“What if instead of tabbing over to the web browser in search of some nugget of gossip or news, or opening up a mindless game such as Angry Birds, we could instead scratch the itch by engaging in a meaningful activity, such as learning a foreign language?”
Is your bucket list full and bank account empty? Perfect. Now’s the time to plan an extended vacation abroad! Sound crazy? Not really. If you have portable skills or residual income, there are many countries where your talents are in demand and your money will stretch a lot further.
Even if you aren’t in the group just mentioned, don’t despair. You may be able to put your ability to speak English and your knowledge of Western culture to practical use. Ever thought of teaching English as a Second Language? Here are the steps.
Update your resume. Having a college degree is a definite plus, however there are courses you can take towards certification as an ESL teacher. These courses usually take about one or two months to complete and can often be done online. Check out the Internet to learn more about different types of ESL certification.
Place your resume online. There are numerous websites where you can browse ESL jobs and also post your resume. Before you put up personal information, however, be sure to read the website directions and disclaimers.
Two of my favorite ESL sites are ESL Teachers Board and Dave’s ESL Café. By the way, some countries prefer a CV, which is like an expanded resume concentrating on your academic experience.
Get your passport. If you’ve never had a passport, you’ll need to apply in person at your nearest passport facility, which is quite often the local U.S. Post Office. Details are available on the official government website: Travel.State.Gov
Screen carefully. After you post your resume online, you’ll start getting invitations to teach. Unfortunately, not every invitation you receive may be legitimate. The ESL websites I mentioned in Step 2 have a wealth of information about finding the right teaching position and being safe in the process. Do your homework.
Negotiate a contract. This is sometimes easier said than done, however a good way to tackle this chore is to ask the school if you can speak with one or two of their current or former ESL teachers. If the school has nothing to hide, they should be willing to let you do this. If they are reluctant, keep looking.
Get ready to travel. Many schools will offer some reimbursement for your travel expenses, so be sure to ask. Travel lightly. If you’ve established contact with another ESL teacher at the same or similar school, ask them what to bring. The best thing you can take along is an open mind.
Tips and Warnings:
In addition to your passport, you may need a visa for travel to certain countries. Once you know which country you will be working in, check out the official website of their Embassy or Consulates for more information.
Prepare yourself for jet lag and culture shock. Perhaps the best preparation you can make is just be aware that you will experience them.
Never put yourself in a position where you don’t have enough money to leave if things don’t work out.
Get ready for the experience of a lifetime. I’ve been living and teaching in China since August, 2004. Every day is an adventure. Good luck and good journey!
Here is a great lesson plan from my “bag of tricks.”
THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX
By Ron Hendricks
This is one of my favorite lesson plans because it can be adapted to just about any age and skill level. It can also be used for small or large groups.
Materials: Cardboard box, whiteboard and marker, or blackboard and chalk.
Objectives: Students will explore and expand their English vocabulary, listen and participate in a story about facing challenges, use their thinking skills to solve puzzles, and learn and understand the American idiom “think outside the box.”
Introduction: (1-2 minutes)
Begin by placing a cardboard box on a desk. The children are usually curious, so show them the box is empty. Write the word “box” on the board and have the children say it with you.
Next, draw a stick figure of a little girl on the board and ask the children to help you give her a name. Then, begin the story…
Story: (5 – 10 minutes)
Once upon a time in China there was a little girl. She lived in a very small village at the foot of a very tall mountain. (Draw village and mountain and ask children to repeat the words.) In fact, this mountain was so tall that nobody from the village had ever bothered to climb to the top.
This mountain was so tall that the clouds (draw clouds) always circled the mountain and blocked out the sun (draw sun). The people of the village had never, ever seen the sun. In fact, the people of the village did not even know the word for “sun!”
One day, the little girl woke up very early. (For young groups or groups with little or no English, pantomime the girl waking up, etc.) She yawned and stretched. And then she had an idea. She said to herself, “Today I will climb the mountain. Today I will see what is at the top!”
She jumped out of bed and before anyone else in the village was awake, she began to climb the mountain. She climbed and she climbed and she climbed. And she climbed and she climbed and she climbed. She grew very tired and sat down to rest. “Maybe this is a bad idea” she thought. “Maybe I should just go home to my warm little bed and forget about climbing.”
But then, she stomped her foot and said “No, I said I would climb to the top and that is what I will do!” So on she climbed. The path got steeper and steeper, but still she climbed.
Soon she came to the beginning of the clouds. She stopped for a moment and thought. “Maybe I should just go home to my warm little bed and forget about climbing.” But then she stomped her foot and said, “No, I said I would climb to the top and that is what I will do!” And on she went.
Now, inside the clouds it was very cold and quite hard to see. It was strange and scary, but the little girl kept on climbing. As she climbed through the clouds she thought about her warm little bed, about her village and about her family. She started to worry about her Mother and Father.
“Oh! I better go back right now because my family will be looking for me,” she thought. But then she stomped her foot and said, “No, I said I would climb to the top and that is what I will do!” And then something wonderful happened…
As she stomped her foot, the clouds began to part and the little girl saw a beautiful blue sky! But that was not all, no, that was only part of it. Right in the middle of that beautiful blue sky was a big, round, orange, bright and warm…. ball!
