As the youngest of four girls, I have inherited the qualities (or perhaps flaws) of a typical youngest child: I don't love to share, I am used to getting my way and I am not the most patient of people. So whenever people would spout praises of teaching English in foreign countries, I shuddered at the thought. Teaching is definitely not my strong suit, and I doubted that I would have the patience and kindness to make a real impact.
As I was planning my upcoming trip to Spain for the summer, I was sent a press release by email describing VaughanTown, a language immersion course for Spaniards trying to learn English. The program called for fluent English speakers, with no mention of a teaching degree or even an interest in teaching.
I was immediately interested.
After doing a bit more research I found out that the belief behind VaughanTown centers around the process of speaking and listening. For five days, the Spaniards will be bombarded with a nonstop English-speaking curriculum, varying from one on one talking sessions, mock telephone calls, variety skits and meal times. Spanish is forbidden at all times, and the motto of the week is talking, talking, talking.
The Anglos, or English speakers, are not charged to participate, and on top of that are given the compensation of free accommodation and meals for their time.
Always on the hunt for a new way to meet foreigners, and a sucker for a good deal, I immediately applied to participate for a week in August. The week came and went and I was blown away. Yes, the hotel was beautiful, the food fresh and plentiful, and I spent less money in one week than I ever have in my life. But despite these perks, the actual experience of speaking some 80 odd hours to the 11 Spanish professionals on my program is what made the entire experience so unforgettable for me.
After five days of living, eating and speaking with these Spaniards, you can't help but get attached. As the one-on-one sessions run overtime, and you find yourself picking up where you left off over lunch, in the swimming pool, during skit rehearsal and into the evenings, this becomes a personal investment for the Anglos as well. Not only do you form long-lasting friendships and memories, but this week gives you a very real glimpse into the day-to-day life of a Spanish professional. Where else will you have such access to local knowledge of Spain, real life impressions of a foreign culture and engrossing hour-long conversations as the sun slowly sets behind the mountains?
VaughanTown provides a unique experience for the Anglos, but it also creates a life shattering change for the Spaniards. For many, this week is the change in the tide for their English skills. Gaining the confidence to speak up in a group, understand people over the telephone and increase their level of English by a long shot, these individuals are given a kick-start on their way to English fluency.
VaughanTown is available for all fluent English speakers to participate. They require lively, talkative, inquisitive participants, willing to speak and interact with Spanish strangers for five days in the countryside of Madrid.
Follow Leora Novick on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@leoranovick