The Journey Begins

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Thanks for joining me!

This site will offer resources for those planning to take the Cambridge Delta. Initially, the site plans to focus on providing summaries of key reading texts for Module 1, but this first post focuses on how I came to be (maybe) taking the Delta as well as some of my doubts around it.

So … (long intake of breath) … My Delta journey actually started back in 2004. With five years of teaching experience, I had enrolled in a Trinity TESOL Diploma course at a language school in Bristol, UK. I had not re-signed my teaching contract in Korea at the time, and had packed up everything to move back to the UK especially for the course. After a day or two in the UK, and a few days before the course was due to start, I got an email to say that the course was cancelled because they had insufficient participant numbers. Totally peed off, I re-packed my suitcase and flew back overseas to look for another job. Fortunately, I ended up landing the best teaching job that I have still ever had to date, so things worked out for me quite nicely in the end, but it served a lesson to be cautious about this kind of thing happening again, and despite finding the good job, it was potentially the point at which I was to miss the Delta boat forever.

The next time a Delta/Trinity opportunity came around again was when I was back in the UK in 2007. I enrolled at the same place as before, purely because it was the most cost-effective and time-effective course running at that point, but the same thing happened again. At least I hadn’t flown back from the other side of the world especially for it. Then, I found myself all of a sudden working full-time in an office-based position, so I had no time to attend a Delta or Trinity course, and before I knew it, nearly ten years passed by out of the classroom. I managed to fit in an MA in Applied Linguistics in that time, which I’m very glad I did, as that has often held its own in the absence of having a Delta, and has often even been more advantageous.

Now in 2018 [do note this date as you’re reading, as some of the information further down particularly about specific course providers may change as the years go by], I have a few recent-ish short-term teaching contracts behind me, and so I thought it was time to re-investigate the Delta options, since it’s now already going on ten years since I completed my MA degree, and I feel it’s time for a new ‘major’ qualification. The aforementioned language school in Bristol still runs the Trinity Diploma course (with exactly the same syllabus that I saw back in 2004), but it’s now spread over a full year rather than being an intensive short course, and I’m not prepared to be for pretty much a whole year out of full-time work. It seems that in contrast, the Cambridge Delta has moved on a bit over the past few years in that now it’s possible to take one, two, or three of the modules at any time and at any place, including preparing for modules one and three completely independently of any course provider. This gives a lot of flexibility – although you do need to complete all three modules to achieve full Delta qualified status.

I looked through all the course providers listed on the Cambridge Delta website, and weighed up my options, and my conclusions kept revolving around cost. The disappointment of not being able to take the Trinity course 15 years ago particularly surfaces here because the total cost of the course at that time was around 1,000 GBP. Compare that with the cost of taking the course now. (MA degree courses have gone through a similar tripling in costs over the same time period.) In a couple of places (e.g., London and, surprisingly, Thailand), the total cost of a course can exceed 5,000 GBP once you factor in travel and accommodation for the course period as well. In my view, that’s a LOT to pay for a three-month course, and it started raising the additional question of whether a course that contains as much content as the Delta could really be ‘learned’ in earnest over a mere three months. I think not.

The Cambridge Delta module two, the practical teaching module including observation, is THE financial beast. The best way I see it to get the Delta is to work at a school that will offer you access to the Delta course either for free or heavily subsidized, often after when you’ve worked for a certain period there. There is at least one school in Italy and a university in Turkey as well as some British Council schools that seem to offer this. Great if you want to teach in those places and get hired by them. However, if you are planning to take all three modules and pay for them out of your own pocket, there are only one or two locations around the world (e.g., Hungary and Turkey) where it is not overly expensive to take all three modules, but you need to be based in those locations for a full year, which is fine if you are there already with a teaching or other position that can fit around the course. There are also a couple of places that run a more reasonably priced course (e.g., Georgia) over the summer, but I’m currently relying on getting a guaranteed chunk of income from teaching on pre-sessional courses in the UK over the summer, so I don’t want to wipe out a few thousand pounds of earnings by taking the Delta course in the summer. Another possible option for me seems to be LAL school in Torbay, UK, where they offer a potentially decently scheduled course for my circumstances between January and June, with only a six-week on-site requirement in Jan/Feb. However, because I had a significant authoring commission assigned at the end of last year, I couldn’t sign up for that course this year, and I do worry about something similar happening next year. How can I justify trading in perhaps 10,000+ GBP of freelance work for a Delta?

