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Enjoying something of renaissance after leaving decades of totalitarianism behind it, Albania, a non EU country, has become a colourful, hot-ticket Mediterranean destination. Albania’s history goes back to ancient Roman times and beyond, and there is plenty for the curious sightseer to take in. If this doesn’t do it for you, then life’s a beach and there is no shortage of fun in the sun, including sailing, water skiing, or just plain soaking up the rays.
Albanian, an indo European derivative of ancient Illyrian, is the first language. Italian is widely understood because Albanians can get Italian TV, and English is often spoken and understood. The climate is hot and sunny in the summer and temperate in the wintertime. The population is three and a half million.
English is taught in school from the fifth grade through to university, and prospects for teaching vary. Some private schools have opened up, but this is a rapidly developing country, and the goal posts keep moving in terms of required qualifications versus available opportunities. There is not anything like the infrastructure or developed marked that one might see in France or Germany, on the other hand it promises something of an adventure to the intrepid, and could be a great deal of fun.
Tirana, the capital, sits about half way between Rome and Istanbul, and the architectural influence of these great cities is clearly visible. It is a city of half a million people, and hence quite manageable compared to the big European cities.
As for the rest, the Ionian coast is unspoilt and undeveloped, but this won’t last forever. If your taste lies in getting far away from the madding crowd, tourist traps and all that goes with them, you’ve come to the right place.
The situation in Albania is extremely fluid, and seems very remote from candidates having a degree, a Post-Graduate Certificate in Education and a TESOL qualification. A TESOL-qualified teacher will be welcome, and it can do no harm at all to have a degree. The utility of a PGCE is debateable, but if you have one bring it along.
One of the reasons that the situation is fluid is that the great bulk of teaching is carried out by Albanians. This makes a trained, native English speaker very much a novelty item. So don’t be surprised if nobody knows quite what to do with you.
This circumstance presents the biggest problem that you may face teaching in Albania. People study English a lot, and may speak it to one another, but only very seldom hear native spoken English. Hence, their aural comprehension may lag far behind their actual level, and your students may simply not understand you very well. Therefore, speaking slowly and clearly is a must, along with writing things down on the white board.
This said, there is considerable enthusiasm for learning English, and students are often found to be gregarious and eager. In the main students have many years experience learning English at high school and university, but pronunciation problems along with the aural comprehension problems outlined above are an issue.
The best way to get a job is to visit the British Council in Tirana, which has a list of local language schools. Then do the legwork and go visit all the schools on the list. English language press, yellow pages, expat societies, recruitment agencies and all the rest, all lie in the future for Albania; hence it’s a case of turning up and doing the legwork.
These requirements vary depending on the luck of the draw. You can expect most institutes to pay in cash, and nobody is terribly fussy about work permits, etc. You may have to nip in and out to renew your tourist visa, but it’s doubtful that you will get stopped any tax. If you want to go ‘native’ then there is probably all the red tape you can imagine. Ask at the British Council for advice on immigration naturalization.
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