Languages Spoken in Spain: Learning Valenciano

edgar llivisupa profile photoUpon reading my placement letter from the Valencian Community, I noticed it was odd. I assumed I was reading a Spanish-written letter. However, there were dashes within words, a notable lack of the letter “ñ,” a reverse accent mark I’d never come across (`), and words that appeared to be misspelled by a letter or two.

After some research, I learned that my assigned region utilized a co-official language, valenciano, alongside Spanish. What I originally envisioned as an opportunity to improve my first language by living in a country where it was primarily spoken now also presented a second opportunity to experience one of the most challenging yet redeeming aspects of living abroad: learning the local language.

History of Languages Spoken in Spain

At the time, I was completely unaware of the linguistic diversity in the country. Obviously, the average Spaniard knows that a few other languages are commonly spoken in Spain. Like many, I knew that the region of Catalonia speaks Catalan a significant amount. However, I came to discover that there are other regions that similarly promote the use of their traditional language.

For those unaware, Spain isn’t homogenous when it comes to culture. There are different foods, traditions, festivals, and languages across the country. This stems from medieval history. The Iberian Peninsula once composed itself of distinct kingdoms that utilized languages derived from Vulgar Latin. Townsfolk of the time spoke Vulgar Latin, the non-standardized version of Latin spoken during the medieval era.

Ultimately, Spanish became the most prestigious, widely spoken, and heavily associated with the country. It originated from the Kingdom of Castile, which is where the alternative term for the language, Castilian, derives from. Originally located in central Spain, it grew during the Reconquista, a period where Catholic rulers attempted to rid the peninsula of Moorish rule. During this time, Alfonso X (The Wise) began favoring one language over others. Spanish became the language of higher education, science, law, and more rather than Latin.

Bilingual marketing posters in Ontinyent, Spain
Bilingual marketing posters in Ontinyent, Spain.

Spain Unifies

Centuries later, the crown would unite with the neighboring Crown of Aragon through the marriage of Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon, unifying most of Spain under one dynasty. The pair would later finance Columbus’ voyage to the New World. Succeeding journeys eventually enabled the spreading of Spanish throughout the world. In the peninsula, other languages met a similar fate to Latin, and private conversations are the only place to find such languages.

Bilingual regions make efforts to revitalize historical languages. The regime of General Franco restricted the use of other languages with nationalist policies. Other languages were further limited to private use. Book burnings and a ban on foreign names limited the use of other languages. As the country transitioned to a democracy, the newly-created autonomous communities received the freedom to express their cultural heritage.

The Co-Official Languages of Spain

While every community has Spanish as an official language, six more utilize another in their educational systems, in an official capacity in different levels of government, or in everyday speech. In the Basque Country and parts of Navarra, the Basque language has co-official status. In Galicia, it’s Galician, which some consider being the cousin of Portuguese due to their similar phonology and morphology. Catalonia, the Balearic Islands, and the Valencia Community all use Catalan. However, some prefer to refer to their variety of Catalan as balear or valenciano, to differentiate the dialects.

Thousands speak the other unofficial languages found in Spain. Some find themselves classified under the UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger. These include Aragonese, Asturian-Leonese, and Gascon.

This means that things like traffic signs, supermarket displays, public service announcements, and public school instruction, present both languages. Bilingual regions expect service workers to understand and speak both languages fluently. In addition, public television airs in the local language, with programming varying from movies, cooking shows, news programs, and live music.

Bilingual sign in Ontinyent, Valencia showing a supermarket’s operating hours and day
Here is a bilingual sign in Ontinyent, Valencia showing a supermarket’s operating hours and day.

What is Valenciano?

A return to medieval history is required to understand the origins of valenciano. Two entities ruled the eastern side of the Iberian Peninsula: the Kingdom of Aragon and the County of Barcelona. They eventually unified under the name the Crown of Aragon around the early 12th century after the marriage of Petronilla of Aragon and Raymond Berenguer IV of Barcelona. In line with other kingdoms, expansion was a goal and as a Catholic crown, they also joined in Reconquista efforts.

