Aldo Williams: How to find freedom - hit the south coast

Fed up with health and safety? Want to teach in a school where it doesn't seem to matter? Where, if the sun shines, you can just take the class out on to the streets to do a survey, or into the park for a game of footie? No forms to fill in, no tick-lists to tick, no first aid to freak you out...

And you want to do this in the UK? Then teaching in certain English language schools for foreign students should be right up your boulevard, carretera and via.

The relaxed attitude gets even better when it comes to your qualifications for the job. You may not need any. There are Tefl qualifications, but not all language schools bother to ask for them, and if you choose to ask about a CRB check the enquiry is likely to be met by a polite "Que?" from most foreign-run language schools.

Needing a bit of extra cash this summer, I decided to try a spell teaching in one of them on the south coast.

There are dozens of these schools, and thousands of students pouring into town centres along the south coast daily, providing more than a nice little earner for the nation's shopkeepers – though not for the staff who run the courses. By teaching standards the pay is poor. You'll be lucky to get £15 an hour.

But that is pretty good compared to the host families who, in return for providing a student with bed, breakfast, packed lunch, evening meal and convivial conversation, receive £11 a day.

Little surprise then that it is often only really cash-strapped families who do it, cramming in as many kids as they can and not always providing decent grub. And no wonder that the students then complain about English food. And English grammar.

"Sir, is it correct to say, 'You was', 'we was', and 'they was', as our host family does?'' How do you go about answering that?

"Easy," a more experienced colleague told me. "Just tell them it's a dialect."

The teaching was easy. More than that, in fact – it was an absolute joy. We had a textbook – a good one. But these kids could read textbooks in their own countries. As native speakers we could serve two really useful functions for them: improving their pronunciation – so that they could be better understood; and, by carefully mixing nationalities for group work, ensuring that they were speaking as much English as possible.

They did TV adverts, balloon debates, role plays. We kept them busy and, in spite of our lack of certification (none of the teachers had a Tefl qualification), we gave those teenagers good value, thinking of all sorts of exercises and games to push more English into them, and get more out.

Classes were roughly arranged into advanced and intermediate, but the lines were blurred, and all of us soon learnt that you could actually grade your students fairly accurately by nationality alone. The Scandinavians would have the best English and best accent; the Spanish and Italians weren't far behind. The French would be the worst (though the girls were often the best-dressed): less confident to speak, less vocabulary when they did, and by far the worst accent. Not the attractive, sexy English you may be thinking of, but something inarticulate and incoherent mumbled through a closed mouth.

Not really their fault of course. The English accent seems difficult for the French. But you also felt they may have been on the receiving end of that French attitude that considers it an appalling accident of history that English now dominates global communication when God really intended French for the world's lingua franca.

So, apart from the accommodation, the food and the weather (principally a Spanish complaint), great fun, and some English improvement, were had by all.

Not without exception though. Two weeks into the course, three of our students suffered a nasty beating late one evening down at the pier. Foreign-student bashing is a popular pasttime for some Brits, as tellingly revealed in this newspaper in July, and attacks are now nudging one every day.

It raises the question of course: does such an incident give a told-you-so winning hand to the health and safety gang? No. Those students chose to disobey some very clear and sensible instructions: don't go near the pier after 10pm. They did, and paid a rather heavy price. Sod's law that they were from our French group, too.

The writer is a former teacher at a comprehensive school

Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol
art'Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' followed hoax reports artist had been arrested and unveiled
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

Voices
Stephanie first after her public appearance as a woman at Rad Fest 2014
voices

Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004
music

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
peopleJust weeks after he created dress for Alamuddin-Clooney wedding
Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010
films

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Sport
football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
Arts and Entertainment
Leonardo DiCaprio talks during the press conference for the film
films

Film follows park rangers in the Congo

Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
News
i100
Sport
Adel Taraabt in action for QPR against West Ham earlier this month
footballQPR boss says midfielder is 'not fit to play football'
News
First woman: Valentina Tereshkova
peopleNASA guinea pig Kate Greene thinks it might fly
Voices
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'
voices

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

English Teacher

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Group: English as an Additional Langua...

Nursery assistants required in Cambridgeshire

£10000 - £15000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Nursery assistants re...

History Teacher

£60 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: Job opportunities for Seconda...

** Female PE Teacher Urgently Required In Liverpool **

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: Job opportunities for Secon...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album