Here’s Agustina. She’s a Spanish teacher with Lingoda, but she’s also learning German and French, so she knows all too well the highs and lows of learning a new language!
Agustina, please tell us a little about yourself!
My name is Agustina Palenque (such a Spanish last name!). I’m from Argentina and at the moment, I’m at a nomad stage of my life. A couple of years ago, one of my cousins asked “So, when are you going to live abroad?” and I remember thinking. “Do I have to?” Is it because every millennial has their road trip through Europe, picks bananas in Australia and make their way through Thailand? I’m more into stable educational projects, getting to know students and being able to see their self development as I learn from all of them. I’ve learned a lot thanks to my stable life in Buenos Aires. Education was my way of making this world a little better, my way of understanding how different we all are, how much we all need to be loved, to be listened to and respected. My way of understanding we all need (and deserve) to find our own and best way of living with others.
However, at a certain point in my life I felt I also needed to learn more, and that there wasn’t any new challenge for me there. I could change my work or neighbourhood but I already knew how I would feel.
That’s when the travelling idea came to my mind and suddenly there were no more options for me than having a new kind of adventure, without knowing how it was going to be, just waiting for life to tell me what is needed to be said. Spain, Italy, Morocco and even New York! I realised I really liked my traveller self. That’s when The Phoenix bird of all cities started to mumble: “Berlin. There’s gotta be something there for me”. So here I am, this amazingly intense city gave me a whole new life perspective and that’s how I found Lingoda, trying to learn some German. I applied to work as an online Spanish Teacher and I had my first official language online teaching experience. And I love it. I know now I can take my work anywhere I go.
What does the average day look like for you as a Lingoda teacher?
I don’t really think there’s an average day for a Lingoda Teacher, especially for me, my routine has changed so much over the last few years! I can say though, that as an early bird, I usually prefer working during the mornings with a couple of classes. Then I have my French Lesson at Lingoda around noon. I really enjoy my lessons and I wish I started to learn this earlier! I know I will get back to German as soon as I get my French strong enough. Afterward my lesson, I work on other personal projects. I’m starting to think of writing a new blog to share my travelling and teaching experiences and maybe (just maybe) a YouTube channel for intermediate Spanish learners. I prefer to do all this at a nice cafe (that’s a very “porteño” habit – porteños are people from Buenos Aires).
I suppose my routine is going to change again now I’m going to France, I guess it’s going to be much more about being in contact with nature. But I actually don’t know, and that’s what I like the most.
What is it that you like the most about the platform?
I like the kind of people Lingoda connects. Most of the students I have had the chance to meet are sensitive souls willing to know more about other cultures and ways of living. I also like the topics Lingoda prepares for the lessons and the educational approach. Thanks to the materials I had so many interesting conversations! I truly believe we only learn when we really want to communicate, so I try to have real discussions. Therefore, I have so many new ideas and questions about life!
What is it about learning and speaking other languages that you enjoy?
I enjoy misunderstandings and other funny situations with false friends. If you are able to laugh at yourself, you can have so much fun by making mistakes and listening to what people might understood! For example, I remember that some time ago, one of the students was trying to tell me that sometimes she didn’t like her new neighbourhood because of “drunk people” (borrachos) make too much noise, but instead of using the word “borracho” she said “embarazadas” which means “Pregnant women”. So what she was saying was that pregnant woman were making too much noise around her home! It was so funny, we were laughing for a couple of minutes.
A good friend of mine told me that learning a new language is a great way to challenge your own ego, and I totally agree. Language is a big part of our self expression. Trying to express ourselves when we still don’t feel totally confident in the new language means you constantly have to accept the fact that sometimes people wont get to see all the interesting things you want to say, and you just have to deal with it.
Why do you think people should learn languages?
I’ve realised the importance of learning languages the first time I went to Europe just two years ago. Speaking English, and feeling pretty comfortable with it was such a big advantage to meet travellers. I also think that language is one of the most identifying expressions of each culture and I find that really interesting. For instance, I’ve learned that German is a very logical language and it has so many words to name every single thing and idea! That’s something that definitely identifies German culture: logic, structure and accurateness: they say exactly what they want to say.
Moreover, I think the problems the world has (and has always had) can now only be solved if we have a worldwide way of thinking. Paulo Freire, a brazilian Pedagogue, said: “La cabeza piensa donde los pies pisan”. It means that we tend to see life and think of it from the perspective of our situated material experience. So, if we are really interested in making a change, we need to make the effort of learning from others, be empathetic with their life experiences and at least try to see life through their perspective. Language is definitely a good way to achieve this challenge.
What do you like most about the Spanish Language?
I love music. I live with music all the time and I love to think of how the words I choose sound all together. I suppose that’s the best part of Spanish: it just sounds beautiful. Besides, I could say that it’s a flexible language: there are many ways to express the same idea using correct grammar structures. I know this can be a little confusing for learners, but I think it’s a strength: even though some members of “La Real Academia Española” try to keep rigid rules, Spanish speakers always play with our language. So, that’s what you have to do to be able to learn spanish: play. Besides, as Carlos Fuentes (Mexican writer) said: Spanish is “el idioma que con mayor elocuencia y belleza ofrece el repertorio más amplio del alma humana”. So, according to him, Spanish is the language that more beauty and eloquently offers the widest repertoire of the human soul. I don’t know so many languages to confirm this fact, but I do believe that Spanish makes people more able to express their deepest feelings and thoughts.
Why do you think people should visit, or even live in an Spanish speaking country?
Sometime ago, a Swedish friend of mine asked me about my plans and after I told her all my alternatives she said “ I love how flexible you guys are about the future!”. And I thought, well, yes, we are, because we have to. Life in each country is different. Growing up in a Latin American country makes you aware of how much context can change every decade, year, or month. You need to be able to adjust to it and enjoy life!
Besides, Spanish speaking countries are exactly the opposite to individual societies. We are used to think our lives as part of a collective and not only for our personal achievements. That’s something any traveller through South America may notice, it’s a different life perspective and I think that other countries may learn a lot through it.
I love the passion and intensity of Spanish.
Whether you are cooking, dancing, playing football, listening to music or discussing politics with Spanish speakers you may notice how much we enjoy and take all these things seriously. Although, each country has its own idiosyncrasies, I would love to have the chance of getting to know more about Mexico, Cuba, Guatemala or Colombia, for example.
If you had any tips or advice for a language learner, what would they be?
Speaking a foreign language implies most of the time a big effort. So, first of all, I think a practical advice would be: to try to find the best time of the day to take your lessons. When do you feel more “chatty”? For me, it’s around noon, after I’ve worked for a couple of hours. Late nights aren’t good timing for me, I just want to chill and speak Spanish! I also think that being prepared for the lessons really helps. I also try to read the materials before to be ready with the vocabulary and focus on the conversation. Besides, as many people say, it’s great when you try to make the language as part of your routine: try to read the news in that language, listen to music and watch some series. Podcasts and medium articles in French are very interesting for me.
And last but not least, don’t do what I did as I was trying to learn German. Be realistic about your goals, don’t get too anxious and enjoy the path.
What words of wisdom do you have for anyone who may be thinking about taking the leap into language learning?
I don’t know if these are words of wisdom but I would say that getting to know a new language is so much more than learning grammar or having perfect pronunciation. The most important thing is to embrace the new culture, and just play for some time with this “new identity” language offers you. Step by step, any learner should try to operate, to communicate. There are amazing Spanish teachers, that would enjoy helping you to feel confident.