Backpackers not all bad
"Cheers, Na zdrávie"- the familiar sound of a party of English teachers out for a night of serious drinking in Bratislava. Are these the backpacker undesirables mentioned in your story ["Transients hurt English teachers' image" by Chris Togneri, Vol. 6 No. 41, October 30- November 5], the shabby reckless characters who give English teachers a bad name? The answer is both a yes and a no.
We shouldn't blame the backpackers. After all, who wouldn't want to stay a month or even a year or two longer in a country as beautiful as Slovakia? They have only to consult their guidebook to learn the plain economic truth - there is a shortage of teachers here, full stop. Qualified, unqualified, good, bad or just plain ugly, the schools are involved in a scramble for teachers that has little or anything to do with the needs of students. And from the smallest village school to the largest of Bratislava's academies, the story is the same - transient undesirables rubbing shoulders with qualified staff.
Who is to blame for this situation? Anyone who has been involved with English language teaching will know only too well the hushed mantra of students waiting in the corridor for the first lesson of the term: "native speaker, native speaker", as their teacher approaches to give a most-likely wobbly first lesson. Schools nation-wide sell access to the prized commodity 'the native speaker' like circus-masters putting an exotic animal on display. It comes as no surprise to some then that the animals can be pretty exotic indeed.
The problem is simple economics and greed. There is not enough money in Slovakia to pay good teachers who, after all, have the world to choose from. Until such time as Slovakia can stand on its feet economically the onus is, unfortunately, on students to check very carefully indeed the credentials of their school and their teacher. It seems then that Slovakia's long-suffering students will have to continue putting up with learning the lesson: "Unit 4: Expressing Quantity"- a few good teachers, a lot of money.
Check teacher credentials!
I am an American English teacher who has been a foreign lektor in Slovakia, with much success. University credentials of prospective English teachers from America should be checked by interested employers. If the candidate is not certified to teach English in the US, he will unlikely be proficient or effective in teaching English abroad. Ask for copies of state issued teaching certificates. Retired English teachers would be great.
Bad experiences with teachers
I agree with your article on English teachers and its opinions. I had my own bad experience with one native teacher from a Bratislava language school.
It is difficult to find a language school with professional native English teachers in Bratislava. The British Council is also no guarantee of having professional English lessons, even though you pay an incredible amount of money.
Politics vs. law-making
I find your editorial ["Fixing the Mečiar legacy: Bad workmen blaming their tools", Vol. 6 No. 41, October 30-November 5] criticising the present government's machinations to fix Vladimír Mečiar's legacy a little too certain of the virtues of Democracy. While democratic governments must work within the laws they have created, politics - as opposed to law-making - remains little more than the art of the possible.
It was politics that made it possible for Mečiar to use laws to his advantage when he granted amnesty to people quite probably involved in the abduction of President Kovač's son. The same laws exist for the present government to use for repairing this damage. So what is to be done?
In Slovakia, politics and elections are not yet a question of democratically-minded political entities vying for their chance to rule a centuries-old democracy as elsewhere in Europe. In Slovakia, the wolf is at the door and he is not a democrat.
If the wolf is at your back, you may choose to read him passages from the bible, or you can hit him with it while shouting the verses!
More Danglar support
Three cheers for Robin Sheeran [Letters to the Editor, "Bring back borovička-sodden Danglar", by Robin Sheeran, Vol. 6 No. 40, October 23-29]. The Dubliner, a foul pestilential blot on the landscape of Bratislava, the three stooges simpering and smiling while 'da boys' beat the hell out of anyone they didn't like the look of. Irish pubs tend to be false, and this was the falsest of them all.
Danglar's, oh Danglar's, where art thou now? The cheap beer, the knackered old piano, the ambience, the horror - all that is needed in a pub. And extremely good food. The Irish Pub will never be remembered like this.
Exit visas as well?
I lived in Slovakia for about two years. Before I went home I went to the police office to inform them that I was leaving and to return my ID-card.
It turned out that I had to apply for a visa to LEAVE Slovakia. And of course I had to pay for it. Isn't it funny, I already had a visa until December, but since I left in July I had to arrange and pay for another one. The point is that I don't even need a visa to go to Slovakia as a tourist, but apparently to leave as a tourist.
Anyway, it's not such a big problem compared to other problems in Slovakia (especially for Slovak citizens).