She stood staring for a moment. She could not believe her eyes. She ran the rest of the way to the top of the mountain. And then she lay down in the warm glow of that bright, orange ball and fell fast asleep.
When she woke up, she was afraid. She had dreamed that her family and the people of the village were looking for her. So she jumped up and started to run. Down, down, down the mountain she ran as fast as she could.
When she reached the village, there was a large crowd of people gathered around her house. She saw her mother and father in the middle of the crowd and ran up to them. “Oh! There you are daughter! We were so worried! Where have you been?”
But the little girl did not stop to answer their questions. Instead she shouted, “Good news! Wonderful news! In the sky there is a big, round, orange, bright, warm, beautiful…ball!
Questions: (3 to 5 minutes)
1. What do you think the people of the village said to her?
2. What do you think her parents said to her?
3. Why do you think they reacted this way?
4. Why do you think no one from the village had ever climbed the mountain before?
5. What do you think it means to “think inside the box?”
6. What do you think it means to “think outside the box?
Exercises: (10 to 15 minutes)
Draw a square on the board and ask the students “What is it?” They will probably say “a square” or “a box.” Write their answers on the board. Now challenge the students to “think outside the box.” Go around the room asking each student “What is it?” Write each answer on the board. (e.g. a book, a TV, a desk, a piece of paper, etc.)
Repeat the exercise with other shapes (a triangle, a circle, a rectangle, etc.). Ask the children to explain their answers.
If there is time, divide the class into small groups. Have each group draw an everyday object, but from a completely new angle. For example, what would a door look like from a side view? What might a bus look like from underneath? What does a pencil look like from the pointy end? Have someone from each group draw their picture on the board.
Puzzle Handout: (5 to 10 minutes)
Alone or in pairs, have the children solve the puzzle on the handout. There are many printable handouts available on the Internet. Adapt the handout to the age and skill level of your class.
There is a classic “think outside the box” puzzle involving nine dots and four lines. It is sometimes called the Christopher Columbus Egg Puzzle. Look for it on the Internet.
Hold the cardboard box in the air and ask “What is it?” Yes, it’s a box, but maybe it is more than that! Remind the students of the little girl who climbed the mountain and discovered the sun. Challenge them to “think outside the box” whenever they encounter difficult problems.
On a daily basis, most of us probably take our native language for granted. Expressing our needs, wants and ideas to other humans is almost automatic. The phrase “mother tongue” is perhaps an indicator of just how important language is to our existence and survival. And yet, language can also separate and divide us.
The “Top Twenty”
It is estimated there are more than 6700 languages in the world. However, twenty major languages are spoken by approximately 50% of all people. A list of major languages ranked according to native speakers includes:
Different studies may rank languages in different order and other languages may also be included in the top 20. However, this list represents approximately half of the world’s estimated population of 6.8 billion people.
It must be remembered that the above list does not adequately reflect the phenomenon of bilingualism. That is, in many parts of the world citizens may speak one or two official languages and still have a local language that is their mother tongue.
In the Beginning
So then, how did language get started? There are competing theories as to how human beings originally acquired an ability to communicate through language. These theories fall roughly along the lines of creation vs. evolution. That is, some theorists believe language was a divine gift, while others believe human language developed as the result of a unique set of biological and environmental conditions. Neither theory can be proved or disproved at present.
There are also competing theories as to how early language was spread. Some theorists believe there may have been just one original mother tongue, while others believe there were numerous mother tongues which developed in a parallel manner. Both of these theories are dependent upon subjective interpretation of evidence of the origination point or points of the human species.
All in the Family
Linguistic scholars have attempted to categorize languages into various “families” based upon research into root languages or “proto-languages.” One of the most well-known is the Indo-European language family which has some 12 major divisions and contains hundreds of known languages.
The Indo-European language family includes Latin which, interestingly, was more a written language than a spoken one. A spoken form of Latin, called “Proto-Romance” is now unknown, as it was the language of common people and not of scholars. However, from Latin we can trace the roots of many of the languages in our “Top 20” list above.
There are some languages which appear to have no known relatives or family. These languages are called language isolates. For example, Basque, an endemic language of a group of people who live in and near the Pyrenees Mountains of Southwestern Europe, seems to be a completely unique language.
Back to the Future
It is difficult to project the future of languages. More commonly, languages are studied as windows to the past. This is because language tends to change at a slower pace when compared to changes in technology and society. However, it is interesting to note that, while Mandarin is by far the most common spoken language, English is the most common language on the Internet. Is it possible we are returning to a world with a single “mother tongue?” Time will tell.
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A top ten list of major languages ranked according to native speakers includes:
1. Mandarin Chinese 2. Spanish 3. English 4. Hindi/Urdu 5. Arabic 6. Bengali 7. Portuguese 8. Russian 9. Japanese 10. German
Every translation situation is unique, as unique as the parties involved. Whether it is translation of private correspondence, business or legal documents, website translation and localization, or any other special translation circumstance, it is important to get it right. The first step in getting it right is choosing the right translator. If you’re in the market for Translation Services, here are some things to consider:
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Another thing to ask about when hiring a Translation Service is their familiarity with the latest developments in translation technology. While it is doubtful that computers will ever be fully capable of navigating the subtlest nuances of conversation and language to language conversion, there seems to be a steady stream of breakthroughs on this front.