August 19, 2014

Be A Better Writer

Research shows that the average person writes 40,000 words each year.

Writers, students and teachers write far than that. In fact...

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July 31, 2014

Learning And Forgetting A Language

I know many people who have left their native country and language behind and established themselves...

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June 08, 2014

Maya Angelou On Language

One of the remarkable aspects of language is when someone, in this case, Maya Angelou, speaks with authority.

Love her or hate her, there is no one quite like...

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May 16, 2014

Horrible English

The English language can be tricky. Even native speakers often have many of the same trouble areas that make English language learning particularly difficult for English language learners.

And when a major magazine has a series of articles on language usage, you know....

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March 30, 2014

Vague Words And Sloppy Grammar

Some words or sentences are technically correct but still clumsy, awkward or vague. Others are incoherent or grammatically wrong but still...

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January 23, 2014

Use Your Hands

We all know that our use of language and our vocabulary can be a powerful tool, but how many of us take into consideration...

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December 11, 2013

American Englishes

Most of us assume that if we learn a language, we should be able to understand what people are saying in that language.

Unfortunately, that is not always true. In fact in a nation as geographically large as the USA and as mixed as the races, languages and cultures are in the USA it is amazing that we understand each other at all.

And of course, our language...

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December 06, 2013

Children's Books? Rules And Messiness

In my previous blog, I explored the use of children's books and how I have found them useful (and enjoyable) as language learning tools.

They are, but how does one even define...

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September 27, 2013

Free Online Language Learning

Want to improve your linguistic range and facility? If you are on a budget, or just want to learn from another teacher or are willing to...

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September 17, 2013

How Does Our Language Reveal Us?

We all know that other people, for better or worse, judge us by our use of language. Putting our writing online or on paper can be even more dangerous, but did you know that how we use language can define how we think about...

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September 06, 2013

Brevity Is The Soul Of Wit?

This famous line from Shakespeare's Hamlet is well-known for a variety of reasons. For one, Hamlet is full of phrases that have become commonly used, another reason this particular phrase has caught on is that we all tend to appreciate...

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September 01, 2013

Publify - And Other Words From The 1990s

Every living language changes in vocabulary, but I would guess that English, particularly the American version...

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August 27, 2013

Land Of A Thousand Tongues

North and South America are brimming with immigrants from every country on the planet. The assumption is that immigrants will, at least in a generation or two, leave behind their native tongues (and most of their native traditions) and...

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August 03, 2013

Songs And Stories

There are many language lessons wrapped around songs and sing-along exercises, plus everyone loves a story. There are some eras of great and memorable stories told through songs.

Some music eras are...

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July 07, 2013

Can Grammar Ever Be Too Correct?

I absolutely notice - and appreciate - correct grammar. And few things are more grating, or more revealing, than...

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July 02, 2013

A Rose Is A Rose - Or Is It?

William Shakespeare uses the line "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet" as a part of a dialog in Romeo and Juliet, in which Juliet argues that the names of things do not matter, only what things "are". But...

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June 05, 2013

Where Did Most European Langauges Come From?

There have been many studies and theories about the roots of the proto-European languages.

Most of the modern northern European languages have striking similarities in both vocabulary and structure, but...

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May 30, 2013

Patterns of Language

Some people are naturally good at learning languages. But why?

Or perhaps a better question might be...

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May 05, 2013

How Does Our Language Reveal Who We Are?

How does our language express who we are? Our thoughts, our character, our identity and our deepest motives can become more obvious than we realize as we...

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November 30, 2012

History of the Alphabet. - Hieroglyphs And Letters

The Khan Academy is a great way to learn about almost everything.

One of my favorite aspects of the Khan academy is that every class, on every conceivable topic is...

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October 31, 2012

"Litter On A Stick" - A New Political Term

Writing, in a sense, is like any other acquired skill - the more we practice, the easier it becomes and the better, meaning concise and focused...

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September 12, 2012

Is A Photo Worth A Thousand Words?

Learning a language is always a challenge. Sometimes it is a welcome change to do something not related to...

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June 28, 2012

How Do We Learn Language? Part 2.

Language is very strange isn't it? We all know at least one language which we learned essentially due to our circumstances and then...

