Thursday, June 14, 2012

Teaching in Prague

I've been in Prague nearly six months now teaching English, so it's probably high time I posted a written entry on my blog.

I've been teaching mostly adults thus far which has its benefits. Many of my classes are one on one sessions or two students which makes it easy to taper my lessons towards whatever their goal is. There are six levels for defining how advanced a student is: A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, and C2. A1 is the very beginning entry level, and A2 is a step up from that. B1 is pre-intermediate which means the student can form pretty clear sentences but tend to still be a little shaky with various tenses and are still building up their vocabulary. B2 is intermediate/upper-intermediate which is the point where the students start to get a little more confident with what they say and understand readings quicker and can carry on some good basic conversations. This is also the level where if they're teenagers they like to argue about meanings. C1 is conversation level, a level at which my students like to focus on pronunciation and fine-tuning their grammar, especially when it comes to tenses, and always adding more vocabulary words. C2 is the last level and the point where they're more or less fluent. Students I've had in this area mostly just want to practice their English so that they're not rusty. They also often want a specialized area, usually business English, and want practice with how to speak in certain situations and not to sound like they don't have a good grasp of the language.

When we were in the training course our students were at B1 and B2 levels: we were divided into two groups and would teach one level for two weeks then traded places so we experienced both levels.
Teaching on my own I've mostly had students in the range of B2 – C2. The conversation level classes are my favorite without a doubt because they tend to be very interesting. I've learned a great deal about Czech culture and life under communism just from conversing with my students. It's very hard to get one student in particular to remember that it's “communism” when referring to the idea and system “communist” when referring to a person or a time. 

My students have a particularly hard time with the various verb tenses. In Czech there are only three: past, present, and future. English has twelve: present simple, present continuous, present perfect, present perfect continuous, past simple, past continuous, past perfect, past perfect continuous, future simple, future continuous, future perfect, and future perfect continuous. The perfect continuous are especially difficult for them, and I'm not surprised. If I didn't know English grammar by instinct I would find some of the descriptions of when to use the different verb tenses very confusing. Apparently being American gives me one small leg up regarding knowing the mechanics of English grammar: we actually learn some of the rules and structures when in school. The English, I've been told, don't do this; they learn it by hearing it and by instinct.

I definitely know more about the English language now than I did when I got on the plane to Prague.

I think the hardest that I've laughed during a class was when one of my conversation students and I were discussing economics, working world, and cost of living in various places. One of the food items we discussed was beer. I marveled over the fact that beer is just about the cheapest thing you can buy in a restaurant or pub: even cheaper than water or soda. I explained that ordering a beer out in the US tends to cost between $5 - $8 depending on where you go and the quality of the beer. $5 is roughly the equivalent of 100 crowns.
My student stared at me with horrified pity and said “If beer started to cost 100 crowns here we would be forced to have another revolution.”

1 comment:

  1. REVOLUTION!!! I love it! I am pretty muddy about all the verb tenses myself. I'm glad teaching is working out for you. How is your Czech? My personal (and entirely formed on conjecture and conviction) belief is that you should go and practice at a pub. If you can woo a handsome European and not sound too silly, I imagine you are fluent. At least, fluent enough. Happy day after Summer Solstice!