In the 13th century, King James I of Aragon conquered territories south of its location, including Valencia and the Balearic Islands. He incorporated them into the Crown of Aragon. While northerners settled the acquired territories, Catalan became more common. Over time, the Catalan dialect spoken in these regions evolved and differentiated itself from standardized Catalan. That is why today the terms catalán, valenciano, and balear can be problematic. To some, each can be their own language, all part of a family, or simply different dialects. All three stem from a strong cultural identity or reluctance to use a term associated with another region.

The Difference Between Valenciano and Catalán?

Bilingual sign in Ontinyent, Valencia listing different ATM signs
Here is another example of a bilingual sign in Ontinyent, Valencia listing different ATM signs.

While both Valencian and Catalan have distinct academies that regulate and promote the use of the language, the Acadèmia Valenciana de la Llengua defines valenciano as another term for catalán. For what it’s worth, the Real Academia Española, the Spanish-language regulating body, describes valenciano as “the variety of Catalan spoken in the former Kingdom of Valencia and is commonly felt as its proper language.”

The differences between valenciano and catalán include vocabulary, conjugations, and pronunciation. They are minor enough that speakers can understand each other, and language teachers can work in either region.

Compared to Spanish, valenciano has two more vowels: (à) (è), the letter (ç), and the letters “ny” replace the iconic Spanish letter, “ñ.” There are more orthographic differences, but as a Romance derived language, they share a lot of similarities including conjugations for person, tense and number, gender, etc. 

It’s been very exciting learning about valenciano and how it became the co-official language of the area where I teach. It’s fascinating to see the long-lasting effects that history has had on the language.

Deciding to Learn the Language

I discovered all this information weeks before relocating to Spain as I felt curious to see the extent of other languages spoken in Spain in my assigned area. Upon arriving at my worksite I realized citizens spoke valenciano as much as Spanish. This encouraged me to learn the language.

Learning as a Teaching Assistant in Ontinyent, Spain

edgar llivisupa profile photoEdgar Llivisupa is a native New Yorker completing a dual degree in Business Journalism and Spanish Literature and Language. His goals while teaching abroad are to improve his Spanish, test his capabilities as a teacher, and to travel. 

Edgar has been living in Ontinyent, Spain for one school year. Ontinyent is located in eastern Spain near Valencia. He is a teaching assistant at a primary school and will be returning to the same school this September. He enjoys learning Valencian and interacting with the locals. 

Edgar is looking forward to returning for another year. He wants to continue his progress with his students and dive deeper into the Spanish culture and lifestyle.

Meet Edgar 

Why did you choose to come to Spain and Europe? 

“There were many motivations for me to live abroad. Firstly, it had been rare in my life for me to venture outside New York. In fact, I had traveled out of the tri-state area only a handful of times, so I was itching to leave. Secondly, after failing a calculus course I switched my major to Spanish and started taking more intensive coursework. During a literature class, the professor flagged up  the North American Language and Culture Assistants Program. As an American, there was already an innate curiosity to visit Europe. As a descendant of Hispanics, I was also inquisitive about Spanish culture and how much it influenced Latin America. Thirdly, I had a brother living in Madrid. This put me at ease after reading online testimonials from other participants in the program.”

Why did you choose to teach abroad? 

“While I had considered studying abroad in the past, the costs made it seem out of reach. I was never the type to look for grants or scholarships to aid my studies. Alongside that, I would have to pick courses that would grant me credits at my college. Instead, this program gave me the opportunity to work abroad, which made me more comfortable rather than going abroad as a student. I hadn’t considered teaching before, but regardless, I have approached my tasks and responsibilities with an open mind and strived to do my best.”

Have you ever taught before? If not, what were you doing before you decided to move abroad?  

“I’ve never taught before. Rather, I was working very close to home at a pharmacy. It had nothing to do with what I was majoring in, but I wanted some work experience and a reference for the future just in case. Earning my own money felt rewarding as it lessened my dependence on my parents and when I decided to participate in the program, it meant I could start saving for my year abroad.”

What did you think teaching abroad would be like? Where are you teaching? 

“I am an English teaching assistant at a primary school in Ontinyent, Spain, located in the Valencian Community.

I had a feeling that teaching abroad would be extremely difficult as I had no previous experience. And I had been put off it as a career by what my public school teachers had to say about it.

