Richer: In Euros and Culture

14 Feb

“How awesome was that!?”  It thought to myself as I walked down the sunny street of the Madrid suburbs.  “Wow!  I cannot believe I was able to actually do that!” my thoughts continued as my smile increased exponentially.  I was now 18 Euros richer, but I knew that what I had gained was worth more than any amount of money.  What a great opportunity it is for study aboard students to tutor children in English.   Not only does this allow me to make some extra cash to help keep my bank account from screaming, but also allows me to dive even deeper into the culture.

The experience started when I signed up to teach at the beginning of the program.  Our coordinator explained the opportunity to us and I felt like it would be a good activity to do so I signed up.   A few weeks later I was told that I had a job!  I was given some contact information and was told, you start next week, show up at 5:30 on Thursday.  Yikes!  That certainly seemed intimidating.  Was I going to be able to communicate well enough to teach, was the family going to be nice and understanding of the language barrier, would I be able to get there, and most importantly what was I supposed to teach?  I prepared by printing off some worksheets with English vocab and by drawing a quick map of my destination and began my one hour commute to the outskirts of the city.  When I got there, I felt like I was in a completely different city.  There were actual houses with lawns!  I followed my directions, but still had to ask for help (I am getting really good at that now).  When I finally arrived, I nervously rang the bell and waited, praying that I would be able to do good enough job.  As soon as the family opened the door, my worries washed away.  Two bright-eyed little girls smiled preciously at me and the father welcomed me graciously into their home.  I was introduced to my new student, Miss Alba, an 8-year-old girl who LOVES to talk.  We got started on the tutoring and to my relief; she had vocab and grammar from her school to practice.   Once we got done meeting all of her stuffed animals which included Spongebob, Teletubbies, Dora La Exploradora and Poco Yo, we got down to business.

She was supposed to practice food vocab and the verb “to like”.  Honestly I think I learned just about as much as she did.  I got to know some new vocab words, but more importantly I learned how to say them correctly.  Alba had no fear of saying, “That’s not how you say that” and correcting me.  This really was a wake-up call on my part on how important it is to really know the pronunciation of words.  On the other hand, it was almost comical at times when Alba would try to say the English words.  It took over 10 tries for her to say egg and add.  They came out more like “eath” and” adth”.  Such strong pronunciation of these letters  is unknown of in the Spanish language. Also, when she tried to say vegetable, it took every bit of concentration to say vegetable not  “ve-he-tab-lay”.   It was also very interesting for me to see her learn like and don’t like.  I can’t count the number of times she said My uncle don’t like “ve-he-tab-lays”.  And I can’t forget when she said the word for leaves was “leafeys.”  Her mistakes really made me realize how silly I must sound when I conjugate one verb wrong in Spanish.  To an English Speaker the difference between “Baila” and “Bailas” seems minimal, but the first means he or she dances and the second means you dance….quite a difference right?

Needless to say, she learned a great deal and so did I. I also talked to her family and left feeling loved and a little bit richer.  But like I said, the money is just an added benefit of the experience I am going to get out of tutoring.

It seemed as if my satisfaction could not have increased more, until I further impressed myself with my Spanish skills when I went to the pharmacy and was able to describe what was wrong  and get the correct medicine.   But it doesn’t stop there; I proceeded to read my long paper about ethics for my homework assignment and spent the night hanging out with our new Spanish friends!  They even complemented us on how “good” our Spanish was!  I am well on my way to becoming fluent but still have a lot to learn.  I hope I pick it up quickly because  my classes at the University start this week and I move into my new apartment with my 3 Spanish-speaking roommates on Wednesday!

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4 Responses to “Richer: In Euros and Culture”

  1. Amy February 15, 2012 at 1:34 am #

    This was an awesome post Mandi! What fun to be able to tutor and learn something at the same time 🙂 Will you continue to tutor the same little girl the entire time you are there? Will you get more students? Thanks so much for sharing your observations!

    • madridmandi February 16, 2012 at 12:11 am #

      I do get to have her the whole time I am here! I am going back tomorrow and am excited to see her!

  2. Rebe February 16, 2012 at 5:37 pm #

    Great decision to live with 3 Spanish-speaking roommates! It makes a huge difference, and your Spanish will improve exponentially faster than if you were living with other English speakers. Enjoy your classes with Alba!

  3. Leigha February 16, 2012 at 8:10 pm #

    Mandi!!!! This was awesome!! =] I miss you!

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