Tag Archives: Teaching English

catalan independence, catalonia, independence vote, barcelona, #CatalanWay #ViaCatal

Catalan Independence: What are Spanish teens saying about it?

“Unwanted, leaching burden to bear” says one. “Lowly, ignorant and harebrained deserters” says the other. Or something to that effect– I’m sure there are plenty of even more colourful ways of putting it in both Castellano and Catalan.

Whichever side you’re on though, one thing’s for sure: this is a political shooting match that will regularly take place in Spanish media, Spanish homes and old-Spanish-man bars for a very, very long time.

To me it looks as though there will never be any sort of Catalonian referendum, whether legitimate or otherwise, given that the Spanish government will never– ever, ever, ever –gainsay the words of their precious constitución. But the Catalans– or at the very least 80% of those that voted in last month’s straw poll –will keep on fighting and gaining support, from within and beyond their region, for as long as Rajoy and his tumbling government fail to justify why Catalonia should remain a part of Spain.

As an expat living in Andalucía, I would hate to see Catalonia break with Spain, yet I can understand perfectly why on the whole they so desperately want to, and their exasperation with a relentlessly obstinate government.

catalan independence, catalonia, independence vote, barcelona, #CatalanWay #ViaCatal

Source: WIkicommons

In my experience, whenever I have raised the nettlesome matter of Catalan independence with Spanish adults, there has seldom been room for compromise or understanding; ‘son antipatriotas’, ‘irrespetuosos’, ‘no valoran la constitución’, or so it often goes.

Thus, we are brought to the point of this blog post.

Following the poll, which– for those of you that missed it –counted for nothing other than to exhibit the leaning towards severance from Spain, I decided to pick my advanced (English-speaking) students’ teenage brains, all of them 100% Granadino, in the hope of educing something a little more discerning. It is purely due to my own lack of organisation and recent blog neglect (been busy) that it has taken me until now to publish my findings.

Their task was to write a 250-word opinion piece, in the style of– ironically –a blog post. I thought it about time to test their blogging skills, despite it being a pen-to-paper assignment and blogging not being even closely relevant to the C1 level of English they are striving for (even though it should be). I should charge extra I tell you!

Anyway. The results?

Well, the teacher in me could not bring himself to publish grammatically/orthographically incorrect English, so any instances of poor spelling and verb choices have been duly rectified. The content, however, remains the same, and is a rather intriguing mix of balanced, considered, exaggerated and extremist…

What do you think? Are they right or wrong?

“We’re currently experiencing an economical crisis so public spending has been cut, despite the taxes staying the same. Catalunya may pay more in tax but we all need to work together, and suffer together, in order to overcome this crisis”.

“If Catalunya wins independence, it would not be an EU member, so recovering from the crisis would be even harder for them”.

“If Catalonia wins independence, it will not be able to sustain itself; it will go down the pan”.

“I can understand the Catalans’ desire to become an independent state because right now there are difficult times in Spain, but where was this burning desire when things were going well? Those in favour of becoming independent were a minority then. Now they want to desert a country who has supported them and their region’s economy. They would regret it in years to come”.

“Catalans do not realise that they are in fact being robbed by their own government; the Generalitat is full of corrupt politicians who exploit the independence movement for their own personal gain”.

“Dirty, fraudulent politicians are using the Catalan spirit to hide their crimes”.

“One of their main arguments is the matter of paying too much tax and not receiving enough in return. This may be true but tax is higher there for a reason; tourism generates millions of euros every year– much more than anywhere else in Spain –so I think they should pay more. Poorer provinces such as Extramedura and Murcia need support from richer provinces like Catalonia, in order to survive through these difficult times”.

auxiliares de conversacion, language assistant, spain

Work in Spain as a Language Assistant

Each year, Spain’s Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport operate a nationwide programme called ‘Auxiliares de Conversación Extranjeros en España‘ – Foreign Language Assistants in Spain. The programme is set up in order to benefit both Spanish school children, whose English language skills and respective cultural awareness are invariably enhanced, and graduates or final year undergraduates, who want to experience life in Spain, improve their Spanish and gain a deeper understanding of Spanish culture.

In order to be eligible for the programme you need only be able to speak English (or French) at a fluent level and be from one of the following, participating countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Norway, New Zealand, Portugal, the Netherlands, UK and USA.

