Here at Kwiziq, we're a mixed team of language enthusiasts, with different approaches to how and where we most enjoy using our language skills. Dotted around the globe working from home offices, we don't often get a chance to sit down and have a chat. So I thought it would be a good idea to get to know some of my colleagues better and introduce them to you through a series of interviews.
Today I'm talking to Ana Matilla, one of our Spanish Experts.
Hi Ana, can you describe your role here at Kwiziq?
Hola Rowen! I bring together my Spanish expertise and digital marketing knowledge to create content such as dictations, readers and gapfills. And in collaboration with Silvia, we plan the blog and the weekend workouts. Also I'm involved in social media, coming up with ideas and materials for the design for Pinterest and Instagram visuals, such as a Fill-in-the-blank example or the Correct the mistake exercise. I collaborate with Hajar on these too. I also do some of the proofreading for Spanish, and finally I work with Silvia, Inma and Shui to create new lessons and come up with new ideas for content for students and teachers.
Which languages do you speak?
Spanish - that's my mother tongue - and English and Portuguese.
Where and when did you learn English and Portuguese?
English I learnt in school, but in Spain they don't pay a lot of attention to foreign languages, so we don't speak foreign languages very well, but I decided I wanted to study for a Masters in London, so I took some private lessons in order to be admitted. And then I tried to improve my English at the same time as I did my Masters. That's how I learnt! And Portuguese, I met my husband -who is Portuguese- in London, so instead of staying in London, the following year we moved to São Paulo to live together. And I went to the university there to do a course in Portuguese language and Brazilian culture.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live and why?
Well, after travelling to many countries and living in Madrid, London and São Paulo, I definitely think that where I live now, greater Lisbon, is where I would love to live forever. Because the city is not too big and it's really beautiful. Not just the monuments and colourful houses covered with tiles, and the trams like in San Francisco, but there's also the design of the city on a cliff which creates wonderful views of the wide river, Tejo. I love to have the river and also the beach close to my place! So that's another amazing thing about this city. There are many months of good weather and sun, so there are lots of water sports. Or if you prefer parks or mountains, there are a lot of green spaces and mountains. And also Lisbon is very multicultural and there are many people from Brazil, Angola, India, Macau because of the old colonies. But at the same time they have a lot of influence and there are many British, Italian and French people. And I really like that vibe. And Portuguese people are really sweet and very modest. But at the same time they have quite an entrepreneurial and traveller spirit. So I like that. What can I say? Well, my husband is Portuguese, so I love Portuguese people! And the way of life is similar to the Spanish one, they highly value family, friendship, good food -they enjoy life in a Mediterranean way- so I feel at home.
How does their entrepreneurial spirit manifest itself?
Because they are always thinking about how to create a business! I see my husband and other Portuguese friends of his involved in businesses. My husband started a company in London and he travelled around the world fixing up other companies and creating new ones. For example, he's creating with another friend of his here a kind of experiential centre to explain the Lisbon earthquake. Most of the Portuguese people I know here are involved in art projects. Or they're developing things or they are dancers in very good companies that perform around the world. I think that they're always creating things in different areas…
What are three things about you that most people don't know ?
1) I love taking photos but people can't be in them. So I enjoy photography and architecture, small textures or small details.
2) I cannot live without music and I need to dance a little bit every day. It's like my therapy. I have a tiny little choreographer inside of me, so every day either with the baby or on my own, I need to jump or to dance. I go to the gym as well and just took some lessons related to samba-fitness for example.
What kind of music do you listen to and dance to?
I love music from all over the world. I love flamenco, I love rock 'n' roll, I love Brazilian music, bossanova, samba de roda. Sometimes I like to listen to Fado. I like to find new music.
For example, I love Bollywood films as well, or Arabic music, so I explore to find new artists or to be closer to that culture and suddenly I discover an artist on Spotify. And I like funk and soul music as well. It depends on my mood.
Did you have dance lessons as a child?
When I was a kid my father enrolled me in ballet and tennis classes, but I hated ballet - I preferred tennis. I dance because I feel it. As a child, I used to love to dress up and imitate a dancer or my favourite singer from when I was 4 years old, and my parents can dance really well. They can dance salsa, tango. And my grandparents as well on both sides, so I think that it's something in our blood.
3) Before becoming a Spanish teacher and copywriter, I worked as a coordinator and designer of exhibition displays for museums. And arts institutions, inside an architectural firm. I had clients such as the Prado Museum and the Spanish National Heritage.
And were you working on exhibitions based in that museum permanently or were they for touring exhibitions?
