A Year in Catalonia

Language assistant Greg Armstrong shares his experiences teaching English in Catalonia, Spain. Let’s see what he has to say about his time in one of Spain’s most talked about regions. 

Before you even consider becoming a language assistant in Catalonia, remember one thing:

Catalonia is not Spain!

barcelona night

Catalonia is much more than cosmopolitan Barcelona

 

I’m currently studying a Bachelor’s degree in Languages (French and Spanish) and during the third year you need to spend one academic year in either France or Spain. I chose Spain because I had only been studying Spanish for a few months. When you apply through the British Council you have to choose three regions in order of preference. I chose Catalonia, then Andalusia and Asturias.

Like most people, I was assigned my first choice: Catalonia. However, choosing Catalonia does not mean that you will be spending a year in the capital, Barcelona. When I received my e-mail from the British Council, it said I had been assigned to a place called Torelló. I thought to myself, “Where?”.

I didn’t stay in Torelló. I lived in the biggest town of the area, Vic (which I had also never heard of). Vic and Torelló are both classified as being in the Barcelona province, but they are about an hour and a half away by train.

Vic Catalunya

Vic, Catalonia

One thing you may notice about the Catalans is that they are very hard working. I received a reply from the school within a few days, whereas some people didn’t even know where they were going. My other friends who chose Spain didn’t receive a reply from their schools until after the summer.

If you do choose Catalonia, I would urge you to choose a medium sized town, or at least live in a medium sized town and commute to your school every day. Some people I know lived in a tiny place and were disconnected from everything.

I think the one “bad” thing for me about living in Catalonia was the Catalan language. I went there with the aim of improving my Spanish, but unfortunately I didn’t speak it as much as I wanted. One thing I didn’t do was attend the free Catalan classes organised by the Generalitat (the Catalan government). For anyone really looking to immerse themselves in Catalan culture, then these classes are a must. It would also be a great networking opportunity.

Working as a language assistant is a fantastic experience. Apart from working 12 hours a week and being paid €700 a month, it gives you the opportunity to find out if teaching is for you. Also there are many opportunities for private classes, most of which take the form of conversation classes. I charged €10 an hour for mine, although I could have easily charged more. It’s amazing how quickly the word spreads from one person to another that there is a native English speaker living nearby!

I’ve been told that in the academic year 2012-2013, there won’t be any positions available for language assistants in Catalonia and Valencia. However, I would recommend working in Catalonia if you can. I think it’s the most beautiful part of Spain by far!

Photo Credits: pasotraspasorobven

 

Comments

  1. Great to hear about your experiences, Gerry … Vic is one of my favourite cities in Barcelona Province and the surrounding countryside is magnificent, particularly if you head up north to the foothills of the Pyrenees and the Paisatges del Ter.

    Shame you didn’t take the chance to do some Catalan classes – you’d have found the experience very enriching and learning one of the oldest Romance languages to develop out of Vulgar Latin would have been deepened your understanding of both Spanish and French.

    It must have been tough getting by in Vic with only Spanish! The area’s extremely Catalan, unlike Barcelona, which is pretty much bilingual with a much stronger tendency towards Castilian.

    Anyway, great to hear you had a good time, and I hope you go back to the UK speaking highly of Catalonia and its people!

  2. Congratulations for the experience!
    I am sure that your students enjoyed having you as language assistant, and they learned a lot… Good news, to know that it was interesting for you too. :-)
    Good luck in your new adventures!
    (By the way, Catalonia is receiving 125 new language assistants this year, but they all come from Europe)…
    My best wishes,

  3. Hi, thanks for sharing your experiences! I am just about to get my CELTA (TEFL) qualification, and afterwards want to head to Catalunya (and am learning the language :) )

    Could you please pass on any details of agencies/ organisations/ schools in Catalunya hiring English teachers? Thanks!

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