Anyone from these countries may apply, though the prerequisites are ultimately governed by the specific Visa agreement between that country and Spain. The programme lasts a full academic year, from October 1st through to May 31st,  pays a monthly subsidy of €700 for 12 hours’ work per week and includes a free health plan.

el albaycin, alhambra, granada, spain

El Albaícin seen from the window of the Mexuar in the Alhambra Palace, Granada

The application process differs according to each candidate’s nationality. Those from Austria, Belgium (French), France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Malta and UK must apply through the respective, partnered organisations (contact details for which can be downloaded from the Ministry of Education section of the Spanish Government’s website). All other candidates must apply through ‘Profex’, a digital application form also found on the official government website. The application process for the 2014-2015 course has already begun, and candidates now have until April 1st to apply.

Depending on your country of origin, you may find that you are not able to apply to certain regions – las comunidades autónomas – within Spain, and there is no guarantee that each candidate will be located in the region he or she has requested. However, candidates may state an order of preference when applying.

nerja malaga spain beach crystal clear water blog balcon de europa

View from el balcón de Europa, Nerja, Andalucía

It is possible to extend your stay to two years, though this is not an automated process and will require candidates to re-apply either through their respective organisations or Profex. It is also worth noting that a years’ extension isn’t necessarily guaranteed, even if the candidate doe meet all the necessary requirements, as preference is generally given to candidates who are registering for the programme for the first time.

All the instructions, downloadable documents, FAQs and further details can be found here, but it is all in Spanish and there doesn’t appear to be a translated version of the page (perhaps a way of ensuring you are fully motivated to participate). I would be happy to answer any questions regarding culture, language, Granada etc, but if you are eager to learn more about the programme from people who’ve already done it, or are currently doing it, I’d recommend you check out or get in touch with the following bloggers:

Mapless Mike

Spain Kate

A Texan in Spain

Young Adventuress

Bilbao, Spain, spring, pintxos

Plaza de Miguel, Bilbao

summer school camp teaching english

Teaching in Summer Schools: an overview, the pros and the cons

If, like me, teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) is how you earn a living, then the chances are that at some point, either in the past, present or future, you have worked, are working or will work in one of the countless English Language summer schools that sweep western Europe. If that’s not the case, then you’ll have almost certainly considered it.

Given the fact that TEFL contracts tend not to last longer than nine months (usually late September through to late June), the summer – particularly its latter stages – is a penny-pinching time of year for EFL teachers. Throw in a summer holiday and a festival or two and there’s even more cause to worry about your finances.

So, unless you’ve another skill set that provides alternative means of work (good for you) or you’re just loaded/really good at saving/able to claim Spanish dole/content to live rent-free with your parents, signing up for one of these summer schools is pretty much unavoidable.



Summer schools come in different shapes and sizes. Most are owned by large companies who run full-time academies during the rest of the year. In the UK, EF, St. Giles International, Embassy and EnglishUK are some of the best-known, with centres set up across the nation and an intake of thousands of students every year. Each course typically lasts around six to eight weeks and teachers are usually employed for anywhere between four and eight weeks.

The job involves preparing and teaching lessons in the morning five days a week, supervising students during afternoon and evening activities/day-long excursions and occasional meal/bed time duty. All in all, teachers generally work around 40-45 hours per week and receive full-board accommodation.

University funded schools are generally the most expensive for students and most profitable for teachers. I currently work for Hertford College at Oxford University, where I am paid enviably for the job and actual working hours I do, though jobs at the very best academies require adequate experience.


Anywhere. London, Oxford, Cambridge, Kent, Brighton and Edinburgh are popular breeding grounds for obvious reasons but there are schools in various cities throughout the UK.

Spain, France and Portugal also have a broad range of schools available, usually at more affordable prices given the absence of full language immersion. TECS are a Spanish company based in El Puerto de Santa María, Cadiz, who offer full-time summer courses for kids and teens in the surrounding areas.


As in who is right for the job. Just because you’re an EFL teacher doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll breeze through summer school. The demand is high, both professionally and physically. In the large companies mentioned above, teachers are hired to teach and be students’ friends, and most importantly, are expected to work well within a team, no matter what school it is.

summer school camp teaching english

Working as a team by singing YMCA very badly


Personal Development

The obvious selling point of TEFL is having the opportunity to experience and adapt to other cultures. A year of this, be it in Spain or a monastery on a mountain in Tibet, opens your eyes to what it’s really like to interact with natives in another language. So when the shoe is on the other foot, and you’re the native, you have a good idea of what is going through your students’ minds. Through your own learned experiences, you are better equipped to help students adapt to their new environment, and this does wonders for your interpersonal skills and cross-cultural awareness.

