Andrew Charles has a rare and unsung calling. He is a faithful and attentive guardian of our language. The man is also one of the best restaurant reviewers in Bali.
With many years of government service in the UK under his belt, plus qualifications in teaching drama, managing property and even in psychotherapy, one might think Andrew could work anywhere but yet he decided he wanted to be an English teacher in Bali.
This unassuming, energetic and delightfully eccentric Englishman first came to Bali in 1990 and immediately decided that he wanted to live here. Today Andrew is a well-integrated member of Balinese society, a practicing Hindu (since age 17), and a person who really cares about the island and its inhabitants.
Andrew has always been interested in languages. He has a working knowledge of French, German, Spanish and, of course, he speaks Bahasa Indonesia and a little Basa Bali but his principal passion, nay, obsession, is with the English language.
How did you get started in the teaching profession?
Following (very) early retirement, I obtained a teaching qualification in the U.K. and returned to Indonesia ten years ago to seek work. It didn’t take long to find a teaching post in Jakarta, which I held for over four years. I remember agonizing over lesson plans, as I was initially very nervous, but I eased in to my new career and eventually progressed to the position of Director of Studies. However, I hadn’t forgotten my ultimate ambition to live in Bali. I finally bought land here and had a house built but, always one to follow the rules, I set up a company with two Indonesian partners and another English teacher. We now have access to almost 80 fully-qualified language professionals throughout Indonesia, specialising in ‘on-line’ services such as copyediting and copywriting.
What kind of work did you first take up on Bali?
Since moving permanently to Bali, I have been working for my own company as an English teacher and also doing ‘in-house’ training courses in hotels and other types of businesses but my real love is writing. You will see my byline in magazines such as ‘Wine & Dine,’ the now defunct ‘Nirvana,’ ‘Garuda Inflight,’ ‘The Jakarta Post,’ ‘Singapore Women’s Weekly,’ etc.
I am also the proof-editor for ‘Poleng’ – a frequently irreverent yet incisive and informative magazine produced by Made Wijaya - and I do a lot of writing for websites, CD ROMs and videos for large international companies. You can see my work in the ‘Visitors’ Guide to Bali’ and in an upcoming guidebook to Bali, ‘Shop Smart Bali’, soon to be published by Creative Licence of Singapore.
What are your pet peeves in language usage?
I am rather intolerant of the work of many native English speakers in Bali who think that just because they speak the language, they can write. I hate to see in print the frequently repeated clichés such as ‘lush tropical gardens’ and the expression ‘rice paddy’ - a tautology because ‘padi’ means rice. Even the term ‘Island of the Gods’ irritates me’ as this is an incorrect translation of ‘Pulau Dewata’.
I am also a stickler for ‘real English’ as opposed to ‘American English’ and, in my experience, the current trend here is towards the British variety. When I was teaching in Jakarta, the school used an American-based curriculum but many students, and their parents, asked that ‘proper’ English be taught. On their insistence, I varied the course materials to introduce British English within an Indonesian context.
Can you tell us about your teaching methods?
I like to devise a course appropriate to individual students and I use an advanced form of assessment test to evaluate what needs to be taught. This test, which is proprietary and copyrighted, is more thorough than many used by major language schools. When it comes to the most effective way to teach English, nine hours per week is enough for me! I spend so much time on preparation and development that I couldn’t envisage taking on any more than that.
What are the specific traits of “individual students”?
To answer this, I would need to describe the character of every one of my students! Each one has a particular language target and I try to help in achieving this. Having worked part-time at the three major English schools in Bali, I can say unequivocally that students here are far more attentive than their Jakartan counterparts and nicer to teach. My experience in Jakarta was primarily with children with a bad attitude; forced by their parents to learn English. In Bali, I have taught mostly older students who frequently pay their own fees and are very motivated but even the younger ones seem polite and respectful; teaching here is much more fun.
What are your other interests?
I like helping the underprivileged and I do this both privately and as a member of the Rotary Club of Bali – Seminyak. I feel that I should contribute something to the island that has so graciously accepted me as a resident; regardless of the attitude of the central government that seems to see all foreigners as either a threat or a walking ATM.
Andrew’s email is email@example.com His company is Full Proof Language Services (www.fullproof.org)
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Copyright@2004 Al Hickey
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