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History of the English Language: A TEFL Guide

A precocious young student raises her hand. She is squirming in her seat. She has a question and it’s ready to pop. Finally, the TEFL teacher notices her. The girl lets out a deep sigh of relief.

“Why do meet, m-e-e-t and meat, m-e-a-t, sound the same?” she asks.

The TEFL teacher takes a quizzical glance at the ceiling, shrugs his shoulders and says, “Pfffft. English is weird.”


Don’t ever do that!

English is not weird. English is wonderful. English is the story of a conquered land that went on to conquer. It is an amalgamation of aristocracy and poverty. It is social upheaval and global assimilation. English was never fixed and it never will be. English is changing as we speak. It is changing the way we speak.

And you, dear TEFL teachers, are the torchbearers.

So don’t you dare “Pffft? English is weird.” your students.

Know your history. When you know the history of the English language there are no unanswerable questions.

To be shamefully brief…

Beowulf, the first long-form Old English poem, was composed around 700 CE. Old, yes. English, sort of.

The Isles hadn’t had an easy go of it. The Romans invaded and forced Latin into the local dialects by sword and shield. Then they took off and left their words behind. Into that vacuum stepped the Anglo-Saxons who were, as every school kid knows, pretty insistent about their Germanic ways.

A couple of hundred years later, when Beowulf was composed, there was no such thing a unified language. Beowulf was told in a West Saxon dialect which was a Germanic offshoot featuring heavy Latin and Celtic influences.

The term Old English came along much later. At the time people were just waiting for the next wave of change. And they didn’t have to wait long.

In 793, the Viking raids began and so did the influence of Old Norse. The Vikings gifted us words you would expect like slaughter and ransack. And words you would never expect like meek and trust.

On the heels of the Northmen came Norman the Conquerer. Norman had no interest in learning the local language. He insisted on French. And for the next couple hundred years, the English aristocracy was almost entirely French-speaking. A lot of well-born children didn’t even learn English as a second language. It was only toward the end of that era that people began to rebel by speaking their native language, which was, of course, a mash-up of Germanic, Celtic, Latin and Norse influences.

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Things not to miss Teaching English in Cambodia

Cambodia can seem like the closed book of South East Asia, with many avid TEFL travellers going first to Thailand and Vietnam (and with good reason of course). Many look at South East Asia as a melting pot of cultures, people and experiences, difficult to set them apart. But here are 5 reasons why Cambodia is a stand-out country and deserves to be singled out as a MUST for teaching and travelling.

Become the tomb raider of Cambodia at the awe-inspiring Angkor Wat temple, the highlight of any TEFL teachers time in Siem Reap. expat VietnamThis temple is the largest religious monument on the planet, with thousands of mesmerising carvings, galleries and secret passages. However, if you find that your Instagram perfect shot is ruined by the sea of tourists, pull out your map and hop on a bus to other temples. We promise that you are less likely to get hit by a selfie stick in one of the more remote and undiscovered monuments. Make sure to find the Ta Prohm temple where the roots of trees are intertwined within the temples ancient stone structure. Lara Croft costume optional.

There are entire books, websites and academic research dedicated to the tantalizing Khmer food of Cambodia. We don´t blame you if outside of your teaching hours you do nothing but eat! In Phnom Penh seek out grilled fish and seafood curries, caught fresh in the Mekong River. Finish off the party on your taste buds with some grilled banana and a refreshing Saigon beer. Don´t be surprised if you find yourself wandering along the bustling food markets, marvelling at the exotic produce. Cambodia FoodWhy not pick up some ingredients to cook back in your apartment? Or are you looking for a unique culinary experience? Check out the Bugs Café in Siem Reap, the famed insect’s tapas bar. Toothpicks included.

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Everyone loves a destination New Year’s Eve!

And for TEFL teachers living abroad accessing the world’s best New Year’s Eve celebrations is easy. Take a long bus ride. Hitchhike. Hop on a budget flight. Get yourself to one of the great global destinations!

There are exceptions of course. TEFL teachers travel on a teachers salary. New York or London, as grand as they may be, aren’t exactly on a shoestring travelers budget. With that in mind, here are some great locations to ring in the new year that won’t break the bank.

Valparaiso Chile

For TEFL teachers Valparaiso, Chile is a great New Year's Eve destination
A colorful stairway to your New Year’s Eve celebration in Valparaiso, Chile.

Valparaiso is a gorgeous coastal city about an hour outside of Santiago. The city is famous for art and its appreciation of art. As you walk through the colorful neighborhoods it seems as if every wall is a canvas. Even the staircases are masterpieces. Valparaiso is fun and interesting any time of the year but New Year’s Eve is something special. Thousands of people pour in from all over Chile and other parts of South America to witness the spectacle. Valparaiso boasts one the biggest fireworks displays in the world. In fact, only the New Year’s Eve celebration in Hong Kong tops it. The fireworks are launched from boats in the harbour, lighting up the entire bay. It is truly something to see. Accommodation can be a little pricey because of the demand but the party (which lasts well past sunrise) is a street to street affair. If you have an extra day, take the time to do one of the free walking tours. Valparaiso has a really interesting history. TEFL teachers are sure to enjoy it.

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Teach English in Spain:

For 9 months you will take on the role of teaching assistant, working in teams of teachers to improve the conversational level of each student. Following a curriculum will help you to draw up lessons plans. But there is plenty of space to infuse your own creativity into the lessons.
Why not teach your students about the country and culture you come from? Or teach English through song and games.
Placements will be in schools with age-groups ranging from infant up to secondary school. Interns can expect to be teaching children between the ages of 3 and 16, with your daily lessons a mix of various age-groups.
Your working hours will be Monday-Friday with an average of 25 hours of classroom time. The remaining 10 hours will be dedicated to lesson planning and grading.
An important part of your time in Spain is the completion of a family project with your host family. The project will help to improve the family’s English proficiency throughout your 9 month stay. But it is also an opportunity for you and the host family to form a strong and genuine relationship. Many of our teachers leave Spain with a new family for life.

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How to get that first TEFL Job!
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If you have made the decision to embark on the experience of a lifetime, then you need to make sure you do it the right way. The TEFL institution of Ireland offers full TEFL accreditation, internationally recognised TEFL courses, supportive and friendly qualified tutors and guidance into the teaching world.
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