2018 UPDATE – As of June 2018, Oxford TEFL Prague (and Oxford TEFL Barcelona) will stop offering the Trinity Cert. TESOL qualification, and will switch to the CELTA certification. Practically speaking, we don’t think this should effect your decision to choose (or skip) this training centre. Both the Trinity Cert. qualification and the CELTA are equally recognized and respected. The main thing is to get a good qualification from a good training centre, and that seems to still be the case if you go with Oxford TEFL!
We’ve been getting lots of emails lately from people who want to move to Prague, and inevitably, I end up telling them about our experience, from choosing a Tefl Prague course, completing our Trinity Cert. TESOL, and getting jobs (and getting a visa) teaching English in Prague. Since it seems like there’s quite a bit of interest in Tefl Prague courses, I figured I might as well write a post! So here it is: the story of how we started teaching English in Prague, how we figured out the best tefl certification (for us), how we chose our TEFL course in Prague, and how we ultimately started working for the school, and became friends with the people there!
If you decided to complete your Trinity Cert. TESOL through Oxford House Prague, please tell them Wandertooth sent you!!! And as always, feel free to get in touch with any specific questions either in the comments, on Twitter/Facebook, or email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Sometimes it can take us a few days to get back to people, but we will, and are happy to help!
Why we Decided to get a Tefl Certificate
In March or April 2014, we were in Bucharest, Romania, trying to figure out what to do next. We still hadn’t figured out a steady income stream that could support our travels, and were living off our savings, which we didn’t want to do. We’d been moving (travelling) too quickly to really get any sort of freelancing career off the ground, and I was panicking about money, which manifested in me taking really stupid jobs that didn’t pay nearly enough for the product the client was getting, or the effort involved. Freelancing definitely has a learning curve!
We decided we needed a base for awhile while we figured out how to make a life of constant travel possible (i.e. affordable). Teaching English in Europe had been in the back of our minds, because we’d done it before in Asia. Geoff and I met actually met way back in 2005 when we were both living in Taiwan, studying Chinese and teaching English. We loved Taiwan so much we returned for a year after we got married!
Trinity Cert. TESOL or CELTA?
Because we’d taught English before, the idea of getting a TEFL certification wasn’t all that new to us, and we had lots of friends who’d completed their own certification — and still worked in the industry — to ask and get advice from.
Geoff and I are the kind of people that, if we’re going to spend the money to do something, we’re going to do it properly. So we wanted to make sure whatever program we chose, it would be respected wherever we wanted to go in the world. It just seems crazy to me to spend the money (often the same amount of money) on a course that isn’t certified by a reputable and independent third party.
We’d heard of the CELTA, and knew it had a great reputation, so at first we figured we would probably do a CELTA program somewhere. Then I started looking at teaching jobs around the world on job boards like Dave’s ESL Cafe, and noticed the best jobs seemed to ask for one of two qualifications: either a CELTA or a Trinity Cert. TESOL. I also noticed that even the mediocre jobs were asking for those qualifications. I guess as more and more people try their hand at teaching English overseas, it is also getting more competitive, and qualifications count for more and more.
I had never heard of the Trinity Cert. TESOL before, but when I started looking into it, it seemed reputable. Whereas the CELTA is controlled by Cambridge, the Trinity Cert. is controlled by Trinity College London, which seemed good to me.
I also checked in with some friends: one who worked as a TESOL Teacher at one of Canada’s best universities, and one who had just finished teaching in Saudi Arabia and was now working in Taiwan.
Both friends confirmed what we thought: we should do either the CELTA or the Trinity Cert. TESOL, or not bother doing it at all.
Choosing the Best Tefl School for Us
Once we had decided on either the CELTA or Trinity Cert. TESOL, it was much easier — and way less overwhelming — to find the right school. Both qualifications are tightly controlled, which means there are limited suppliers (schools to study at) in each country.
We decided we wanted to be somewhere in central or eastern Europe, and landed on either Prague or Budapest. We’d been to both cities before and liked them, they both offer great cost of living, and they both had an option to stay and work afterward, even though we’re not European passport holders.
As much as I’d love to say we moved to Prague as part of some grand scheme, we ultimately chose it because we were able to start 3 weeks from coming up with the plan. With Budapest, we would have had to wait 2 months for the next course to start.
Applying to Oxford Tefl Prague
We chose to get our Trinity Cert TESOL with Oxford House (they re-branded from Oxford Tefl Prague last year). Honestly, we just got a good feeling from them, we were happy with the information available online, and we liked that they offer visa support and help getting a job.
We completed our application and then had a Skype interview with David, the school Director. It was pretty relaxed, and he basically just told us about the program, asked us about our backgrounds and motivation, and asked us some grammar questions. The questions weren’t too difficult, but we definitely got some wrong, so that doesn’t seem to be a pre-requisite to being offered a place as a teacher trainee!
Of course, price also factored into our decision. We looked around, and found Oxford House to be around the same price as the other options, even those schools that seemed (to us) to be a bit dodgy, and not affiliated with Cambridge or Trinity College. At the end of the day, we decided to suck up the cost knowing that — in a pinch — we’d be able to make the total investment back, and then some, with a few months in Asia.
Arriving in Prague, Pre-Tefl Course
Three weeks after committing to the course, we were on a plane from Split, Croatia, to Prague. We arrived a few days early and stayed in a cheap hotel in Old Town, just hanging out and exploring Prague during our last days of ‘freedom.’
