Tag Archives: Multilingual

The Spanish Speaker Teaching English in France

3 mins, 7 secs

❝Those who know nothing of foreign languages know nothing of their own.❞

‒Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

The story of my life right now. It’s a great conversation starter, but it always begets the same question: “Why don’t you just teach Spanish, that’d be easier for you right? If only I had a fraction of a cent every time someone asks me this question…;)
The truth is yes, I could teach Spanish, but it wouldn’t be easy, on the contrary, it would be hard. Why? Because it is my native language and it is second nature to me.

We take for granted the words that flow effortlessly out of our mouths; we never stop to think that there are some people right now struggling but going at it in earnest trying to learn our language.

My default answer some years ago to a question about Spanish grammar or word choice was always “because it sounds better that way.”

Hasn’t it happened to you that your colleague, friend or even significant other, non-native speaker of your language asks you why this or that is wrong, and the only answer you can come up with is that it sounds better in such or such a way?
You know what the right answer is, but you cannot express it in words clear enough for someone, who doesn’t wear the same glasses as you do, (i.e. they do not speak your language) to fully understand.

I know I get frustrated when my partner asks me a question, and I can’t fully explain to her why she should not mirror certain expressions from French when speaking Spanish because they won’t just work; (I’m getting better at it, though).

That is why I chose not to become a Spanish teacher because here in France they require teachers to have a thorough understanding of the language and the culture references that surrounds the languages they teach, ( like in most countries, I am sure), and how it relates to the French language and culture.

So you see, part of that equation was non-existent for me. I did not have a strong understanding of Spanish and the Hispanic culture. All I had were memories from high school classes I hated because every one of my Spanish/literature teachers gave me crap about my horrible handwriting. In fact, I thought Spanish was not cool:-( it wasn’t until many years later that I came to love my language because I had gained a better understanding of it as result of being confronted out of necessity (French) and out of choice (English) to other languages and cultures.

Recently, while talking to a fellow Colombian and teacher (Spanish), I found out that apparently (RUMOR) her professors at the university told her that they were unconsciously more strict with people whose first language was, you guessed it, Spanish.

This is a rumour because it would be unethical not to give EVERYONE a fair chance when taking a course in a higher education institution. Perhaps the person that told this to my friend did it, to scare her and to remind her not to rest on her laurels and think that obtaining her teaching degree was a done deal just because she was a native speaker.

So, what seemed like an easy choice, turned out to be, in fact, a tough one. With all this in mind, I decided to become an English teacher even though “the odds were against me,” for I had fallen in love with the language and its culture ever since I was 8 or 9 years old. This choice enabled me, with the help of teachers, family members, and mentors, to live and study in The States, Canada to end up in La France, after getting a High School diploma, a Bachelor’s degree and a master’s in chronological and geographical order.

Don’t get me wrong; I still had to learn a lot of things and further the knowledge of the things I knew. On top of that, I had to get my knowledge of French at par with the requirements of the M. Ed. program I took and the competitive exam I had to pass to be a teacher here.

Thus, by avoiding something seemingly straightforward, which in reality would’ve turned out to be laborious, I chose something that seemed hard at first:

“What? You’re going to teach a language that is not your own in a country that speaks a third language?”

Even though it was indeed hard, it turned out to be easier at the end, compared to the obvious choice of just teaching my native language.

“Sometimes doing the hard things is an easy way to get solid and lasting results.”    

-The Language Monk.


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