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Stepping off the plane in Malta you are stepping into what has been described as the largest open-air museum in the world. Indeed, Malta boasts the oldest man-made structures in Europe - 7000 years, to be precise. But if monoliths, Roman ruins and crusader castles don’t grab you, the fact that you are in the heart of the Mediterranean world will. There’s plenty in the way of beach life, clear skies and a nice hot climate. The growth in resorts over the last twenty years furnishes the party animal with plenty to feast upon. Hence, history and culture, beach life and nightlife are the keynotes that make Malta an attractive place to stay a while.
The official language is Malti - a Semitic language that derives from Hebrew, Arabic and Aramaic; however, English is also the official language, and most Maltese are bilingual. Italian is also quite widely spoken. At 316 square kilometres, we are talking ‘tiny island’ here; home to a population of 400,000.
Teaching opportunities are very good, and this can be gauged by the fact that the Maltese government markets the island as a place to come and learn English. Hence, you can expect a broad range of opportunities, teaching a wide variety of students many of whom will not be Maltese.
Anyone wishing to teach in a state or private high school will usually need a degree qualification. Two years’ language teaching experience is an advantage but not essential at this end of the market.
With language institutes you can, in the main, expect to find yourself teaching anybody and everybody. These range from Maltese business people looking to really polish their English, to migrant workers working in the tourist industry and those having an English study holiday.
Be prepared for the fact that some of those you are teaching will have many years experience learning English. On the one hand this means you will have to keep up and be clear, confident and well-prepare in areas such as grammar. On the other hand you may be faced with the need to help people break bad linguistic habits that are deeply ingrained.
On the whole, enthusiasm for English is high amongst this varied student body. All the people you are teaching will be there because they need to speak English well, rather than because it is a hobby or a social opportunity.
Most state schools are not prepared to go through the difficult process of hiring native English-speaking teachers from outside of Europe but it is worth checking with the individual school. However, in some cases it is easier to place teachers from the US than from other countries, such as Australia and New Zealand. Non-EU citizens should check with the Maltese consulate in their native country to look for language exchange programs, etc. Americans may wish to contact Interexchange (www.interexchange.org), of New York, who run an exchange programme.
The reciprocal social security system that exists within the EU means that high schools are required to register their staff for a social security card and also pay part of their contributions.
Most individuals working for institutes are self-employed, or ‘freelance’. Therefore, they are responsible for paying their own tax and social security. New arrivals are required to register with the police, organise a bank account into which their wages will be paid, and get a tax number from their local tax office.
EU nationals are required to get an ‘Employment License’ before starting work, and this can be very time-consuming. Applications can be made to the Department of Citizenship and Expatriates’ Affairs, 3 Castile Palace, Valletta, CMR 02 (Tel. 2-50868 Fx 2237513).
At a mere 316 kilometres Malta is a hard place to get lost or find one’s self far from the beaten track. Popular activities range from sailing to rock-climbing to beach dwelling and ancient monument hopping. The cobbled streets of the old town areas stand in stark contrast to striking modern developments, and you can choose between these to meet your needs and tastes.
When trying to get work in advance it is useful to contact the British Council in Malta. They keep a list of language schools, both private and state. In addition to that the on-line Yellow Pages is a useful resource.
The new arrival would do well to seek out any English language press, and check out the British Council, a good source of local information. In addition to this it is useful to seek out the ex-pat community watering holes and gathering places, as this can be a vitally important source of useful information.
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