I also had no idea what my students’ proficiency level would be so thank God for the chance to do some homework on them on the Internet. The school’s online blog gave me a great insight into the faculty, the students, and what the school looked like. There were documents on the English classes, their textbooks and other learning materials. I was also heartened to see that the school had recently embarked on a cultural exchange with public schools in Africa. So my arrival wasn’t going to be jarring as they had already opened their hearts and minds to another culture.”

What expectations did you have before you came here?

“I had no expectations coming to Ontinyent. That isn’t to say that I wasn’t looking forward to it. Knowing I had finally made it out of New York meant I was aware that I would have a good time regardless of where I wound up.”

cityscape ontinyent spain

What were your perceptions of Ontinyent during your first year?

“Again, I had the Internet to thank for discovering that it wasn’t amongst the most isolated towns in the region (looking at you there, Bocairent). I saw there was a decently-sized shopping mall with chains like Zara and GAME (an equivalent of GameStop), as well as a movie theater. All of the major Spanish banks were there. And most important of all, there was a train station to Valencia. 

By the end of the first year, I had learned that family is highly valued in Ontinyent. At least once a week, regardless of work or social schedules, the family, from grandparents to grandchildren, will share a meal together.”

What were some of the accomplishments of your first year?

“Moving and living abroad is a big accomplishment in itself with all the changes it has brought  me. I had never lived away from home or on my own before. Suddenly in my own flat, there was no one to clean up, cook, or pay the bills. Those responsibilities all fell on me.

Ontinyent newspaper

Many people had warned me that the town isn’t ideal for young people with few nightlife options or places to hang out. Instead I just traveled to the major cities before returning to the calm of Ontinyent. It was a great balance for me.”

What do you want to achieve for your second year? 

“As much as I strive to plan my life (after all, I first heard of this program three years ago), I have no idea where it is going. This year, I am going to lay foundations  in case I decide to relocate to Ontinyent for good. This includes continuing to study the local language, Valencian, which is a dialect of Catalan. 

I want to attend Spanish language courses. While I know enough to be considered a native speaker, I still lack confidence. So it would help to be more proficient and understand the basic facets of the language. 

Also, while I can assume I did a decent enough job to warrant a warm and lovely “see you soon!” party at my school, I do feel that there is a lot I can improve on. Since I’m returning to the same center, I don’t have to spend the first few months meeting the faculty and students or familiarizing myself with the town. Like I told some of my co-workers, I come back ready to work!”

What advice would you give to other participants about your first year? What are some of the things they must do and some things they must absolutely not do? 

“The most important thing to realize about this program is that it is going to take a while to adjust to living in Spain if you’re not in a major city. You’re not going to easily find foreign cuisine or people who want to, or can, speak English. By the time I acclimatized to living abroad, which for me was around the New Year, I was already at the halfway point of my tenure. Keep that in mind if it takes you longer to adjust to a new surrounding.

Another piece of advice I have, and this is more personal, regards technology. Yes, it makes us all connected but while it is great to talk to loved ones back home, attempt to disconnect once in a while. Enjoy your newfound independence in a different setting.”

How do you feel about your integration into the culture so far? How did you prepare before you arrived? 

“Before my arrival, I explored the town’s tourism website and looked at the traditional dishes, holidays, and festivals celebrated throughout the year. Being in a small town helped me integrate easier than a tenure in Madrid or Barcelona. There aren’t fast-food chains to satisfy my American tastebuds. The stores in Ontinyent close around 8pm. And my town is also multi-generational.

Now that it’s a year later, I can say it was a great change for me. I am happy to be away from New York. Ontinyent was the perfect size for me. Living in big cities can cause anxiety if you don’t have a big weekend planned or spend too much time at home. Choices are limited in a small town. Most weekends entail a simple football match or drinks at someone’s apartment. I appreciated simple living. When I went on trips during vacation or long-weekend excursions, I had a greater drive to explore and enjoy my time away.

Culture Shock Made Easy

Since I am of Hispanic descent, there wasn’t much of a culture shock. The passion for football extended to my family, so I ended up attending a match at every stadium of the eight La Liga teams based in Madrid and Valencia. I was even able to attend the trophy ceremony for Valencia CF’s triumph in the Copa del Rey, the Spanish domestic cup competition.

