Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Time For A New Direction?

I'm not 100% sure yet that I really want to do this. It'll be a lot of money and a lot of work. Not to mention having to get up early. There's still time to change my mind. But I had to kick off the process - there are deadlines involved.

For years now, I've been thinking about turning my obsession with languages from a hobby into a "proper" profession. There are two obvious routes: translation and teaching. Translation would mean more hours glued to the screen, poring over minutiae, and frankly, I already get enough of this with my current work. What I need is more people interaction, to get away from the computer. Therefore, teaching is the obvious answer.

Teach what? German? It's my native language, and with the current refugee crisis, demand for German teachers seems to be outstripping supply. But no. German grammar reduces grown men to tears, and I'm convinced that modal particles made Mark Twain chew the carpet at least a couple of times during his illustrious lifetime. Also, when I briefly checked out what it would take to become a German teacher, it seemed to be a 2-year process, and that really is beyond the pale for me.

Spanish? I would love to. People go to Spanish classes because they want to, not because they have to, and they're just the kind of people I would want to spend my time with. However, I feel my Spanish simply doesn't cut the mustard.

English it is then. I researched courses a while back, and it seems that the CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) is the most widely recognised, and there is a course provider in Munich. Trouble is, they only run one part-time course a year, from March to July, and they only take 12 students. (Full-time is not my preferred option, since I don't want to tell my clients that I won't be doing any work for them at all for over a month.)

So, I completed their 3-page application form, scanned in educational certificates going back to the first trimester of my mother's pregnancy, wrote a cheery essay and just about scraped the January 7th submission deadline.

They responded on Monday (8th). At least they don't hang about! They sent me a 9-page English language awareness test, which foxed the hell out of me. Here's a couple of sample questions to give you an idea:

Look at the sentences below. In each set, which is the odd one out? Give a reason for your answer.

a. An avalanche has engulfed a small Swiss village.
b. The Prime Minister has announced his retirement from politics.
c. She has lived here all her life.
d.The Dow Jones has fallen twenty points in the last half hour.

Which of the items in each group is different from the others and in what way?
 Cottage, house, flat, farm

I completed it and returned it to them, red-eyed, at 2:30am.

I'm booked in for an interview & selection workshop this coming Tuesday morning. They will be running these all week, so I guess the odds of actually being accepted for the course are pretty small. Let's see what comes of it. I'm kind of looking forward to the event.


  1. Wow. That must be some test because I can't see anything wrong, grammar-wise, with those four sentences. I know that some nouns in the US are singular and the same ones in the UK are plural but that doesn't seem to apply here. The verbs are all present perfect tense and can be expressed as simple past tense as well. Maybe it's a question of logic? Honestly this is way too much thinking for 5 AM. That second one is easier. "Cottage", "house", and "flat" refer to just a building or part of a building while "farm" is the buildings and the land surrounding it. Good Luck. This is so technical that I wouldn't pass and I'm a native speaker with a pretty good grasp of grammar. If you're going to teach English you have to keep up with the latest trends. Here is an article about alternate pronouns:

    1. Hi Sue! There's nothing actually wrong with the sentences in terms of grammar. I think the odd one out is c) because "she" is still living there (situation is ongoing), while all the other sentences refer to actions/events that were recently completed. That's just my guess, anyway. My answer re. buildings was very similar to what you're suggesting. Thanks for the link!

    2. I guessed the same answer as you. It appears to be an imperfect verb situation masquerading as a perfected action. (Unless she's dead, which doesn't seem to be indicated.)

      While I understand the technicality of such a point, I'm not sure that that has much to do with being an effective English teacher. And I'd note that I'm a native speaker, well-educated, have learned foreign languages, and am likely to do better in such an exam than the average person. Yet I'd likely struggle to complete 25 such questions. Sheesh!

      Best of luck. Maybe in the meantime you can work as an English tutor. Certainly your written English is about as flawless as it comes, and I believe your current gig is as a writer for publication in English too.

      Saludos and best of luck!

      Kim G
      Redding, CA
      Where they split infinitives at the same time they split wood.

    3. P.S. Please, please, please do what you can (including going back to Wordpress) to deliver us, your loyal commenters, from that horrid "prove you're not a robot." I often have to do it several times and it's impossible on a cell phone. (Pictures too small to see.) It really discourages commenting to have to go through that.

    4. Darn... I hadn't considered that she might be dead! LOL. I see where you're going with the tutor suggestion. Trouble is, I really don't know enough about how to teach a language to attempt this. I'm lacking basic technique and terminology. Which is what I was hoping to acquire by doing such a course. And I will always split infinitives for as long as I live ;-) It's such a great way of placing emphasis, why would we want to deprive ourselves of that?! Some "rules" are just plain stupid.

      Aw, sorry you're having trouble with commenting... I also struggle with these anti-robot riddles, sometimes I have to request a fresh one four times before I can actually tell what those darn transmogrified characters are meant to be! For now, though, I'm going to see first how my return to blogging develops before I change it all again. Wordpress was better in many respects, I have to concede.

    5. You could also use Disqus, though I don't know how to implement it. But I do know someone who uses it very effectively on his blogger blog. (, if you want to take a look.)
      You do realize you can port your entries from here to Wordpress, right?

      As for lacking the knowledge of how to be a good teacher, I suggest you simply post an ad on Craigslist or something similar and offer your services at a low rate and see how it goes. Maybe read a book or two on how to teach language first. I think you're not giving yourself enough credit.

    6. Books have been ordered! The course providers have sent me a booklist as long as the list of provisions for setting up the first camp on Mars. Am going to have to write a new post soon :)

    7. ha ha....I didn't read this before I replied. sorry, behind the times over here. as you were :-)

  2. Oh, my, sounds like enrollment for the CELTA is pretty competitive. Best of luck with your new venture. I think it will serve you well. I'm interested in teaching ESL as well but I really want to do it online, at least until I'm more settled. Besides there are volunteer opportunities where I live but no jobs for ESL teachers. I'm excited for you :)

    1. Should be an interesting day... I still have many questions, not just about the course itself, but also about opportunities afterwards. Hoping to get some insights next week. I shall report back :)

      My friends advised me against online courses, saying that these weren't universally recognised. However, I guess if you're a native speaker with any kind of relevant teaching certificate AND some volunteering experience under your belt, that might work. Tell me what you decide on!

  3. Replies
    1. did this not show up? have you abandoned wordpress then? I see you've been busy on this blog lately!

    2. Toby! Delighted to hear from you. Yes, just busy on this blog at the moment, and it's time for another entry, coz there is news... oh yes... ;-)

    3. escucho ahora mismo un programa de RNE via mi mobil, se llama gente despierta. sabes? porque ahora en Espana se duerme la gente.

      but anyway.....I have a new blog post coming up shortly, hopefully Saturday. I was in Florida visiting an old high school friend and we had such fun. she's quite the tour guide! the post is about where she took me. Nice to "see" you!! glad you're doing well :) hasta pronto!

  4. okay, I have my answers to your sample English test questions. the first one it's the third sentence that is odd because it doesn't describe something happening whereas the other three do. for the second is the odd one. the other three describe a structure where people reside whereas a farm is more than just a structure where the farmers reside. :-)