Saturday, October 11, 2008

We are Online Again!

Another triumph! We now have a land line telephone with DSL internet access (3MB/6MB). It's a real luxury not having to go down to the public library to do our online business. Furthermore, this enables us to use Skype as an alternative to expensive trans-atlantic phone calls. For those of you who are Skype users, you can look us up and talk to us if we're online. Just remember the time difference! And if you're not yet a Skype user, you should check it out. It's quite nice.

We've been busy with grocery shopping and other domestic tasks today, so we haven't started on the task of uploading pictures to the blog. That will be a job for Sunday, when everything is closed and we can't do any business. Stay tuned!

I've begun my English teaching, and I'm having a marvellous time. I have several different types of students. First are the actual students at the institute (they're around 18-20 years old). Second are the teachers at the institute, who are taking advantage of my presence to improve their English. Third is a group of adults who are paying me and Tonya for English conversational time (although we may do that as an exchange: English conversation for them in exchange for Spanish conversation for Tonya). Fourth is a high school student whose father is paying me to tutor him. Each type of teaching has its own joys and its own challenges.

The students are like teenagers anywhere. They chatter among themselves a lot, and part of the challenge is keeping order in the classroom. That's not too difficult; in general, the students are more respectful toward teachers than they would be in America. We're doing a lot of speak-and-repeat exercises with simple phrases, working on their pronunciation. Some are doing better than expected!

The teachers are more serious about their English; it's key to their jobs. Some are more interested in working on pronunciation to minimize their accents, some want to learn more of the vernacular, and some want to work on vocabulary. The institute where I'm teaching is a vocational school, and my section is training students to work in the tourism industry. One of the teachers, David (dah-VEED), is teaching a class on the business structure of tourism-related companies (hotels, travel agencies, tour agencies, etc.). This sort of translation becomes extraordinarily difficult, for two reasons. First, I don't have a formal business background. What do I know about corporations, partnerships, limited companies, and so on? Second, some things just don't translate directly. For instance, an "acción" in Spanish corresponds to a share (of stock) in English. However, there are legal ramifications in terms of the rights and responsibilities of shareholders that are simply different between Spain and America and England. They are different countries with different laws. I'm not a corporate lawyer, and I don't understand all of those complexities. I can help with the English, with the understanding that there's not an exact correspondence. Once we'd agreed on that, David and I are working together just fine.

We're just getting started with the conversation sessions. These people are more interested in being able to function in travel settings when they go on vacation to England or (less frequently) to America. This involves role-playing, which is kind of fun. We did a role-play conversation the other day in which I was the checker at a supermarket, and one of the students was a customer trying to make a purchase with a credit card. You can really get into your role! I was trying to explain to the "customer" what she needed to do, while apologizing to the other (imaginary) customers waiting in line behind her.

The one-on-one tutoring is the first job which has actually earned me some money. (They call it "dinero negro", or black money. No checks, no tax withholdings, no fuss.) Rafael, the student, actually understands more English than he realizes. This will largely be a process of building his confidence. We're using his classroom lessons as a base, and working on his pronunciation and comprehension. I'm seeing noticeable improvement after only two sessions. Was I able to learn that quickly when I was fifteen years old?

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