Teaching English and learning Spanish

I graduated from TEFL Barcelona in September 2011 and proceeded to find an abundance of work in Barcelona; private classes in family homes, contracted work in primary and secondary schools as well as cash in hand work for friends and colleagues. I can safely say, with no doubt in my mind whatsoever, that the three years I spent living and working as a TEFL teacher were the best 3 years of my life. I learned how to teach a foreign language, I learned a lot about behaviour management in the classroom, I met so many incredible people (many of which I remain in contact with today) and I learned a second language of my own too.

Learning another language is no easy feat and even after living in a Spanish speaking country for 3 years I still have a long way to go. I feel like I almost learnt it backwards in the sense that I just picked up the language from listening and speaking. For this reason, my grammar isn’t great, my reading is slow and my writing reflects that of a child! However, when people speak to me in Spanish, I feel like I have a confident understanding and if there is anything I don’t quite follow I have no issue with asking someone to repeat themselves.

Living with a Spanish family and working in a nightclub

The first summer after I got my TEFL Certificate, I worked for a Spanish family who spent their holidays in Valencia and the mountains of Madrid. I worked as a Nanny but also as an English teacher for their 3 young children. I lived with them for 2 months in total and it worked out really well from the point of view that I was immersed in the language and culture; therefore, enabling me to pick it up much quicker than I would have done if I had just spent the summer chilling on the beach with my predominantly English-speaking friends!

In the third year that I spent in Barcelona I also started working part-time for a nightclub, planning and organising events. My boss was from Columbia and spoke no English whatsoever which meant that my Spanish improved significantly in the time that I worked there because everything had to be done in Spanish (including emails, all social media management, and staff meetings) I felt really proud of myself for working in this kind of role as it was something I had always been interested in and the fact that I managed to side-step into it from a teaching background was really great. Unfortunately, my contract came to an end there and due to some unforeseen circumstances, I moved back to the UK in 2014.

El Camino de Santiago

From 2014 until the beginning of this year I worked in several teaching roles, and classroom support roles. I worked in pastoral and behaviour, as well as in a counselling role too. I took a break from the school environment a year and a half ago and decided to take on the challenge of walking El Camino de Santiago in September 2018. This was by far the most challenging thing I have ever attempted, but also the most incredible by far. It took me 36 days to walk the 800kms and I did the whole thing on my own. Of course, I met incredible friends along the way and spent many days walking in their company; but reaching Santiago de Compostella was an achievement I feel I achieved alone, and it made me feel like I could really just do anything! I know for certain that without the TEFL course, my new-found interest in language learning and my drive to improve my Spanish, I would not have even heard of the walk, let alone thought I could complete it.

South America

After returning from the walk I took a job as a Duty Manager at family run local country pub and restaurant. I loved my time there (and I may even go back for some summer work) but after a year and a half I felt that I needed to push myself to learn, grow and challenge myself in another way. I had no idea where to begin in terms of a career change so I just Googled ‘voluntary work in South America’ as a starting point because I had always wanted to travel around that part of the world and obviously the pull of a Spanish speaking culture was pretty significant. I eventually found an internship that appealed to me profoundly and I am delighted to say that I was accepted after my skype interview (which was conducted in Spanish)

My volunteer work in Peru

Fast forward to today- I am currently living in Arequipa, Peru volunteering for an incredible NGO called HOOP (Helping Overcome Obstacles Peru) http://www.hoopperu.org/ that supports people in the community of Flora Tristan through a mixture of English Learning, social and psychological assistance as well as helping connect with appropriate health services. I am working as part of the social work team and we focus predominantly on the Mothers of the children that are enrolled with HOOP. When the children have workshops and classes the Mums do the same with myself and the others in my team. Term begins the middle of next month so at the moment my job consists of home visits, socio/economic interviews and planning the forthcoming workshops with my boss. There are many English speakers that work for HOOP, however, the majority of what I have been doing so far has been in Spanish, and I feel really good about that because I feel it is the best way for me to improve and make sure the language sticks. (After 4 years back in the UK I was feeling like I was starting to forget it and that made me feel really sad because I had worked so hard to get to the level I had)

After HOOP

I plan on staying with HOOP until the beginning of May when I will head up to Cusco and hopefully climb Machu Pichu for my birthday! I would like to travel around Peru and hopefully other parts of South America before I fly back to the UK at the end of May but I don’t have an exact route sorted out yet. I know that none of these adventures would have been possible without the catalyst of my TEFL course and my time in Barcelona. I’m not sure what my next plan will be after this little adventure comes to an end, but I do feel quietly comforted by the fact that I could at any point gain employment teaching English in any corner of the globe.

Muchísimas gracias TEFL Barcelona ( Especialmente Erwin, los profesores y mis companeros de clase! Ya tu sabes quien son !)

By Kelly Page

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