The lack of a language barrier also made it seamless to fit in. I didn’t have much of an opportunity to stand out as a foreigner. However, with my co-workers and their family and friends, it was always fun to let them introduce themselves in English. I would always follow in Spanish and leave them astonished. It meant I was able to meet everyone in a more personable fashion. They would ask me about my life in New York and how I was adapting. Meanwhile, I would ask them about their life in a small town.

teaching abroad

Looking Forward to a Future in Ontinyent

Alongside that, learning Valencian has helped a lot. Understanding a conversation between two native speakers, saying that I was taking classes, or just switching from Spanish to Valencian continually impressed people. They couldn’t believe a New Yorker was not only interested in their language but was making a serious effort to be proficient in it even as they considered it “useless for my future in the country.” Even today, weeks removed from Ontinyent, I still think in Valencian.   

I had an enjoyable year in Ontinyent, and I’ve met some of the most generous and accommodating people. Because I have traveled around so much, I’ve seen more of Spain in one year than most people I know who’ve had the opportunity to visit in all their years of living in Spain. While I have a hard time measuring how well I’ve integrated into my new town, it has been enough that a few months away is difficult for me. I am eagerly looking forward to my second year.”

An Expat Living and Working Abroad in Ontinyent, Spain

Edgar shares details about his first year abroad living and working in Ontinyent, Spain. He provides guidance for first-year teachers who are just arriving. Expat life is not easy. It can take longer than one expects. After having lived in the Ontinyent area for a year, Edgar feels as if he has made friends at work and started to better understand the language. He is trying his best to learn and understand Valencian and they appreciate his willingness to do so. It takes time. Sometimes expats live abroad for years and still don’t feel a sense of full familiarity within their new home. Edgar plans to try his best in his second year to understand the culture better by perfecting Valencian.

We look forward to hearing more about Edgar’s second year in Ontinyent. Stay tuned for his second update in the late fall. 

by Leesa Truesdell

A New Me in Madrid

by Amanda Whitten

If I had buckled down and started this blog entry a few weeks ago, I could have written something for you guys that would have been a magical and dreamy limbo of sorts. However, I have already received my placement (among other important events) within the last two or three weeks. Therefore, there is less mystery with which to allude. All I can say is that there’s going to be a new me in Madrid!

A New Me teaching abroad

It would have been epically optimistic and beautiful, I assure you. I would have talked about the endless possibilities awaiting me this Autumn: would I be assigned to the awe-inspiring Canary Islands with their warm weather and majestic views? Would I continue at my current private, international school in Torrelodones, Madrid? A place where I felt respected, valued and appreciated as an independent teacher in my own right? Or, finally, would I be assigned to be a well-paid auxiliar somewhere in Madrid’s center or surrounding villages?

Possibilities, Possibilities

dance-spain-teach-abroad-travel

In different ways, each one of these possibilities would have afforded me with a variety of benefits. You already know from my other blogs how much praise I heap on the diverse islands that are the Canaries. If I had been placed there, I would have not have had to suffer another winter (which I hate, regardless of where I am). Inter-island travel would have been the coolest shit ever. You can get ahold of the 70% discount on flights between islands if you get empadronado (which is where you declare where you live to the authorities) on Gran Canaria and are an EU citizen (they sometimes overlook that last part). Rent would have been cheaper. Not to mention, of course, there would have been the ocean basically in my backyard.

A large part of me also wanted to stay at my cool, international colegio. It is a school unlike few others due to their methodology and creed. In comparison to my last school and others I’ve taught at, the level of student interest in language learning is exceptional. There is almost no apathy towards learning English. This is something I definitely cannot say for other places I’ve taught. I have deep relationships with my students there. I know all of them by name, as well as their interests, fears, hopes, dreams, and ambitions…

Cultural Differences and a New Resolve

About a week or so ago, though, I had the balls to tell them that I needed to be paid more if I was to continue working there. They get very little wrong in that school. Unfortunately, my wage wasn’t meeting my needs. I needed and need to make a reasonable living wage if I’m going to make it in Spain. And then, of course, almost immediately after, they said that they had been doubting whether I was a good enough fit to continue with the school in general.

