Translating DOS-Speak: What your director of studies is really saying

April 5, 2014

Wanna know what your Director of Studies really means when he talks?

You’re in the right place.

So here goes…

I guess you’re teaching English in Spain – or somewhere else. What do I know?

Either way, you must have a sense of humor, or else you’d be dead by now. Not not to mention few material aspirations and a high tolerance for long hot summers with little or no cash flow.

Today, it’s another assault on your dignity from the grim reality of the EFL industry.


We’re gonna translate some DOS-speak here…

What your Director of Studies is REALLY saying

Sometimes, as you probably know, your basic survival needs get the best of you and you find yourself agreeing to give company classes.

Soon after starting, it’s a good bet that you’ll receive a phone call from your Director of Studies.

As the guy who’s been there and done that way too many times, I’m creating this sort of glossary to help you read between the lines and interpret what your DOS is really saying on this sort of call.

So, here you go: translating DOS-speak. Don’t even try to put this stuff through Google translator – you might crash the whole cloud.

DOS: I’ve just spoken with the students to see if everything is going okay.

Translation: You are being watched. Your every move is suspect.

DOS: They said you’ve been giving them sort of dry grammar lectures.

Translation: I’m under the impression that you’ve actually been teaching English.

DOS: I was a bit concerned.

Translation: I’ll never admit this, but your job is not to teach English, your job is to keep Paula in HR happy.

DOS: You see, at this academy we use a communicative approach.

Translation: You are not an educator. You’re a dancing monkey. Your job is to entertain them.

director of studies at a language school in madrid
If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. DOS pro tip: sheep will work for even less than peanuts.

Then there’s this bit – I’ve had this conversation multiple times, with various directors of studies, and it’s always a joy…

More brilliant advice from the 7th circle of TEFL hell

DOS: Here’s what I would do if it were my class.

Translation: Here’s what I would do if I were earning my current salary and only teaching 4 hours a week.

DOS: First, I’d show them this youtube video about Buy Nothing Day, and then I’d hand out this specially-made vocabulary worksheet, which would contain a gap-fill exercise and a text about people using cellphones in remote African villages. You should be able to whip up something similar in an hour or so.

Translation: You obviously have nothing better to do than to plan elaborate 7 part lessons which contain no actual grammar.

DOS: And then I’d use that to segueway into a conversation about the implications of consumer society on the ecosystem and global culture.

Translation: Get them talking and then just STFU – don’t even think about suggesting that they learn some verb tenses and stop speaking entirely in the present.

DOS: In any case, if you need any help with lesson planning don’t hesitate to ask.

Translation: I have a whole treasure trove of youtube videos and conversational segueways here that don’t have anything to do with your teaching style or the personality of the group. And yes, I’m going to keep using the word segueway, whaddya gonna do about it?

And suddenly, downsizing at the language school

DOS: Hang on… I’ve got to take this other call.

Translation: You’re a second class citizen.

DOS: Okay, unfortunately that was Paula from HR calling to notify me that all the students have just been laid off. So I guess the classes are cancelled.

Translation: You’d better find some other way to pay your rent.

DOS: We’ll pay you for the classes you’ve already done, of course. In any case, the other thing I wanted to tell you is that paychecks might be a little late this month.

Translation: That’s my binge-drinking money, and since you’re at the bottom of the totem pole, you can wait until the 15th.

DOS: Well, I’ll be in touch if anything else opens up. I do have this one-on-one in Tres Cantos at 8:15 every morning. I’m afraid I can only offer you 14 euros an hour plus transport.

Translation: It’s probably better for you to just go back home and chalk this whole thing up to experience. There’ll be a new crowd of malleable youngsters coming in this spring who can do your job for even less money.

En fin…

Well, that’s it!

Just a few bits of wisdom gleaned from my 12 years on the front lines – teaching English here in Madrid.

Of course, I can’t write something like this without a shout-out to my online friend (AKA we’ve never met) over at English Droid, who set the bar for TEFL satire so high. Check out, for example, his article on DOS basics. It’s great.

Or for more English teaching fun, I’ve got some other articles on here: Language Pimping for Fun and Profit or if you prefer The TEFL Job Interview.

Have fun!

Mr Chorizo.

P.S. Updated 2017: I’ve been out of the English teaching game for a long time now. In fact, I’m having lots of fun as self-employed blogger, author and YouTuber. Good times! Also, buy my book. Or if you want to learn English from the beginning, these books are awesome. (I wrote them, too.)

P.P.S. Of course, there are other jobs you can get besides English teaching. For more information, check out my complete guide to working in Spain. Have fun!

P.P.P.S. Man, it’s been a long time. The English Droid website is gone, these days. I hope that guy’s doing well, and in a much better job than TEFL. In other news, I’ve got an article entitled “Is teaching English for losers?” that you might like. Hit me up in the comments over there…

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About the Author Daniel

How did I end up in Spain? Why am I still here almost 20 years later? Excellent questions. With no good answer... Anyway, at some point I became a blogger, bestselling author and contributor to Lonely Planet. So there's that. Drop me a line, I'm happy to hear from you.

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