Teaching English

Helping people with English made me realise just how well I can know something, yet still be unable to articulate it. (For example: You can use this word here, here and here, but not there. Why? I don’t know)

General confusion
Semantics…. general confusion

The following are examples of a few of the questions (of 1000s!) I’ve been asked while helping people with their English

  • What is the difference between hardly, barely, hardly ever?

  • What is the difference is between realize and notice?

  • What is the difference between being seductive and making an advance?

  • What does ‘dodgy’ means?

  • Whether to use dodgy or seedy or ‘shitty’?

  • Can you teach me phrasal verbs?

  • When to use in and on i.e. why is something on a wall, but not in a wall? But why can you be on an airplane when you’re inside it?

  • What ‘kinda’ means? (kind of like = kinda like hahaha)

  • What is ‘tema’ in English? (subject)

I have explained:

  • The difference between shade and shadow

  • What the ‘crust’ of bread is. (My friend ‘understood’ this as crap)

  • What ‘hangry’ is

  • The difference between something being ‘shit’ and ‘the shit’

  • Puns: what they are (juegos de palabras), as well as actual puns.

  • What the word ‘pat’ means

  • All the meanings of the word ‘tip’ (I came up with 5 or 6, see what you can do)

  • Made fun of the Spanish (and other Hispanics) for being unable to distinguish between: beach & bitch, chip & cheap, ship & sheep, heap and hip etc.)

  • That you explain, say and reply TO people, although you only have to tell people

Yep. English is weird, and hard to explain. However I can now make an attempt at explaining most of these things.

First Stop – Mejorada Del Campo

AKA – Spanish Culture in the part of the Madrid that sleeps. (A Good thing!)

I arrived at Madrid airport to be picked up by my hosts and taken to Mejorada Del Campo straight away. Mejorada is something of a ‘suburb’ towards the outskirts of Madrid. It is still accessible by Metro and the majority of people live in flats/apartments or ‘pisos’. I had organized to stay with them with a website called ‘Workaway’, in which I had agreed to teach/ speak to them in English in exchange for food and accommodation.

Cue one of the greatest experiences/cultural exchanges I have participated in. As well as the start of some great friendships.

I had been in contact with my super friendly host Ruth for a couple of months beforehand (although most Workaway ‘placements’ can be organized in days- weeks), and was overwhelmed by how cute and friendly she was. She was quite excited that I was coming and even told me I could possibly join her on a roadtrip she wanted to do. To which my thoughts were … sure that sounds amazing, but you don’t even know me … I could be a psycho killer! (I have since learnt to trust strangers more :P) I had gathered they were a family of artists. The girls 22, and 25 studied film, and frequently made videos. Their father played in a band, and their mother made artisan crafts which the home was decorated with.

So I had high hopes. I love creative people and I love enthusiastic people.

However one of the funniest things happened once I arrived at the home. Their mother attempted to give me two kisses, a Spanish greeting where both people kiss the air and touch cheeks… twice. (I’m sure this can be explained better) However I had NO IDEA what she was doing. My reaction was laughable, and it continued to be laughable for many weeks until I grew used to it. I just felt uncomfortable being affectionate with complete strangers at first sight. British reticence I guess… and me. However, although I don’t like doing that, I love the Spanish attitude of hospitality and automatic closeness with each other. Truth be told I actually don’t mind the two kisses now, given that it is a catalyst for warmth between two strangers.

In the next two – three weeks I was able to:

  • Attend a Spanish Barbecue
  • Eat some Spanish food (Tapas)
  • Learn some interesting Spanish
  • Go to Segovia
  • View some places ‘behind the lens’
  • Explain some English
  • Go to a gig
  • Explore Mejorada & San Fernando
  • Explore Madrid

However what I did do immediately after I arrived was eat an amazing authentic Spanish lunch, and then sleep a jetlagged 12 hours… right through dinner. Something I felt terrible about.

After I left Mejorada I lived in Madrid for four weeks while I attended Spanish courses at Inhispania Madrid.

The flight over – Perth to Madrid

AKA – Nerves, people are wonderful & Y’all be ok

I’m writing this blog in retrospect. At the moment I’m actually sitting in a cafe in Edinburgh, using the internet and waiting for Claire to finish work so we can drive home together. I actually left my ‘homecity’ of Perth approximately 7 months ago. The past seven months have been the most intense and experienced filled months of my life, full of crazy highs and lows, experiences and lessons learnt. However the plus side to writing in retrospect is that I know what the good and bad things were, and which experiences have affected me even though I might not have realized at the time.

Annnnddd… Segue!

wing-221526_640I often think about my flight over. I hate flying. I get nervous when the plane takes off and compulsively scan the air hostesses’ faces for the slightest signs of distress, or over-friendliness which could actually be a concealment of distress in order to keep the passengers calm as the plane bursts into flames. I try to be asleep during landing so I don’t have to experience it.

However the scariest thing about this flight was that I was leaving my friends and family behind, and I wasn’t sure when I was going to return. The truth is I bought a round the world trip (at super-short notice – 2 weeks- also very cheap – cheers STA), but the dates were flexible and I always intended to change them.  All I knew was that I was going to arrive in Madrid, to be picked up by a girl who I had met over the internet on Workaway and I didn’t have much of a plan for the next year.

At 22, I felt like a child pretending to play ‘adult’. “Yeah, I got my shit together”

However on my last leg into Madrid (from Qatar) I met a woman on the plane who was returning from an extended stay in Asia. She was from Madrid and she was able to significantly improve her English during her time away.  I told her about my plans for Spain, I was going to help some girls with their English, and try to learn Spanish. She told me Madrid was great for young people and I was going to have fun with the girls. I loved her enthusiasm (and I now love the enthusiasm of Spaniards in general!) and she gave me a real confidence boost. 

After arriving in Madrid I spoke to a guy while waiting to pick up my luggage and considering the possibility of what might happen if my lift and accommodation didn’t show up. What would I do? However I was already speaking to another solo traveler, who would have happily spent time with me, yet I’d been in the country all of 5 minutes. I’d be fine.

IMG-20141101-WA0009

I then walked through to arrivals to meet Ruth and Alba, and we said our quiet hellos.

How times have changed!

One day I want to be the friendly traveller on a plane who makes the travel newbie feel better, or the airport random who makes the nervous traveller realize they’ll be OK.

And on average, everything was ok!