10 Things All New Auxiliares Should Know

I remember last year at this time when I was thinking about doing the Auxiliar de Conversacion program in Spain. I had about a million questions running through my head, and I felt like every blog post I read or facebook group post I read was giving me some solid answers, but also some mixed answers on a few different topics. So, I decided to write this for new auxiliares about the top 10 things I think they should know BEFORE coming into the program.

1. It’s in Spain. I know this is obvious, but with the program being in Spain means that it operates under a spanish timeline. What I mean is that everything takes a little longer here. Everything from a visit to a restaurant to getting your NIE card. With that being said, you also won’t find out about your school placement for awhile, and even after you do, you probably won’t get too much information until the first day you walk into the school. Also, basically the whole month of August, Spain is on vacation, so don’t expect any emails regarding your school to be returned then. Unless you get a school director that’s super into technology and communication, which is rare. But remember the positive too–it’s in Spain! Siestas, vino, parties, different culture, travel, etc. 

Spain in a nutshell. (source)

Spain in a nutshell. (source)

2. It’s run by the Spanish Government. Be prepared for bureaucracy at is finest. It took me FOREVER to get my NIE/TIE because I live in Bizkaia but my school is in Gipuzkoa, so I had to go to San Sebastian police station to get my NIE (just the number), but then had to get my TIE (the actual card) from the Bilbao police station. Why? Not really sure. It really depends on who is working what day and your luck. But in my experience, put a smile on your face and attempt to speak spanish and (most) people will be helpful.

3. Brush up on Spanish BEFORE you come. Listen to music, study general vocab and verbs, etc. Check out my post about learning spanish if you need some ideas!

Don't be this person when you come. (source)

Don’t be this person when you come. (source)

4. Find housing AFTER you come. Don’t agree to anything before you come. It’s better to book a hostel or hotel for a week and figure out where you want to live once you get a feeling of the city or pueblo you’re living in.

5. Come with money. There have been lots of posts in the auxiliares facebook page and the general consensus is come with about $2000-$2500 saved. I came with that much and it really helped me when I needed to quit aupairing and live on my own.

6. Settle first, travel later. Yes, you’re living in Europe and it’s really exciting that you can travel everywhere so easily. But if I could go back and change something, I wouldn’t have traveled so much in the beginning here. It was overwhelming and I feel like now I have a good group of friends who have become my travel buddies and I enjoy the trips I take more. I think trying to settle and getting to know the city you’re living in first is really important. I didn’t feel settled here until late December, then I went to the USA for Xmas and it took me another money after I got home to resettle.

Me, when I got here lolol. I'm still like this. #wanderlustproblems (source)

Me, when I got here lolol. I’m still like this. #wanderlustproblems (source)

7. Use social media and word of mouth for private classes. I got the majority of my classes using the facebook groups. People always post about people wanting private lessons, and once you find a family or two, it usually just snowballs to more people wanting them. Be open to teaching both children and adults. I give a lot of lessons to adults and they are my favorite classes!

8. Bring an unlocked iPhone (or other phone that is unlocked). Seriously. This is one thing I STRUGGLED with when I got here. I don’t like to be that person that is attached to their phone, but when you move to a foreign country and are trying to settle, technology is VITAL. You need it to schedule private classes, for apartment searching, maps if you get lost. I didn’t have a working iPhone here until the middle of November (about 7 weeks after I got here) and it was just awful. If you have an unlocked iPhone, all you have to do is get a sim card and pop it in! It’s so easy. I use Yoigo and I love it. It ends up being about 10 euros a month and I have 3G and cheap texting/calling. In Spain, everyone uses Whatsapp, so text message prices never factor in anyways. And I only call for emergencies. I can recharge my sim card online and I do it every 2 months. So just bring an unlocked phone and save yourself the hassle of getting it unlocked here, or worse, having to buy a phone here. 

9. Not everything is going to work out–be flexible. When I first got here, I was a live in aupair. It was awful. It seemed like it was going to be the perfect situation because I would have free rent/food and only had to watch the kids a few hours a day. Well, a few hours turned into a lot of hours and I was overwhelmed and felt like I had no life here. After a month, I quit aupairing, moved out, find an apartment and began giving private classes. Just remember to be flexible and if something doesn’t work out, change it. 

Always true! No matter the situation. (source)

Always true! No matter the situation. (source)

10. Just breath! It’ll be fine! It’s going to be overwhelming at times, but it’s an adventure and a HUGE learning experience. The best part is, you’re in Spain, so everything is more laid back here. In the USA, I felt like my life NEVER slowed down and I was always going and stressed. Here, while I was really overwhelmed when I first got here, I did have time to relax and breath once I quit aupairing. So relax, half the struggle is making the decision to come and the first 1-2 months of living here. But like any big change in life, it takes time. You’re not going to feel settled and comfortable over night, but give it time. I really think it’s about making it over that 2 month mark, and then it’s pretty smooth sailing. 

Just go! (source)

Just go! (source)

I hope this helps any auxiliares who are thinking about doing the program! I would highly recommend it. And if you hate it, the time FLIES. I am in month 7 or my 8 month contract, and it seems like I just got here YESTERDAY. Let me know if you have any other questions, I’d be happy to answer them!

