English Teaching Jobs in Hungary
In Hungary, younger people frequently speak English or German as their second language, while those old enough to remember World War II will more likely speak only German.
Out of all the peoples of Central and Eastern Europe, Hungarians speak the most English. This does not mean, however, that there is no demand for English teaching. In fact, to the contrary, the demand for English teachers is still increasing. Because Hungary has fully opened to the West, the burden to master the world’s predominant business tongue is even greater now, especially for the younger generations who make up the bulk of the work force. In Hungary, being able to compete in the job market means being well educated, and Hungarians prize multi-lingual abilities.
Hungary may well be the most challenging of the four Eastern European countries we cover when it comes to finding a good teaching position in a well-established private school or a supportive public school environment. Many employers demand formal certification and, in some cases, prior teaching experience. For whatever historical reasons, Hungarians are appreciative of degrees, diplomas, and all manner of formal documentation. So an RSA certificate or any other recognizable teaching certificate will serve you well in Hungary. Expect to be asked early on in the interview process what sort of qualifications you possess. It will be to your advantage to talk about any kind of formal education that you have had that relates to English teaching in any way. If you can speak highly of a particular educational experience or perhaps a favorite professor, you just might impress your way into a job.
Believe it or not, in Hungary, there is a much greater chance that you will be competing with English-speaking Hungarians for teaching jobs. In this regard, several different factors set Hungary apart from the other countries under discussion. Prior to the revolution, Hungary’s economy was far more decentralized than most of the other Eastern European countries, save for perhaps Yugoslavia. This economic decentralization informed the Hungarian sensibility, particularly in the relatively cosmopolitan environs of Budapest, by creating a more open and less repressive feeling. Because some private enterprise was allowed, many Hungarians felt less alienated from the West than their neighbors to the north. More people were able to learn English earlier than the Czechs or the Poles.
Secondly, Hungarians are generally a homogenous lot, and therefore, are protective of their own. When the economy is not doing well, they are more likely to frown on people coming in from the outside in search of employment.
Formal prerequisites are not the only challenge that Hungary presents. Given the difficulty of the Hungarian language, holding court in the classroom can bring its own set of frustrations. Trying to explain complex grammatical structures often demands facility with the native language of your students. This is precisely the reason why many schools employ English-speaking Hungarians to teach English, even though they’re not native speakers. The fact that a native speaker likely would be more effective at imparting correct idiomatic English is not lost on school administrators. But many schools do not have the resources to employ teams of native English speakers and English-speaking Hungarians in every classroom.
One thing you may notice in Hungary when you are applying for a teaching position is that many school administrators who speak English employ a very formalized and stilted style of speech. To the ears of younger North Americans, this may sound funny, or even pretentious. But it has little to do with personal choice. Most of these people studied English from older, often outdated British textbooks. And because Hungarian itself contains highly formalized structures, many English-speaking Hungarians who do not have the chance to use their English on a day-to-day basis with native speakers of English end up sounding very formal because they seem to naturally seek out what they believe to be higher forms of English.
Despite these idiosyncrasies, teaching English in Hungary isn’t all about overcoming obstacles. Teaching is rarely easy on any level, so you just need to make sure you’re aware of the specific requirements of each school.
In Hungary, some schools provide English teachers with a broad curriculum, but count on the teachers to plan and conduct individual classes. Though some teachers choose to give their lessons impromptu, without the benefit of careful preparation, better teachers usually spend a few hours preparing before each class. Scrambling for a new topic or improvising a hasty explanation for some important point of grammar is no way to impress your employer or your students. Education is taken very seriously in Hungary, often much more so than it is in the United States. Perhaps Hungary can be compared to Japan in this way. The vast majority of Hungary’s population speaks Hungarian, and the population as a whole is relatively culturally homogenous. Thus teachers are not presented with the challenge of trying to bridge the gap between students of varying backgrounds.
Most Hungarians are taught early on in life to respect their elders and superiors. Consequently, Hungarian students tend not to be vocal in class unless questioned directly. This can mean that you will need to spend much of your energy establishing the kind of rapport with your students that encourages them to actively participate in the classroom. In order to encourage this, your lesson plans might include formal dialogues, question-and-answer sessions, discussions of current events, or explanations of popular culture in the United States and Canada. It all depends on you and your students.
If your students don’t yet have a grasp of basic grammar or a simple, working vocabulary in English, you may teach in tandem with a native Hungarian who can translate for you when all else fails. Otherwise, you likely will be on your own in front of a class. Whether solo or tandem, the most challenging part of teaching English as a foreign language in Hungary has less to do with the formal mechanics of language and more to do with establishing an affective rapport with your students. Teachers should be sensitive, tactful, and adept at fostering a relaxed atmosphere for their students in the classroom.