Found in translation: a Beginner's guide to TEFL training in Prague
Prague has for many years been a Mecca for TEFL training but how is the industry evolving and what insider tips should you be made aware of before committing to a TEFL course?
By Neville Thomas, ITTP TEFL Prague
The financial crisis has undeniably had an adverse effect on the whole spectrum of language learning in Europe recently and language schools in the Czech Republic have also been hit by the recession. 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. Sad to say that the days of enormous demand for teachers are over but Prague still remains one of the hubs in Europe where Aussies, Brits, Kiwis and N.Americans rub shoulders together with local Czechs, whilst 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 afterwards 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 (although teaching positions are available almost any month of the year in Prague). 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 S.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 popular 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 teaches you the tools in which to be able to teach English from Absolute Beginner all the way up to Advanced level and this goes for any country where you can interview for a teaching English 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 if 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 to take either an onsite residential 1 month or combined online/onsite course if you have no previous teaching experience. Either the combined online/onsite or 1 month residential onsite course will be an intense but rewarding learning experience and you will gain the necessary tools needed to then feel confident to go into any classroom in the world and teach 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 of thumb 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?
Whilst you don't need a degree to teach English in Prague you will need a degree for some Middle Eastern and Asian countries; most notably Japan, Saudi Arabia, S.Korea, Taiwan.
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 as the center is the throbbing, pulsing, cobblestoned heart of the city - where all the historical sights of interest are and where the city's cafe culture and party nightlife gets its much deserved reputation from.
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 1 bar but in another go for as much as 250 CZK. The simple tip is to avoid eating and drinking where tourists do and to try and find as early as possible local eateries and watering joints. You can get by on around as little as 500 CZK per day for your general day-to-day necessities and 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: What should I bring over with me?
You should definitely bring over any relevant work documents such as college degree documents and written references. Also clothes, books/music and electronics are more expensive in Prague and you should plan for 4 very distinct weather seasons and the weather variations which come with this meteorological blessing, such as of course rain and snow and very cold/very hot temperatures in Winter/Summer. Often than not the one thing we can't bring with us are our loved ones back home so make sure to bring your notebook over so that you can keep in touch and smother the niggling embers of homesickness - signing up for a free SKYPE account recommended.
9: Do I need a visa for the TEFL course in Prague?
Citizens of Australia, Canada, Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States of America and New Zealand don't need to prearrange visas and are issued a 90 day (free) tourist visa upon arrival and don't need any 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.
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 much aware of petty crime such as pickpockets and theft - a real issue in the city but avoidable by using common sense and avoiding flashing your valuables in public.
Prague has an enormous wealth of options to offer the most varied Bohemian of tastes and taking your TEFL in Prague is a great way to get to experience the city either as a 1 month sourjourn 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 more until the tourist visa expires or for longer...
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