New Teacher Orientation Must-Haves

New Teacher Orientation Must-Haves at International Schools: Beginning-level host country language classes.

August 11, 2013


In this blog series we will talk about the ins and outs of an excellent new teacher orientation programme at an international school.  A new teacher orientation programme can really play a very important part to the start at your new school, in your new host country.  What are all the must-haves then?  Check out our blog series here to read all about the ones that we have discussed so far.

Must-have #11: Beginning-level host country language classes.

class_veroniqueAt times there is nothing worse than the feeling of not know how to communicate with the people in your community. Many of us decide to move to countries where we do not know the host country language.  It is impossible for people to know every language spoken in this world, especially really local languages that are not even possible to learn in universities in your home country.  Additionally, most international school teachers don’t choose countries to live in only where they can speak the language (though some definitely do, which makes sense).

We all know that English is now being spoken in many countries now.  Maybe even all of them have some percentage of the local community that can speak English (especially the younger generations).  Even if there are many people that speak English in your new host country, it is clear though that knowing the local language is very important. If you know at least some of the host country language then you will be able to be clearer with the local people you have to interact with and have less miscommunication that might lead to tense culture shock moments for you. It is also important to start learning the local language because of how language is directly tied to knowing more about their culture.  And that is what this international school teaching experience is all about, learning more about and appreciating the different cultures of this world.

So, the answer is easy. Just go and take some classes. Prospective international school teachers might be surprised though that many of us just don’t do it.  And there are many reasons why we skip the opportunity or chance to attend those classes.  One reason might be that you just simply don’t know where to go.  If your school is there to help you find these classes (or even pay for the classes for you…as some international schools include taking classes in their benefits package), then that can really help you find your way to sign-up sooner than later.  Another reason you don’t attend language classes is because you just figure that you don’t have the extra time to take them. It is a big time commitment to dedicate one or two evenings of your week to go and take language classes.  A third reason might be that you are just not interested or ready to take on a 2nd (3rd, 4th, 5th…) language in your life at that point in time.  A fourth reason is that you might think that you can easily just get away with speaking English your whole time living there.  And if you are planning on only staying two years, you might justify to yourself that you won’t really even be in that country long enough to really need to know the language. There are probably even more reasons why we don’t take these language classes!literacy_pic1-550x257

If you are interested in ‘taking the plunge’ and find that it is a good match for you go and take some language classes, how nice if your new international school is there to guide you to where to take them (during your new teacher orientation programme).  Your school and the people that work there might have some trusted references on schools/classes you can attend…and for the most reasonable prices.  In some countries though, the host country actually offers free language classes to new immigrants to their country, and your new school should be able to help you in how to sign-up for those since they probably have many new teachers each year wanting to do just that.

Even though we all have good intentions to learn the host country language when we first move to a new country, it is a fact that not every international school teacher follows through with this.  Many international schools have teachers that have been there 5-10 years or even longer and they just know the very basic of vocabulary.  Being that the majority of their day is going to be in English, many teachers just get into a routine of not communicating in the local language and end of not effectively learning it.  With all the possibilities of downloading or streaming tv programmes and movies in English on the internet, some teachers’ time after a whole workday in English becomes a WHOLE day of speaking, listening, reading and writing in English.

There are many success stories though. Just as many teachers there are who don’t effectively learn the host country language, there are many that do. They find (make) time to take the classes, they look for local friends to talk to in that language, they pick up the local newspaper to try and read that every day, they sit next to the host country language teachers during lunch time to get in a few more minutes of local-language speaking practice, etc. It is ultimately up for each international school teacher to choose their own path in how they will learn or not learn the language, and having your school there to support and guide you in the right direction can be very helpful!

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So, does your international school help new teachers to get beginning-level host country language classes?  Please share your experiences!