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Reader feedback: Value Slovak teachers

Re: Backpackers not all bad, Letter to the Editor, November 13-19, 2000

I must say that in my position with a language school based in Piešťany but also working in both Bratislava and Nové Mesto that we have begun to experience this problem [of bad, unqualified native-speaker English teachers] as well.

We have been trying for the past four years to provide quality instruction to our students here in Piešťany and have taken great pains to weed out the "backpacker" crowd. I would like to offer this insight: it seems to me that the student population itself is helping us to curb the problem as they are also growing more aware of the practice of schools peddling hungover Brits, Americans and Canadians holding their Eurorail passes in one hand and a Headway Upper-Intermediate teacher's book in the other.

Here in Piešťany we are just beginning to encounter this situation as schools here scramble to find qualified staff. We are a small town where word travels fast and one's reputation travels even faster. So as soon as it hits the street that school X is using native speaker Y who has no idea how to teach and seems to really like his/her pivo [beer], then that school's reputation suffers immediately.

What is my point? It seems that the local population is rapidly discovering that qualified Slovak instructors who have taken the time to finish their pedagogic studies and have the ability to explain the intricacies of the language, may in fact be better for them than the hungover, unqualified native speaker.

I worked as the director of a language school in Moscow in the early 1990s and also saw this problem develop there. I watched as Russian society rebelled against anything Russian, whether it was chocolate, textiles or qualified Russian teachers. Our extremely well trained Russian staff had to take a back seat to any, and I mean any, native speaker.

Luckily the problem quickly resolved itself there as the Russian student population realized that the love affair with anything not Russian was irrational and not to their benefit.

Craig R Brickman,
Piešťany, Slovakia

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