Part of the curriculum for the Oxford Tefl Prague Cert. Tesol is completing some pre-work online. We were a bit intimidated by the pre-work, but it ended up being fine, and as a bonus let us get in touch with all the other teacher trainees before the course began, arranging a lunch in Prague the weekend before the course began.
Accommodation in Prague During the Tefl Course
When the time came, we moved into the accommodation Oxford House had arranged for us. Because we applied late in the game (most people apply a few months early, because most people are more organized than us), we ended up staying in one of Oxford Tefl staff’s apartment, as she was going to be out of town for the duration of our course.
The other teacher trainees in our course stayed in either student housing, or in a homestay. The “student housing” is actually just a normal apartment/flat, with 4 bedrooms (I think…it’s been over a year since we visited people in that flat!). It’s in Prague 1, in a pretty good location that is walking distance from the school, and even faster if you take the tram. If you walk from the student flat to the school, you have to walk over one of the bridges, which was one of my favourite things to do in Prague, because it’s so freaking scenic!
The homestay option is with someone who somehow has a connection to Oxford Tefl Prague: maybe they currently study English there, or maybe they completed the Tefl course and now are teaching English in Prague. Oxford has really stringent requirements for the hosts, to be sure you’re in a convenient location in relation to the school, and you’re comfortable.
Demographics of the Students (Trainees) in Our TEFL Course
We were a bit worried that, at 38 and 34, we would be the oldest people in the course, but as it turned out we didn’t need to worry. The people who enrol in Tefl courses seem to be a pretty mixed bag!
In our course, the average age was probably around 25. We had a former NY stockbroker, an American guy who’d just finished his master’s in English, an American woman who was taking a break from a graduate degree in Psychology, a guy who grew up in the US but had Czech heritage, an Australian woman who had worked in marketing, a British gal who’d just finished volunteering in Africa…and more.
There were 11 of us: mostly American, with Brits forming the next more populous group. We were the only Canadians in our cohort, but in groups to follow there were more of them. We also later learned that people from all over the world go to Oxford Tefl Prague to complete the course, and we met Russians, Chileans, and Greeks, to name a few.
What to Expect with the Oxford Tefl Prague Course
Before we began, our friends warned us that taking a reputable course like the Trinity Cert. TESOL is intense, so we were a bit worried about keeping up, and also being able to enjoy Prague. It was definitely intense, but we found it was manageable. We were able to do a few day trips during weekends, and we event managed to enjoy the Prague beer festival.
During the 4-week course, each day was different, but in general, most days involved learning teaching concepts (like how to teach different skills like listening, speaking or reading), technical concepts (grammar, phonology), lesson planning, and actual teaching…of real, live adult students.
We started teaching from the very beginning, delivering our own 5-minute lesson on Day Two. Looking back, it seems crazy, but at the time, we were all completely freaked out about teaching for 5 minutes. This is one of the things I think Oxford Tefl Prague did really well: they gradually increased our teaching time, so it didn’t feel like a shock. By the end of the four weeks, we all taught 60 minute lessons (the week after the course ended, I taught a 1-week intensive — all day, every day!).
We also didn’t teach every day. We were assigned to groups with one Teaching Tutor, so sometimes the other group members would teach, and we’d have to watch the lesson and provide constructive feedback, and then the Tutor would also give feedback for improvement.
In addition to lessons and teaching practice, we had assignments and quizzes. One of the things that makes the Trinity Cert TESOL well regarded around the world is that it’s externally moderated and controlled. That meant there were certain assignments we had to do, and certain tests we had to take.
On the penultimate day of the course, we all had to complete a test. The most nerve-wracking part of the test was the grammar section and the International Phonetic Alphabet. Then, on the final day, a moderator from Trinity College London came and reviewed each Trainee’s work, and interviewed us, first in a group and then one-on-one, before deciding whether we passed (If we hadn’t passed, but had put in the effort, Oxford probably would have worked with us to get our teaching and assignments up to standard, and then we could have tried with the moderator again at the next opportunity).
Getting a Job Teaching English in Prague
In Week 3 of the course, we both met with Oxford’s Careers Advisor. She went over our resumes, asked us about our plans, and helped us get our first jobs.
If you want to stay and teach English in Prague, then they’ll help by blasting your resume out to all the good schools in the city (and telling you which schools to avoid). Oxford Tefl Prague is well respected by the schools, so we didn’t have any problems finding a job, and actually had interviews before the course even ended.
If you don’t want to stay and teach English in Prague, they’ll help you by going over your resume for the international market, helping you find reputable jobs, and putting you in touch with former graduates who have worked in the country you want to go to.
Of the 11 people in our course, everyone who wanted a job, got one. About 5 of us stayed in Prague, 1 went to the UK to teach in summer camps, 1 went to Taiwan, and 1 went to Korea. The others decided to travel or do something else entirely.
In general, people either stay in Prague or go to Asia — Taiwan, China, Korea — because the salaries are much higher than in Europe.
Final Thoughts About Our Tefl Prague Experience
We both taught English for about 6 months in Prague, all the while building up our client base as freelancers. For us, teaching English was a way to start making a steady income immediately, help us get a visa to stay in Prague, and help us make friends and start to understand Czech culture.
We really enjoyed our experience with Oxford Tefl Prague, and became friends with many of the people there. We even started working for them as teachers, and then Geoff made the promotional video (below) for them, starring Cara, who completed the course a month or two after us!
If you decide Oxford Tefl Prague (Oxford House, really…I’m just stuck on their old name!) is right for you, please do us a solid and tell them Wandertooth sent you. You’ll pay the same price, but we’ll earn a small fee. If you don’t like the idea of referral fees, that’s cool too: just don’t mention we referred you!