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November 20, 2005

ESL Italian Style

ESL Italy.jpg

"Italy is a dream that keeps returning for the rest of your life." ~Anna Akhmatova

Greetings all veteran ESL Teachers,

In May, ESL-Lesson-Plan asked readers to tell us about their experiences teaching ESL in Greece (here).

This month, I'm seeking commentary from instructors who have taught or are presently teaching in Italy. Please share with us what it's like, how you found your Italian ESL teaching-post, the going Italian salary for ESL teachers and, naturally, if Italy is all that it's cracked up to be!

Submit your comments promptly if you'd like to be heard!

Until next time,

Lee Hobbs
ESL Instruct, Editor-in-Chief

Posted by lhobbs at November 20, 2005 11:56 PM

Readers' Comments:

Hey Mr. Blogger Boss:

I just so happened to be placed in Italy myself, how did you know? Umbria to be exact, it's great over here. Geez now we may actually have a real subject to talk about instead of all that abuse you were giving me. Maybe we can become friends

Posted by: ESL Nerd at November 22, 2005 07:44 AM


Note from Lee:

Well, ESL Nerd I don't see a real reason why, like the White Stripes' musical lead into the film "Napoleon Dynamite," we couldn't be friends. The Umbria area is one I am completely unfamiliar with.

Could you please share some of your ESL experiences with the rest of this blog's readers? (And, I do apologize for the abuse . . . I didn't realize I was dealing with such a sensitive ego!)

Posted by: Lee at November 23, 2005 05:24 AM

dear sir/madam,

Could you please explain the process of getting an english teaching job in Hawaii as it seems a bit confusing. What qualifications do you ned to teach English as a second language and is a tesol certificate good enough ?

Yours faithfully,

jonathan Mountain

Posted by: Jonathan Mountain at November 26, 2005 04:07 PM

Jonathan, thanks for writing.

First of all, just let me say that my teaching experience in the United States is primarily with the university system which is not organized under the same exact sets of laws that govern the public education of minors in this country.

So, I'd refer you to, perhaps, a blog or website that concerns M.Ed. and Ed.D. majors for more precise advice on that one. I do,however, have a friend who is an EU citizen and a licensed high school teacher, by profession, in Austria who could not find work in the United States doing the same thing. It turns out that his teching qualifications/certifications were not accepted by U.S. authorities as "equivalent" to the ones issued here (their interpretation, not mine!). To make a long story short, my friend would have had to enroll in an American university or college and get the same academic degrees and certifications as natives here possess to be considered for a job. Now, had he wanted to teach a foreign language here, like German for example, perhaps the rules are different (I don't know this for sure). Honestly, I'm really outside of my knowledge base on this one so I'd be happy if someone out there reading this (?) might like to take it from here.

I'm pretty sure, however, that to teach public high school in the United States, you will need to be legally certified as a teacher through regular U.S. conventions (each state has its own process, but there is also a National certification). A Tesol cert. will NOT be enough to be considered for the job.

If the state of Hawaii is where you'd like to teach, then my advice would be for you to contact directly the specific school for which you’d like to work to receive more concrete information.

Otherwise, please visit http://www.eslemployment.com to find numerous job offerings around the world. There are also many ESL teaching forums there (for almost every subject imaginable) for which you might find answers to your questions.

Good luck and please share with us what you discover!

Posted by: Lee at November 26, 2005 04:58 PM

Dear Lee ,

Thankyou for the information !

Yours sincerely,


Posted by: Jonathan Mountain at November 26, 2005 05:04 PM


Sicily is the place to be, for Italy! That is a hidden paradise -- un tesoro segreto dell'Italia, secondo me! I lived there for a year and taught there for 7 months. Unfortunately, the only school in the area where they hire for English language teachers is run by a disreputable woman who mistreats everyone and cheats the students. She said she would apply for a work permit for me, but never did.

