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October 24, 2002 Teaching English around the world




by Barbara Castrovillo Seasholtz

Imagine for a moment that you could travel anywhere on the planet. You could choose a metropolis or village, a remote and exotic locale or a bustling city. Now imagine you could stay there, build friendships and learn the local language and customs — all because you possess a skill in high demand, speaking English.

This fantasy often turns into reality for graduates of Concordia’s programs in teaching English as a second language (TESL), and seven of them shared their tales of adventure and mishap abroad while teaching English at the fourth annual Wide World of TESL presentation on Nov. 8.

Students from the TESL bachelor’s and certificate programs and the master’s program in applied linguistics acted as tour guides for their enthusiastic audience, recalling experiences in Azerbaijan, China, Indonesia, Mexico, Japan and South Korea.

Sponsored by the TESL Centre, a part of the Department of Education, the Wide World of TESL promotes Concordia’s TESL programs and often interests students from other programs looking to enhance their career opportunities.

Marlise Horst, an assistant professor at the TESL Centre, was one of the coordinators of the event. “It’s also a nice chance for us to hear from each other, because a lot of people have done really interesting things.” She has taught English in Saudi Arabia, Oman and Egypt, spending a total of 13 years in the Arab world as an ESL teacher.

Concordia TESL graduates have worked in more than 50 countries around the globe. Currently, there are some 65 students in the master’s of applied linguistics program and hundreds more in the certificate and bachelor’s programs, said Roberto Chen-Rangel, graduate program coordinator at the Centre.

One of the presenters, Magnolia Negrete, is an international student in her qualifying year for the master’s of applied linguistics program. Before arriving at Concordia, Negrete taught English in her hometown of Chetumal, Quintana Roo, Mexico.

“The most important economic activity of my state, Quintana Roo, is the tourist industry, so that makes people very interested in learning English, ” she said, noting that Cancun is just a few hours to the north. “They know that learning English may give them more chances to have a better job.”

Negrete said that native English-speaking teachers wouldn’t have trouble finding jobs in Chetumal, and added that her city is an ideal place to teach, since there are many archeological sites and beautiful beaches nearby. Placing enticing photos on the overhead projector, she said, “I highly recommend it.”

For teachers with a sense of adventure who aren’t worried about money, Sarita Kennedy suggested Azerbaijan. She recently spent 10 months in the northern city of Baku as a teaching fellow at the Languages University, and explained to the curious crowd that the conveniences of Western life were almost non-existent in the former Soviet republic.

“If you go, it will be a very different experience,” she said matter-of-factly, but the Azerbaijanis make the trip worth it.

“The people are very warm and proud, and take hospitality very seriously.”
John Gilbert’s first teaching stint changed his life. “Why did I choose Indonesia?” he asked the audience. “Because it looks really far away on the map, so it felt like it was going to be another world.”

He added, “There’s no winter there either, so that was a really big factor for me.”

Gilbert taught at a private language school for two years in Semarang, Java, after taking a “five-day crash course” in teaching English. He raved about the island.

“The landscape had volcanoes and there were so many temples – that really fascinated me.” Like the other student speakers, Gilbert is pursuing further studies in TESL, thanks to his experiences abroad.