Working From Home in the Czech Republic by Pearl Harris

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Today we have the pleasure of a guest post from the accomplished author, second language English teacher, proofreader and editor, Pearl Harris who has recently written a book “From Africa to Bukova”

Born within sight of the red sand dunes of the Kalahari, PEARL HARRIS lived most of her life in South Africa, until taking the drastic step of emigrating with her husband, Ian, to the Czech Republic (with their Labrador and cat).

Teaching English as a Foreign Language to the Czechs—a new career for the author—has its joys and trials, which Pearl shares with the reader in “From Africa to Bukova”.
You will also learn about her early childhood on an isolated South African farm and about her British Settler ancestor who chose to emigrate from England to Africa as a 19-year-old, spending the rest of his life in South Africa.

Pearl’s travel articles have been published in South African magazines, “Diversions” and “Your Family”, and in Czech magazines, “Lifestyles” and “Bridge”, as well as on the websites, and

Pearl taught English at the České Budĕjovice branch of POLYGLOT from 2002 to 2007. At present, she works from home as an English teacher, proofreader and travel writer. The Czech Republic has become her permanent home.

Working from Home in the Czech Republic
Pearl Harris

Nearly eight years ago, my husband and I emigrated from East London to Buková, a tiny village in South Bohemia, near the Czech border with Austria.

I started off teaching English (EFL) at a private language school which was situated 30km. from Buková in the city of České Budějovice. Teaching was the last career I ever wanted to follow, but this was the only employment available to someone without the slightest Czech language ability.

English is in great demand in this country, especially since its inclusion in the EU. In former days (the communist era lasted for 40 years) only Czech and Russian were taught at school. Czechs were not allowed to travel and were totally isolated, so now there is great hunger to learn English as an international language.

In South Africa, I worked as a Radiographer and later as a Medical Transcriptionist for Radiologists. The latter work was particularly stressful as I worked under extreme pressure in a very busy X-ray dept. of a private hospital.

I had to type at such a rapid rate, for so many hours on end, that I developed osteo-arthritis in my fingers!

Before leaving S.A., Ian and I did a crash course in TEFL at the Cape Town TEFL Institute, so that, when thrown in at the deep end of teaching here, we had a slight inkling of what it involved. I taught for five years at the private language school, travelling to and from České Budějovice at unearthly hours—in snow, blizzards and pitch darkness in Winter. My students were mainly adults who attended classes either before or after work, hence the awkward teaching hours.

By 2007, deciding that I had had enough of teaching, I resigned from the school, but kept teaching a few private students who came to our home for lessons. This was so much easier! I then wanted to develop my proofreading business, which had been a mere sideline, due to the fact that I was spending most of my time teaching and travelling!

I found a great demand for English proofreading. This is because Czech to English is translated mainly by Czech speakers, there not being anything like enough English native speakers sufficiently fluent in the impossibly difficult Czech language! Therefore, the English translations are anything but perfect –as is to be expected when one is translating into your 2nd or 3rd language!

Today, one still sees hilarious translations on some restaurant Menus and online. Many translators still mistakenly consider themselves good enough not to warrant any proofreading. However, fortunately for me, there are many today who realise they do need proofreading in order to produce quality translations. This has been especially noticeable since the Czech Republic became a member of the EU and recently held the Presidency.

I began by advertising on an Expats website, which chiefly serves the expatriate community in Prague. Many employers advertise on this site for English native speakers. In this way, I slowly built up a regular clientele. The average fee for proofreading is 100Kc per norm page (1800 keystrokes) – which is about R50. For more specialised texts, the fee may be up to 180 Kc (R90) per page.

I often proofread texts for university students and lecturers. Many theses and academic papers today have to be published in English. Further, I do regular proofreading for “Statuss”, which is an upmarket mag. catering to the elite, published in Russian, Czech & English. I also proofread for an agency which publishes monthly business magazines in English.

Now that my time is my own, I have been fortunate in being able to develop my travel writing too. My articles are published on the websites: and as well as in “Bridge” a Prague magazine for High School English students, and in the South African, “Diversions”. So I am fortunate in being able to combine my love of travel with earning something back after our travels.

Ian and I are both keen photographers and usually illustrate my articles with our own photos. Living in Central Europe is such a huge bonus—however, we never have enough time or money to travel as much as we would really like to!

In December, 2008, I finally went the self-publishing route and published my travel memoir, “From Africa to Buková”, through (See details below.) The book deals with individual funny, not-so-funny & frustrating incidents during our early years as immigrants in the Czech Republic. I would ideally like to rewrite and polish it, but that will have to wait until (if ever) I get a regular publisher interested!

I send my chilled greetings to all the VAs in sunny South Africa!

Pearl Harris.

Book From Africa to Buková

may be ordered online from:
OR Books
by contacting Pearl Harris at