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June 13, 2012

How Do We Learn Language?

How do we really learn language? There have been hundreds, if not thousands, of books and studies about how we learn a language. It's very strange that...

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May 10, 2012

Is Your Language Agglutinative?

Even though I might seem to complain about how difficult - and sometimes confusing - the English language might be, believe it or not, there are languages that...

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April 19, 2012

Frankly My Dear...

What makes a memorable line from a classic movie?

Long before a film is made, it is written. Every detail from...

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March 09, 2012

Which English Do You Use?

This might be true of every language, but doesn't it seem that English has about a cajillion regional, local or industry related dialects, meanings and specific vocabularies? Some might even be...

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January 29, 2012

Banned Books?

Every country has banned some books at one time or another. Twitter is censoring Tweets on a nation by nation basis. What should we...

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January 09, 2012

Happy Dragon Year To You

Every year has its own personality. Like each one of us...

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October 11, 2011

Here's To The Crazy Ones...

The recent passing of Steve Jobs has been making many of us reconsider technology and its place in our lives.

One computer industry expert described the products of Apple, the iPod, iPhone and IPad as being...

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August 27, 2011

Do We Really Need Punctuation?

Do we really need all those commas, colons, apostrophes and all those other strange punctuation marks? That's what a student asked me....

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July 23, 2011

Give Peace A Chance

I am a word nerd, but I'm a word nerd with a purpose. Learning a foreign language really only matters for one reason...

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July 13, 2011

What Does That Phrase Really Mean?

In English, as perhaps every language, there are those common phrases that bare little resemblance to their literal meanings. One has to wonder how the agreed upon meaning got so far from...

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July 08, 2011

Myths About Words

There are many popular myths about English - and language in general. One is...

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June 18, 2011

Where Do Words Come From? Sonar To Snafu

It's been a while since I've shared some of my thoughts and experiences on where words come from. And I have to admit....

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March 25, 2011

Where In The World Are You?

The recent earthquake, Tsunami and then radioactive leaks in Japan all remind us that we all share this world, and the vibrations of the earth, the intensity of the Tsunami waves, and, of course radioactivity all do not stop...

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January 12, 2011

The Well-Crafted Word

I always encourage my students to pay attention to current events. There are always challenging and...

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November 19, 2010

Refudiate Revisitated

One of the things I love about the English language - especially the American version - is...

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November 09, 2010

Save The Words! "Snollygoster"? "Hiulcity"?

You've heard of all kinds of movements and causes to save the whales - or the seals - or the frogs. Even Bees. But what about words?

Did it ever occur to you that some words might need saving?

How about the word "tragimatopolist?

Don't you like how that word flows so smoothly over your tongue?

And it's useful too! What other word would you use to describe...

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October 19, 2010

The Times, They Keep On Changin'

Life is full of changes. I find that an excellent way to move students into new vocabulary - and new ways of thinking about the world - is to facilitate discussions of the changes that we see in technologies, cultures, career opportunities and, it seems....

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October 13, 2010

Elegant Errors?

There are certain errors learners of English make. Those who are not native speakers have fairly predictable patterns of errors that come with not hearing native speakers.

But what about...

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January 18, 2010

Words of the Decade

One of my favorite characteristics of the English language is how we create, mangle, adapt, distort and just plain make up words. Many of these come from popular movies, celebrities, political figures or economic or cultural changes. "Truthiness" for example, was a word that had to happen. It originally came from...

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November 19, 2009

The Ultimate Universal Language - Food

Every nation and culture is rightly proud of its food. The style, taste, seasoning, and of course...

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September 21, 2009

Twenty Questions

To inspire discussions or writing for English learning students, I have found open-ended questions to be a good place to start.

I have found that a little introductory discussion can help a student with a context and a framework to continue developing...

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September 16, 2009

Put It In Writing

I have had many English learners who have had very good speaking skills but when it comes to writing...

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July 18, 2009

Just What the Doctor Ordered

Those of us who study language have realized that there are two approaches to language; how it should be used correctly - and of course....

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July 12, 2009

Arabic, Pashto, French or Dari, Anyone?

Most TESOL instructors get their training and background in the civilian world, but when it comes to learning the less common languages like Arabic, Pashto, and Dari, you might be advised to look...

