I came to Spain and I’m learning English?

17 Nov

When I signed up to spend a year teaching English in Spain, I came prepared to learn a lot of Spanish. Little did I know that my time in this Spanish-speaking country would teach me more about my native English. My time both inside and outside the classroom has been a big tutorial in English.

My first lesson has been in British English. I had wrongly assumed that the accent was about the only thing that set us apart. That could not be further from the truth. Most of the people here in Spain have been taught British English. Between the textbooks and the British friends that I’ve made here, I’ve noticed a few differences. In addition to the funny spelling (think colour, apologise, programme, and centre) the vocabulary can be a little confusing.

For example, if someone here tells you that they are “pissed” they aren’t mad at all, but in fact quite drunk instead. And I wrongly laughed at my male student who said he wears “jumpers” because in England that apparently means sweater, not a dress worn by young schoolgirls. I’ve also adopted the term “time table” not only because its more commonly used, but its also easier for a foreigner to pronounce than “schedule.”

Furthermore, in British English, your “trousers” may make your “arse” look big, but you can combat that by putting on your “track bottoms” and taking the stairs instead of the “lift” when you go to your “flat.” Bloody confusing, isn’t it? But at least it sounds posh.

In addition to the British English I’ve been learning, my time in the ESL classroom has produced a few problems. For you native speakers, did you know that there is a difference between “going to” and “will”? (“going to” is for predetermined plans, while “will” is for spontaneous actions and future predictions. Do you use them correctly?)

And try to go about explaining the reason where and why we commonly use “whatever, whenever, however, whoever, wherever” but not usually “whyever”. And which is correct: “compared with” or “compared to”. Does it really even matter?

Then we have the sayings. Why would “fly by the seat of your pants” mean to be spontaneous? And how could one ever be “deader than a doornail” or “dumber than a doorknob”?

Needless to say, English alone has got my head spinning. Now it’s time for me to go study some more so I can try to master the language that I’m about to teach tomorrow.

My Lesson of the Day: This whole English thing has proven to be a bit of a banana skin!


3 Responses to “I came to Spain and I’m learning English?”

  1. the Lonnemans November 18, 2010 at 1:48 am #

    Elizabeth wishes to know if you fancy the flan carmelo.
    Kate would like to know if they have bueno helado en Jaen…she is also studying Spanish food groups.
    We love to share all of your new experiences.
    Miss you,
    Aunt Ellen

    • Aunt Debbie November 22, 2010 at 9:28 pm #

      Emily – this post is wonderful! English is so strange, isn’t it? Aunt Debbie

  2. DaBbleR November 26, 2010 at 11:54 pm #

    Hey! your wordpress is wonderfull! think that is so interesting that you share your experiences here in jaén with us, i will follow your posts ;).

    P.S: I’m wearing a blue jumper rigth now :P, and sorry for my bad english.
    See you.

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