Learning to speak Spanish is a valuable life skill that opens endless doors abroad. Immersing yourself in any Spanish speaking country is a fast-track to mastering the language, but it takes time - and time costs money! Many will attempt to speed up the process by investing in Spanish lessons, but these really drain precious finances and are often too big of a commitment. Want to know the secret to mastering Spanish while earning money rather than spending it?
The option exists for a traveller to arrive in a country and immediately book an intensive language and cultural immersion course. This learning model usually involves onsite or managed accommodation with Spanish speakers. The days are spent in the classroom and the evenings and weekends are structured through a well planned social agenda geared at introducing various cultural aspects of a Spanish speaking environment. While undoubtedly of sound value, the hefty price tag of choosing this as your first step in immersing in a new culture means it is outside the budgets of many Spanish language students.
Another options that anyone with a passport and a flight ticket has as they explore a new country is to simply show up and hang out, flying by the seat of your pants as you go along. Not suggested for those who like closure or tend to get nervous by the lack of planning, this method of travel is sure to be the opening to many experiences worthy of a campfire tale, with you in the starring role.
A good middle ground between these two options is TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) to prolong and enhance your experience abroad . Earning money in productive employment helps pay the bills to buy more time to stay in town. But it does more than that. For example, earning hard cash isn't always a looming need - take places like Bolivia where a fistfull of dollar bills can last you a very long time. Or, maybe, you’ve just sold your house and are ready to run off into the sunset. In this scenarios, money may be less of a drive but working jobs is still a massive facilitator of friendships, contacts and creating that sense of belonging in a new culture.
In well known tourist destinations like Barcelona it's easy to find groups of young, English speaking backpacker types, hanging out in the Irish bars, making conversation amongst themselves, and maybe attending a few Spanish classes between meals. For those guys, the height of cultural insight may be hitting a Spanish bar at night to try a few shots of Abasinthe. They’ll be stuck staying in a hotel or hostel and trying to find excuses to start a conversation with the locals. The trip will ever amount to being on the outside, looking in.
By becoming a TEFL /ESL teacher, you’ve suddenly transported yourself into the spotlight and massively altered your Spanish learning curve for the better.
You are now viewed as someone with a purpose, who locals want to get to know - or at least practice their English with. Beyond gaining a better grasp of Spanish, you have also become integrated into the society, are invited out with your Spanish speaking students or can chat over a coffee with your colleagues. You might even end up going out to dinner with the school director and his other half. Before you know it, you're laughing at the spanish jokes your local friends post on their facebook walls. Your Spanish learning has gone into overdrive. Once you start to master a language, authentic cultural experiences multiply immeasurably.
Convinced? Ready to start learning Spanish abroad while teaching English? Your first step is deciding where. Spanish is the first (principal) language in:
Argentina, Ecuador, Panama, Bolivia, El Salvador, Paraguay, Chile, Equatorial Guinea, Peru, Colombia, Guatemala, Spain, Costa Rica, Hoduras, Uruguay, Cuba, Mexico, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua
And these folks have Spanish as ther second language;
Andorra, Trinidad & Tobago, Belize and the good ol' United States of America.
What are you waiting for? ¡Vamenos!