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Times, and names, may change but this country remains all things to all people. If the hustle and bustle of beautiful and sophisticated Prague, wears you out a little, then not far away there are the mountains with their hot spas where you can relax a little. Peace and quite is also to be had in the little villages and hamlets.
The population of ten millions has plenty of space in the landmass of thirty-thousand square miles. Of population twenty three percent profess the Roman Catholic faith, two percent Protestantism, with the rest unspecified.
Since 1989 the transition to a market economy in what was the old Soviet Bloc has led to huge demand for English language skills. Everything from tourism to commerce, to membership of the EU depends heavily on English, and natives who want to make the most of this free market recognise that English Language skills are a must. Prague is now a magnet for foreigners, as are other parts of the country. Hence there is high motivation to communicate in English.
Since the market in this region has matured there it is no longer simply the case that one can walk in to a job in a state school solely on the basis that you are a native English speaker. A TESOL certificate is essential. In addition to this some experience in teaching is sometimes a requirement, but not always. Details are listed below under ‘Getting a Job’ that outline how to go about approaching the relevant authorities. In addition to this, many voluntary service organisations (VSOs), place those with TESOL qualifications in ‘Language Assistant’ positions. Summer camps are also an option.
Outside of the official education system there is a plethora of private language institutes, and these tend to be on the look out for well-presented, confident candidates, and, of course, all the qualifications you can muster will help you gravitate to the better institutes.
Another thing to be aware of is that many companies run in-house English language training programmes, and these tend to be the better paid, more stable and predictable posts. In addition to this, for those who do not wish to commit themselves to a full academic year, language summer camps are very common, and can represent a fulfilling way of experiencing the country without having to spend the whole year there.
Many students will have been studying English for a number of years, and may have considerable awareness of grammar, such as tenses. Be on your metal, and prepare well. You don’t want to have your knowledge of tenses tested by your students, who learned them all by heart before they were ten! One often finds a disparity between knowledge and oral and written dexterity. For example, students may be quite unused to hearing English spoken by a native speaker. Conversely, some, from experience in the tourist industry, speak and comprehend with great dexterity, but perform poorly in writing.
With language institutes because of the huge variety ages and standards of education of the students expect a commensurately varied student body. Some will have very little experience; however, others, with more experience in English, will have many years experience in studying English. However, in state schools you can expect highly-motivated students, since passing a rather difficult oral English exam is part of graduating with a high school diploma.
Students at language institutes, on the other hand, are also there for a practical purpose. They tend to be attentive, intelligent, and expect a well turned out, organised and confident teacher.
There is no requirement for EU nationals to obtain a visa or a work permit, and they are entitled to stay in the country without any permits irrespective of the purpose of their visit. However, those who stay more than thirty days are required to register with the Alien Border Police by filling in an application form and presenting a copy of their contract of employment, if they have one.
For non-EU nationals the situation is time consuming and complex. One may be best advised to make a trip to Prague to get all of the paperwork together and then skip out to Vienna to make your application, which must be made outside of the country.
You will need, a birth certificate, proof of no criminal record with certified translations, proof that you have a place to stay, proof that your landlord owns the property (this is not so onerous since accommodation is mostly gained through agencies, who can arrange all this for you).
In addition non-EU nationals must ensure that their employer obtains a work permit for you from the local employment office. This requires a signed form and a photocopy of your passport.
Prague was blessed, escaping the ravages of WWII, and thanks to that it still retains its medieval centre, with its cobbled streets. Sophisticated eateries abound, not to mention good bars, and there is plenty to see and do. But - and there is always a ‘but’ Prague is mighty expensive by Czech standards, and accommodation is in very short supply. It’s also rather swamped by TESOL teachers.
For many, Brno looks to be a better option. It is a beautiful city in its own right, and boasts many museums and galleries. Accommodation is much cheaper and demand for teachers a great deal higher than Prague.
If you are interested in working in a state school, and feel you have the right qualifications then you should contact the Czech Academic Information Agency and they will provide you with all the information you could hope for.
Jobs in Eastern Europe continue to be advertised in the educational press. In addition to this there are a number of organisations who recruit directly into Eastern Europe.
With this said there is a great deal to be said for getting work on the spot. This gives you the opportunity to negotiate a salary, evaluate class sizes, timetables, teaching materials, hours and, where applicable accommodations. As mentioned Prague is rather inundated with TESOL teachers and supply exceeds demand. But this is not so in the rest of the country. In Prague contact the British Council, who are an invaluable resource, also the notice board in the Globe Bookshop English Language Bookshop. The English Langue Paper the Prague Post often carries ads. There is also an internet site www.jobs.cz which, though aimed at Czechs has an English language section.
For many, getting a job will mean knocking on doors, so don’t forget to pack your educational certificates! Local telephone directories detail language institutes, etc, which are often only too willing to interview candidates. Highly-qualified, and more importantly, well-turned-out, organised and enthusiastic teachers are in short supply in many places. If they like you they will most certainly find some teaching for you!
Hence, one of the best and most realistic propositions is to build a working life gaining a contract for some hours at a language institute, but also building a portfolio of ‘privates’. Revenue from ‘privates’ can double a teacher’s income, one should always be on the lookout for private students, whatever one’s employment or visa status. The market for those wanting private tuition or conversation practice is huge, and potentially very lucrative, therefore, not be neglected. Give yourself time to build a portfolio of work. This is best safeguard to both your income, and employment status.
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