Interview With EFL Geek

I had the opportunity to interrogate by email one of the big name EFL bloggers: EFL Geek. He embarked on his teaching career about ten years ago, originally with the idea of funding further travel in Asia; his original plan was to get some “beyond the book” insight into the topics he studied for his BA in Asian Studies by working in either Japan or Singapore. Fate seems to have brought him Korea, where he now has an established teaching career and career path as well as a family.

From advanced qualifications to blogging anonymously to Korean culture, EFL Geek took the time to share his thoughts, opinions and experiences via email.

First of all how and why did the blog originate? In fact EFL Geek started writing it in conjunction with his M.A., as a way of organizing his thoughts on the topics he was reading about.

“I enjoy writing a blog because it allows me to reflect on my teaching… I found an effective way to help me express my ideas about teaching and linguistics in a more effective manner. What this means for me is that much of what I write here is my first or second thoughts on ideas and that it is only when I meet up with friends and colleagues that I finally am able to fully express what I was thinking at the time of writing.”

What he enjoys most about teaching is “the creativity that I get to express through activity designs and lesson plans. I also enjoy it when I can see students improving their skills, overcoming their fear of foreigners, or gaining confidence in their English skills.”

I asked him if he could describe in concrete terms how studying for an M.A. has informed his teaching.

“Studying for my M.A. is probably the best thing that I have done to improve my teaching. Before formally studying linguistics I had read up on teaching and linguistics informally. However I had never sat down to critically analyze what I had read nor written down my own thoughts. Doing graduate studies forced me to do this and the result is that I better understand what I’ve read and can better articulate my thoughts on various areas of language acquisition and teaching.

Instead of having merely an intuitive understanding of why activities succeed or fail in class, I now have theoretical background to help me understand why. This allows me to initially create better activities and also to reflect on what didn’t work and fix it for future lessons.

Additionally I have learned about new ideas that I was able to try out in my classroom to varying degrees of success. I have also found literature on various areas of classroom interest to me that I would not have otherwise been exposed to. My particular areas of interest are learner autonomy and learner strategies.”

How has he changed since he first came to Korea ten years ago?

“First I got thinner, then I got more rotund, and recently I’m back to the thinner than ever stage. I’ve matured – honestly I look back at who I was and can’t believe the things I did in the name of stupidity. I’ve gotten married (to a wonderful Korean woman) and now have two children, one daughter and one son. I’ve also found direction in my career and life path for the future. When I first came to Korea my original plan was to spend a year in Korea, a year in Japan, and another year in Taiwan. At least I can say that I’ve visited both Taiwan and Japan if not lived there.”

Continue on to Part 2 to get EFL Geek’s Korean-job-hunting tips as well as his insights into the rewards and challenges of life in Korea.