Chalkboard is i-to-i's TEFL community.
It is currently still in testing phase which could mean you find the odd bug!
Q: What is i-to-i Chalkboard? A: It's the online community of TEFL specialists
While speaking the local language while you’re teaching English abroad isn’t a must-have, getting at least a basic understanding of it can really enrich your experience of living and working in another country – it’ll be easier to make new friends, get around, not to mention avoid getting ripped off! Here are 3 ways to make learning that local language easy:
1. Organise a language swap/exchange
This is by far the simplest way to find your feet in another language while abroad, with the added bonus of making a friend at the same time! The concept is very simple – you find someone who wants to learn English and is willing to teach you their language in return. You just need to make sure that your language partner has a relatively intermediate level of English to make things easier on both of you.
In some countries, like China, you won’t be able to walk along the street without being offered free lessons, whereas in others you might have to look a littler harder for a suitable language exchange: asking the other teachers at your school and checking out English language forums for the area you’re in are both good places to start.
One word of warning though – if you’ve met someone online, it’s a good idea to arrange your first meeting in a public space (just to avoid any nasty mishaps).
Tip: Pick on a language exchange partner your own size!
2. Negotiate free language lessons into your contract
A lot of schools are so desperate to attract TEFL certified teachers that they’ll throw a few tasty extras, such as language lessons, into your contract. These are really handy as you’ll probably be taught in a more structured way than you would as part of a language swap. Just make sure they’re not an introductory thing and will last for the length of your contract, so you’ll be able to make some real headway into the language.
3. Get the basics online, practice in real life
If you’re an organised kind of person, you can always get a handle on the basics of a language before you arrive in country. Try audio courses, such as the Michel Thomas method (language witchcraft of the highest order!), or sites like www.livemocha.com (kindly recommended by Cherogoth), which offer free language lessons and the opportunity to network with native speakers. You can then wow everyone in-country with your language skills when you touch down.
If you’re not so organised you can always start learning when you arrive in country, but if this is the case you might do better to look for a language partner and just get chatting, rather than spending time listening to CDs in your apartment!
What do you think? How have you learnt the local language while teaching English abroad?