One of the benefits of being an English language teacher or involved in TEFL is the opportunity to travel around the world. Not many other jobs offer the opportunity for people to travel, learn about a culture or learn more about the language. One country which is very popular for many EFL teachers is Turkey with its rich and immersive culture. In this post, Emre gives his top ten tips for working in Turkey.
1. Get A Turkish SIM Card
The first important tip which Emre suggests for those wishing to gain an eligible visa or to gain residency is to get a Turkish SIM card. It seems simple enough but if you take your own phone to Turkey, make sure that it has been unlocked or just purchase a new phone.
2. Don’t Accept Conditional Jobs
Private language schools or other educational institutes may promise English teachers a job with pay while waiting for their visa to come through. However, this will put the teacher in the difficult position of working illegally with the hope that the visa will at some point be provided. Schools may take advantage of this and could withhold pay or promise to backpay teachers once the visa has been processed and accepted. It is recommended that teachers accept to be paid in cash while waiting for their visa and if schools or institutes really want their teacher, they would be willing to agree to this proposition.
3. Teach Pronunciation
Another area to focus on with Turkish learners is the teaching of pronunciation as they have difficulty with the ‘t‘ and ‘th‘ sounds. As mentioned by Emre, they will most commonly replace ‘th‘ to ‘tr‘ with them saying “I’ll have tree coffees please” rather than saying “I’ll have three coffees please“. It is recommended that teachers focus more on pronunciation as it will motivate learners and is highly regarded as learners wish to emulate their favourite movie stars.
4. Teach Prepositions
As well as pronunciation being an issue for English language learners in Turkey, students also have issues with prepositions. Emre suggests that looking at this area will raise student awareness and will help learners, no matter their level. There are some wonderful lesson ideas for teaching prepositions here (Teaching English) and here (Busy Teacher).
5. Get Ready For A Clown Fiesta
One thing that English teachers should prepare for is the cultural affect of living and working in Turkey. As Emre highlights, decisions will be made only for them to reversed later in the day. Decisions will be implemented with little communication with teachers and will be reactionary in many circumstances. These decisions and organised chaos are what Emre calls a “clown fiesta”. It can irk some teachers who are used to working in an environment which is organised as many of the decisions can be just a Turkish way of doing things.
6. Get Ready For Cheating
Cheating can seem to be more endemic in Turkey if you compare it to countries in the UK or the US. However, it is just more visible in Turkey and not a lot of planning or execution is used when students attempt to cheat in their language classes. Cheating is also viewed differently in Turkey as well as in some other parts of the world. As Emre mentioned in the video, there would be students who, when undertaking a test, would say that they need the toilet, offer their phone but then have a concealed phone in their pocket.
7. Don’t Talk About Politics & Religion
If I could recommend someone who is moving to another country to teach English is not to talk about sensitive political or religious issues. Teachers in many countries are highly regarded and respected, with students not expecting their educators to discuss matters which are sensitive in matter. You can discuss politics and religion in the comfort of your own home with family but you should not encourage students in your language classroom to discuss their opinions. It will land you in hot water.
8. Make The Most Of Your Time
If you ever had the chance to live abroad, you can do two things: stay in your room surfing the internet and moaning about the country you are residing in or get to know more about the country and culture that you reside. Emre recommends that English teachers should try to make the most of their time in the country they reside such as travelling to a new place every weekend so that you can learn more about the culture and country. There are many places to visit in Turkey and being in your own room is not one place to stay.
9. Make Foreign Friends
If you wish to learn more about the culture and develop your language skills, it would make sense to socialise with people who are Turkish. However, it can leave many English teachers feeling lonely and missing people from their own country so for your own sanity, Emre recommends that you make friends with other foreigners living in Turkey. It will give you an opportunity to share common grievances or issues about living or working in the same environment. So meet up with other foreign friends and let your hair down.
10. Enjoy Your Time As A Deity
The final tip recommended by Emre is to enjoy your time as a deity. As mentioned before, being an English language teacher in Turkey is a highly respected profession. Teachers are treated with much regard and rewarded in the same way. Students and others will look to you for advice and support, with Emre recommending that you use it to your advantage. It holds a lot of weight but the downside of being a perceived ‘native’ English teacher in Turkey is that ‘non-native’ English teachers are treated with disdain and a NNET’s salary will be much lower compared to a NET. So, Emre recommends that the discussion of salaries should not be shared.
Have you ever worked in Turkey? What advice would you recommend anyone thinking of living and working in this wonderful country?
If you wish to learn more about living and working in Turkey, I would recommend that you read this guide.