In the late winter/early spring of this year, a few of my fellow Kerouac-jaded teacher comrades met up as per usual in our local Viennese watering hole to begin the evening – as is often indicative of our ‘types’ – to sink beers and hope that the alcohol levels in our blood streams would take on that magical metamorphosis which I can only imagine a visit to a doctor’s would for a strip of Valium, or something more potent, replicate in our diffused minds at the end of another exhausting week’s teaching English as a foreign language.
Despite the gradual inability to remember other people’s names and then, eventually, our own, we nonetheless huddled in that corner pine wood bar cubicle; amorously complaining about our underpaid career choice and the overpaid claims made by the various TEFL courses which we had originally signed up for to begin a new life abroad.
So why the disparity in our circumstances?
Were we the last dregs of society who couldn’t get it together once a week to have earned enough to splash out on wiener schnitzel and sacher torte, like our TEFL courses claimed would comprise of the cement of our high-rise building structure as teachers in this city; voted for the past 2 years as the most livable city in the world to live in? Were we zeta females and males who if we had stayed in our own respective countries could hardly have even worked out the dynamic intricacies of completing a McDonald’s job application form?
My ex-girlfriend might agree, but somewhere along the linear journey of moving to Vienna there had been a road to Damascus which had literally left us as plain ol’ Saul.
With the inevitable orders of Jagermeister bombs digestively introducing themselves onto our table, we each compared stories of the promises bestowed upon us by the TEFL courses we took, and with a couple of us still able to use our opposable thumbs, we began reviewing the student reviews which had ultimately swayed us into late evening clicks of a mouse with credit card at hand, that had driven our decision to commit to a TEFL course which was so glowing with reviews that it could have lit the night sky up in the middle of a Swedish winter’s afternoon.
Btw, the TEFL Course Review website which had immorally hook, line and sinkered us is one of the most popular on the internet – actually offering paid advertising to the TEFL courses reviewed on its site. A conflict of interests, possibly? We won’t mention the name of the site because how they conduct their business is their choice of lifestyle.
Still with at least a third of our cognitive abilities charged, despite the order for a second round of Jagers, we carefully read each review – like calligraphy forensics – and a pattern began to emerge.
Words like “overall”, “I”, “Highly recommended”, etc., shone in the same way among those other filler words that we couldn’t help but feel sort of John Forbes Nash inspired.
These were not reviews written by TEFL graduates. These were carefully (sometimes sloppy) fictional tales of a company’s product, written in the guise of a TEFL course graduate.
’TEFL’ btw is an acronym for Teaching English as a Foreign Language.
Yes, the acronym explanation entered this article a little late, but better late than never.
Let’s time travel now to the now. Due to our disgust, we decided to set up our own TEFL reviews website: Trusted TEFL Reviews. Why? Partly for something to do to fill in the time between the few classes we were actually being offered as American citizens in an EU country. But also, because we wanted to clean up the TEFL reviews business.
And that is when Trusted TEFL Reviews became established.
It was going to be a simple operation:
- No advertising.
- No fake reviews.
- Giving the TEFL schools the opportunity to respond to critical or positive reviews.
- Provide people with a site that was based on fact.
So this morning, we were very charmed that one of the schools listed on Trusted TEFL Reviews emailed us to complain that their school were receiving poorly-rated reviews on Trusted TEFL Reviews and could we possibly delete their school from our reviews website. A point worth noting here though is that their reviews were actually not poorly-rated. They were just not 100% rated. That’s all. And even Apple don’t have a 100% review rating.
We made a quick check of their online reviews on other sites and only saw Swedish winter glowing reviews and then the penny dropped. They were (perhaps) either planting their own reviews, (perhaps) paying people for reviews – they do have an affiliate program where graduates earn money by recommending the course – or, they are simply the best company in the world with hardly any negative reviews which would not only have lit up a winter’s Swedish dark forest, but in fact the whole of the dark side of the moon too.
They were not threatening though and were actually polite, although we have only received one email from them so far and for their benefit, we are not (at this time) going to name them.
The irony is that the reviews received from their graduates on Trusted TEFL Reviews were all verified as being written by course graduates. If we were living in North Korea then perhaps we could have expected an urgent visitation in the early morning for a swift trip off to a gulag – our friends and family also being thrown into forced labor. But maybe our early morning imagination is now running wild with paranoiac, distorted logic.
But this is 2019 and we don’t live in North Korea. We live in the European Union.
Our reply was that all marketing is positive and that we would welcome them to ask more of their graduates to submit reviews of their course experiences (without affiliate code vouchers).
So, please watch this space and if there are any further developments from cordiality to outright Kim Jong Un tactics then we shall respond accordingly, but in a rather taciturn, European Union, democratically polite way.
They say that society is 3 meals away from revolution. And while this may be true, I also believe that society is one restrictive free press option away from regressing back to the days when the Soviets ran the only one (legally recognized) Pravda newspaper.
All of our past relatives have fought wars, many of us have demonstrated, some people have self-immolated. Others have gone on hunger strikes. And what for? For the simple, human right to freedom of speech and expression.
So, if you happen to be reading this (anonymous online TEFL school) we sincerely wish to express that we are not out to get you. We are not out to get anyone. The reviews published of your TEFL program are genuine and we accept all genuine reviews. Surely, if you have so many positive reviews published online, on other websites, then it wouldn’t take much to have some of your graduates turn to Trusted TEFL Reviews to also voice their course feedback. And we look forward to it. We only wish you well and continued success with your international online TEFL certification course program.
Written by Mia Williams for Trusted TEFL Reviews.