Better still, summer schools in the UK offer a whole other dynamic to teaching English because of the multilingual nature of the classrooms. Kids come from all over the world, often alone, so it is often the case that they have no choice but to speak English with their peers. Thus, English is taken beyond the classroom, where the teacher’s role is facilitator, rather than teacher.

summer school camp teaching english

Class of 2011

Professional Development

EFL teachers can easily become stuck in their ways; they are satisfied with the way they teach, their bosses are satisfied with the way things are run and the students are satisfied with the way they learn. Removing yourself from that comfort zone and starting afresh in a different teaching environment, with different input from all angles, really helps improve your teaching skills. People bounce ideas off each other, and everybody is generally very happy to share their efficacious lesson plans. By the end of a course, it’s not uncommon to leave with around 20GB or so worth of material, which will be great to take back with you to your regular job come September.

Touching Base

Life as an EFL teacher for many is fun and adventurous, and this is the picture we paint of it on Facebook for friends back home. We post the good stuff, the awesome days at the beach or a jungle trekking safari etc. For them, this is what we do, with the odd day of work thrown in from time to time.

summer school camp teaching english

We do do that, but there’s a lot more to it than just that isn’t there? I find that sometimes there’s a sense of incomprehension when I go home and meet friends for a drink. Sure, they’re interested and eager to hear your stories, but the idea of what it’s like to live within another culture with a different language is something only truly understood by someone else who has also done it. Summer schools are the perfect places to share this common knowledge, and touch base with people who’re doing what you’re doing, in some other part of the world.

summer school camp teaching english

Teachers ‘touching base’ in the pub

It’s a Chance to Save Money

With almost every residential teaching contract comes either heavily subsidised or full-board accommodation, so you rarely have to pay for your own meals. In fact, you rarely have to pay for anything at all. And if you manage not to go out on the piss with other teachers every night of the week then you might even save a few hundred quid. Just bear in mind that you will be taxed on all that you earn and Student Loans will of course have their share if you ticked the relevant box on the p46 form. I know, bastards!

Free Stuff

Unless you are employed on a teaching only contract, you will most likely be equally as responsible for supervising students on regular field trips. In the UK, this inevitably involves visits to London, Oxford, Cambridge, Windsor, Stratford-upon-Avon and other places of cultural interest. Personally, I’d never visited any of the above except London before I took my first job in summer school. It’s surprisingly refreshing to travel around your own country, and see places that you might not have ever bothered going to if you had to pay to get there.

summer school camp teaching english oxford

Catte Street, Oxford


Some Students

Emphasis on ‘some’. Most students are lovely, polite and very keen to learn as much English as possible and make the most of their trip. Others are not, and they are easy to spot. It’s generally kids who’re clearly more accustomed to having servants do everything for them. I’ll never forget Alla, who I had been sent to greet at the arrivals lounge at Heathrow. Dressed top to toe in the latest designer garb and joke-sized Gucci sunglasses, she rolled her Chanel suitcase toward me. ‘Welcome to England!’ I exclaimed. She let her suitcase fall flat to the ground, looked at me and then pointed to it. ‘Carry’ she replied.

To be fair, arrogant as she was, I actually found her to be highly amusing, just out of sheer incredulity. There are, however, other students who become the bane of your life, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

The Food

By listing this as a con I feel rather like one of the students myself; this is, by far, the most complained about thing at summer school. It’s actually much better than the school dinners of our time, and very balanced as long as you don’t go overboard – but 4-6 weeks subsisting almost entirely on the stuff does take its toll. Spots appear, your belly swells and you fart more. Simple as.

