A Tale in TEFL: Running to Spain to Teach and Live the Fluency Dream
Will Peach is one of the lovely site editors over at Gap Daemon, the gap year community website for backpackers and gap year travellers.
TEFL teachers, now there’s a varied bunch eh? I’ve had the pleasure to meet a lot in my time. From the weird, to the kooky, to the overtly serious; classrooms around the world are brimming with colourful characters – and I don’t mean the posters on the walls!
The reason I’ve met a lot of in my time? Well, partly because I am one. I’ve worked in Vietnam, Russia, parts of the US, even in my own country the UK, and never once met a stereotypical teacher yet.
But you know what? I’ve not met many either, who, ironically given the nature of the job, can speak a second language. I can’t help but think that’s kind of a double standard. How are you supposed to sympathise with language learners, if you yourself have never been one?
That’s why I have a new goal. My latest and greatest adventure? The exercise of pairing TEFL with the aim of achieving Spanish fluency. How am I faring? I guess you’ll have to read on. Maybe you can seek some inspiration to do the same in whatever part of the world you are.
(The colour of the sky in this photo is making us jealous already…)
The Beginning of a Dream
This whole idea started from my years spent living abroad, immersed in foreign cultures only to return home with little else than my own bumbling – yet grammatically correct – English.
One day I simply said to myself, this is enough.
I hedged my bets on Spanish, knowing that it was one of the most widely spoken languages, comparatively close to English and one that could bring a shed load of opportunity. With that I said goodbye to London, cut my ties and jumped ship to Spain.
All with only six months of language study. Risky? Maybe. Crazy? A little!
The Foundation of a Dream
I’ve washed up on the shores – or rather landed inland – in a small city called Cáceres, close to the Portuguese border. Having taken a 24-hour a week job in a small academy on the city outskirts, I’m sitting pretty in an apartment in the centre of the city enjoying all the perks of this wonderful lifestyle.
(Is that a raincloud in the distance? Thought not…)
What perks? I hear you ask.
Well let’s start with this.
October, back in good ol’ Blighty, is usually when the winter warmers start to come out and the shivers start right? Yet here in Extremadura, Spain, the sun continues to shine down every day providing glorious opportunity to bask like an iguana upon the rocks of the old towns before later heading out to evening class.
Want more? How about the food?
Whether it’s tapas, raciones or a good old feast on a hamburger (not for me though as a vegetarian) or omelette, Spain’s got you covered. People don’t go out to eat until late, preferring to take a nice little snooze beforehand. Cheap too.
But enough about the lifestyle. You want to know how I’m doing on my dream of fluency right?
Realizing a Dream
As all us teachers know, being required to speak in English for a large percentage of our day (our working hours) can make it particularly difficult to apprehend and practice a new language.
That’s where you’ve got to be disciplined.
One of the main reasons I chose this part of Spain, as opposed to Madrid or Barcelona is that I knew that the opportunity for practice would be rife.
The basic level of English here is very low so people are very unlikely to switch or try and talk to you in your native tongue as you go about your daily business.
I’ve had to discipline myself to learn new vocabulary each day, put it into practice with strangers by introducing myself and making sure I socialise and kick back only in the target language.
Yes it can be difficult switching back to English in the classroom, especially when you notice the leaps and bounds in progress you’re making outside, yet by creating an immersive experience around you there’s really no other reason to worry.
Looking to the Future
As for me and Spanish, I’d safely say making the decision to leap abroad and learn – in a different frame of my mind than before – will prove to be one of the most significant moments of my life.
The benefits it’s already bringing, inside of a month, tell, that given a year, opportunities will be falling thick and fast.
Not only am I learning more about Spanish people, getting under the skin of the culture and discovering what it is that makes them tick, but I’m also enhancing my career, my skills and building something more than simply a 24 hour-a-week TEFL career.
Worth making the leap? Definitely.
Don’t hesitate. Get a TEFL job and dive right in.
What a hard life. Would you LOOK at the colour of that sky??
- Thanks to Will Peach from Gap Daemon!
Interested in becoming a guest blogger for i-to-i TEFL? Email email@example.com and we’ll be happy to hear from you! We generally ask for your blogs to revolve around TEFL in some way, along with photos to make us green with envy, but we’re fairly relaxed and also like talking about reality TV sometimes!