Do’s and Don’ts when teaching English in Colombia
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- Teaching English in Colombia, or other countries abroad, can be a challenging personal experience due to the change of environment, culture and it being a step out of a person’s comfort zone. When individuals first arrive in a new city it can be overwhelming: getting to know the area, discovering which places are go to or no go areas, where the best place to stay is, and discovering the best ways to get around the city.
Colombia is a country different from any other due to its unique traditions and customs, which also vary between cities in the country. When teaching English in Colombia, whether in Bogota, Medellin, Cali or another city, it can take some time to get used to how the city functions, and how you can fit in.
Here is list of do’s and don’ts to smooth the transition when you begin teaching English in Colombia.
- Do gain a basic knowledge of Spanish:
While working teaching English in Colombia, teachers will spend a large amount of time within classes speaking in English, making friends with work colleagues and meeting other expats. All these facts can make it difficult to become motivated to practice and learn Spanish, but to survive in the city and fit in, learning Spanish is a must. Small tasks in Colombia can be difficult without a basic knowledge of the language. English is an up and coming language in the country, so it’s not uncommon to come across someone with no knowledge of the English language.
- Do go and explore:
Colombia is a beautiful country, filled with culture, traditions, biodiverse landscapes, endangered and exotic wildlife, and interesting history. It’s easy to set up a base when teaching English in Colombia and stay in that area, but individuals should make the most of their time in the country, and the high number of bank holidays the country has, and take trips to different places.
- Do interact with locals:
While teaching English in Colombia, it is very easy to make friends with expats and never interact with locals, but Colombians are full of incredible stories, from travelling tales to experiences within their own country. There is no better way to experience a city than by seeing how a local does it: the hidden restaurants and bars they go to, the places to avoid and insights into the customs and traditions of the country.
- Do take the job seriously:
Teaching English in Colombia is a real full time job. Colombians are striving to increase their knowledge and language ability to help improve their careers and lifestyles. Teaching English in Colombia should be taken seriously, teachers should arrive at classes prepared to teach, arrive early to prepare the classroom, pay full attention when teaching and help the students the best they can.
- Don’t get too comfortable:
Colombia’s reputation exceeds its reality and has done over the past 10- 20 years; the country has turned over a new leaf but the cities still have the same problems as any other big cities. When teaching English in Colombia, it is easy to get too comfortable, let your guard down or make stupid mistakes. Pick pocketers are common in certain areas of the city, and anything on display to the prying public is at risk.
- Don’t be scared of public transport:
In many of Colombia’s cities public transport is the easiest and cheapest way to move around the city. Colombia has a big car and traffic problem, with short journeys sometimes taking 3 or 4 times the usual journey time in rush hours. When teaching English in Colombia, public transport is a teacher’s friend, by using the public transportation to move around the city from class to class. In peak times public transport can be overwhelming with a high number of people squeezing into a small bus or tram.
Tip – Always keep your personal possessions hidden on public transport to avoid drawing the attention of robbers.
- Don’t be unprepared:
While teaching English in Colombia, it is important to arrive to classes at least 5-10 minutes early, and to allow time for overcrowded public transport, public transport taking a long time to arrive or any other problems which may occur on the journey. While students may arrive late to class there is no excuse for teachers arrive late to classes.
- Don’t draw unwanted attention to yourself:
Like in every other country in the world, Colombians have heard reputations and ideas of what other countries are like. It is disrespectful to arrive in a country and not obey the customs and traditions. It’s the same as arriving at someone’s house and acting stupid or breaking something. While teaching English in Colombia, many teachers may not fit in because of their appearance but that’s not a problem, the problems occur when teachers draw attention to themselves and do things they are not supposed to do.
Written by: Anny Wooldridge