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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Who are the students?

By: Bruce
I don't intend this to be a very long post, which is probably a relief to many of the readers, but it is a topic that confuses a lot of people. So here it is: who are you going to be teaching if you decide to teach ESL down here in Costa Rica? The answer: maybe not who you'd expect.

You will generally not be teaching highschoolers or elementary school students in a normal classroom setting. In stead, you will most likely be teaching in a private language institute where students go after/before work or school. For the most part, I'd say the students are between 20 and 35 years old and they are most likely taking the English classes in order to improve their salary at a current job or to find a new, higher paying job.

The reality down here in Costa Rica, is that because of the burgeoning tourism industry as well as the vast number of American companies (everything from Hewlitt-Packard to online gambling sportsbooks) that have decided to move some opporations to Costa Rica, there is a huge demand for English speaking Costa Ricans. This is because the workforce here is generally less expensive to employ (compared to the US) yet still quite educated. These jobs are highly covetted by Costa Ricans because they pay, on average, much much higher than other jobs. In fact, I've heard that even some call-center jobs (jobs most Americans really wouldn't want) pay better salaries than doctors receive down here (or so I've heard).

In order to get these jobs, however, the workers must speak a rather high level of English (almost perfect grammar, large vocabulary, and some accent reduction). So these are the people are most likely going to be your students - young business professionals (or aspiring business professionals) who are really going after the higher paying jobs that require a high level of English. Now keep in mind that this is a generalization. Some students are studying the language because they want to travel or just have a desire to learn. Either way, the good thing is that most of these students (regardless of why they are taking English classes) are doing it because they truly want to, and this often translates into high motivation and a lot of enthusiasm.