By Damien Dawson
AS much as many people may want to deny it, the English language is perhaps the most important language in use today. Teaching English in Mongolia is not unlike TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) in any other Asian country. The students understand the importance of being able to speak English and are eager to learn and achieve to the very best of their abilities, as they are anywhere else.
Most Mongolians recognize that the English language is important not only as a means of communicating and understanding, but also as an important method of developing business relationships, improving training and one’s general approach to foreign businesses and development.
With this in mind and the number of language schools increasing worldwide, TEFL is a profession that should be increasing its ranks at a phenomenal rate, as many use this not only to gain valuable teaching experience, but also as a passport to travel around the world.
Teaching English, or teaching in general is not a profession anyone can simply step into, although for many foreign language students studying English, classes often consist of watching a native speaker fumbling through a book learning about their own language while they try to teach it. Meanwhile for the unlucky student learning English from non – native speakers, who are often not fluent enough in English themselves to teach it, such lessons can be confusing and fruitless.
For a teacher to understand grammar is simply not enough, one must understand the subject they are teaching, the correct method of approach and use, and also the correct pronunciation. I have met countless numbers of Asian and European students who, having been taught badly or incorrectly by unqualified teachers, simply cannot pronounce a word correctly and in the process lose all meaning of the words they are trying to say. To be able to teach this correctly, being a graduate is simply not enough, neither is planting your ability to teach on your life experience.
In my own personal experience, being a qualified teacher has not been enough to do one’s job well. In order to create constant and well taught students TEFL institutes need to concern themselves more with finding qualified and able teachers and less with how much they should pay foreign staff. Ultimately this means that language schools should be incorporated into the Government’s education system and monitored in order to ensure a standard of professionalism that will not only benefit their students but ensure that the teaching profession is upheld as the noble profession people believe it to be and a privilege in itself.
When I arrived in Mongolia I found that although the country is a democratic state, Mongolians are a very closed people, that they know or understand very little about western culture or ideals, learning much of what they know from the media and television, which can lead to the misinterpretation of visual information if the translation is not correct or itself misinterpreted. This is by no way an inappropriate method of learning about foreign cultures. As the impact that the English language has had on Mongolia is enormous, however, it may contaminate the individual expectations of the country in question and the understanding of the native population of western culture and its people. After all we can’t believe everything we see on TV and we must take care to remember that generalizing a population is perhaps the singularly most negative assumption we could make.
Mongolia is developing quickly and suffering in the process, through poor guidance and training by employing token foreigners as teachers, whether they know what they’re doing or not! Together with borrowing the more favorable “as seen on TV” aspects from various cultures and failing to recognize the conflict of interest they will cause in the future.