Posted in English language, Spanish learners

5 reasons why Spanish are (or could be) good at learning English – according to an English teacher

As ’tis the season to be jolly‘, I’d like to begin this post on a positive note:

Actually, Spanish are or should be good at learning English for the following reasons:

Roots of English
Roots of English

Firstly, many words in English and Spanish share etymological roots. In other words, there are masses of Spanish and English cognates (maybe 40%). Spaniards have a fairly good chance of correctly guessing the meaning of a new lexical item for this reason. Sure, there are lots of false friends but they are not as numerous as the number of cognates or near cognates. Grammatical structures in the two languages – such as time and aspect – are not as dissimilar as between, for example, Hungarian and Thai, so communicative breakdown due to incorrect or inaccurate grammar can generally be resolved through reformulation.

Jobs for English speakers
Jobs for English speakers

Secondly, Spanish need to learn English. They are highly motivated (instrumental and increasingly integrative) and not only to pass exams. Young Spanish do not see their short-term future in Spain and are increasingly looking to go abroad to find work. In order to do so, they realise a good level of English is a major advantage and are opting to gain internationally recognised qualifications such as the FCE or CAE in favour of local exams which are not acknowledged abroad. Furthermore, in order to study at universities in Spain, it is now necessary to have a B1/B2 level in English. More money for the Cambridge coffers! The other point to mention here is that – perhaps for the first time ever – lots of Spanish speakers are able to communicate effectively in a second language from outside the Iberian peninsula. Positive role models are everywhere!

tv spanish learning english

Thirdly, Spanish can now watch TV shows in the original language. OK, this is not really an intrinsic quality that Spaniards possess but their love of ‘the idiot box’ means they can use it to improve their English. Lower level learners can listen to English and read Spanish subtitles if they wish and advanced students can challenge themselves and listen without a safety net. Constant exposure to the sound of English can only have a positive effect on speaking and listening skills, areas which were -until recently  – neglected in the teaching of English in Spain. Online or on TV, English is everywhere. As mentioned in a previous post, many Latin Americans have a better phonological awareness of English than most Spaniards. Well, watch this space – Spanish will catch up in no time.

Spain - still number 1 destination for Brits abroad
Spain – still number 1 destination for Brits abroad

Next reason, Spain is still an extremely attractive location for native English speakers. The country is full of Brits living it up in the sun and Americans living out their Hemingway fantasies. There are lots of English speakers in the big cities, a smattering in smaller towns, and, due to books such as ‘Driving over Lemons’, lots of older Brits living in the country. So finding teachers or language exchange partners is fairly easy. It’s a lot easier to have a beer with a Brit in Alicante than Algiers.

mouth

Finally, Spanish love to talk. Quickly, loudly, enthusiastically, forcefully. Once they have overcome their fear of embarrassment (el miedo al ridiculo), they love to converse in English. Remember the tertulia (a social gathering to discuss anything and everything) is an important feature in Spanish social and cultural life (just watch TV in the morning) and Spanish students, in my experience, really enjoy discussion activities, role-plays and giving presentations. You’ll find the most challenging part of setting up a speaking task will be ending it! Buy a Klaxon.

Can you think of any other reasons why Spanish should actually be successful learners of English?

Posted in Thoughts about TEFL Teaching

The Next Big Thing

I was recently invited by Liverpudlian artist and writer Derek Dohren to participate in ‘The Next Big Thing’, a set of chain posts from bloggers to bloggers around the world.

Derek, a former TEFL trainee of mine, has recently published The Cats of River Darro a witty account about the trials and tribulations of living in Granada. It’s a great read and I’d definitely recommend it to any TEFLers out there.

http://thecatsoftheriverdarro.wordpress.com/about/

So, thanks to Derek for passing the baton to me. I’ve got a steaming mug of black coffee in front of me and am ready for whatever is thrown at me.

What is the working title of your book?

Talking in a funny lingo – The Insider’s Guide to TEFL or 50 things you should know about TEFL

Where did the idea come from for the book?

man in suitcase

Many people dream of upping sticks and heading off to foreign climes. One way to make a living and get to know members of the local community is to become an English teacher. And if you do it well, it’s good for the soul and you make a positive impact on people’s lives.

However, there is not a lot of regulation in the TEFL industry, especially here in Spain. This means that there is a good deal of misinformation (inaccurate information that is spread unintentionally) and disinformation (inaccurate information that is spread intentionally) and far too many charlatans, swindlers, shysters, con artists, confidence tricksters and snake oil salesman around!

diploma

I’ve spent 15 years working in  TEFL and have spent time, effort and a substantial amount of cash getting professional qualifications. A TEFL course is quite an investment so I’d like to think that people can read my book and be able to make an informed decision about whether it’s for them or not and what they should do during and after the course.

What genre does your book fall under?

I suppose it would fall under the ‘How to’ genre. I’ve tried to include lots of anecdotes and interactive tasks to make it more accessible to the general reader. It’s not a dry, academic text!

What other books would you compare this work to within your genre?

I’m a fan of writers such as Malcolm Gladwell and Daniel Pink. I may not agree with everything they write but their casually informative prose style makes reading their work a pleasure. I’m certainly not in their league though!

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Ha ha! I consulted a few close friends on this one about who could play me in the dramatic re-enactments of some of the classroom experiences I refer to in the book. I bought a beer for the chap who suggested a younger Al Pacino but poured a beer over the head of the wag who suggested Ronnie Corbett (bespectacled, diminutive British comedian).

Of course, I’ll need someone to do a narrative voice-over. Morgan Freeman, Sir Ian McKellen or Clint Eastwood. Someone with gravitas. Or Brian Blessed, he’d be fantastic and keep viewers awake for sure.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

50 things you should know about TEFL but were too afraid to ask in case the person you asked happens to be an insufferable egomaniac.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I’ve been collecting questions for a couple of years but the actual writing only took about a month. Unfortunately, I’m not very detailed-oriented so proofreading and editing feels like pulling teeth. Anybody fancy doing it for me in exchange for a few beers?

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Positive inspirations would include many of the trainees I’ve taught over the years. To see somebody undergo a remarkable transformation from a trembling, gibbering pupa in front of a group of students into a calm, cool and collected educational butterfly in a month is a wonderful thing.

dodo

Then there are those TEFL charlatans I mentioned earlier with their negative inspiration. Any Tom, Dick or Harry can set up a language school or teaching training centre and convince people to part with their hard-earned cash and I would love to see these opportunists go the way of the dodo!

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Well, I’m currently writing an additional part about TEFL teaching here in Spain. It will include lots of useful tips about working in this marvellous, if frustrating, country, and links to online resources and lots of other goodies.

Phew, time for another coffee. Next week, we’ll be crossing the Atlantic and hearing from a couple of young American writers.

kellie

Kellie Joyce and Brittani Mann have been best friends since they were kids in the United States. In the summer of 2012 with college freshly them, they moved to Granada, Spain to spend a year teaching English and learning about a new culture, and maybe even picking up the language along the way. Sometime while they were looking for work as teachers, they managed to hatch fledgling careers in writing, a life-long passion. Both have novels being published in January.