The Hours

The hours are exhausting in the majority of schools. Teaching hours generally take place between 9am and 1-2pm, and then teachers either work for the afternoon or have a break before clocking back in to work in the evening. Fair enough, a lot of this ‘work’ comprises sports, trivia quizzes, ‘crazy games’, movie nights and karaoke, and there is one full day off per week, but there comes a point, usually when you are dressed as a gay zebra at an ‘African animal disco’ (but that’s another story) when you just think ‘I’m not a gay zebra. I’m tired. And I want to go to bed’. But you can’t go to bed because you’re on bedtime duty for the night, and you know that all the Saudi kids are going to keep you up until 2am.

summer school camp teaching english

The Pay

Generally, it is low, but then if you consider the free accommodation and food, it could be worse. In my experience, about £320 per week is average – anything lower than that isn’t worth working for – not if you’re working more than forty hours a week. There are some schools who will pay incredibly well – even up to £450 per week, but the level of expectation here is exceptionally high, and only teachers with a few years’ experience tend to get hired for these positions.

Missed Travelling Opportunities

The summer is a time to travel! And if, like me, you’re a travel fanatic – and let’s face it, who in TEFL isn’t? – you’ll never be able to shake the feeling of knowing you could be somewhere else in the world having yourself an unforgettable adventure. I, for one, am shit at saving money, so I can never afford to travel all summer, but if you are sensible enough with your money then I suppose it’s possible. Either way, the majority of summer schools do tend to close with at least a few weeks to go before term starts again, so there’s always a chance to hit the road in this window. Yay!

summer school camp teaching english

Have you ever worked at an English Language Summer School? Was this article helpful to you? Please leave your comments below :)

studying spanish english tefl spain

Getting started with TEFL

grammar tefl teaching english spain

by Ruth Kennedy

Doing some travelling around the world is becoming a rite of passage for more and more young people in the UK and North America; usually just before or after heading to university and ultimately settling into a career of some kind. The pre-university travelling – the gap year trip – is often about romping from place to place, taking in the sights and seeing the world as a footloose nomad for a few months. Although many people take on some volunteering while they are on a gap year, the focus is generally on getting out there and seeing the world before getting your nose to the grindstone.

Those who choose to go abroad after their studies are often looking for a unique experience but one that will also contribute to building a future and maybe even a career. Getting valuable experience, qualifications and holding down a job become the focus and a new way to experience travelling the world.

In this short guide we provide advice on some of the key considerations including studying for a TEFL qualification, how to find a work placement, how to arrange accommodation and how to prepare for going away.

TEFL Courses

A popular and really solid approach to moving abroad for some time is to study for a TEFL qualification (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), which will open up teaching jobs across the globe. TEFL courses are hard work and a really strong qualification to have under your belt. This is particularly the case if you are interested in teaching as a long term career, but even if you plan on heading down a different career path teaching English abroad can help you develop skills that will be really useful no matter what you end up doing.

There are a few different TEFL courses available, of varying lengths and intensity. To open up lots of opportunities it’s a good idea to take one of the month long intensive courses. At the end of this you will be qualified for English teaching jobs all over the world and your course provider may also provide you with a list of current opportunities to help you find your first job. Asia is a top choice as well as the warmer areas of Europe, for example, Spain.

studying spanish english tefl spain

Finding a Job

As mentioned above, it’s often the case that upon completing a TEFL course you’ll be given access to a list of potential job opportunities in different countries. If you want to look beyond this list there are some other websites that can be really helpful. Sites such as Go Overseas and Footprints Recruiting list jobs and offer lots of helpful information so you can quickly find your feet with a job in the country you want to live.

Arranging Accommodation

Some work placements abroad include a place to stay – accommodation can be part of the payment for your services, whereas other placements have their own accommodation which you must pay to rent. This allows you to formulate a reliable plan for where you’ll live, and it can be particularly good for meeting people when you arrive and creating a network of friends who are doing a similar job to you while you’re abroad.

If you aren’t getting accommodation through your placement you can either arrange a place to stay before you head out or you could organise temporary accommodation at a hostel for the beginning of your stay. This gives you a chance to visit places once you arrive to find a place where you’ll be happy and secure while you’re there. Host families, private apartments and hostel accommodation are all options, and it really just depends on the kind of lifestyle you want to have and how much cash you’ll have to spend on living costs.

tefl spain wordle teaching english

Other Considerations

Beyond the obvious things like finding a job and somewhere to stay, there are a few other bits that you’ll need to sort out as part of your move. One is international health insurance, which may need to be specific to place where you go. Aetna International (more info) offers information about moving abroad and will help you find the most suitable policy to cover you for your stay.