Focus-on-what-matters-teach-abroad-spain

I got pretty worked up about that, as you might imagine. In the end, I came to the conclusion that maybe, just maybe, this is just Spain. I certainly have never experienced this type of reaction towards me/my personality anywhere else. Perhaps, there is just something about me that rubs some Spaniards the wrong way. I had troubles at my last school, and with those au pairs from last year.

Maybe it truly doesn’t matter how hard I try. Perhaps, I will never please the teaching world here in Spain. It could be that I need an attitude adjustment. Maybe I need one that says: “Bitches, I’m here for tapas and to educate your kids. If you don’t like it, you can suck it! I ain’t goin’ nowhere!!!” I would certainly be less stressed out if I didn’t give a flying flip about what anyone thought about me. No positive recommendations? Not going to renew me? No problema, señorita. I’ll be off to my next adventure without a backwards glance. It’s time for a new me in Madrid!

New Place, New Me in Madrid

This brings me to my original point. I recently received an email congratulating me on my assignment to somewhere in Madrid. Cool, alright. I don’t know where yet, but I am looking forward to new faces and new friends but certainly not new problems.

spain-habla-espanol-dreams-abroad

For better or for worse, I am going to be the auxiliar that I want to be. I am not going to take any shit or abuse this year! If they’ve got a problem with that, they can hand me my resignation form right then and there. I’m educated (kindly overlook my use of the word “ain’t” and any double negatives), experienced, and, as long as this English teaching bubble lasts, in HAWT, HAWT demand. It’s out with the old, and in with the new me in Madrid!

Peace out and sayonara bebes!

Love always,

Squirrel

 

P.S. My anxiety makes it so I probably won’t have the guts to be as brave as my inner chihuahua/yappy-dog wants to me to be. Unfortunately, as my lame pun implies, I’m usually all bark and no bite. Or all hiss and no scratch. Whatever. A girl can dream, though. A girl can dream.

 

Teach in Spain and Learn How to Live

Kyle Talbott is a fellow language assistant that works at the same school that I work at this year. He is a very charismatic person and is also very knowledgeable about the culture and history of Spain. He was even before starting this year! Because he is this way, I thought he would be the perfect person to speak about his first year in Madrid.

Teach in Spain Kyle Talbott

Why did you choose to move and teach in Spain?

“There were several factors that brought me to Spain. I studied Spanish language and literature in college, so living in a Spanish-speaking country was almost an inevitability. It would seem kind of senseless to spend all that time learning Spanish to not have a chance to put it to use! I also have tenuous familial connections with a Spanish family that lives in Alcala de Henares. However, I am not Spanish – not even European – but my family has a history in Spain that spans back to when my grandfather was stationed here in the sixties. Both my grandfather and my father were in Spain while serving in the U.S. Air Force. Lastly, living in Europe has been a goal of mine for many years. Spain just seemed like the natural choice given the above circumstances.”

What are your goals while you are here?

“I came to Spain with two goals: one was to find a way to stay in Spain for a few years. The other, more important goal, is to learn how to live differently. Living in Spain is sort of a daily adventure. The Spanish culture feels almost alien at times, and the rhythm of life here is distinctly different than in the States. My hope with coming to Spain was that being in this strange and interesting environment would open my mind to different sorts of lifestyles.”

Have you ever taught before? If not, what was your career field before you got into teaching?

“I had actually taught before coming to Spain. In the year and some months before coming to Spain, I was teaching two English as a Second Language classes at a small community college in North Carolina. I also taught an Adult Education/GED course for about six months. In fact, I took this position as a language assistant in order to get experience teaching children. I figure that if I am going to pursue a career in education, then I should broaden my experience with teaching people of all ages.”

Barcelona Teach in Spain

What did you think teaching in Spain would be like? Where are you teaching?

“I am teaching in a small primary school called CEIP Antonio Osuna, in Tres Cantos. Tres Cantos is a small, middle class town about 30 km north of Madrid. I really only had one apprehensive about teaching here in Spain, and that was working with children. These are little kids too with an age range of 4-11. Before Spain I had not spent any significant amount of time around kids younger that about 15.

