This Week in Costa Rica

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This Week in Costa Rica is a weekly, online radio program and podcast by US expat, Dan Stevens

Filtering by Tag: costa rica teaching jobs

ESL Teachers in CR Learning Another Language

The Costa Rica Times - A common question that is asked by aspiring ESL teachers in Latin America is if not knowing the Spanish language will hinder their abilities in the classroom. The answer to that question is both yes and no.

Let’s start with the obvious. In recent times the teaching methodology that has proven most effective in terms of languages is that of using the target language only. If the context is ESL classrooms, then that language is English. With this in mind, not knowing Spanish – or the native language of your students – does not present a problem. In fact, in many cases it can actually be seen as a positive.

In sticking with the target language only goal, students will not be able to ask the teacher questions in their own language. Rather, they will be forced to communicate in English, which will only improve their communication abilities. In addition, you as the teacher won’t be able to recognize perceived cognate or translation errors that your students are making.

One of the biggest factors in providing the best learning environment possible for your students is to have them not only speaking in English but also thinking in English. Translation errors can also occur as a result of students thinking in their own language and then saying those same words in English. Any experienced ESL teacher will tell you that having this dynamic in class is a must. Not knowing the native language of your students makes establishing this a lot simpler.

With this said, knowing the native language of your students does have a lot of benefits. The most obvious being that you are living in their country. In addition to personal skill building, knowing at least the basics of the language that you encounter on a day-to-day basis will make your life a lot easier. In terms of classroom effectiveness, every aspiring ESL teacher should, at least at one time, be a language learner.

The final assignment in Global TESOL College’s certification course is to have each trainee conduct a thirty minute language lesson to the rest of the class. The trick is that the lesson cannot be in English. The idea is to reiterate the most basic, but most forgotten, aspect of ESL teaching: that your students don’t speak English.

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Whether teaching a basic or advanced level, there will be aspects of the language, and the way that you as the teacher present and speak it, that students simply will not understand. Putting our TESOL students in the shoes of having to teach people who have no idea what you’re saying –and also receiving a class in a language they do not speak – is a great lesson in perspective.

By far the most common question leading up to the start of each TESOL course is about how to teach English if Spanish is not known. As you can see, the necessity to speak Spanish, or any other language, does not exist. The necessity that does exist, however, is that of being a student of another language.

This is the most important thing any aspiring ESL teaching can do. You will learn how hard it is to learn another language, what it feels like to be a student and not understand, what makes an effective teacher from the perspective of a language learner, and how to only use the target language. With this experience, you will be a much more effective ESL instructor.

If you want more information about teaching English in Costa Rica or getting your TEFL or TESOL certificate in Costa Rica feel free to contact Andrew at the Global TESOL College or email andrew@globaltesolcostarica.com

Originally from Toronto, Canada, Woodbury is the academic director of Global TESOL College Costa Rica , a contributor to radio program This Week in Costa Rica (http://thisweekincostarica.com/), and an independent writer based in Costa Rica.

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CR ESL Teaching; Fake It ‘Till You Make ItFake It ‘Till You Make It

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Costa Rica Teaching News - It was my first day of training for my first ever ESL teaching position. I was listening to the academic manager describe the school’s methodology, the student demographic and why the materials they used were the best in town. After concluding the generic pitch to sell the seven of us on why we should want to work for this school, the instructor said something – when describing what we needed to do in the classroom – that I will never forget: fake it ‘till you make it.

As is the theme when discussing teaching English in Costa Rica, the teachers subject to the majority of the focus are teachers new to the ESL world. The focus of my last column (http://www.costaricantimes.com/are-you-overqualified-to-teach-english-in-costa-rica/20007) was on just this. The reason the Costa Rican ESL market is saturated with either inexperienced teachers or older teachers simply looking to enjoy life abroad – and using teaching as a means to pay the rent – is because the job prospects are not enticing for those with superior qualifications.

As a result, academic managers and TEFL and TESOL trainers accentuate the most basic of teaching skills in their trainings in order to best prepare their pupils before entrusting them with a live classroom.

Fake it ‘till you make it.

I thought he was joking when he said it; he was not.

While the words used in the message seem strange to new employees wanting desperately to make a great first impression in a hypercompetitive market, the idea is dead on.

Image prevails in Latin America. What occurs behind the curtain of a language school is best left as a secret. If an academic manager tells you “you don’t want to know” – believe him. Even the best teacher can be spit out and requested to not be assigned to a particular group again based on wardrobe alone.

