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

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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

Opilio Recruitment: Product Owner

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We are currently recruit...

Opilio Recruitment: Product Development Manager

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We are currently recruit...

Recruitment Genius: Qualified Nursery Practitioner - Sevenoaks

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently have an opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Room Leader - Nursery

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently have an opportunit...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas