It was the year of 2018. I had been teaching English and Spanish for almost a decade (part time and full time) and I felt like it had to end. I was tired of teaching and I was wishing to find my dream job. I wasn’t sure what that might be but I was quite certain teaching was not it.
I had quite a busy schedule and I spent a lot of time preparing my material. At the same time I didn’t make as much money as I would like to. Although I had a degree at English and Spanish teaching and have acquired a lot of experience over the years, I was not comfortable increasing the price. I am not a native, I cannot charge more, one side of me thought. The other side thought I deserved a better pay. Clearly, my boss didn’t believe enough in me. Oh, except, I was my own boss.
On several ocassions, my sister had suggested that I could try teaching Czech to foreigners. Easy for her to say, she had a degree at teaching Czech language and literature to Czech highschoolers. I don’t know how to teach Czech, the voice in my head said. You might know that speaking the language doesn’t mean you can also explain it to others.
But one day, something changed in me and I decided that I was up for a challenge. I set up a profile at an international platform for teachers and under languages offered I put English, Spanish and Czech. Let’s see what happens.
Not too long after, a few students started contacting me. They were interested in learning Czech. It was logical, I had almost no competition as there were only nine other Czech tutors at that time.
So my journey began. I did my research and looked online for all kinds of material for teaching Czech as a second language.
The material was scarce then and there were very few videos on Youtube too. On top of that, I was living in Mexico at that time and I couldn’t find any Czech textbooks. Most of my preparation had to come from my own head and, let me tell you, it was tough at times.
My first Czech student
I remember my first student I taught Czech. Let’s call her Alma. I had no real experience teaching my monther tongue. She was a beginner, however, she had studied linguistics and knew a lot about languages. So in my first lesson, where I was hoping to lay the basics of Czech and teach the phrases like Ahoj! Jak se máš? Alma was asking for more.
„Ok, so the verb mít has these forms: mám, máš, má, what other verbs are conjugated that way?“ She asked.
Hmm… let me think. „Dělat,“ I answered and was I relieved to be able to figure that out quickly.
She struck again: „What other possible endings are there for conjugating the verbs in present tense?“
I was not ready for this. I knew what she was referring to and I would be able to explain this so easily for Spanish verbs but I didn’t learn how to teach Czech conjugation system. In Czech lessons we take at elementary and high school, we learn a totally different verb clasiffication that’s understandable to Czech natives but totally inefficient for different nationalities.
You can imagine Alma didn’t take lessons with me for much longer. And I definitely understand.
I started figuring out this verbs system myself. How to teach it to foreigners. I found something online but it was too basic so I had to make a list of verbs myself. I managed to put together a neat list of verbs which I created in Excel and added pretty colors to it. The first version looked very similar to this → → → →
In 2021 I also prepared a video about how to conjugate Czech verbs. This was one of my early videos I created for my channel, even before I bought a microphone or a real camera stand. In 2022, I also created a 12 page document which contains a table with the basic verbs and all you need to know about them, extended table with additional verbs and empty tables for students to practise the conjugation.
Though it was challenging, teaching Czech gave me a second wind. I started to love teaching again! I learned on the way and soon I was able to see what topics are most difficult for my students. I learned so much about my own language and I still am.
In 2019 I moved back to the Czech Republic. I registered for a two semestrial course for Czech teachers, organized by the language center of Charles University. In 2020 I received my diploma and felt better about myself knowing that I can also prove I went through training. (Although no student has ever asked me about my qualifications).
Nowadays, teaching Czech is my main focus and passion. I stopped teaching English and kept only a few students for Spanish. I create a variety of material such as worksheets, videos and video courses and I love the endless possibilities.
For several years, I was hoping to find my dream job, thinking teaching was not the right choice, but little did I know it was in front of me all this time. I am very grateful my sister ignited my curiosity to explore a new area. I am also happy I lost my fear and stopped caring about not being ready.
If you ever doubt yourself you are not ready enough or have enough expertise to start something new, you can be sure you don’t have to be. You learn as you go!