Random ideas for ELT people, plus guest blogs & travel notes

My latest guest blogger is Theodora (Dora) Pap from Thessaloniki, Greece, who teaches both English and German. I was linked to Dora’s very lively blogs and enjoy her writing style very much. I was interested to find out if there are any differences in student response to the two languages that she teaches, and she kindly agreed to write something about it.

I love the way she says she isn’t a serious blogger and “I only write when I have something interesting to say or when I am in the mood to do so.” That should surely be a golden rule for all of us.

I was also pleased to see that one of the best trainers I’ve ever worked with, Olha Madylus, gets an honourable mention.

Now read on…

Dora Pap

The story of my life!!!

It was a real surprise when I was asked to write as a guest author on Ken’s blog. I mean I have never considered myself as a “serious” blogger. I only write when I have something interesting to say or when I am in the mood to do so. What I have noticed though is that it is different when you are asked to write, because I don’t want to disappoint anyone, including myself.

This post will be a kind of autobiography I guess… I’d like to thank Ken for giving me the opportunity to do it.

I am a teacher of two foreign languages in Greece and that is my subject today. I teach English and German to students of different ages. I’ve worked freelance for the last couple of years, due to the financial crisis in Greece. People who are supposed to get more money “leave” early. But this is something I have written in another post and I don’t think it will make any difference if I talk about it again, so I won’t.

I started out in 1994, while I was still a student of German literature and language. I wanted to get some experience in language schools and after a long job hunt, I got a part-time job at a language school in my neighborhood. It was only a class with four students, but it was a lot of work for someone who was just starting.

One of Dora's German classes

What I found out from the very beginning was that in Greece, the second foreign language was something that the children were forced by their parents to learn. Although most children in Greece attend English classes and this is a “must”, learning a second language, which is mostly French or German, means giving up the time to do other fun things, so the students’ reaction was not always pleasant.

Facing this kind of problem, I decided to do more than teach from a book. Let me say that at that time German methodology was way behind compared to ELT, so I attended some ELT seminars and methodology classes in order to do stuff for my German class.

I was really lucky because my first teacher trainer was someone who changed my life as a teacher. My first methodology class was “Teaching Young Learners” at the British Council in Thessaloniki, Greece.*  The trainer’s name is Olha Madylus and she is one of the best teachers I have ever had. A person full of life first of all, with passion and motivation. She showed me a different way of teaching, how to use games, songs, drama, how to search for new things, how to make lessons interesting for myself and for the students.

* Nowadays the British Council does not offer classes in Thessaloniki; it is only responsible for exams.

A kindergarten class

Olha is now a teacher trainer in Athens and she regularly comes to Thessaloniki for lectures and I also attend her lectures in Athens whenever I can.

That’s where I discovered a brand new world and at that time I decided to further my education and become an English language teacher as well. I studied and worked at the same time.

The truth is that the reaction of my students was completely different in the English classes I taught. English is a language that everybody has to learn. Nobody is forced to go – it is natural for children to attend English classes after school. It is natural to have three pages of workbook exercises for homework, nobody complains, everybody has fun… And if you use new methods, songs, videos, projects, internet, children do not want to leave the classroom!!!

Students preparing for a Christmas activity

So why not use all this for my German classes as well? Especially because students need as much motivation as they can get!!! And believe me, it works!! Students love doing things that interest them, which are not necessarily in their course books.

In the last five years, I have noticed that more and more German teachers try to use new technology in their classrooms.  Seminars and workshops are organized and to tell the truth German teachers now have the opportunity to do the same things as English teachers.

Although the development opportunities have increased, foreign language market in Greece is not what it used to be. People tend to spend money only on what they think is absolutely necessary, so second foreign language classes have dramatically decreased.

The reason for this is really simple. People cannot afford it anymore.  Public schools offer foreign languages of course and parents do not see the need of sending their children to private German or French classes anymore. As I mentioned before, the English language is a “must”. You have to be able to communicate in English, as it is an international language. You have to have a language certificate in order to get a job.

A certificate in a second foreign language is a “plus” of course, but it costs money. Most of us today have to “suffer” from pay cuts, price increase and even unemployment. The most reasonable decision is to quit from things that are considered a luxury, even in education. This means no more second language lessons, no more tutoring and private lessons.

I don’t consider myself a traditional teacher – I try to do everything in order to avoid the “book”. Sometimes people like that, sometimes they don’t.  I have a great relationship with my students – most of them have learnt how to speak a foreign language and they keep in touch with their “old teacher” and that’s my reward. I have never regretted becoming a teacher, despite the difficulties. I am sure that there are some people who agree with me…

Mother's Day writing activity

Theodora blogs here http://theodorapap.blogspot.com

and here http://dorasthoughts.blogspot.com/

Comments on: "Guest post 11-16 – Dora Pap on teaching English and German to Greek students" (7)

  1. What a lively description of your teaching activity so far! Being a teacher of English in Greece, I totally agree with everything you say about the parents’ mentality concerning foreign languages. However, you were very right to try to apply various methods to teaching both languages; your students must have gained a lot from their experience with you! I feel thankful for getting to know more about your life and for having had the opportunity to meet you in person! Keep being equally active and resourceful- the Greek educational system certainly needs people like you!

    Regards,
    Christina

  2. Great post, which captures the joy and pain of teaching foreign languages in Greece.

  3. Thank you Dora for a great post.

    We have the same situation in Turkey.

    Our French and German departments, depending on the teacher’s enthusiasm, still do their best and are successful despite these problems. Unfortunately, for some reason that I cannot understand, the training sessions for the English department have not included the French and German departments despite the fact that many speak English too. I hope to change that going forward.

    “I try to do everything to avoid the book. Sometimes people like that, sometimes they don’t.”
    I agree. When coursebooks start including truly meaningful drama, songs, project work and other tasks that fit the VARK model so naturally and completely, I’ll start using a coursebook.

    I think the problem is also in the name; they should be called “additional materials” to a course, because that is what they look like– to me anyway.

  4. The problem with teaching foreign languages in Greece is something that happens in many other countries as well. In the public sector, there are not many people who really care to be creative… In the private sector people with little or no experience are hired to cut the costs. Education suffers in both cases….

  5. I really enjoyed reading your blog post Dora. My colleague and I also teach both English and German and I have to agree with your comments about German language teaching methodologies – they are behind EFL/ESL. We teach busy working adults to speak German, so the one thing that is really important is relevance. If our lessons do not touch the students’ lives, they become restless and nervous about how they are going to be able to use what we teach them. This means we have to find out what sort of language these people need for their jobs. A tall order, but it is possible. We had a bio-chemist who needed not only language to deal with quality control in her job, but also vocabulary for baby day-care such as: vomit, fever, nappies, etc, so that she could communicate with the care-givers who gave her accounts of how many times her baby’s nappy was changed. The work is so interesting because we learn about so many different life stories.

    • Ken Wilson said:

      Vomit, fever, nappies – that really IS German for special purposes😛

  6. Vomit, fever and nappies are part of life as well!!! And that’s the real purpose… we learn a language in order to use it and not just get a cerificate. Each person needs specific vocabulary for their work and life. Our job though is not only give world lists. This can be done by anyone! Our job is make these world lists interesting to learn!!

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