Slovenia is a country rich in natural resources, and blessed by both landscapes of great beauty, and, more importantly, continuing peace, which has either been absent or of precarious purchase in much of the Balkans in the last twenty-five years. This peace, atypical for the region, has brought great prosperity and marked economic development since Slovenia seceded from the former Yugoslavia in 1991, and joined the EU in 2004. In short, Slovenia is a ‘good gig’ for teachers with plenty of opportunities, good wages - relative to the standard of living - good working conditions and enthusiastic students. The economic development which has taken place means that Slovenia is no longer the ‘best deal in Europe’ for those looking for life on the cheap; but this means little to the employed teacher, who will enjoy modestly good buying power and a comfortable existence.
Written in the Romanic alphabet, Slovenian is the native tongue, but Croatian, Serbian and German are all spoken to some extent according to region. English is a fashionable language amongst the young. With a population of just under two million it is a modestly-sized country, but is home to a rapidly developing tourist trade. About three quarters of the country profess the Roman Catholic faith, with a very small minority of Muslims and of Eastern Orthodoxy. Nearly a quarter profess no religious affiliation whatsoever.
On the back of the both fashion and the burgeoning tourist industry, the teaching opportunities are great. One may seek work in private language institutes, of which there is a great plenty, state and private schools, and there are many opportunities for the enterprising who seek to teach privately.
Anyone wishing to teach in a state or private school can expect to have a TESOL qualification, a degree and a Post-Graduate Certificate in Education though you should check with your prospective employers. Unlike many European countries two-years’ language teaching experience is not a requisite for employment.
With language institutes you can, in the main, expect to find yourself teaching those working in anything from the civil service to the tourist industry. As mentioned, English is very fashionable, and it is ‘cool’ to be seen to be dextrous in the language; hence, one can expect a number of students to be simply be ‘self-improvers’. English is regarded as a practical necessity for getting on. ‘Why would you not speak English?’ Hence, the market is broad and the enthusiasm and motivation of students high.
You can expect a broad range of experience - from the middle-aged beginner who wants to get started to the up-and-coming, youngster who has many years of high school experience. Hence, expect variety, enthusiasm, and, as always, be on your metal - the better speakers will have many years experience. Whilst it is exhilarating and rewarding to teach such students, it is important to prepare your classes well and make sure you are clear about the areas you are teaching - particularly with grammar. You don’t want to find yourself being corrected about tenses by your students!
Visas and Regulations
Some state schools are not prepared to go through the difficult process of hiring native English-speaking teachers from outside of Europe. 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 Slovenian 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.
Slovenia has a reciprocal social security system that exists within the EU and high schools are required to register their staff for a social security card and also pay part of their contributions. This means that they may not be willing to take on anybody who is ineligible but always check first.
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.
Teachers, EU and non-EU alike, are required to get a resident’s permit within three months of entering the country. For practical purposes this is best done outside the country in the candidates country of origin, through the Slovenian embassy. In the UK, for example, processing time is one month, applications cost fifty pounds, and there is a seven-pound charge for each document - degree certificates, for example- certified. This certification process is the principal reason why it is best to apply in one’s home country. If applications are made in Slovenia then they only wind up with the documents being sent abroad for certification anyway, and this can be very time-consuming. It is also a requisite that schools, having employed a foreign national, inform the Slovenian Employment Services within eight days; hence, the resident’s permit is a hoop that must be jumped through for all practical purposes. The exception being if you intend to ‘moonlight’ and just teach ‘privates’ off the books.
The capital, Lubiana, population 300,000, is like a mini-Prague, without the hordes of tourists to cut a swath through. One should also bear in mind that this is the sunny side of the alps, and that there is not only all the alpine pursuits that one could hope for - both winter and summer - but plenty in the way of fairytale castles, verdant countryside, well-wooded hills, and tiny hamlets. It is a very beautiful country, packing the climate to boot!
Getting a Job
When trying to get work in advance it is useful to contact the British Council in Lubiana. They keep a list of language schools, both private and state. In addition to that the on-line Yellow Pages runs to four pages of language school entries.
The new arrival would do well to consult any English-language newspapers, and ex-pat bulletin boards or other electronic resources.
Check if the British Council keeps a register of individuals who teach privately. To be entered on this register, if applicable, you must have a degree, a TESOL qualification and two-year’s teaching experience. If your achievements are not quite up to this it is perfectly feasible to put up notices in the larger town offering conversation practice.