Thursday, 1 December 2011

ITTP TEFL Prague: Found in Translation - A Beginner's Guide to TEFL Training in Prague

The following is a short article which I wrote in the Winter semester of 2010. I felt the article was still relevant, although it needed a few edits to reflect the current strong teaching climate, and as I am on holiday this week with my family I don't have the time to sit and write a new post so this is a regurgitation of a previous bit of writing:

For many years, Prague has been a mecca for TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) training but how is the industry evolving and what should you know before committing to a TEFL (TESOL) course?

The Czech Republic (and Prague in particular), has in the past picked up the reputation of being a sort of lush grazing ground for certified and uncertified English teachers and at one time all the credentials needed for standing in front of a classroom of paying language students was a passport from an English-speaking country.
Demand for Native English and non-Native English speaking English teachers is consistently very high and Prague still remains one of the hubs in Europe where Aussies, Brits, Kiwis, North Americans and South Africans (and non-Native English speakers from other countries) rub shoulders with local Czechs, while teaching English and soaking up the local flavor of the city's well-deserved international reputation as a city of culture and general jovial frolics.

Taking an internationally recognized TEFL course will provide you with the foundations from which you can teach English and travel, and Prague is the city of choice for many who opt for TEFL training with an eye on afterward remaining in the city to teach or heading off after certification on a world travel epic.

The absolute best time to take a TEFL course in Prague is either at the beginning of the new school year (September), or in January - at the start of the new school semester. This is when language schools open up new courses and when typically there is increased demand for English teachers. However, teaching positions are available almost any month of the year in Prague and we find that graduates of the ITTP program find little difficulty in securing well-paid teaching positions at any time of the year - with the exception perhaps of the month of August which can be slower.
It's important to note that in some countries the school year has a different start date so if you are wanting to head off to South Korea after your TEFL course for example then you want to be planning ahead for a March start date for your new school teaching year.

The following are answers to 10 of the more frequently asked questions by TEFL students wanting to come study in Prague:

1. Do I need to speak the local language in order to teach English?
The simple answer is that you don't. TEFL gives you the tools with which you're able to teach English from Absolute Beginner level all the way up to Advanced level and this goes for any country where you can interview for an English-teaching job.

2. What kind of people take the course?
A whole range of people from many different cultural backgrounds graduate from the TEFL course and TEFL schools encourage and welcome all applications - regardless of sex, age, race or nationality.
Conditions of entrance are set by international guidelines. These are that applicants:
• should be native English-, or non-native advanced English-speakers (i.e., English is your first language or mother tongue and/or you speak English proficiently)
• must be 18 or over
TEFL schools encourage and welcome applications from both Native English and non-Native English speakers.

3. Which is the right TEFL course for me?
It's always recommended that you take either an onsite residential one-month or combined online/onsite course if you have no previous teaching experience. Both the combined online/onsite or one-month residential onsite course are intense-but-rewarding learning experiences and you will gain the necessary tools needed to then feel confident going into any classroom in the world and teaching a class. Straight online courses are recommended for people with previous teaching experience and are the course of choice for people already in the teaching industry but who don't have any official teaching qualification.

4: Is there a dress code?
To a greater extent it's left up to the individual teacher to decide what they choose to wear to classes (in TEFL training classes and paid English-teaching classes). Some teachers dress up in blouse/skirt or shirt/trousers, whilst other teachers prefer a more casual approach and head off to classes in jeans and T-shirt. As a general rule, for every first new meeting you should dress smartly to ensure a well-received first impression and for women this means smart blouse and skirt/trousers and for men a smart shirt and trousers (with the option of wearing a tie and jacket). Czechs tend to be relaxed in their dress so there is no need to wear a tie to class and most teachers do tend to adopt the smart/casual approach of jeans and blouse/shirt.

5. Do I need to have a degree?
While you don't need a degree to teach English in Prague and the vast majority of European countries you will need a degree for some Middle Eastern and Asian countries, most notably Japan, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Taiwan. I myself finished university early and have never experienced issues with not having a degree - in most countries it is the TEFL certificate which you need for completion of visa documentation.

6. What does 'Prague 1' mean?
Prague is divided into districts 1-22 and Prague 1 is in the center: the place where you want to be taking your TEFL course. The center is the throbbing, pulsing, cobblestoned heart of the city -- where all the historical sights of interest are and where the city gets its reputation for café culture and party nightlife. Prague 2 and 6 are also considered central Prague and recommended places to hang or live.

7. How much should I bring over with me?
This is a tricky question to answer because people's consumer needs vary a lot and Prague has multi-layered pricing systems. As an example a glass of beer can cost 25 CZK in one bar but in another go for as much as 250 CZK. The simple tip is to avoid eating and drinking where tourists go and, as early as possible, to try to find local eateries and watering joints. You can get by on as little as 500 CZK per day for your general day-to-day necessities, with the odd spoil here and there. To be on the safe side, though, plan to bring $1,000+ (USD) spending money for each month you plan to be here while you aren't working and remember that most schools won't pay you your first month's wage until the second month of teaching.

8. Will I be busy?
Any full-time TEFL course will be intense. However, and lets be frank here, it isn't rocket science. No matter how much TEFL schools like to lay on the mustard and claim that their course is the most intense experience you will ever ever go through and while it is an intense experience, TEFL courses are designed for the general public and if you attend all classes and do your homework then most people find that they have enough time between classes and homework to enjoy the city and take long weekend trips out of the city (or within the city). That isn't to suggest that a TEFL course is a breeze - because it isn't. However, TEFL is not about curing cancer or trying to fire particles faster than the speed of light and part of the lure of taking a TEFL course in Prague is experiencing Prague.

9. Do I need a visa for the TEFL course in Prague?
Citizens of Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and New Zealand don't need to prearrange visas and are issued a (free) 90-day tourist visa upon arrival and don't need a study visa. Citizens of other countries should check with their local Czech embassy or consulate whether they require a pre-arranged visa for trips to the Czech Republic. If you decide to stay on and teach after the course then it is necessary to apply for the work visa and this can be done on the ground here in Europe. The typical pattern is to take the course, secure a teaching job, and begin teaching immediately and while your work visa is being processed.

10: Is Prague safe?
Compared to many Western cities, Prague is very safe and the vast majority of visits are trouble-free. However, you must be very aware of petty crime such as pickpocketing and other thefts - a real issue in the city but avoidable by using common sense and not flashing your valuables in public.

Prague has an enormous wealth of options to offer the most varied of tastes and taking your TEFL in the Czech capital is a great way to experience the city either as a one-month sojourn before heading off to teach English in another worldwide location, or making Prague home and staying for a while - either for a few more months until the tourist visa expires or for longer.