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June 16, 2009

What's Your Ideal International Job?

Is there a particular place you'd like to live? Is there some specific attribute that you'd like to experience - or share....

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May 25, 2009

Tell me a Story

Everybody like to hear stories - and when learning a language, there is nothing better than HEARING a story to learn how native speakers not only speak....

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March 29, 2009

Who Is The Real Foreigner?

So who's the real foreigner?

Have you ever noticed that in just about any ESL context, someone is the foreigner?

Whether the teacher or the student, someone....

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February 27, 2009

British VS American English

Learning a new language is always a daunting challenge. The English language is difficult enough to learn even without the usual differences in accents and regional variations. And then there is the never clear, and always confusing set of differences between British and American….

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February 18, 2009

Swimming with the Dolphins

In many resorts in warm climates, one of the options is to swim with the dolphins. This is sort of like running with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain - except much safer - and in water.

I mention it in relation to language learning because...

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February 13, 2009

Happy New Year!

All around the world we have just celebrated the coming of a new year. In the Chinese calender, we have just entered the year of the ox. This is a perfect metaphor for the language learning experience. The ox does its work slowly but steadily.

This is the time of year to reflect and look forward. Where have we been? And where are we....

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February 03, 2009

Voices From The Past - Abbot & Costello and Bono to Lincoln

All of us as learners of any language learn from those who came before us. We absorb words and ideas from every singer, writer, friend or neighbor we encounter.

So what can we learn from historical figures? From comedy teams to political leaders we can learn....

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January 25, 2009

Finding Your Voice


Most students of other languages lack confidence in public speaking of the new language. Shyness is a major barrier to making a language your own.

In essence, the main principle is practice, practice, practice.

But what is a safe and practical way to to do this?

Thanks to the internet there are . . .

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January 17, 2009

Simple Does Not Mean Easy

Hello Friends,

In many ways, English is a very “simple” language. But simple does not mean easy. The English language has only 26 letters. You'd think a language with so few characters would be easy to master. ...

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March 25, 2008

Teaching Spots - North Korea

Hello Readers,

North Korea may not be the most obvious place to start looking for a teaching job, but every once in a while, there are job opportunities available there. Living in North Korea is not ...

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November 18, 2007

Teaching Spots-Beirut, Lebanon

Hello Readers,

As the capital (and largest city) of Lebanon, Beirut is home to approximately 1 1/2 million people. Lying on the Mediterranean Sea with an average temperature of 10-20+ degrees celsius, it is no wonder that it was recently rated 9th top city ...

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October 05, 2007

Teaching Spots-Marrakesh

Hello Readers,

Have you ever wanted to explore northern Africa? How about the "Red City" or "The Land of God", otherwise known as Marrakesh, the second largest city in Morocco? Set in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, Marrakesh not only has the largest market (or souk) in all of Morocco, but it also has the largest square in all of Africa.

While the official language of Morocco is Arabic and the de facto language is French, there are millions of people...

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September 01, 2007

Teaching Spots-Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh

Hello Readers,

With a population of 80,000,000 people, it might be surprising that Vietnam (or the "Socialist Republic of Vietnam" as it is officially named) has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the world. However, while the earning power of individuals is better than what it used to be (just $1 per day), it is still quite low. That being said, there is a high demand for ESL teachers...

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July 31, 2007

Teaching Spots- Seoul, South Korea

Hello Readers,

Many future ESL teachers start their career during a time of soul-searching in another country. What better place to do this than in Seoul, Korea? As a historic capital of South Korea, Seoul is an ancient city. At the same time, it also claims to be one of the world's most digitally-connected cities in the world. If you're interested in Korean culture and language, buddhism, bathhouses, and the highly popular karaoke, then perhaps becoming a waygoogin ...

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June 25, 2007

Teaching Spots- Tokyo, Japan

Hello Readers,

Stretching 3,000 kilometers from the north to the south, Japan is a small island country with a long history and rich culture. With a population of over 35 million people, Tokyo, or East Capital, is home to ten percent of Japan's entire population. If you enjoy anime, manga, sushi...

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May 18, 2007

Teaching Spots- Ciudad de Mexico

Hello Readers!

