More on the backpacker debate
Many language school managers in Slovakia and around the world will agree with much of your article ["Transients hurt English teachers' image" by Chris Togneri, Vol. 6 No. 41, October 30-November 5]. The unqualified native speaker, or 'backpacker' teacher, has long undermined EFL/ELT as a profession whilst at the same time helping to spread the English language far and wide at a low cost to schools and institutions.
Language institutes recognise that to meet their ever more sophisticated and discerning learners' needs they must deliver quality services that meet students' and clients' needs. They do this in part by recruiting well, investing in their staff and keeping abreast of EFL professional developments. At the British Council we undertake client service standard and product reviews throughout the year in all our training centres for this very reason.
Unfortunately delivering quality courses and investing in teachers, premises and ancilliary staff does not come cheap. Most of the leading EFL/ELT providers in Slovakia and around the world therefore charge above average prices for their services. However, delivering value for money is not the exclusive preserve of either native or non-native speaker teachers.
Our advice to Slovak students is that they should enquire at registration about just what they are getting for their course fees. How will their specific needs be catered for? Will their opinions be sought before, during and after a course, in focus groups, questionnaires and student counsels? Will their opinions actually be listened to and acted upon? Is there a complaints procedure for when things go wrong?
Ultimately it is the customers who decide if an institute can survive in the marketplace irrespective of the native/non-native speaker teacher debate. Delivering poor quality language tuition which does not satisfy students' needs is a sure way to make an early exit from the Slovak and the global market.
Teaching Centre Manager
The British Council
Your article ["Slovak Jews suing Germany for redress" by Matthew J. Reynolds, Vol. 6 No. 40, October 23-29] leaves me with stirred emotions.
Surprising as it is that the Slovak Nazi state actually paid money for its Jewish people to be deported, the lawsuit raises many questions and sheds new light (for me) on the Slovak Nazi state and its wartime government, led by Catholic priest Jozef Tiso. One of the article's quotes sticks in my head: "...the only state that actually paid for its citizens to be deported"!
I remember another article published by The Slovak Spectator about Tiso ["Prosecutor: Tiso a 'fanatic'" Vol. 6 No. 11, March 20-26]. That article said a lot about the twisted nature of the Slovak Catholic Church. Combining this with all that is currently happening in Slovakia leaves me doubtful as to whether this country will ever get rid of its deeply rooted xenophobia and fascism. I am really grateful to The Slovak Spectator for bringing up these issues, which I think many young people in Slovakia have never explored. How could they?
Being raised during communism these things were not discussed. Likewise, they were also raised by a generation which refused to search for history (since it was not very safe).
Why is there no campaign to educate our 16-year old skinheads about the Slovak wartime state? Who will tell them the truth when their parents have similar fascist thoughts? Their parents bless attacks on Romanies, tourists and black students. The only reason these parents don't actually beat the enemies of great Slovak State themselves is that they are Catholics who go to church every Sunday. They obey priests who hide their prejudice under their status but are nevertheless ready to bless the memory of people like Hlinka and Tiso.
I am not jumping to generalisations. Not every Slovak person acts in the manner I have described, but I have the impression that many still do. And I wish there were more people who didn't fall into this type of thinking. I wish Slovakia weren't a country with a history we all want to forget.
I wish that the recent governments as well as the Slovak people would not act in such a way that our children have to feel ashamed, like me, for the presence of hatred against everything that is different.
My demand is that The Slovak Spectator speak more on these topics. Perhaps a series about Slovak history in this century would provide a great opportunity for young people to learn about our country.