Guestblog: Smoking, Spanglish and Spanish in Madrid

Guestblog: Smoking, Spanglish and Spanish in Madrid Madrid by /mrpunto

This article was written by Katy Howe, published on 19th October 2010 and has been read 3268 times.

My year as a British Council Language Assistant, teaching English to Madrid’s secondary school students, was a great opportunity to boost my language skills and my confidence, and reignite a passion for Spanish that years of stuffy classrooms and endless verb tables had practically snuffed out. My official role was being a Language Assistant though from my very first day, I took whole classes of Spanish teens by myself and quickly grasped imperative commands to be quiet, sit down and listen! 
Though I was instructed to speak solely in English, I sometimes felt my words fell on deaf ears and I would often give the students instructions in English first, then Spanglish, then finally Spanish! On my first day whilst being given a tour of the school, I questioned a fellow teacher about the cloud of smoke coming from the bathrooms on the third floor, but my concern was greeted with surprise - ’WHAT?! You don’t smoke?!’ and  I soon became accustomed to seeing the school gates shrouded in a cloud of cigarillo as teacher and students puffed away together.

During breaks I would take my café con leche with fellow teachers which really built up my confidence, my vocabulary as well...I eventually worked out that that Professor Luis didn’t literally find a student making himself his own tail ('hacer la rabona'), but rather skipping classes. Yet another Spanish idiom to add to the list of colloquial phrases. After a year in Madrid I almost felt like a local; I’d certainly mastered daily siestas and felt confident to converse with any madrileño - mumbling old señores included.

My experience left me convinced that I wanted to use my languages in my graduate career, and I’d always been reassured with the phrase ‘you can do anything with languages’. But if you don’t want to go into translating, and the thought of a city job makes you yawn before you can say ‘graduate scheme’, it’s very difficult to know where to start in the scary ‘real world’. My first graduate opportunity was the result of hours and hours of internet searches, though they all proved worthwhile when I stumbled on the winning advert: passionate about travel and marketing?...err Sí Señor!! offer inspirational holiday courses in over 30 countries worldwide and cover anything from Tango and Spanish in Buenos Aires to Yoga and Scuba Diving in Egypt, so it’s easy to be excited by the vast range of inspirational holiday courses the company offers. From my time in Madrid I learnt that although knowing your subjunctive from your superlative will put you top of the class, it’s joining an experience to the target language that really ensures you re-establish your linguistic flair.

So, as a firm believer in language immersion courses as the most effective tool in grasping the lingo, I feel genuinely passionate about the product. My time spent learning bizarre idioms from fellow teachers in the staff room and madrileños on the metro has come in use, as I’m now working on some fun blogs for the site for people to brush up on their Spanish slang and funny phrases. I’m also working on developing the company’s language + activity combination courses which involves using my Spanish to liaise with potential suppliers as I research new and exciting courses. My days are varied and could involve talking to someone about a Spanish course in Madrid (clearly I could talk all day about Madrid!), looking for new photography holidays, or coming over all serene as I write descriptions for our amazing luxury yoga holidays in Thailand. No two days are the same and it’s satisfying to see how my second language can directly help develop product, communicate with people from Spain to Venezuela and really help to drive the business forward. 

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