My understanding of kids was that they make a lot of noise and are generally dirty creatures. I had already taught before, so I knew that I could do that. I knew that my job assisting another teacher would be drastically less demanding than teaching a course myself. Happily, the anxiety I initially felt about working with kids has dissipated. Actually, most days, I enjoy some of them. Other days I enjoy none of them, and one day I am sure that I will miss them.”

Why did you choose to teach abroad and why did you choose Spain over other countries?

“Ok, full disclosure, I had many reasons to leave the states that had been accumulating for quite a while. Primarily however, I just had to escape from the country that just elected Donald Trump as president. That may amuse, offend, or confuse you, but, that is the naked truth. As I said before, Spain was the natural choice for living abroad if I was going to be in Europe. I was also just curious to live in Europe. I wanted to understand how people in Europe relate to one another socially and politically, relative to how we relate to each other in the States. In conclusion, I had a desire to live abroad ever since I started college in 2012. Once Trump was elected, that desire transformed into an imperative.”

What are your perceptions of Madrid so far?

“I want to start by saying that Madrid is a fantastic city! There is literally something for everyone in this city. Personally, I enjoy city life, so Madrid is a good fit for me. My only problem with Madrid is its small size. Being small is not necessarily a problem, unless you try to cram 3 million Madrilenos into the same small city. It is the 9th most densely populated city in the European Union, but it wouldn’t be if the city were not so tiny. Living in a densely populated city means you are always dealing with crowds, and personal space as you know it is impossible to maintain. I have only lived in the center of Madrid since being here, and this is probably why I am focused on the crowd sizes. In the next year, I want to move further away from the center where I hope to enjoy Madrid even more!”

Spain Flag

What has been the most difficult since you arrived?

“Honestly, it’s the little differences between life in the States and life in Spain that I find most frustrating. For instance, maybe only around half of the businesses are equipped to take credit/debit cards; for some reason there are only six kinds of topping combinations for pizza in the whole country; copious amounts of bread is served at every meal and in between meals; stores don’t open until 11 or 12 on regular working days; the whole country seems to regularly go on vacation simultaneously and then nothing at all is open; and lastly, the Spanish put as much milk into their coffee as they do coffee.

Sadly, flavored coffee creamer is something you are just not going to find in Spain. Aside from these minor frustrations, I would have to say the amount of walking required to live in Madrid has been difficult to adjust to as well. I can confidently say I have done, by far, more walking in the last 4 months than I have in the past 4 years! On the one hand walking is better for my health and the environment than driving, on the other, walking is tiring and time consuming.

Teach in Spain and Get a History Lesson

For me, a history buff, I enjoy sightseeing and touring museums the most. So, my most memorable experience would definitely be seeing the Amphitheater and Circus Maximus in Mérida. Both date back to the time of Christ, and both are amazingly well preserved. It might sound completely uninspiring to most, but seeing and touching these monuments puts you in touch with everyone who has done the same over the centuries! Imagine, someone living in 1502 was vacationing in Spain and visited Merida. Even in 1502 these structures were over 1,400 years old! Now, imagine all the people who must have visited these monuments just in the 5 centuries between his visit and mine! This feeling of solidarity that you have with people who may have lived centuries ago is something that I find to be just endlessly romantic.

I have also very much enjoyed the Spanish people. They have a very generous and practical nature in general, and many of them have invited me into their homes. I have had several Spanish feasts that I am likely to never forget. Admittedly, I am sometimes intensely annoyed by certain cultural practices of theirs, but, I find them to be fascinating, if not a perplexing people.”

Kyle has hit the ground running with his time here and to teach in Spain. I know that he is staying for at least one more year to pursue a Master’s Degree. I hope to hear more about his adventures in Spain and beyond!

by Justin Hughes-Coleman

A Guide to Private Lessons: Clases de Conversación

So you have arrived in Spain and are looking forward to starting this new adventure. While you are getting settled, one of the main hurdles you will face is how to finance your stay. As a language assistant (auxiliar in Spanish) you will be living at the center of one of the most fascinating countries on Earth, and on the doorstep of many others. This all sounds enticing… and expensive. As a language assistant, you will make around 1000€ in Madrid (about 700€ a month in the rest of Spain), for only nine months of the year.

