture, at times you will feel you are in paradise.

There are lots of teaching jobs on the island that will provide a comfortable, steady income and so, for English-speaking Europeans, finding work here should not be a problem plus there is the added advantage of being in Europe, making it relatively easy for friends and family to visit.

As a personal note, living here has had, and continues to have, its highs and lows but I’ve always felt secure in my teaching job and very lucky to be experiencing life in Sicily and all the island has to offer.

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Author: Sally Squiggles

Sally Joy Turton, Director of Studies at English International School in Modica, Sicily. Sally has been working as an English Language Teacher in Sicily for three years and taught special needs children in the UK prior to this. She is CELTA qualified and has the Young Learners Extension to CELTA. She is especially passionate about teaching children but since starting her job in Sicily, has also enjoyed working with adults, particularly with higher levels and business English students. In addition to teaching, Sally is a DJ with a strong passion for music, she hosted a specialist soul music radio show on the Chorley FM radio station in the UK and has organised and played at numerous club events.

6 thoughts on “Teaching English in Sicily

  1. Cynthia

    Hi Sally,
    Thank you so much for sharing your post. I will be moving to Palermo in July to get married (to a Sicilian…) It was such a pleasure to read an optimistic article about the job scene in Sicily….I am CELTA qualified and have been teaching for a little over ten years. Am currently teaching special needs students (adolescents) in NY. Would you happen to know if there is an English International School or “sister” school in Palermo? I have been a bit concerned about finding a teaching job once I arrive. I taught in Rome for several years (few years ago) so I am familiar with living and working in Italy… Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
    Cindy

  2. Lauren

    Hello, I really want to teach English in Catania and was wondering what the next steps were? I havnt got a tefl degree but I am a university graduate of child studies and have worked with international children for the past three years teaching English

  3. Ingela Herodt

    Hi Sally
    How fantastic to hear something positive about finding work in Sicily!
    Im living in Giardini Naxos with my two daughters, Im from Sweden but have lived in Copenhagen for the past 19 years.
    Besides the difficulty in finding work there is nothing that I dont love about this island and the people here.
    I would be most greatful if I could ask you some questions over email.
    Sincerly Ingela

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