ESL Teaching Guide - Mongolia

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Kim - 2013

All Mongolia is divided into two parts: UB and the rest. UB is the capital, Ulaanbaatar. It has around a million people with what seems like twenty million cars. The rest of the country does actually have a few other cities, but the openness of the country is revealed in the fact that it is the least densely populated country on earth. About forty percent of the population of around three million are nomads.

The winters are quite cold and dry, with almost no wind and beautiful blue skies. In UB, this becomes quite uncomfortable because the pollution does not get blown away. The streets are packed with cars moving slowly and wildly on ice [from the tiny bit of snow that falls but doesn't get cleared until spring]. The sidewalks are also treacherous. But there are cultural amenities such as opera and ballet as well as movie theatres and pubs. There are restaurants offering a vast variety of foods: Uzbek, Korean, Chinese, Russian etc. There is even Los Badidos, which serves up Mexican and [east] Indian food. For Mongolian food, there are up-scale restaurants with English names like Modern Nomads that charge maybe 8 to 20 dollars for a large meal and hundreds or thousands of "cafes" that serve simple fare for about $1.50 to $5.00. In any case, if you want tea, you should know that Mongolian milk tea is served salted.

By far the most jobs in EFL are in UB. This is especially true in the cold months [Nov.-mid-April]. It is pretty easy to find a job during that time. On the other hand, during the summer, many foreigners apply for EFL jobs in Mongolia, so the competition is rougher.

While there are some people totally fluent in English, the general level of adult learners is quite low. Children are now being taught English as part of the president's wish to make Mongolia bi-lingual.

Mongolian is distantly related to Korean, Turkish, etc. But if you know Russian, that will help you more than those languages when you get started since, 1] Mongolian is written in Cyrillic and 2] it has a lot of Russian loan words. Also, many older urban people can speak Russian.

Coming to Mongolia after a number of years in Korea and some experience with Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese, I was really surprised at how different Mongolians are from any of that diverse group of Asians. They are much more like Russians -- and Mongolians have agreed with me when I have mentioned this.

So, if you're looking for adventure, can put up with air pollution and heavy traffic, and find Russia[ns] compatible, a winter job in UB might be just the ticket for you, but don't expect a warm, snowy scene with ice-skating like in Moscow!

Suggested Reading

Lonely Planet Mongolia
Mongolia: Travels in the Untamed Land
Modern Mongolia: From Khans to Commissars to Capitalists
Live From Mongolia: From Wall Street Banker to Mongolian News Anchor - First Stop for Your Second Language Needs
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