How I became a Spanish teacher in England
My name is Valentina, I was born in the South of Spain, an Andalusian town called Sanlucar. It is a small fishermen’s town with amazing sunsets. I had lived there all my life until I became 24 and finished my degree. I didn’t think about UK as a destination but at University I studied a Primary teacher degree specialized in foreign language learning and there, they talked me about the language assistants’ programme. So, I applied for it, they gave me a vacancy and I landed in a Primary school in Blackpool two years ago. I didn’t mean to stay more than the nine months that the programme lasted. I found it really exciting to teach my mother language to British people, see how children were more able to communicate in my language and how through my intervention they love this language and its culture and feel enthusiastic about it. Then I started teaching adults at home and the experience was so heart-warming that I wanted to learn more to be able to do my best with them. I researched and read in this field and finally realized that I wanted to transmit my knowledge about my language and culture to others.
What is it that you enjoy about teaching Spanish?
During my primary school days I loved to teach and help my classmates, my mother always reminds me how I taught one of my classmates who had learning difficulties to read, and I wanted to be a teacher. This idea run out of my mind when I studied at high school and college, then I wanted to do a technical degree, maybe engineer or architect and I started architecture studies at the University. I left it in my second year because it makes me feel empty and I decided I would follow my childhood wish, becoming a teacher. Training to become a teacher felt exciting for me, I was looking forward to being in contact with the school life and being surrounded by small people who are just full of curiosity and being able to create the conditions for they to learn was simply amazing. This is the same feeling I still feel when get into a classroom, it is a mix of excitement and fear about how everything you have been planning would result, my head is a mess of questions and each day is an adventure and a new opportunity for learning to both me and my students.
What do your students say about you?
I guess what my students say about me depending also on the students. Mainly they like my naturality as a teacher, my closeness to students and the fact on focusing my lessons in real communication, prioritizing conversation that makes them feel more confident with the language.
Do you have any favourite phrases in Spanish?
I love the popular proverbs in my language, those sentences that grandparents say, and it is necessary to use them so they don’t get lost over time. The first made sentence I learn when I came to UK was “going with the flow”, and maybe for being the first I think this is my favourite phrase in English.
What tips do you have for Spanish language learners?
My two main tips for language learners are keeping it simple and make relationships with the languages they already know. Keeping it simple is more related to grammar and pronunciation, even if the language we receive or want to produce seems very complicated, the basis of them are usually them same, they would construct the language from their basic sentences, by making changes to them using different learnt rules. Using the basic to remember the main structure is easier than constructing language from nothing.
English people find especially difficult the grammar aspects of the Spanish language, Spanish grammar is very complex if we compare it to the English one. The words in Spanish sentences are connected between them and there are individual relationships for gender, number, person, objects, etc. Although English people can understand the rules and the whys behind Spanish language, its application to the oral language is more difficult for them, because there is no possibility of having a big think about how to construct the sentence or review it.
You cannot always look for parallels between Spanish and English; not every single word has a precise translation. But you can look for words or concept which share the root and remember vocabulary by relationships, i.e. the derivates from “beber” can be related them to “beverage” which sounds similar. The “false friends” are also a good tip for the opposite reason; words which sound similar cab have completely different meanings.
Outside of teaching, what do you enjoy?
Outside teaching I enjoy mainly good food and friends, and long walks to discover any place I haven’t been before. What I most love is the endless table talks with my family in my grandmother’s backyard where lunch time becomes dinner time.
I am from the south of Spain and maybe it could sound very typical Spanish, but this is how it is. In my home town I like walking along the beach at the sunset, meeting friends and never find the moment of coming back home, the long days of summer and its warm nights. I feel enchanted by the ad lib “flamenco parties” which suddenly are made in any small “tasca” in the out-of-the-ways places of Andalucia, where someone takes a guitar and people clap, sing and dancing without bothering about how well you do it, just for enjoying.