However, I made some good friends and contacts who helped me out tremendously, and was able to continue living there. I would have stayed but I wanted to get my legal situation sorted out, so decided it was better to leave whilst I could (I did not want to overstay my visa).

Salary-wise, I was fortunate in that for all this school director's underhandedness, she did pay me as promised, although the salary was quite low -- 600 euros a month -- with no taxes taken out. Unfortunately, she put me in a flat that was 400 euros a month because she led me to understand that I would be sharing with 2 other people. Those 2 never showed up, if indeed, they ever existed!

Cost of living where I was is quite low, and I did find a much cheaper, more reasonably-priced flat for 200 euros; although one could rent for even cheaper if one lived a bit further out.

Being in love with Italy and the Italian culture and its people helped sustain me during this time, and I certainly am planning to return there to live and work again and this time, I will never leave it!

Italy is all that is cracked up to be. The South is especially welcoming. The people are quite generous and warm. They tend to be more reserved in the beginning, and what may be seen as rudeness is mere taciturnity. But they are very, very patient, and take the time to listen whilst one struggles to be understood in their language. They take great delight when you do speak to them in Italian, and many will even help correct mistakes and pronounciation problems.

I found that on the whole, Italian people are gentle, kind and patient, with a flair for the dramatic, an eye for the aesthetic, a bit quirky but in a positive way. What is taken for rudeness or arrogance is not true. I came to understand and realize that because they tend to express themselves with their body and hands, the myriad of gestures and facial expressions can seem that way to the uninitiated.

And yes, it is true about the men. They look with a boldness and directness that most men don't do, and it can be a bit disconcerting at first. But after a bit, one becomes used to this. And also, one comes to see that it is more of a Pavlovian response, meaning, the men automatically just turn and stare at any FEMALE form: See a woman or a girl, and pfft! Eyes right(or left), look, stare, maybe say "ciao", and then move on. They don't really expect the woman to react; she may say hello back or she may not; it doesn't matter. Telling them to get away or shut up or behaving nastily towards them will only get you a bewildered or bemused look, and it doesn't stop them -- if they decide to be a bit persistent.

Unlike with American or British men, one doesn't feel threatened when Italian men behave boldly like this. Not to say there aren't nutters among them as well; but on the whole, they won't turn nasty the way Americans or British do, and call you names and cast slurs upon your rep if you ignore them. And if you do decide to respond to their calls, they will actually strike up a conversation with you, asking you all sorts of questions because they are curious to find out a bit about you -- especially if you are a foreigner.

Southern Italy in particular is a foodie heaven, and if you are vegetarian or vegan, it's the perfect spot for you. Fresh fruits and vegetables abound, along with diverse varieties of fish. Fresh meat, pork, and chicken is also available, although the meat tends not to be done quite as well, since most S. Italians don't eat it as much as fish. Chicken and rabbit are quite popular, and even horseflesh is eaten.

Many towns and villages have a community garden plot, as it were, where the people share little bits of land they can grow their own vegetables and fruits. Certain fruit trees and nut trees grow naturally, such as oranges, lemons, figs, pears, bananas, walnuts, chestnuts, almonds, edible plants and greens....it's absolutely wonderful.

Things are done very differently in Italy, and there are big cultural differences between the North and the South, as well as on the islands of Sicily and Sardinia. As long as you don't live there or view life as though things should be done the way they are in your home country; as long as you are willing to accept the cultural differences and diversity offered there, Italy -- especiallly southern Italy -- is a treasure one can never tire of or forget.

Keeping me fingers crossed that I will be back there by March 2006!!


Posted by: Murasaki at November 28, 2005 10:34 AM


Note from Lee:

Thanks Murasaki for that insider's look into Sicily. This month's ESL Instruct newsletter highlights the city of Rome as a dream location for ESL teaching but, after reading your post, I wish I had gone for Sicily instead! An excellent contribution to this forum: we'd really appreciate it if you please visit us again with your other ESL teaching experiences in Italy or elsewhere.

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