What exactly do I need a Delta for? A good question. This is something that I fail to come up with a solid answer for that would justify investing as much as 5,000 GBP in the course. While I enjoy teaching, I’m not yet sure whether I would want to teach again permanently in posts that require over 25 hours of contact time as well as lots of additional prep and marking hours. I’m also looking for posts that involve adult teaching, but generally fall within a 9-5 ish work day and take place on one site, which also eliminates a LOT of positions. Added to that is the potential drop in availability of Europe-based positions following Brexit. Then, looking at job ads that DO fit my bill, 99% of them don’t require candidates to hold a Delta, and that actually, an MA is more commonly requested. It seems that the posts I do generally need a Delta for that could be of interest are British Council schools and a few UK universities. The question then, that as I approach 50 years of age, which I also now painfully notice starts to become a screening factor in itself, since some teaching jobs have a cut off age of about 30 (yikes!), is how detrimental will it be to the rest of my career to never have the opportunity to teach at a Delta-requiring school? Perhaps not much.

I’ve also gone through a lengthy questioning process about whether I should instead try for a PhD, but I also wonder about the gains of such a heavy time and money investment, plus I can’t think of a topic focus in the area of linguistics that I would like to study for three years straight.

Therefore, I have currently come to the conclusion that it is worthwhile for me to at least pursue taking the Delta module one exam and then to see whether there might be the right, low-cost opportunities to take the other modules at a later point in time. At present, I’m going to aim to take the module one exam this December (there are two exam points in the calendar year for modules one and three, and those are June and December). However, because my freelance editing and writing work is COMPLETELY unpredictable, this plan could end up getting completely shelved. Mainly for that reason, I’m going to attempt to take the exam as an independent candidate – i.e., not studying through an official course provider – so as not to waste any course enrollment fees in the event freelance work takes over and I’m unable to commit to my studies. That means I’m going to really need to know what I’m doing, and this blog is in part for those who need to be efficiently organized, as it will mean that I have done a lot of the short-cutting prep work for you. If the blog goes silent, it means that freelance work has overtaken my Delta plans.

There are already some GREAT blog resources out there to help prepare for the Delta. Lizzie Pinard and Sandy Millin (blog roll links in right nav bar) have among the best Delta accounts that I have seen (please do comment if you know of any other great blogs or resources for Delta generally), with really detailed advice on what to do and what not to do when approaching the exam papers. ELT Concourse (again, link on right) offers a fantastic free Module 1 prep course with lots of resources and practice tests. Therefore, I’m not the first with this site, but my focus on the recommended reading text material aims to be different from what else is out there. I’ll aim to put a reading list up and discuss it in a later post.

Finally-ish, what I do I recommend for those who have neither the Delta or the MA? I would recommend foremost getting the MA with an observed teaching component on top of your TESOL/TEFL certificate. If you take the MA, also be warned that some posts will not accept what they consider to be an online/distance MA, so consider carefully which MA you opt for.

Finally final, for those wondering “Do I take Trinity Diploma or do I take Delta?” I’d say with the confidence of having surveyed the EFL jobs market for the past twenty years that it REALLY doesn’t matter. (In fact, some employers will still not know what a ‘Delta’ or ‘Diploma’ is.) Historically, the Trinity TESOL evolved out of concerns of a lack of practical element of the Delta, but nowadays, both courses offer pretty much the same fare. The ‘Delta’ name does seem to appear more often in Delta-level requiring job posts, but doing both courses will be as equally demanding and as equally accepted. If the people hiring understand what a Delta is, they’ll also recognize Trinity Diploma as well. The main thing is to have some observed teaching practice as part of your course.

Added: ELT Sponge has just added a post which compares ‘alternative’ Deltas: https://spongeelt.wordpress.com/2018/08/13/delta-the-alternatives/

Good luck (to me!!).