How I (Almost) Found A Job Instead Of My Teacher

As those who read my Sunday post will know, I had my first 1-2-1 Portuguese lesson with my new teacher Teresa on Monday night. And it all started off in the worst possible way.

I don’t know her part of town very well, so I asked the bus driver to alert me when I needed to get off. It’s about a 15-minute ride. I reminded him once half-way. It was not busy on the bus. I was sitting in the first row behind him to the far right, so I was somewhere in his peripheral vision. And he forgot about me. He seemed embarrassed, but did not apologise.

So, I stomped off the bus in a huff and trudged back about three stops, only to discover that I’d taken the wrong map with me which didn’t cover that part of town. Ahrgh! There were plenty of people about, though, and by asking for directions, I found the right street without much trouble. Because I’d left home very early, so I was still good for time and not overly stressed at that point.

…until I realised that I’d left my diary with Teresa’s address and phone number at home. I remembered the house number, but it was a block of flats the size of the Forbidden City and with about as many entrances as an African termite mound. The thought that I was languishing right outside her apartment, and that she was waiting for me somewhere upstairs was vexatious, to say the least. It was one of those rare moments when I wished I had Wassapp…

TermiteCastleThere was a language school directly opposite, and it appeared to be open. All flustered and with my glasses steamed up, I stumbled in, and explained my pathetic situation to the woman at reception, asking if I could use her computer to access my email.

Not only was she happy to help me out, but she also offered me a job teaching English.

What cruel irony, I thought, that in a country with an unemployment rate of over 25% (and 56% youth unemployment!) somebody like me, by the sole virtue of being a foreigner (with the “right” skin and hair colour, I presume) can just walk into a school at random, all frazzled and really NOT at her best, and be offered a job they’re not even qualified for. I should mention that, at this point, she’d not heard a word of English out of me. When I told her I was German, her eyes grew even wider, as “there were no German teachers in Toledo” and she was overrun with enquiries.

Anyway, by this time, I’d actually managed to get hold of my teacher – phew! – so I took the school’s card (just in case) and dashed back across the road.

The lesson itself was great. Insanely painful, yes, but great. I’ve written before about how much I detest language classes. To say that I’m a reluctant speaker is putting it mildly. Every fibre and neuron in my body seizes up, my mush brain goes blank, I get into a strop with myself, and then I switch off and let the others get on with it. In a 1-2-1 setting, though, chickening out doesn’t really work, you’ve just got to push through it.

As anticipated, I was struggling with accent issues, as Teresa’s from Lisbon and so far I’d been studying Brazilian Portuguese. I was relieved I understood a fair amount of what she was saying, and that I was able to respond. Well, sort of.

I found that thanks to playing that silly Duolingo, I actually had some vocab to toss into my incoherent bleatings. Also, seeing as Portugal is so close, literally just down the river from me, it would be a crying shame if, after putting in all this effort, I couldn’t couldn’t communicate with my immediate neighbours. I’m more likely to make frequent trips to Portugal than Brazil. They’ve got good cakes there, I’ve been told 😉

So, the upshot is that I’m very excited about my fresh start with Portuguese. I’m thrilled about actually having spoken some Portuguese (entire sentences, even!) to a native speaker, and I’ll be back there next Monday.

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48 thoughts on “How I (Almost) Found A Job Instead Of My Teacher

      1. ladyofthecakes Post author

        Hmmm…. I might contact them to see if they do conversation classes for adults. I don’t want to teach kids and I don’t want to prepare people for exams. And I don’t want any thickos either.

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      2. Expat Eye

        I imagine they’re pretty good! It’s one of their official languages. My best friend is moving there in Feb so I’ll have more info then! 🙂

        You could give the convo classes a go! Depends on the group – as always. You tend to get different people showing up all the time though.

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      I wouldn’t mind teaching conversation to adults who are actually interested. But most of these school teach children *shudder* or young adults who need to pass exams. That would just kill it for me.

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  1. Bastet

    What an adventure…never knew learning a language could be so profitable…maybe I should try to learn German in the Canaries, get lost and they’ll offer me a job teaching Italian! 🙂

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  2. gina4star

    Oh my goodness! Stress! I write everything down in my diary as well, totally lost without it. Though I am also totally lost without whatsapp, it’s one of my main connections home. And, damn you must be good to be offered a job teaching English without saying one word! Though, like you say, the irony is cruel. Good luck with the Portuguese!

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  3. Daniela

    So glad you made it and that it went well! Also you should really invest in a smartphone with map and contact apps! Also why not teach? That would be kind of awesome.
    Yay Portuguese! 🙂

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      True… but right now, I’m paying six bucks for my cellphone a month, and I’m online all day from home, so it’s quite nice to get away from it when I’m out. Unless there’s an emergency, of course! Eventually, I’ll have to upgrade…

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  4. restlessjo

    Just keep thinking of the Portuguese cakes and it’ll all be worthwhile, I promise 🙂
    I’m seriously impressed with your bravery anyway. I did look at Duolingo but couldn’t be pestered to play more than 5mins- I always want short cuts! And now it keeps sending me reminders and making me feel guilty and idle! Me! How dare it? 🙂 🙂
    Unbelievable about the job offer. But you never know…

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      You can turn off the reminders. Just go to your main page, click on “weekly progress” on the right hand side, and uncheck “daily reminder email.
      There are no short cuts. None.

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  5. linnetmoss

    “Children” (shudder!). Ha, ha! Love it. I feel exactly the same way. I am a teacher, but I teach only those who have (more or less) reached the Age of Reason. Am looking forward to Portuguese Cakes with great anticipation.

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  6. barbedwords

    The problem with teaching children is that you also have to deal with their parents, who want to know why little Maria or Mario isn’t reading Shakespeare and speaking with a Received Pronunciation accent after three lessons??

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      that always cracks me up. I’ve no direct dealings with this, but I hear about those distorted expectations all the time. It takes the little blighters five years of total surround sound to speak their mother tongue in an intelligible way. One hour a week of English isn’t going to do the same thing!

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  7. Jackie Cangro

    Bravo on finding your teacher and for speaking Portugese to a native speaker. When I would take Italian classes, I would get so flustered and nervous all the words came out like, Frsjfdrw Pdew3scw. I couldn’t even converse in any meaningful way.
    I don’t know why I was nervous. I mean, she was a teacher. Of Italian. I’m sure she expected me to make mistakes.
    Do you like the Duolingo app? I have it, but it seems like it’s for beginners.

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      I’m always nervous as hell in the beginning, even with a teacher… I think it’s quite normal. Annoying, though. Gotta push through it, there’s no other way, sigh.
      Yes, I’m on duolingo, if you wan to add me as a friend, my user ID is SimoneBa 🙂

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  8. Bernard O'Shea

    You’re a great writer, you have had me chuckling and giggling while I catch up with your blog. Really, you must try out all the patisseries in Lisbon and surrounds. Every area has its own variation of a type of cake, so of course purely for educational purposes you have to sample them everywhere you go.

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  9. TheLastWord

    Very vexatious… So what you’re saying is I should dye my hair blond and catch a plane while mumbling repeatedly the following words “The Rain in Spain stays mainly in the Plain, by George”

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