Teaching in Western Europe
Reflective Diary submitted by Max, Madrid.
I am spending my TEFL internship in Madrid Spain and I have learnt a lot about not only teaching but Spanish culture and teaching Spaniard people.
One of the biggest mistakes that Spanish speakers make, from a grammatical standpoint, is being able to differentiate between the verbs “make” and “do” and the reason for this, very simply, is that they only have one meaning for the word. To combat this I have laid out specific examples and I explain when and where these two different words should be used. This is one of the most common examples however, I have noticed a lot since working in Spain in general.
Another noticeable mistake that Spanish people make is pronunciation, but, pronunciation to the point where it is near impossible to understand them, very often when they speak very good english. One of the biggest challenges I have faced whilst teaching is being able to differentiate sounds like “sh” and “s” and producing a clear “th” sound. I have had to get creative with these approaches as these sounds, especially the “sh” sound, does not actually exist in Spanish and so you have to create and then develop/nurture the sound.
Even with basic knowledge of phonetics being able to transpose this whilst teaching is very difficult.
One example of this was I had a student who spoke B2 level Spanish, however, he just could not pronounce the “sh” sound and no matter how many times I demonstrated it and he simply didn’t get it. At first I thought I was doing something wrong, however, after talking with my boss and doing some research online, I found this to be a common problem and showed me a couple exercises to combat it.
I have also found that intonation when speaking in English is very different.
We, English speakers, do no often deviate throughout a long word and place all of our emphasis at the beginning of a sentence. This is fundamentally untrue for Spanish speakers and must be addressed and recognised. It is no use being able to speak a language if you are not able to be understood!!
Although I acknowledge that there are plenty more common mistakes, I have highlighted these two as they were two of the first challenges that I had to combat and figure out how I could communicate these ideas to my students in a constructive and educative way.
The ability to be understood, I will reiterate, is fundamental in languages and it would be a shame for pronunciation to get in the way of that. Equally, explaining clearly the differences between english and Spanish has also been crucial. As a Spanish speaker this has been easier to identify and I would advocate that having a background of the language in which you are placed is essential for being the best teacher for the students.