Fancy a free holiday meeting Spanish people? The catch? Well, you’ll be spending all day helping them to improve their English.
You might think the best way to prepare for a new life in Spain would be to learn Spanish (and you’d be right), but there is another way too. A while ago I wrote about my experience as a volunteer at a week-long intensive English course for Spanish people in the village of Pedraza in the province of Segovia. It was a tiring but worthwhile experience, spent in the company of interesting people from Spain and volunteers from other countries. I made long-lasting friendships with Spanish people and consider it one of the most fulfilling things I have ever done.
Once again I have been privileged to be part of an intensive course, this time run by a company called Speak for Italians, which was held in Puglia in the south of the country and which once again was a wonderful experience, meeting people and getting to know more about their country, their thoughts and feelings, how they see the world and to realise that basically we all have the same hopes and aspirations.
It is a great way to find out about the country before you actually move, but in your own language
Why volunteer for a language course?
Volunteering is an ideal way to see other countries but with all your accommodation, food and (most) drink paid for. In return you speak for countless hours a day to the different students and in group discussions.
If you are thinking of moving to Spain, time spent on one of these courses will help you to understand the Spanish people, their customs, their attitudes, likes and dislikes. It is a great way to find out about the country before you actually move, but in your own language, English. You are there to immerse the Spanish students in your language and it feels wonderful to see how they improve over the week.
Joining one of these courses is also a great way to go out of your comfort zone! How you adapt to this is a good indication of how you might deal with the culture shock of moving to Spain.
For most volunteers, the experience is an extremely positive one. People come from all over the English speaking world to participate, so you could be in the company of Americans, Australians, Canadians, South Africans, Welsh or Irish. The idea is that the students learn to understand the many varied accents. Everyone on the course is there to learn, not only the English language but also about the British, American or other countries’ way of life and culture. As they progress, they become bolder at asking questions and it is really a two-way learning experience, exchanging ideas.
Although you will be speaking more or less non-stop for most of the day, taking part in these courses is good fun! There are group activities, games, quizzes and other social events.
The courses are usually held in lovely locations deep in the Spanish countryside, away from the bustle of big cities and surrounded by nature.
The courses are usually held in lovely locations away from the bustle of big cities, deep in the Spanish countryside surrounded by nature. You will have plenty of time to explore the immediate surroundings as you walk with one of your students, chatting together. Usually the food will be regional Spanish cuisine, accompanied by a local wine which is another useful way to get used to Spain and Spanish life.
How to volunteer
There are two main companies running immersion courses in Spain, Vaughan Town and Diverbo. They work in a similar way and have a wide selection of venues. Courses run all year, so if you think that it might be too hot in the middle of August, you’ll find plenty in other seasons. As a volunteer, all your accommodation and meals are paid for by the company running the course.
Of course, you should try to speak Spanish when you come to live in Spain. Perhaps there are adult classes near your home in the UK, or you can enrol as soon as you arrive in Spain. You will already have a good knowledge of the country after your volunteering experience, so learning the language should be easier.