Now that is sufficient to live on in Spain but only if you plan on staying in Spain for the whole time and only go out twice a week. BUT you will probably want to consider making some money on the side so you can do so much more. There are a variety of options, but the most lucrative is teaching private lessons, either to individual students or to a small group. Here are some pointers if you want to go down this route.

Time Versus Money

Now, at first this process might not seem that daunting; basically, do your day job (helping students learn English) and for private lessons, one-on-one tutoring. This can help supplement your income by hundreds of Euros, but it does come with a major time commitment. You are already working 16 hours a week at a minimum with a two-hour long break in the middle of the day (Spain’s infamous siesta) included and a fairly long commute.

After a full workday of screaming children, then you would have private lessons afterwards, which can be anywhere from one to three hours. That means most days are typically 12-14 hours of tantrums, commuting, prepping lessons, and going on errands. You will make money, but you will be exhausted most of the time. 

Just make sure to consider the time commitment first, because then you can budget for the rest of the year to figure out if you want to take on more private lessons or not. It is best to start looking for tutoring in August or September because a lot of families are looking for long-term and consistent tutoring for the upcoming school year. As the year goes on, it becomes harder to get consistent private lessons.

alarm clock on a desk with a computer Private Lessons

Where To Look for Private Lessons

There are a good amount of resources for finding private lessons. The following are the best.

  • Tusclasesparticulares: This is a website where teachers/tutors can look for students and vice versa. Post a profile in both English and Spanish.
  • Teachers and parents will ask for tutoring at your school, and you can request that your director put up a sign offering private lessons on your behalf.
  • The Auxiliares de conversacion en MADRID (The Original) Facebook group is a great all-around resource and fellow language assistants are constantly swapping details about private lessons.
  • VIPKid: This is a live online tutoring job which you can do anywhere with Wi-Fi. You go through an interview process and then teach in 30-minute class sets.
  • Academies hire English teachers and are a consistent income. Apply early.

Tarifas: Your Fee

Private Lessons

In my opinion, you shouldn’t take any tutoring job for less than 15€/hour, unless it is for more than one hour with the same student. Once you calculate traveling time and lesson planning, anything less is not worth it. It is also better to tutor online as this way travel costs are reduced. I recommend having two tiers: 15€/hour for in-person conversation private lessons; 20€/hour for focused lessons. Most people will opt for the latter because the first seems a bit too expensive for just conversation. This is better for you too because lesson planning is something you can do on your way to your private lessons so it doesn’t take more time out of your day than a strict conversation private lesson.

3 Tips For Lesson Planning

If you are helping students with their homework and tests, or just have conversation private lessons, you won’t have to lesson plan too much. However, if you are giving a structured private lesson, these tips might help:

  1. Tailor lessons to each student for maximum progress. For example, if a student has a sufficient level of vocabulary but their pronunciation isn’t that good, work on a pronunciation lesson, instead of teaching more grammar. Once that student has pronunciation under their belt, the student’s progress will soar.
  2. Split the class into segments. Consider an hour-long class divided into two or three 20- or 30-minute sections. One section for focusing on that particular student’s weakness, another for conversation, and a third for them to present something to you in English. This makes the class go by more quickly and the student has something to focus on between private lessons.
  3. Remember not to reinvent the wheel. There are plenty of online resources for English Second Language (ESL) resources online that will help you build a structured lesson. For children ages three to 13, I also recommend including some games with your lesson plan.

Hit The Ground Running!

In the end, private lessons can really benefit you financially while you are in Spain but they do take their toll. The perfect scenario would be a student or students who want daily private lessons for more than an hour. You have something consistent. But however you piece together your tutoring schedule, just ensure it works for you and don’t be afraid to pass a student onto a fellow language assistant if it becomes too stressful. Good luck out there and happy tutoring.

Sunset on Spain's coast.

by Justin Hughes-Coleman

Madrid Still Has My Heart as an Auxiliar

Looking back to almost one year ago, I never could have imagined that Justin Hughes-Coleman and I would one day be collaborating and sharing information about his upcoming second year in Madrid! Each time I meet with Justin, I learn a tiny bit more about who he is and, most importantly, who he wants to become. Check out his Part two interview about finding purpose while teaching abroad to catch up.