Located in the Valley of Anáhuac, also known as the Valley of Mexico, at an altitude of approximately 7,350 feet, Mexico City sits in the center of Mexico and claims to be one of the largest cities in the world. Although most of the original city that was built by the Aztecs in 1325 was almost completely destroyed in 1521, the city as we now know it was officially established in 1524 after having been redesigned and rebuilt to Spanish urban standards.

With nearly 8,720,916 inhabitants in 2005, it is no wonder why many websites recommend...

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April 23, 2007

Teaching Spots- Guatemala City

As the capital and largest city in Guatemala and the largest city in all of Central America, Guatemala City (or Guate, as it's locally known) is located in a mountain valley in the southern part of the country that is home to the Agua Volcano. It is split between the new city and the old city, and includes approximately 20 zonas. Though some say that Guatemala city has...

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March 19, 2007

Teaching Spots- Romania

Hello Readers,

2007 brought a few new countries into the EU. One of those is Romania, the home of Dracula. While teaching in Romania might not allow for you to save loads of cash, it is no doubt an interesting place to go if you are interested in their culture, traditions, and history. Furthermore, it is, like many post-communist countries, ...

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February 16, 2007

Teaching Spots-Germany

Hello Readers,

In a recent online article, Mark O'Neil describes the current situation for English teachers in Germany. He says: "If you are a native speaker then with the right amount of luck, charm, and ability, you can be your own boss and earn a nice salary." Sounds good, huh?

Germany is not only the third largest economy in the world (after...

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January 15, 2007

Teaching Spots- Cyprus

Dear Readers,

Have you ever thought about heading south to the Mediterranean? If so, Cyprus may be the place to go. Over Christmas, I went to Paphos, Cyprus, to visit my in-laws. With over 340 days of sunshine a year, I was tempted to stay!

Cyprus is a small island located...

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December 11, 2006

Teaching Spots- Call for Comments

Hello Readers,

Instead of being a time of unusual behavior, Christmas is perhaps the only time in the year when people can obey their natural impulses and express their true sentiments without feeling self-conscious and, perhaps, foolish. Christmas, in short, is about the only chance a man has to be himself. ~Francis C. Farley

So in this Christmas season, I'm offering you the chance...

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November 11, 2006

Teaching Spots- London, England

Hello Readers,

After years of teaching abroad in non-English-speaking countries, you might feel a bit homesick for a daily dose of the real thing. If that's the case, you might want to look into teaching in the most populous city in the EU. Home to the oldest and largest metro in the world...

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October 09, 2006

Teaching Spots- Oxford, England

Hello Readers,

In the last few months, we've looked at teaching spots in a variety of cities in China. This month, let's take a look at what it's like teaching in a city in England. Nicknamed the city of dreaming spires, it's the home of Radiohead, C.S. Lewis, Lewis Carroll, and J.R.R. Tolkien, as well as the BMW Mini. Any guesses? It's the city of ...

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September 04, 2006

Teaching Spots- Chengdu, China

Hello Readers!

Do you have a soft spot for pandas? Are red hot chili peppers a part of your regular diet (or would you like them to be)? Is a slower paced life more your style? If so, then Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, just might be the place for you.

Located in southwest China, with a population of over 11 million, Chengdu...

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July 09, 2006

Teaching Spots - Shanghai, China

Hi Readers!

Originally a seaside fishing village, Shanghai is now the largest industrial city in China. It has a population of 18.7 million people and covers an area of nearly 2,500 square miles. Like Beijing, Shanghai is another modern metropolis with a blend of traditional temples and modern high-rises. However, unlike Beijing...

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May 09, 2006

Teaching Spots - San Jose, Costa Rica

Greetings all,

Looking for a Dream ESL Teaching Location? – Think Unspoilt Rainforests, Tropical Beaches, and Ecotourism…

Where I live there’s been a lot of snow this Winter and I have been dreaming about beaches and sun. While I was flicking through the job listings on, an ad for a job in San Jose, Costa Rica caught my eye and got me thinking of sunnier climes (for example, see HERE)

If it’s tropical beaches and lush rainforest combined with great opportunities for ESL teaching that you are looking for, then Costa Rica could be the perfect place for you. The country benefits . . .