Often times the best advice for any teacher in Latin America is to talk the talk – even if you can’t walk the walk.

In many cases looking and acting the part is as important – sometimes more so – as one’s skill as an educator. There is a certain appearance associated with an ESL teacher in Costa Rica and students can be quite fickle if you don’t appear to fit that preconceived image. Numerous teachers I used to work with – who were excellent, fully capable and qualified – did not find the kind of success teaching here as you would have expected.

It may be cliché, but the one chance you get at a first impression is even more prevalent in Latin America.

With this notion we find the inherent irony that is entrenched in the ESL teaching market in Costa Rica. In order to make it in this market you need to look, act and conduct professional classes as if you were a teacher stout on experience. This would be the expectation from the same language school that is paying you an hourly rate that would, under normal circumstances, not represent that type of return.

‘Making it’ in the Costa Rican teaching market means gaining student acceptance. Language institutes are client based and if a group or a client is keen on a certain teacher, you will be married to that group. Similarly if the opposite proves to be true, there will be no hesitation in reassigning you elsewhere.

If you are an inexperienced ESL teacher in Costa Rica, the best advice is: don’t let anyone find out.

If you want more information about teaching English in Costa Rica or getting your TEFL or TESOL certificate in Costa Rica feel free to contact Andrew at the Global TESOL College or email andrew@globaltesolcostarica.com

Originally from Toronto, Canada, Woodbury is the academic director of Global TESOL College Costa Rica , a contributor to radio program This Week in Costa Rica (http://thisweekincostarica.com/), and an independent writer based in Costa Rica.

 

Are You Overqualified to Teach English in CR?

Teaching English in Costa Rica is not for everyone. Many have trouble adapting to the culture. Some find the language barrier insurmountable. Others find the heat and seemingly endless amount of precipitation during the rainy season are reasons for sooner than anticipated departures. For some, however, the reason teaching English in Costa Rica is not a fit is because they are overqualified.

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Being familiar with the nature of the beast is great – and basic – advice for anyone thinking about embarking on a new venture. Costa Rica, for obvious reasons, is constantly near the top of destination lists to teach English. It is a great fit for many demographics of teachers: the beginner, the retiree, the traveler and the non-committed, to name a few.

The common denominator is that no teachers in those demographics view teaching ESL in Costa Rica as a career.
I have received many emails lately from people looking for advice on teaching in Costa Rica. They send resumes, qualifications, names of prestigious language institutes where they have taught and their titles of seniority within those institutions. While certainly impressive, my canned response to all of these adventure seeking individuals is to know your market.

If you studied advanced linguistics, have a Master’s in TEFL, a PHD in ESL instruction or years of teaching experience at the College or University level, the reality is that you are overqualified for the majority of ESL positions in Costa Rica.
This of course doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t come; it simply means that you need to be aware of what you’re getting yourself into before doing so.

If you’re looking at a University position in Costa Rica, the answer is different. However, I’ll narrow the scope of this to what ninety-percent of ESL jobs in Costa Rica are: working in private language institutes.

Language schools treat their employees exactly the same regardless of background. If you are a linguistic PHD graduate or a college dropout with zero hours of classroom experience, you will be sitting next to each other on the bus on the way to your 6am class.

The teaching industry in Costa Rica doesn’t work in the same way as other places. It is not (entirely) experience based. This isn’t to say that an inexperienced teacher will be hired over a more experienced one. However, once hired, the job the expectations – and the employee management – are exactly the same.

This is where a lot of very qualified teachers run into some confusion. Language schools in Costa Rica do not have bank accounts filled with money they are not using. While advanced and prestigious qualifications may land you a primer position in the North American, European and Asian teaching markets, Costa Rica doesn’t work like that. The pay grade, starting hours, and employee management is uniform across the board.

The dirty little secret of teaching in Costa Rica is that language schools actually prefer hiring less qualified individuals. These are the teachers they can mold into the style of employee that fits their methodology. With more experienced instructors they run the risk of having the “That’s not how we used to do it at my University” discussion – a constant annoyance for academic managers.

The idea circles back to expectation management (http://www.costaricantimes.com/teaching-english-in-costa-rica-managing-expectations/18943). If you are a highly qualified teacher, but are simply seeking an opportunity to live abroad, hone your Spanish skills and do a little bit of teaching, then Costa Rica will treat you wonderfully. If you are an individual of similar educational prestige, but think that your qualifications will earn you a similar position of seniority here, then you will be disappointed.