 

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How To Learn Spanish Without A Textbook

When I moved to Spain, my spanish was awful. I’m not exaggerating when I say I didn’t even know how to say “nice to meet you” in a conversation (I had learned it but I didn’t remember). I had taken 3 years (6 months each year, so really 1.5 years) of Spanish in highschool and then a semester in college, but to be honest, it was all kind of a joke. I remember learning bits and pieces, like a few animals (perro, gato), a few irregular verbs (tengo, quiero) and the present tense (hablo, hablas, habla). Y ya esta. That was it.

So getting to Spain was a mild shock for me. Everybody always told me, “ohhh just by living in Spain, you’ll learn spanish. It’ll just take about 3 months.” Well, everyone was lying. Three months into living here and I felt like my Spanish wasn’t improving like I expected. Being an english teacher here means I spend my days speaking english. I have a group of fellow auxiliares and we all speak english together (LOVE YOU GUYS!). My roommate lived in the US for a year and has perfect english. I felt like I was living in an english speaking bubble in Spain and something needed to change! 

Once February rolled around, I was sick of myself not learning as much spanish as I liked. So I decided to make a few small changes that have really made a big difference these past 2 months. And the best part–I’m not sitting somewhere reading a textbook for hours! So here’s the changes I made:

1. Listen to all my music in spanish. ME ENCANTA LA MUSICA DE SHAKIRA!!! Her songs in spanish, in my opinion, are so much better than her english versions. She clearly writes the songs in spanish first, and then “translates” it to english. The translations over to english sometimes actually change the meanings of the songs (a little), and I’ve really enjoyed understanding her spanish versions of songs. Gitana (Gypsy) is one of my favorite songs in spanish, but in english, I don’t like it as much. My first song I learned in spanish was La Tortura…HIGHLY RECOMMEND. 

Anyways, first I listen to the song a few times and try to understand it. Then I listen to it while reading the LETRAS (lyrics). Any words/phrases I don’t understand, I translate and write. After I’m finished learning a song, it gets added to my running playlist and basically drilled into my head. Today, I learned the spanish version of Let It Go. In spanish it’s called Libre Soy which means I am free, so a little different than the english version, but still really fun to learn and a great song.

2. Read magazines in spanish. In my magazines, sometimes I use a pen and write translations and new words in them while reading. But reading magazines has always been fun for me, so I’ve enjoyed reading cosmo each month. And now, I know a lot of the makeup/beauty terminology in spanish which comes in handy when I find myself aimlessly wandering through Sephora and the beauty sections of stores here. Jajaja I’m such a girly-girl.

3. Listen to my students when they talk. With my young students, I learn so much!!! Since they’re only 4-6 years old, their vocabulary is very basic anyways and they aren’t speaking in slang (like my highschoolers) all the time. I teach 2 brothers, twice a week, and the older one is really good at english. I’ll explain something, and I let him translate to his brother if his brother doesn’t understand. At this point, I can obviously translate it too, but when I hear him translate it, it helps me know that he understands what I’m saying as well. Anyways, just listening to my younger students talk, especially when I teach vocabulary, has also helped me!

4. Talk. To. Everyone. Who. Will. Listen. But. Not. Abuelos. Basically, when I go places, I talk to people. I talk to people working there, ask questions, etc. At the grocery store I go to, I made a friend who works there and we always talk when I buy my groceries. Some abuelos (grandparents aka older people) are okay to talk to, but here in Pais Vasco (not sure how it is in the rest of Spain), I find the abuelos a little cynical and not very patient. So, I try to avoid speaking with them just to avoid both of us the struggle and headache.

Probably what abuelos are thinking when I try to talk to them… it says “in my times, the bathroom was for shit and not for taking pictures” hahaha. source

5. Watch tv/movies in spanish. So I’m not in full immersion with only watching tv/movies in spanish yet. I mean, I just started watching Pretty Little Liars on Netflix again, so I just can’t completely immerse myself yet. Maybe after I finish season 4 and find out who A is (judges self), I’ll only watch spanish tv/movies. Anyways, I’ve found it a lot more helpful to watch American movies that I’ve already seen, in spanish. Because I already know the plot line. I also always use sub titles and sit with my computer in front of me with google translate and any word I don’t know, I translate. At the end of the movie, I save the list of words on my computer and review the new vocabulary later!

6. Challenge yourself. The thing about being a native english speaker is, it is the universal language. A lot of people know english and will speak it to you. Here in Bilbao, less people know english than more international cities in Spain, but still a lot of people speak it. With that, I found myself being lazy. If someone knew english, I would just speak english. So I decided to start challenging myself. I told my roommate that we can only speak in english on the weekends, so the weeks, I only speak spanish. I also started speaking spanish with my coworkers, even if we are talking about lesson plans in english. I also actively listen everywhere I go, instead of passively being there. What I mean is when people talk on the metro, I try to listen to their conversations and understand what they’re saying.

Challenge yourself! source

Challenge yourself! source

But like all things in life, nothing worth having comes easily. And learning languages in no exception. It takes WORK to learn a new language. It’s not just going to happen overnight. But, in my opinion, the best way to learn something is to make it feel like you aren’t learning! I’ve made a few changes in things I already enjoy doing, like listening to music, talking to people, watching movies, and lately, I’ve been noticing the changes in my spanish. Now that I’m a teacher, I always tell my students LEARNING IS FUN, and the way I’m learning spanish has been great–sin libros aburrido.

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How did you learn a second language? What is your favorite way to learn?