You may also need to open a bank account in the country you are heading to, and you should also let your current bank know that you are leaving the country for the time being. You may even be able to set up an international current account with your home bank rather than open an account separately abroad – although being able to go into a branch when you need to could be a real advantage while you’re away.

The best thing you can do is speak to other people who have taken a similar trip and find out what worked for them. Once you get the logistics sorted you can head out on the adventure of a lifetime and come back with a range of skills and aptitudes that will stand you in great stead as you enter the world of work back home.

Gaudi, Barcelona, tefl, teach, spain

You could live here

online resources, expat, living away from home, travel, blog, josh taylor

My list of invaluable online resources as an expat living in Spain

online resources, expat, living away from home, travel, blog, josh taylor

We had a power cut the other night.

I hate power cuts, and especially when they happen at night; I am invariably prevented from doing anything that I want to be doing (if my laptop battery is low, which is often) and I can’t boil the kettle or use the hob, therefore am unable to make myself a cup of tea, which causes the sort of anguish that no man should ever have to bare.

As a kid, I’d jump for joy if ever there were a power cut, and then rush off to the loft to unearth some dusty board game (usually Risk or Monopoly) while Mum sorted out the candles and Dad waited in a dark corner with the torch held under his chin, ready to click it on and petrify me when I emerged with the board game underarm.

On this occasion, my instinct reaction was very different. I swore, sighed, got up (still swearing), wandered off to fetch a candle and then began reading a book. Of course I like reading books, but not when I am forced to do so and generally not at night – it’s much more of a daytime, terrace, coffee and sunshine thing for me.

Inevitably, the lights flickered back into life within moments of having sat down, and my untimely, darkened interlude was over almost as abruptly as it had started. I drifted insentiently back to my computer and settled down into my swivel chair to resume my evening of mindless web browsing.

And that’s when it hit me – just how reliant I have become on the internet as a tool not only for casual distraction, but for everything I do. Before coming to Spain, I hadn’t been so unremittingly consumed with it. Facebook, uni stuff, fantasy football league and one or two news websites were just about the extent of my web browsing.

Evidently, that’s all changed now, and after a bit of a ponder and several cups of Yorkshire’s finest, I’ve drawn up a list of the online resources that I deem to be categorically invaluable to me, as a young (barely), working, travel-fervid expat here in Spain.

If you live under similar circumstances or have done before, then perhaps you’ll be inclined to agree with some. If you’ve never called yourself ‘expat’ but are thinking about it, then I assure you, ALL of the following will be hugely helpful in the settling in process – I only wish I hadn’t had to find (most of) them myself…

#1 Couchsurfing

online resources, expat, living away from home, travel, blog, josh taylor

Fair enough, you don’t have to be an expat to become a ‘couchsurfer’ – the worldwide social networking site is for anyone, anywhere – but if you’re living away from home, you’ll invariably be surrounded by new and interesting places that you will no doubt want to investigate on a regular basis.

Couchsurfing is the perfect way to go about doing this. You save lots of pennies and meet lots of very friendly, local people, who are likely to show you around town or at the very least send you on your way with an elaborately modified map.

What’s more, couchsurfing also offers expats the opportunity to meet other, like-minded people in their own cities. It wasn’t until my impromptu trip to Pamplona last March that I realised the potential benefits of attending regular meet-ups here in Granada. Before that experience, couchsurfing had only ever been a service I occasionally needed whilst travelling or offered to other travellers. Now I attend the Granada forum’s intercambio every week and meet new people from all over the world. It’s a huge part of my life.

#2 Car sharing websites

online resources, expat, living away from home, travel, blog, josh taylor

In a recent post about SOS 4.8 Festival in Murcia, I alluded to the Spanish car-sharing website amovens.com. This particular site is probably my favourite, as it never seems to let me down. I’ve also used blabacar.es and carpooling.es, albeit each on just one occasion, but both were equally as positive experiences.

