So, you’ve completed your TEFL certification course, you’ve moved abroad, and you’ve landed a job teaching English. However, you find yourself speaking English all day, hanging out with English–speaking expats, and reading English language newspapers. Sound familiar? Many EFL teachers find themselves in this situation and have difficulty breaking out of this English bubble. Here are some tips for having more interaction with the local people where you are teaching, and for learning more about their language and culture.
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1. Participate in activities that don’t require language skills.
Dance classes, aerobics classes, yoga classes, etc. are great because you can see what the teacher is trying to teach you! It is also easy to just copy what everyone else is doing. These kinds of hands-on everyday activities are a super way to meet local people and make friends. You’ll be getting invited out to dinner and to parties before you know it!
2. Find a language exchange program or organization.
Many language schools offer “buddy” programs where you can be paired up with a local resident who is interested in learning English. The idea is to go out for coffee, lunch, shopping, or anything. The key is that for part of the time you speak in English, and for the other part of the time you speak in the local language. This is an excellent way to improve your language skills while having an expert resource on the local culture to help you!
3. Live with the locals.
If possible, instead of sharing an apartment with another English-speaking expat, try to find a room that you can rent from a local family. In some countries you may be able to share an apartment with a local university student. In cultures where this may be more difficult, try to find a small studio apartment in a building where locals live. That way, you will at least have the opportunity to interact with your neighbors and maybe make some friends that way!
4. Be comfortable being uncomfortable!
Anytime you break out of your English bubble, you leave your comfort zone. Immersing yourself in a situation where you may not know the language or culture can be really intimidating, and you should expect to feel uncomfortable. This will get easier as you interact more and more with local people and you see that often, they are very patient with foreigners, appreciative that someone is curious about their language and culture, and understanding when social gaffes happen.
With these 4 easy tips, you will get so much more out of your TEFL experience! Not only will you gain a better understanding of the local language and culture, you will improve your intercultural skills, you will gain insight into new and different perspectives, and you will make friendships that will last a lifetime!