Walking tour in Coronavirus times... The good old days, huh?

Why did you study to become a teacher of Spanish?

If I’m going to be honest about my story I will tell you that I didn't choose to become a language teacher, it chose me. After graduating from high school and a year studying English, I was going through the list of degrees I could study at university. I crossed out everything related to health, engineering, and pure sciences. The only faculty left: Humanities. Then I saw one called “Licenciatura en Lenguas Extranjeras”. I wasn’t sure what “licenciatura” meant but I knew foreign languages sounded right to me and I was very much willing to learn English and French. Learning languages was my thing, so I went for it. 

Every year, only 40 students are accepted by the university I was applying to. I sat all the exams, interviews and surveys required. And out of the 500 people who applied back in 2008, I was lucky enough to be one of the 40. 

On my first day of uni, we had a welcoming party. We were divided into small groups to introduce ourselves to one another and meet some of the head teachers. We were grouped with one of them and she asked us: “Please introduce yourselves and say what motivated you to become a teacher.” I frowned. I was awkwardly surprised. I asked ther: “Why do you think we want to be teachers?” and she replied a bit surprised too “Well, that’s what a licenciatura is for, to become a teacher.” I had to keep quiet, since I was the only one who thought studying for 5 years to become a teacher was not what I had signed up for. 

However, I will also tell you that after having my first student for a private class, I fell in love with teaching. I was so proud and happy to see his progress after 6 months. I was so pleased to see him having fluent conversations with other people. And I was so satisfied with the experience that I decided to apply to work at a school one year later.


When did you begin teaching Spanish?

I worked as an English teacher for about 8 years in Cali, Colombia. One day, one of my friends told me he was looking for a teacher for his new Spanish School. I told him I had heaps of experience, but not with Spanish. So it was only in 2018 that I started learning the grammar of my own language and working with people from all over the world. I found it fascinating and decided I wanted a similar experience too.


How did you start in Australia?

A week before arriving in Australia, I wrote a post on a Colombian Facebook group saying a bit about myself and also, asking about a car service from the airport to my friend's place. Two days after my arrival in Melbourne, I got a message from a member of the group sending me an ad about a Spanish school looking for Spanish teachers. I sent my CV and two days later I had an interview. Nearly 2 years on, here I am!


What is a loveable aspect of teaching Spanish in Australia?

English is the most spoken language in the world. If you want to communicate, English is the language. However, I find it so loveable and humbling that Australians want to learn Spanish not because they need it but because they want it. Most of the students I’ve had just want to learn because they have a friend, a special someone or simply want to travel around and enjoy learning a foreign language.

Also, I believe the fact that we were forced to learn online actually brought us closer together. Meeting my students every night (sometimes morning) was the highlight of my day. It felt like my daily motivation to keep going and smile everyday.


What is the most challenging aspect of teaching Australians?

I guess the most challenging aspect when teaching (not only Australians but every single person) is that nothing is easy in life and learning a language is definitely not an exception. It's important to help others understand that it's a process that will take us time and effort but if we enjoy it and are patient and loving with ourselves, we can do it! 

Right after things get too challenging, they only get easier. Once they have got the yeast of Spanish, they will get the rest ‘super fácil’.


Do you have any suggestions for how students can better prepare for each class?

I believe 1.5 hours a week is just a sneak peak at the process of learning Spanish. I usually recommend my students  take a look at the things done in class and a bit more so they refresh their knowledge. It’s good to do some autonomous work and always talk to classmates to know what tools they’re using to learn a bit more. Practice makes perfect.


Walking in Melbourne. The only activity we could do during lockdown

My favorite country to go traveling is... Of course Colombia! So many monuments near the beach!

What do you think the best method for memorisation is?

In my experience, drilling and practice with other people have been the best exercises. Nowadays, technology and apps make a huge difference too.

Also, when you learn a new word you should use it as much as possible within a week so it sinks into your memory and becomes part of your vocabulary.


What teaching methods do you like to bring to the classroom?

There’s one called the communicative approach. This is when we give real meaning to the use of language and it’s not isolated in chunks. We get involved in communicative scenarios that could actually happen and this brings out natural strategies for language acquisition. This is why I like to bring games into my classes, and also create discussions. 


Is there a common question that students ask about the acquisition of Spanish? And your answer?

The common question that students ask about the acquisition of Spanish is “how long will it take me to be fluent?” Well, this is a good and hard question! We are all different. We have different ways to learn, rhythms, and skills. It will all depend on how much time we spend studying, practicing and revising. It depends if we have learnt another language before. And especially, it depends on what our motivation is! 


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