“One table for two, please,” Yasuhiro told the waiter at a chic restaurant in Saigon.
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As soon as we were comfortably seated, he then started flipping the menu and confidently placed our order. We had the quintessential Vietnamese rolls, pork noodle, and beef stew. Our hearty dinner was capped with a delicious serving of tapioca pudding. He called the waiter for the bill and surprised me when he said, “it’s my treat”!
Yash, as I fondly call him is newbie backpacker from Japan. It wasn’t a nice scenario when our paths crossed in Hanoi because he was just ripped-off by the taxi driver. With only a handful of English words in his pocket, he was an easy prey to tourist scams. I offered him a hand, and that paved the way for us to become travel buddies for the next three weeks.
Throughout the journey, I taught him “emergency English” like asking for directions and buying bus tickets. On our last night in Vietnam, I thought of letting him command the dinner to practice his English in a restaurant scene. I surely felt a sense of accomplishment the way he breezed through with the activity that night.
Being able to help is a fulfilling experience. It also made me realize how fortunate the Filipinos are to have been exposed to the English language as casual as how it is in English-speaking countries. Because of this, traveling in other countries is easier for us.
While many Filipinos find it effortless to use English, teaching it can be a difficult task. There are a lot of factors to consider from both the teacher and the student like competency and varying cultural nuances. It is also important to know the learner needs, concept approaches, and usage situations.
Teaching English as a a foreign language is not new to me. Back in the late 90s, I had a few years of English teaching stint in both classroom and personal tutorial set-ups. But I had to abandon it for a better paying job in the corporate world.
I spent 14 years as a marketing manager for a telco company. It was financially rewarding, but, it was also very stressful. After a massive corporate blaze, I decided it was time for me to reclaim my dream of becoming a Filipino English teacher.
But now at 40 years old, I am confronted by new challenges in rebuilding my life. I am haunted by questions like, am I too old to take this risk? It’s true that there may be infinite opportunities out there, but age is also a serious reality to face. Do I need to go back to school to get a refresher course? Obviously, after so many years of being away from the academe, my knowledge and skills have rotten down the drain.
Just when I was swimming in a sea of doubt, I came upon the Two Monkeys Travel. I instantly found a home here with my fellow travel warriors. We go beyond just reaching destinations, but also realizing some life goals. Luckily, I was offered an e-learning grant to study TEFL through MyTEFL.
At that moment, I felt I was on a good headstart. But I had one apprehension — I have never taken an online course before. Back in the 90s, the internet was still a developing technology, and learning meant enrolling in a formal classroom instruction. I am tech savvy but I never saw a need to sign up for an online course, not until this opportunity came.
It all came in a swift start with a welcome email from the MyTEFL team. Leo, my tutor, also sent a reassuring message that he will assist me as I go through the lessons. It was cool to know that MyTEFL is there to prepare me to succeed in my course.
The entire course is divided into eight comprehensive sections covering the essentials of Teaching English as a Foreign Language. It talks about the various learning and teaching principles citing sample situations from different learner contexts. Each topic shares approaches to teaching with activity guides that matter.
I was quite an acer at the beginning of the course with an average grade of 95%. But as I progressed into more complex lessons, I began to scratch my head. Sometimes I would flip back to the previous pages to review and score better in the tests. Although the required passing rate is only 65%, I still feel I could have ended the course better than 88%.
Grammar makes people anxious especially in speaking and writing, let alone teaching it. As Section 6 explains this extensively, I couldn’t help but remember how I taught this when I was still a teacher. Grammar rules haven’t changed, but teaching trends did and are continuously evolving.
I admit, I struggled in the grammar section tests. It pulled my grades down and had a hard time recovering it back to at least 90%. I realized that what might sound or read good, is not always be grammatically right.
Keeping the right learning pace was another effort in the course. As a travel writer, I am always on the road. Often I am caught in between exploring a new place and beating the editors’ deadlines. Finding a stable internet connection was another issue.
It was quite a challenge to finish the course within the set 90-day duration. Although MyTEFL gives an extension, I was quite hard on myself to complete it on the dot. But along the way, I was able to manage my time by setting aside at least 2-3 hours a day to complete the entire 120-hour sessions. I finished it one week short of the maximum timeframe.
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As Bernard Bull puts it, “to create an engaging learner experience, the role of instructor is optional, but the role of learner is essential.” What one thing I learn about taking online courses such as TEFL is for the student to commit serious time and effort to achieve the goal.
Learning through MyTEFL is very convenient. It does not only provide well-outlined TEFL lessons but also links that contain real-life samples, templates and activity guides. While this may take extra reading time, it surely helps in creating a better understanding of the course. MyTEFL’s online library helped me a lot in accelerating my grasp of other important concepts.
There are tons of available teaching materials today, but there are not too many resources that aid the hopeful teachers on how to teach it. MyTEFL shares relevant principles to successful teaching like understanding the gradations of cultures among learners of the English language.
Just like teaching Yashiro, I noticed that he was very conscious about the polite usage of many English words in a conversation. This is because in Japanese culture, speaking with tact is always required. In fact, many of their conversations begin with “please,” “sorry” and “excuse me”.
I am confident learning through MyTEFL because the lessons are recognized by leading teacher-training professionals. In fact, I am now preparing myself to enroll in upgrade courses like Advanced Teaching and Grammar.
Now that I am already TEFL certified, I am looking forward to getting a good TEFL career very soon. It’s more exciting to know that MyTEFL offers free teaching job placements in many destinations around the world. As I am aiming to live a life of sustainable travel, my TEFL certificate could be my strongest passport to get to these destinations.
In my recent trip to Japan, I had the chance of meeting Yasahiro again. He is now studying at the university while working as a part-time waiter in a restaurant attending to English-speaking diners. I am truly happy how far our “emergency English” sessions have reached and what has become of a simple meeting in Vietnam into a solid friendship.
About the Writer
Potpot Pinili is an independent writer & the pen behind Travel Trilogy. He has lived all his life on the road & raging seas. When he’s not doodling, you’ll find him happily lost in restaurants, local trade fairs & cultural festivals.
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