To give you an idea of the savings I make using these types of sites, consider that a one-way train ticket to Seville from Granada costs €29 and lasts just over three hours. Now consider that I made that same journey in almost half that time at a third of the price. I’ll say it again…

There is of course that element of risk involved, but I’ve never heard any horror stories to put me off. Girls, understandably, are and ought to be more cautious, but like couchsurfing, many of these sites function on a reference-based system, so that any would-be passengers may give their would-be drivers the onceover before making arrangements. The golden rule is that you do not fall asleep; this is both rude and dangerous!

online resources, expat, living away from home, travel, blog, josh taylor

#3 Tusclasesparticulares.com

It took until my third year here in Spain to stumble across this gem of a site. Whether you are planning to stay in Spain as a short-term or long-term expat, you will, inevitably, at some point begin teaching English. It’s the easiest job to find and with a bit of luck you’ll be able to find a decent academy who treat their staff well. I am fortunate enough to be able to count myself among the few English teachers here in Granada who are paid well, on time and most important of all – legally. Others aren’t so lucky, and often find themselves scrapping for hours and desperately trying to seek out private students.

Tusclasespartiulares.com is a service that makes this issue a hell of a lot simpler. Students – of any language – and language teachers alike may create a profile and post short ads detailing their needs/services etc. Users can instantly see prices, hours of availability, relevant experience and so on.

Earlier this year, I created my own profile and received around 15 messages within the first week. Some came from private students and others from directors of local academies inviting me to an interview for a part- or in some cases full-time position. It’s a surefire way to get the moneys rolling in.

online resources, expat, living away from home, travel, blog, josh taylor, teaching in spain

#4 Expatforum.com

This site provided me with answers when I needed them most.

Last year, I went through hell and back trying to replace my lost NIE at Granada’s oficina de extranjero (complainy post in the works). Those of you who already live in Spain will almost certainly be aware of just how infuriatingly slow and tedious Spanish bureaucracy can be. I was desperate for a new certificate so that I could legitimately claim el paro (extremely generous unemployment benefit) over my jobless summer, but ran into countless stumbling blocks along the way.

online resources, expat, living away from home, travel, blog, josh taylor

Hours of frantic Google searches led me to expatforum.com, where I was at last able to read something concerning the matter in English and, after registering as a user, send beseeching messages to the senior, Spanish bureaucracy hardened members. Eventually, I resolved my issue by requesting and subsequently being granted a temporary residence card, but I very nearly had to cry in order to get what I wanted. I didn’t cry, but probably would’ve done had it not been for some expert guidance via the Spain page on expat forum.

#5 Second-hand / flat-share websites

I’m guessing sites like this exist in just about every country by now. The US has Craigslist and the UK have spareroom.co.uk, gumtree.com and flatshare.com. All of them work amazingly well. Here in Spain, you have to look a bit harder for the better ones. I use easypiso.com (branch of easyroommate.com) and loquo.com to find my digs.

online resources, expat, living away from home, travel, blog, josh taylor

It’s just chaos in the mornings…

My first year using easypiso.com yielded a moderate apartment with excellent flat mates (except one, asshole) and the second pretty much the opposite way around; I now live in an incredible, modern, three-floor house with a terrace, patio and soundproof basement. However, my housemates and I do not get along, and I recently decided that, despite how in love I am with the house, the people with whom I live are more important, so I’ll be enlisting the services of easypiso or loquo once again this coming June.

I should also mention that loquo.com, as well as segundamano.es, are fantastic sites for buying second hand stuff. I’ve bought a phone, a bike and various other bits and pieces, and met with the seller in person every time. Waaay better than ebay.

 online resources, expat, living away from home, travel, blog, josh taylor

#6 Wordreference.com, NOT Google Translate

Thanks to wordreference.com, I am able to trick people who I only speak Spanish to on Facebook into thinking that my Spanish is absolutely flawless. I can use words like ‘diluviando’ or ‘quisquilloso’ or (personal fave) ‘zarrapastroso’ and pretend as though I didn’t just look it up in two seconds flat. Better still, each translation yields two, three or even four uses of the word in context, so you are able to choose which word suits what you want to say best.

The same cannot be said for the erroneous Google Translate. Often, a search for a single word will turn up numerable results, with no contexts given as examples. If an entire phrase or paragraph is copied, pasted and translated, the result is even more inaccurate, as complex grammatical structures somehow seem too much for Google’s gargantuan brain to deal with.

online resources, expat, living away from home, travel, blog, josh taylor

I must admit, since I downloaded the app for my smartphone I have perhaps become ever so slightly overindulgent. Beforehand, I used it as a quick fix whenever I was reading or writing in Spanish online. These days, it’s whenever I am momentarily unsure of how to say something, when in actual fact I could probably wrest it out of me if I just mulled it over for another minute.