Sometimes it was for permanent exhibitions, and other times they had itineraries going around Spain or sometimes going to different European capitals, so I'd have to travel to each place.
What's your favourite word in Spanish, English and Portuguese?
- In Portuguese I like the word saudade = nostalgia, reminiscing. It's like a mixture of melancholy and nostalgia, but at the same time with a sweet and positive approach.
- In Spanish: alegría = happiness, joy.
- In English: cosy. I like it because it's a welcoming and warm word.
What's the most unusual situation you used your foreign language knowledge in?
There was one day when I was in London in the ER waiting room with my baby waiting to be assisted because she was sick and next to me was a desperate lady with her baby, trying to make herself understood, to get help. But nobody understood her and the receptionist just gave her a form to fill in and told her "you can't come in" and so she started crying and I heard that she spoke Portuguese, so I asked her in Portuguese, "Are you ok? Tell me what's going on." So she told me that her baby was really sick with fever and everything, but they didn't let her in because they didn't understand. So I calmed her down and I filled in the form for her and I stayed with her being the interpreter until she left the hospital with the treatment for her baby. I mean, because if it were me in another country with my baby… I don't know, I'm a mother maybe I'm more sensitive, but I know what it's like to get stuck because you don't know how to speak the language.
What language-related achievement are you most proud of?
That I learnt Portuguese just in three months from A1 to C1.
Wow, that's amazing! It's great when you can learn by being constantly surrounded by the language…
It's much better that way, yes. I used to have three hours of lessons per day, but at the same time I used to speak with everybody. In the supermarket, well, they're not big supermarkets they were small shops, and in Brazil people are really open so everybody talks to you even when you're waiting for the bus, so I took advantage of that because I knew I wanted to work there so I needed to learn quickly.
Did people correct you if you made mistakes?
In Brazil, it was half and half, some people corrected you and some people didn't because they weren't sure if you would be upset. But I asked them to. I told them they have to correct me. It happens as well if you go to Spain, nobody's going to correct you if you don't ask, because it's not polite. But if you ask to be corrected, you learn quicker. And I am proud as well that I really started to speak English when I was in my 30s, when I moved to London. That was hard. Because the younger generation speaks so many languages and I was there with my masters degree and five years of learning English.
What do you most enjoy using your foreign language knowledge for?
I like to use it to converse with people from different countries, to learn about other cultures. Because it's like if you travel, and if you have a chance to speak with people from a different culture it helps you to understand the world better.
Do you think there are big differences between Brazilian culture compared to Spanish culture?
They are similar. They are more cheerful, like they are happier, they love more, but they are less straightforward. They smile a lot but they aren't completely sincere. And I don't like that. They are similar in things like - they value family a lot and friendship. Brazilian people are really positive, really cheerful and I think that in their cheerfulness they are more similar to Spanish people than to the Portuguese. Portuguese people are more serious. And Brazilians have more music. Portuguese people have fado but Brazilians listen to everything. Everybody thinks they just have bossanova or samba, but they have a lot of music - sertanejo, MPB and they always have a guitar in every reunion with friends. Everyone goes to a lot of shows.
I also enjoy watching TV in English. I have Netflix and if the series is in Spanish, I put the subtitles in Brazilian Portuguese to practise. At home, I speak Portuguese with my husband, with my daughter I speak Spanish. When I go to the school with the other mums I speak English, because it's a British nursery school. And I read books in Portuguese. With my mother-in-law I speak Portuguese, with my friends here too, and in London I speak in English. Every day I use all three of my languages.
What one feature about Kwiziq do you like most?
One? There are lots of things! What I like about Kwiziq is that everything is linked. So you can be in front of a reading exercise and you just click the button and you can listen to the audio. At the same time, if you click or hover over the sentence, you can see the translation and also the related grammar lesson links - if you click them you see an explanation as well. And you can take a test on that grammar point straightaway. And I consider this feature really helpful in the learning journey.
What's your superpower?
My friends say that I'm a really good listener, mediator or counsellor. And also that I'm really creative and organised. So with little resources and time, I can create a successful birthday party for my child, with costumes. Or I can organise a relocation to another country in the blink of an eye, or I can decorate any space by making wonderful flower arrangements.
What language do you wish you spoke?
Arabic! For the influence that it has had on Spanish culture and language. And also because it's like a different language concept and writing and it would help me to understand their culture better. There are a lot of countries that speak Arabic, so I would understand them all better.
Gracias Ana! More interviews with the rest of the team coming soon!