GoAbroad Interview

Mali Charlaff - Academic Director

Mali Charlaff - Academic Director

Mali is originally from North London. He began his career in the TEFL industry when he taught English in Bolivia almost 20 years ago. Mali’s teaching and TEFL training career has since taken him all over the world, from Hong Kong to Barcelona to Prague. He has been teaching TEFL courses in Buenos Aires for over 10 years now.

You are originally from the UK, but have spent time teaching and conducting TEFL training all over the world. How did you end up settling on teaching TEFL courses in Argentina?

I had been teaching TEFL courses in Prague previously (for Oxford TEFL). I had lived in Mexico as a young teenager, so had Spanish and a cultural connection with Latin America. Then my first year teaching English was in Bolivia. I thought Argentina would be a good place to try and settle.

TEFLArgentina trainer Mali Charlaff conducting a lesson

Delivering an “Observed Lesson” for new trainees

What attracted you to work for TEFL Argentina?

I had met Sebastian, the owner, previously, through a British local business owner. We had kept vaguely in touch and I let him know I might be interested in running his TEFL courses. The planets aligned in October 2013, and here I am.

Based on your own experience, how are TEFL courses through TEFL Argentina different from other TEFL courses?

They are locally designed and locally run, not franchised out. The writer of the course content is also the trainer. On top of which, the trainer is properly experienced and trained. This is very often not the case with local competitors.

What does a typical day of work look like for you?

I often teach a very early English class, twice or three times a week, to keep my hand in. After that I arrive and do input, such as teaching the trainee teachers grammar or other input (for most of the course, the first session is grammar, while brains are fresh).  Other days it’s teaching practice first, where I sit in the back of the class making notes on how the trainee’s lesson is. Then, usually twice during a course, the first thing is me teaching the practice students (the ones the trainees mostly teach), so that trainees can observe an experienced teacher.

TEFLArgentina graduates with their trainer

Celebrating with the happy graduates

How do your TEFL students get real teaching experience through the TEFL Argentina program?

By practising on the “GP’s”, the practice students, who are local people who come for free classes. Trainees accumulate an average of six practice sessions.

You have been teaching prospective TEFL teachers for over 10 years now. What do you think the biggest determinant of a TEFL teachers success is?

Striking a balance between class and plan, between theory and practice, and always maintaining focus on learning as opposed to teaching.

What is the hardest part about being an ESL teacher abroad?

It can be hard to adapt to local ways. Exactly how hard this is depends on how old you are/what stage of life you’re at, the country you’ve chosen, and a lot of other factors, including, I suppose, how intrepid you are.

TEFLArgentina staff outside their office

Mali with some of our team members outside the office

What makes Argentina a great place for TEFL courses and TEFL teaching?

It’s Latin America, but it’s also Europe. Argentina is a pretty unique mix of Italian, Spanish, French, British, local indigenous, and other cultural influence. The way you’ll encounter that in the quickest way on the course is in week one when you have the experience of teaching Argentines. They probably won’t be what you expect, which is the funnest part. Same goes for teaching. Incongruous and unlikely as it may sound, teaching business English in Argentina is actually interesting (In my opinion, more interesting than other countries I’ve experienced).

What do you love most about your job?

Knowing that I’m preparing people for a real job in a short amount of time. The fact that it has to do with communication and language is a big bonus.