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ESL Teaching Guide - Azerbaijan

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Max Dolan - May 2002

Azerbaijan is located on the West coast of the Caspian Sea, just north of Iran. To the West is Turkey and Armenia. Armenia and Azerbaijan have a long-standing feud over a piece of territory known as Ngorno-Karabah ("Black Mountain"). This area comprises 20% of Azerbaijan, and is now inhabited by Armenians. Thousands have been killed in this struggle over the past 12 years or so, and it is a very sad situation. To the north is the country of Georgia, and the Russian region of Dagistan. North of that is Chechnya. These areas are full of bandits and violence. Azerbaijan proper is a relative sea of calm.

Azerbaijan's economy is mostly driven by the oil industry. The gulf between the "haves" and the "have nots" is being bridged through the efforts of the government in cooperation with the many NGOs which operate here. The tendency for an NGO to offer "humanitarian aid" (money and things) rather than "humanitarian development" (training, advice and consulting) has hurt this country in the past. Now, though, the situation is improving as many NGOs have shifted their focus to helping people to help themselves. It is in this effort that more workers are desperately needed.

Although Azerbaijan is technically "Central Asia," modern Azeris consider themselves to be Europeans. I could explain that, but then you'd doubt my sanity! Lots of volunteers are needed to teach in universities and in NGOs. (Non-governmental organizations). You can forget about being paid! Volunteers are needed. Especially in high regard are older Americans who are retired or semi-retired. Their experiences in American life and business are valued highly by young Azeris.

There are a number of NGOs operating here, and ESL classes are filled within days of their announcement. In our little training center with 4 US native speakers teaching 5 levels of ESL, we have over 100 students. In Azerbaijan, you can teach ESL without a special diploma or degree. An ESL teaching Certificate is a good idea, though!

Suggested Reading

Lonely Planet Georgia, Armenia & Azerbaijan
Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan Through Peace and War
Travel Map of Armenia and Azerbaijan
Edge of Time: Traveling in Armenia and Karabagh

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