I was a very nervous and anxious writer when I started this blog exactly four years ago. Much has happened and changed since then, both in my personal and professional life, but this place has become my sanctuary when times were hard. I had asked my readers what they wanted to read for this post and Q&A won, so here are some questions by my readers answered. I also hope you enjoy the photos from the less beaten tracks in Prague, my hometown.
Q: Martin asks: How does teaching your native language compare to teaching English? Which one is easier for you?
A: English was the first language I taught and I have been teaching it longer. It is also more communicative and learners can start speaking from the very first lessons, which is why I really, really enjoy teaching it. Czech, on the other hand, is fairly difficult, but it feels all the more rewarding when you have helped your students move to B1 and upwards. The methodologies for teaching each language are slightly different, so teaching one language enriches the teaching of the other. And in the Czech Republic, it is quite common that teachers teach more than one language!
Q: Teresa wants to know: do you feel different skills are needed for teaching each language or is everything 100% transferable?
A: Class management is definitely transferable and luckily I got a solid background at this thanks to my years’ long teaching experience and great training at CELTA with Akcent Prague. Teaching Czech, you have to know your grammar very well. For instance, you really need to plan well before doing a speaking task, so that the students know all the grammatical structures needed to complete the task. Let’s say the task is ordering at a restaurant. In English, you need to teach the food vocabulary that is likely to come up and some functional language. In Czech, this becomes much more complex. Your students will have to know various cases, verb conjugations, rules for using formal and informal language, numbers, you name it. Another thing, unlike learning English, very many people that start learning Czech are absolute, complete beginners. On the other hand, my English students are usually at least “false beginners”, which makes things easier.
Q: Cherry asks: What keeps you going?
A: This one is not easy. I’d say working has always been easy. I love it. I enjoy the buzz of the classroom, I like preparing my lessons and the only wish I have is to have zero paperwork and marking. Very importantly, my work has helped me go through some recent rough personal times and I am grateful for this.
Q from Leo: Do you know any other bilingual #ELT blogs like yours?
A: Unfortunately, I don’t! I only relied on my Twitter ELT circles until fairly recently a great community of freelance teachers in the Czech Republic has developed, but each of these is either in English, or in Czech. Plus, not many Czech blogs are purely methodology-based like in the Twitter community, but rather serve to market their services. If you have a bilingual blog, do let me know and I’ll follow you!
Four Qs from Miguel: What do you think your readers expect to find when they visit your blog? What would you like them to expect? What type of posts written by other bloggers do you enjoy the most? Has blogging changed your teaching in any way?
A: I am a very modest writer, so all I hope is my readers find inspiration, useful ideas and a friendly place to be in. My expectations regarding this are very similar, although I sometimes find myself thinking I should be more ambitious, organised, market myself better, but you know, it would be a different blog. As to the blogs that I like reading – I enjoy descriptions of principles behind things, so not merely lists of activities and lesson plans. And I love it when you make me laugh😊 Has blogging changed my teaching in any way? Perhaps it has – the way I reflect about my lessons is as if I had someone to observe the class, so blogging helps me to stay on track and not to become lazy.
Q: Marc has asked me: Ooh, having thought about it now, maybe your favourite lesson you’ve taught, and your least favourite.
A: Even though I owe Marc several beers, I gritted my teeth when I saw his question😊 But hey, all right: A favourite lesson can be any that goes well and people seem happy and learning and not writing letters of complaint to the management. My least favourite would have been when I just started teaching (age 20, no qualifications) a mother and her 12-year old son. The mother was fine, but one day she could not join us and I had no idea what to do with the kid. I ran out of activities, the kid took no action and we just sat there in silence till the lesson was over, quel horreur!
Q: Vedrana is wondering whether there have been any unexpected results of my blogging and how I feel about them.
A: When I started the blog, it didn’t occur to met I could link to the blog on my CV. Nowadays, when I am applying for a teaching job, I include the link on my CV and application letter. This gives me more security, because I think if the managers read my blog, they will be able to see if I am the right person for the job. Also, I have gained some students from the blog. I have gained new friends too! These are people that read my blog and got in touch via social networks, which is fantastic. And finally, I feel like I am giving something back to the ELT community, which has taught me a lot.
Q: Melvyn would like me to mention some interesting translation problems that arose in my lesson. Well, Melvyn is a respected translator (and the person that always reads my posts and corrects the mistakes I make without making me feel awful – thank you, Mevynku!), so this is no surprise.
A: Translation questions come up in nearly every lesson and nearly every lesson I find myself shrugging shoulders and thinking of becoming a cleaner😊 But students don’t seem to mind the gaps in my knowledge and thankfully, I can always find the answer on Czechlist! Here are some that I remember (thinking now, perhaps I should start noting these down in a diary!): the difference between “lezení” and “plazení” for babies – two types of crawling when babies are young, that apparently the English world does not distinguish – unlike proud Czech grandfathers! Then there was “pracuju v podatelně” – I work at a mailroom (I guess) – a department at a state institution that all the mail goes through and where you can also hand in your tax return. Interestingly, jobs are often very difficult to translate.
Final Q from Klára, my dear friend: Who is your ideal student?
And I reply: Tall, dark hair, charismatic…Okay, maybe not. Let’s start again: Honestly, 99% of my students are my favourite. As long as they are keen to learn with me and motivated, and don’t complain to the manager😊 I am good.
Now I think I have the right to some questions as well:
Why do YOU guys visit this blog? What are your expectations? Is it ok if I keep it bilingual? Is blogging dead? And where are you all from?
Let me know in the comments and thanks for reading!