I’ll never forget meeting Justin last August. He was sweating (as we all were because it was AUGUST in Madrid), and I sat next to him and just felt happy. I share this moment once again because it was the very beginning of what I like to think of as this cool ride that we are on and that we don’t want to end.

Justin has been on the Dreams Abroad team since it’s inception and has successfully wowed readers with his first two blog posts. His soul shines when he writes and readers understand both him and his message.

Meet Justin, the soul searcher and auxiliar: 

I am following up on our previous interview and your last blog post on expressing yourself in Spain.

I think we all want to know…

Are you still the “teachers pet” at your school?

“Hehe, that is so funny that I thought that at one point. No, I no longer believe I’m the teacher’s pet. The last two months have been very eye-opening because of my school’s dysfunctional leadership.”

How are things at school since we last spoke? Anything changed?

auxiliar school madrid

“A lot has changed at my school since then. Most importantly I realized that my school is one of the worst in the town that I work in. I figured this out because the schools are ranked every year based on the pass/fail rates of the English exams and my school has been routinely at the bottom under my current top two senior staff members (director and jefatura de estudios.) This has caused the school to have increasingly lower numbers of students since parents choose to put their children at other schools. This has an effect on the staff as well; most staff members only stay one year at my school and request to leave once the year is over.”

Do you think that is why the Comunidad de Madrid is investing in so many auxiliars?

“I do believe the job has a high turnover rate. However, I wouldn’t say it is entirely the fault of the Comunidad de Madrid. All the schools are totally different in the way they are run so no two schools are alike. An auxiliar would have a totally different experience if they were at a different school. I tell people that if I worked at truly badly run school, I would not renew for a second year because so much of one’s experience in Spain is based on their school.”

Even before our second interview you knew you were staying in Madrid, what made you decide to stay?

“Despite my school, Madrid still has my heart. They recently held World Pride that was two weeks long and it showcased what is best about Madrid, the people. Everyone in Madrid is so open-minded and interested in really getting to know people of all backgrounds. That is something I haven’t found back in America.”

world pride madrid

Have you talked to your school about your role next year? Will you be teaching 8 classes and a homeroom?

“I haven’t spoken to my teachers about next year or any other auxiliar. It will probably be the same process as my first year where I just show up and the administrators scramble to come up with a plan.”

What are your plans for this summer?

“This summer I’m going on a different type of adventure. I am living in Greece for two months. For the first month, I am working on an endangered horse farm on the Greek island of Skyros. The second month I am helping build a yoga studio on the island of Rhodes. It will be such a new experience for me and I don’t know what to expect but I am looking forward to it!”

How did you find these places to work abroad?

I found out about this website called workaway.info where people who are looking for volunteer work can post an ad and in exchange for the help they usually provide room and board for the volunteers. I knew for the summer I wanted to be by a beach (seeing as how Madrid is quite literally landlocked and I didn’t want a repeat of last summer) so I searched for situations that were near beaches and I stumbled upon the endangered horse farm and yoga retreat in Greece.

workaway info

 

What was the best experience you had this school year? And the most memorable?

“The best and most memorable experience is when two other auxiliars and I performed a dance routine for the entire school and all the kids ran up and mobbed us after the performance. It was absolutely crazy!”

Tell us more about Justin Time for Life your blog. What are your plans for the blog?

“My plan for this blog is to reach out to those who don’t feel like they really belong in America. I was to give them a perspective of what it is like to live abroad as an auxiliar. I know that all my posts are only my experience and they won’t be the same for everyone that goes abroad but I want to give people a “running head start” in their journey abroad. Moving abroad was the best decision I have ever made in my life and I want people to know that despite whatever challenges they face, it is worth it.”

Auxiliar Abroad and What is to Come

Justin has not only walked the walk from the USA over to Madrid, but he is going to be talking to and assisting others through his blog about how to do the same abroad. The person that I met that scorching August afternoon was and is one very courageous man. Dreams Abroad is ecstatic to be working with him and together we are a team ready to better equip our readers on open-mindedness.

I can’t wait to hear all about Justin’s summer in GREECE! If you are an auxiliar abroad we want to hear from you! Join our LinkedIn group to stay on top of all the amazing Dreams Abroad developments.

by Leesa Truesdell