Welcome to our space, our window to the world, a place from which we can share our experience at English Getaway and more…
And now comes the stage fright… our first post!
Perhaps a good way to break the ice would be to introduce ourselves, explain why we organize English Immersion Programs and why we do so in Asturias, but before we get there, I should first explain how I got over my fear of speaking in English.
From an early age, I became interested in English because of music. I always loved to sing and my favorite songs were in English.
I remember listening to songs over and over again and phonetically writing out the lyrics on paper so I could memorize them. This took a lot of time and I was always left with one question… what the heck was I saying? After several years of studying in school and in language academies, where learning English seemed like a torture, my parents decided to use their lottery winnings to send me to England for a summer.
I vividly remember my initial feelings… “Wait a minute… These people don’t speak the same language that I’ve been studying for the last 8 years!” I didn’t understand anything. Speaking made me extremely nervous and nothing coherent came out of my mouth. The effort that the Brittish had to make in order to understand me was superhuman, which resulted in me having very few English-speaking friends and, naturally, me spending more time with Spaniards so we could mutually comfort each other. Fantastic! One full month in England and only 20 hours, maximum, of real practice in English.
Source: pinterest: autor desconocido
Years later, in university, I had my second chance; an exchange program with the University of Manchester, so I went ahead and tried again. At first, it was torture trying to follow the classes and take decent notes, but with practice, my listening skills began adapting to this incredibly strange language that was becoming more and more like the language of my songs… and I really started to like it.
From the beginning I knew that I wanted to interact with only English speakers, after all, I was there to speak English. This time, I prohibited myself from speaking to any Spaniard! And I did it… For 2 years I was completely immersed in the language and the culture. I lived in a house with 4 Brits and one French student, who naturally became my teachers, my friends and my family.
Almost without realizing it, my difficulties with the language began diminishing because I enjoyed being with everybody, communicating with them, getting to know them and being able to show them who I was. We spoke for hours about anything and everything … our thoughts, our dreams, the things that we missed… I began to trust myself, to speak with other foreigners that were there for the same reason as me, and I discovered the pleasure of communication without barriers. English was no longer the language of my songs; It was the language of the world.
In Spain, English has opened many unexpected doors for me. One day it opened the door to Diverbo, where I worked for a number of years. I began working as a counselor in English Immersion Programs for teenagers and I ended up directing the famous Pueblo Inglés programs for adults. It was a great experience.
It has never ceased to amaze me how, in one week of English immersion, participants are transformed, gaining confidence in the language and, at the same time, in themselves, and how so many unique friendships are formed, especially through “one-to-one” conversations which often evolve in such a way that they reach a level of depth that we hardly reach even when speaking with our best friends.
The unique opportunity to have all the time in the world to speak, and to do it in English, to loose your fear and your “sense of ridiculous” ,as they say in Spanish, because we are all in the same boat, and to count on the help of some exceptional people from all over the world… this is, for me, the magic of these programs and the best way to fall in love with the language.
Because of this, at English Getaway we want to continue creating these encounters, to practice “real” English with native people, to learn the expressions and to understand the accents that make them unique and to do all of this in the incredible natural setting of Asturias, Spain.
We look for unique rural settings and we combine English immersion with nature walks and hiking because we can’t think of a better way to strike up an interesting conversation than strolling through the natural beauty of the Asturian landscape.
Photo: Mick Stephenson
We’re waiting for you!
Paula del Estal
Co-founder of English Getaway