#7 Twitter

online resources, expat, living away from home, travel, blog, josh taylor

No list of invaluable expat resources would be complete without giving an honourable mention to Twitter now would it? Frankly, I’d be lost without it.

Since finally giving in and joining shortly before Christmas, it has become an almost exclusive news resource for me. There is, however, a lot of distracting, pointless dross that when clicked on swallows up a good chunk of my day. And that isn’t good.

I can’t keep up with it to tell you the truth, but I do like retweeting things I find funny or interesting. I’d retweet this if I hadn’t already tweeted it.

God that’s the most incredibly twattish-sounding thing I’ve ever said on here.

*Another useful resource that breaks information down into chunks such as Employment, Work Permits and Visas and Healthcare in Spain is Whichoffshore.

Expats, would-be expats and er, ex-expats! What are your most invaluable resources in your adopted homeland? Do pitch in!

mistakes, language, spanish, learning

Mistakes. And why they should be cherished.

We all make them. We all wince with embarrassment the moment one inadvertently escapes our lips, or as we gradually fathom in the aftermath of making one just why exactly asking for a ‘coño de chocolate’ from an ice-cream vendor is so funny to everybody else standing in line. We curse ourselves afterwards, and spend the next few seconds muttering under our breath what we should have said in a slightly deranged and neurotic way, until we get it right.

“Idiot. Stupid, feckless idiot. How can you get that wrong? UN CONO. UN CONO for god’s sake!”

This clanger was indeed one of my own, back in my early, early days in El Puerto de Santa María. If you speak a little Spanish, then you’ll probably have already pictured the scene quite accurately. If you don’t, then let’s just say that I picked a highly inappropriate moment, and establishment for that matter, to request a female sex organ of a darker variety. Yeah. Now you probably get the gist of it. As if that wasn’t bad enough, I then went on to say

“Estoy tan embarazado”

This was neither the right word nor an actual word, as embarazada is exclusively feminine (notice the final ‘a’) and, contrary to logical translation, actually means ‘pregnant’ ­– not ‘embarrassed’. So not only had I asked for a chocolate-covered youknowwhat but I’d also declared that I was prenatal afterwards. The latter of these, as I have recently come to learn, is not an uncommon mistake. Take this unlucky chap for instance. And Fiona, of Scribbler in Seville knows only too well the resulting agony of such blunders.

mistakes, language, spanish, learning

But once you’ve made a fair amount of them, the pregnancy embarrassment starts to wear off a bit. In fact, with a little time, mistakes actually become the best reference points for learning a language, whether hilarious or not. If the making of them is contextualized and dealt with appropriately, then the chances are that that mistake, if corrected, will never be forgotten, nor repeated.

mistakes, language, spanish, learning

This is a mindset I encourage in my students on an almost daily basis. Most of them don’t quite get it yet, but then making a mistake in a classroom filled with intently listening strangers is a very different matter. Adults, unsurprisingly, get the most hung up about it – nobody wants to look a fool. Kids, on the other hand, couldn’t give less of a shit. And I love it. Evidently, they love it too.

“Profe, profe! Puedo ir al baño por favor!?” pleads one as he wiggles before me, his crotch grasped by both hands.

“In English please.”

“Can I borrow your toilet please?”

I sigh.


Two nearby girls overhear and burst into fits of giggles, before summoning the strength to repeat the error to the rest of the class, who then join in with the giggling. The perpetrator has long since departed, but upon his return is met with yet another wild outburst of laughter, which I unsuccessfully attempt to put a stop to, for fear of having to deal with a crying child (not one of my strong points as a teacher).

So you can imagine my delight when the child, upon realising his error, laughs instead of cries. Actually, he laughs more than anybody, and goes on to repeat the mistake over and over again. This pleases the others, and “Can I borrow your toilet please?” has now become something of a running joke, which I have given up correcting.

I realised after several tries that there was just no point. They were going to say it no matter what, purely to get a reaction out of their classmates. But that’s absolutely fine by me, because now everyone knows why it’s funny, and what the actual sentence should be. There’s no need for correction, because the mistake was contextualized and subsequently remembered by not just one student, but the whole class. Even if it has now become the most irritating thing in the world.

If you’re a language learner, do you find that making mistakes is the best way to learn? If not, what is?