English For Spanish


The View From the Reading Room

I run reading groups.  Many of my Spanish friends would like to join in but they find it intimidating.  “What am I going to do with Shakespeare?” they ask.  “Sure, Shakespeare is great, but I am going to sound ridiculous.”  It’s true.  Most second language speakers attain a certain level of proficiency and then all they seem to do is go over increasingly arcane vocabulary and grammatical points.  Someone who has studied Filología Inglesa probably knows more in theory about English than I do.  They still have a strange accent and make characteristic mistakes, however, and their textbooks don’t help them get over their problems.  The idea behind my English for Spanish groups is to offer people who have attained a certain level of fluency the opportunity to engage with great texts and spend five days in intelligent conversation- in English.  It is not an English course, but it will have dramatic effects on your pronunciation and fluency.  How?  Read on.

boring English classOne of the main obstacles to progress in language learning is boredom.  Be honest: have you ever taken up an English language text book and read it for pleasure?  I am not decrying the good work that English language teachers do in helping their students to pass tests and move up through the levels, but it seems to me that there is a huge difference between doing something because it interests you and doing something because you think it is good for you.  All of the plays that I have chosen for this five-day course come from the golden age of dramtic writing in the mid twentieth century.  Samuel Beckett, Edward Albee, Tennessee Williams, Harold Pinter and Tom Stoppard are top-ranking playwrights who dealt with serious issues in memorable language.  This is not your usual textbook dumbing down.  This is not dialogue written by a language teacher to help you get through a functional situation.  This is intelligent writing that will challenge your understanding not just linguistically but intellectually.  I offer this serious literature because the people who choose to come and do my courses are intelligent adults with ideas and opinions.

Since you know what the texts are when you sign up for the course you can read them beforehand if that makes you feel more comfortable.  You could even get a translation and make sure that you understand the texts and, if you want, I can tell you the parts that you will be reading personally.  You see, in my groups we read.  I am not the teacher and you are not the student.  You have absolute responsibility for your own understanding and progress.  This doesn’t mean that I won’t help people out with problems- after all I am English- but it does mean we are here to read not to study.  When we start reading we read continuously from beginning to end without stopping because it would be a travesty to stop and start like they used to do in high school.  I want you to be able to feel the rhythm of the language.

Before and after each reading we will talk about some questions of pronunciation and expression.  I can give the group individualized feedback on how to get past their most common pronunciation errors and how to develop the expressive potential of their language.  How do great actors read the same lines?  Can we imitate their expression?

Eat, Walk, Read… But We Do Not Have to Wear Fancy Dress!

There are three components to every group here in the mountains: Eat, Walk and Read.  The eating is a major part of the experience not just because our cook prepares top-quality Asturian cuisine, but because there is nothing quite like sitting around with a glass of brandy after a satisfying meal and talking about a really interesting book you have just read.  I choose the texts so that the readings interrelate.  Our conversations get more interesting as the days go by.  You may not be used to talking about your reading.  After all, many people get a little shy when they have to express an opinion about art or literature, but these texts ask questions that touch everyone’s lives.  The conversations are usually wide-ranging and touch everyone’s interests.  This is not school.  No one is getting a mark or a grade.  It doesn’t even matter if your English is not as good as the person sitting opposite.  We can all have an opinion and express it.

The walks are easy walks around the valleys of Asturias.  We are not going to be scaling mountains or trekking along bramble-infested paths.  You need to have a good walk after you have eaten a good meal.  It helps the digestion and it gives us the chance to have a different kind of conversation: that easy, friendly chitchat that is so useful in social life, the sign that you are a cultivated person.

This mountain village is a special place to relax and enjoy the world.  One of the major drives behind the Shakespeare in the Mountains project is to share it with other people.  The English for Spanish reading group will appeal to you if you have spent years studying English, but feel that you are still outside it.  I want to open the door and let you in so that we can share great texts, great food and great walks.

If you are interested in this English for Spanish in the Mountains reading course it runs form Sunday November 19 to Saturday November 25, 2017.  Spaces are limited so you will need to book early.  The cost for full board and accommodation is 650€ per person.


Drop me a line: currman@gmail.com


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