This article originally appeared in the Costa Rican Times

If you want more information about teaching English in Costa Rica or getting your TEFL or TESOL certificate in Costa Rica feel free to contact Andrew at the Global TESOL College or email andrew@globaltesolcostarica.com

Originally from Toronto, Canada, Woodbury is the academic director of Global TESOL College Costa Rica , a contributor to radio program This Week in Costa Rica (http://thisweekincostarica.com/), and an independent writer based in Costa Rica.

 

Teaching English in CR: A Student Perspective

Costa Rica Teaching News - Living abroad for an indeterminate amount of time is a common inclusion on many bucket lists. Teaching English in Costa Rica provides great outlet to put a checkmark beside that bullet point for many reasons. Learning a new language, experiencing new cultures, trying new foods, new customs and challenging yourself to do new things are normal self-actualizing inclusions. With this said, there is one point that often gets lost when discussing teaching abroad: teaching.

What is often forgotten in the ‘finding myself’ discussions of life overseas are the individuals who are the recipients of the service being provided. In this context, these are the students.

In order to provide some perspective, I was lucky enough to sit down recently with an English student here in Costa Rica. I asked her many questions on the reasons for taking English classes, the process of learning the English language and its importance for Costa Ricans. Her answers are great insight for teachers into what ESL students go through and why they are in class at all.

Carolina, 32, is an Associate Collector for Western Union in Costa Rica. For the last five years she has worked at their Lindora branch, located just west of San José. Like all Ticos, she studied English throughout elementary school and, unlike a lot of Ticos, was lucky enough to have English classes provided by Western Union through language institute Idiomas Mundiales.

 Her common points of frustration – which are not dissimilar to many other English students – are working in English but living in Spanish, the pressure and expectation to speak perfectly with English speaking clients, the low quality of public education and the expense of private education.

Here is our interview:

 Is speaking English important for Ticos?

Yes, of course. As a requirement for a better job opportunity it’s very important. It should extend until you have the basic stuff to ‘survive’ – general grammar and certainly fluent speaking level.

What is your experience with the English language?

At the beginning [English] was interesting but I learned in a difficult way, almost by myself. I have difficulties with my basics cause I learned wrongly, without a strong education. I learned like a baby but nobody corrected me, so I’ve several speaking errors and grammar also and now is so difficult to correct them. [It] is like a bad habit…almost impossible to remove. For those who had the chance to learn English in a private school [it] is easier.

Do you like English as a language?

Mmmmm that is difficult to answer. I don’t hate it but I started feeling uncomfortable and annoyed especially when I want to express myself but I just can’t and [I] get confused, don’t have the words. Nobody understands [and] I get seriously frustrated and I feel like Gloria from Modern Family.

Can you briefly describe English instruction in the public school system?

I’m 32 and studied in the public school system. My teacher was terrible. She just repeated and repeated things and made us pray the Catholic [most] popular prayer. We followed a book with grammar…and usually the test was to learn verbs in past and present. Terrible!

Can you describe what you want in an English teacher?

To be creative, proactive, patient and to correct me.

Does your Western Union provide you with English classes?

Yes, they did. But, as I mentioned the problem is me. Cause I learned without guidance. Like an emigrant but here…listening and speaking Spanish all day long.

 You said they did. Are you not taking classes anymore?

That’s correct. I started with formal classes when my job asked me to do it and gave me the opportunity for free. I stopped [taking classes] because I finished the course.  [It] is too expensive to learn English [otherwise].

How often do you speak English?

Every day. I’m sure my customers don’t understand 100% what I’m saying. I do my best to pronounce the language. I know there are worse accents here but I get in problems when I’m trying to explain something[in depth]. I do speak Spanish very fast so I automatically try to do it in English and I can’t…cause I lose the attention I’m giving to the accent.

If you want more information about teaching English in Costa Rica or getting your TEFL or TESOL certificate in Costa Rica feel free to contact Andrew at the Global TESOL College or email andrew@globaltesolcostarica.com

Originally from Toronto, Canada, Woodbury is the academic director of Global TESOL College Costa Rica , a contributor to radio program This Week in Costa Rica (http://thisweekincostarica.com/), and an independent writer based in Costa Rica.

 

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