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April 23, 2006

Teaching Spots – Venice, Italy

Dear Teachers,

Ah, Venezia! Historic, unique and beautiful, aside from its famous past, Venice has not only one of the most lavish film festivals in Europe, but it also has the distinction of being Europe’s first (1932)! With a number of small historic towns easily accessible from Venice, this region of North-eastern Italy is a prime location for ESL teachers looking for work at international schools and universities, small private schools and summer camps. Though Italy does have pretty strict policies about exclusively hiring EU citizens, the general advice seems to suggest . . .

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December 25, 2005

Teaching Spots – Athens, Greece

"Athens, the eye of Greece, mother of arts / And eloquence." - John Milton, Paradise Regained

Dear Fellow-teachers and Blog-Readers,

With the end of the year approaching, and all the talk about teaching in a foreign location lately, I thought I'd highlight one of the most discussed locations for teaching ESL of 2005.

Think tiny, flavorful cups of coffee. Think seaside cafes, and passionate, friendly debates at every small, checkered-cloth covered table. Think of lazy afternoons where every place closes down for a good meal followed by an afternoon nap. Think History. Think . . .

Continue reading "Teaching Spots – Athens, Greece"

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November 20, 2005

ESL Italian Style

ESL Italy.jpg

"Italy is a dream that keeps returning for the rest of your life." ~Anna Akhmatova

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November 11, 2005

Teaching Spots - Zakopane, Poland

"How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives." ~ Annie Dillard

A Slavic Garden of Eden & A Winter Wonderland

Fresh, homemade cheeses sold from baskets on the street, colorful costumes and energetic, country dancing. Horse-drawn buggies, honey vodkas and mushroom picking in the forest. Long, scenic hikes with breathtaking views and mountaintop taverns with locally made brews. Friendly faces, Belgian waffles and fresh, fruit-filled crepes around every corner.

Dear readers,

This is my picture to you of . . .

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August 29, 2005

Teaching Spots - Terrazas, Spanish and Running of the Bulls

Hello everyone!

Are you looking for a teaching location that’s as wild as the wind, as unpredictable as it gets, and requires a certain “Pizzazz” just to get along? Then maybe you should take a look at Spain.

Madrid, the capitol of Spain, is one of the teaching hotspots, but most people who have been there agree that not just anyone will make it there. To be a successful ESL teacher in Madrid, you’ll have to . . .

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August 09, 2005

Where Do You Find an ESL Job?

Hello everyone!

Thank you for all of your kind words this week.

Are you a new teacher, and trying to figure out where in the world to find a job?

Many new teachers are overwhelmed by the prospect of looking for jobs in other countries. And while it’s true that you will have to employ different techniques than if you were looking in your own country, the process really isn’t all that different. 1) Find a position that you’re interested in, 2) Tweak your resume to fit the requirements, 3) send it to them via their preferred method, and 4) follow up soon after.

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Posted by msimmons at 10:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

July 28, 2005

Teaching Spots - Italy

Looking for New Digs?

Good morning everyone!

Do espresso, antipasto and ferraris have a certain pull for you? If you love history, good food eaten s-l-o-w-l-y, expensive automobiles and chic people, Italy might be a great place for you to teach!

Most of us have dreamed of sitting in the Tuscany sun or exploring the landmarks of Rome, but have you ever thought about teaching there?

If you are from the E.U., your chances of . . .

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Posted by msimmons at 03:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (2)

June 02, 2005

Teaching Spots - Japan

Sushi Anyone?

Hello everyone!

Are you are looking for a serious cultural experience? If so, you might want to give Japan a try. While it’s true that you won’t get to spend your free time on the beach, you will get to experience a culture so different than anything you’ve likely known, that the memories are sure to last a lifetime.

Japan has an intricate and complex culture, and the language schools are no exception. For example, if you teach in a tiny school, it’s quite possible that you will become good friends with your students. In addition you’ll have some input with your lesson plans and get to use a little creativity. On the other hand, if you accept . . .

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May 08, 2005

Call For Comments About Greece

Good morning all,

I'm looking for anyone who has worked or is currently working in Greece to contribute comments. Tell us what it's like, how you found your job, the amount of your salary, and oh, how absolutely wonderful it is!

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Posted by msimmons at 02:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (2)