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 Inma Sánchez, one of our Spanish Experts.
Hello Inma, can you describe your role here at Kwiziq?
Hola Rowen! I create and revise the Spanish lessons for the site and I proofread content by the other teachers and anything that goes in the special exercises we publish every week. I'm also in charge of answering the questions on the Spanish forum and the emails that come in with language questions.
Which languages do you speak?
Only Spanish and English really. I would say my English is quite fluent - I've been in England for quite a long time. I did German and Portuguese ages ago, but I would say nowadays it's very basic, but I would love to go back to those at some point.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live and why?
I haven't travelled a lot but I quite like Portugal, which in a way is very similar to Spain. I find that the people are really nice and polite, and I like that. The other place I might consider is Sweden or Denmark, or some of the northern European countries. I think Sweden for example is very attractive because it looks like they are very modern thinking people. I also love the architecture, like when you see the buildings in Stockholm, they are all very colourful, very picturesque and people think that green places are important. (But I must travel more, I'm talking about pictures I've seen of it…) The weather is not very attractive to me so I don't think I would live there for years but I wouldn't mind experiencing a three-year stay or something. Because I think the winters are probably a bit harsh and I don't like the cold, but for a short time that would be one of the places that I would like to go to.
What are three things about you that most people don't know?
1) When I finished my university studies I started working in tourism and I fantasised about the idea of having a B&B in Spain, in rural Andalusia. I don't think I told anybody about that. I just like the idea of being in the villages in southern Spain because I remember walking around there and thinking that I could buy [a house] and turn it into a B&B and have all these lovely English people coming over and have a nice house and B&B.
2) The other thing is that I can play castanets! It's something that not many people do, especially in England. It's the only instrument I can play. I can't play anything else! And it's quite special because it's something that I have good memories of as a little girl, growing up in Seville. We used to play our castanets, all the little girls - not the boys - before April when the feria takes place, when there's music and dancing. We used to go out in the street in our flamenco high heels - because you need to tap - and our castanets and spontaneously we used to dance and play the castanets and sing. It's a bit special here [in England] because no-one else does it.
3) I love reading. When I read, it has to be novels. I enjoy books with a little bit of history here and there, or contemporary modern stories. But it has to be fiction. My favourite Hispanic author is Isabel Allende, from Chile. I've read all her books - I love her characters! But I also read in English. I alternate between English and Spanish.
What's your favourite word in any of the languages you speak?
The English word I've always liked is: Serendipity. When I saw it for the first time, I thought, "What is that?" I just like it because of the way it sounds.
In Spanish, I like the word, merienda. La merienda is an afternoon snack - a big snack! It's also something that brings back memories because my Mum used to go out to the balcony and shout my name - because we were always outside playing in the street - she'd call: "¡Inma, la merienda!" So you'd have to go up to the flat and grab your sandwich. I don't remember having lots of sweet things, it was more savoury, like a sandwich or something. I always remember my merienda being a chorizo sandwich, or something very unusual: like a sandwich made with a baguette type of bread, where you made a hole with your hand by taking some breadcrumbs out and then poured in some very strong olive oil and sugar and then put the breadcrumbs back in. It was delicious! Obviously very unhealthy, but I just remember it so well. I don't know if it was a regional thing, or maybe it was done only in the south? Anyway, that was my favourite merienda. And it's just a word that I quite like and I think it's a word that English people like too.
In English I like that expression you have, but I never get it right when I try to use it. It's 'having your knickers in a twist'.
Ah yes, 'getting your knickers in a twist'. I think it's heard mainly as: 'Don't get your knickers in a twist!' (In other words: calm down!)
I think it's genius! Whoever invented that is very good - you can visualise someone with some twisted knickers or something...
- which would be very uncomfortable!
- Yes, exactly!
What's the most unusual situation you used your foreign language knowledge in?
I had been in England for about a couple of years or so and my English was already ok, I didn't struggle too much because I did study a lot of English before coming here. And I met a Cuban lady who had a son, who was about 3, which was the same age as my daughter then, and she was really nervous, because her English was really awful and her boy had been feeling ill for a few days and she didn't know what to do because she didn't know even how to go to the doctor. So I said, "don't worry, I'll use my skills and I'll go with you and I'll help you out." So we went to the doctor and I explained all the symptoms and everything and she was so grateful that I'd helped her with that little gesture. I also felt really good because I met her again years later and she reminded me and she said, "do you remember when you came with me to the doctor? I really loved you then - it was so, so useful!" So it's a nice little story plus the boy didn't have anything serious.
What language-related achievement are you most proud of?
It's probably when I got my first certificate from Cambridge of B2-level English. That was when I was about 19. It wasn't very common then. Not many people went through exams, they may have gone to English classes but not many people thought it was important to have these certificates so I was really, really proud of that. I remember that in my first job interviews, I obviously had that very proudly on my CV and it was very useful, because it was all related to tourism. It was how I proved that I was serious about English and I had a certain level. I remember I only got a C, but it was my first official qualification in English.
What do you most enjoy using your foreign language skills for?
One thing that I really enjoy - but it's my Spanish, not my English - is telling my children off in Spanish! I do speak to them in Spanish all the time, but when we're outside and with other people, we obviously swap to English. But I always tell them off in Spanish because Spanish is more expressive and the moment I start telling them off they feel so very embarrassed that they do whatever I say! It's very very useful. They don't like it at all!
How old are they?
Now they're 14 and 12 and I still do it! We'll be in the middle of Costa Coffee, and they'll say, "Mum please shut up!" You know, in Britain, lots of parents talk a lot to their children, and they have a very diplomatic way of telling them off. But in Spain, you just tell them off and you're a little bit more shouty and you sort of move your hands about a lot! So that's very very embarrassing for them. So I quite like that!
The other thing is, I really enjoy using my Spanish in a professional environment, when I have a conversation group, they really like it when they have a native Spanish speaker involved in the conversation. Because if everyone is just British, they talk in Spanish and somehow understand each other but when you have a native speaker there and you make yourself understood by the native and you understand everything that the native says, it's really satisfying for the students. Especially in conversation which is a really hard skill. So I quite like using it for that.
So is it a conversation group, or a class..?
I don't do it anymore because it became too much with the private tuition, and everything else I do. But I used to have 7 or 8 people around the table, here in the kitchen, students of more or less B2 level and we based our classes in conversation. They were all very chatty and it was really nice. And with A-level students it's also very useful because they need to learn a lot about, not only the language but also the culture. And you can add a lot of that as a native, so using your own language to provide that is very satisfying for both the student and for you.
What one feature about Kwiziq do you like most?
Definitely the Q&A forum. What I most enjoy is answering the forum questions, because if you don't have that then something is missing. The space on the lessons is limited and with every language that you're learning, you always have doubts, so it's really useful to have the forum to answer those questions. I love the forum!
I've always liked - even when I was working in tourism - I liked helping people out. For example, I remember working in a youth hostel in rural Andalusia and lots of people came and asked about routes, walks and interesting sites to go to and I loved that aspect of my work. I was a receptionist basically, but when I could give information and make sure they had everything they needed to enjoy their holiday, I felt really good. So I guess it helps a bit with the forum as well. I want to make sure that students get as much help as they can. It's a bit difficult sometimes because they ask very tricky questions and there can actually be no answer and I do struggle sometimes because I really want to give them something. I try to keep to a minimum the answers that say, "this is like this because it's like this. There's no rule" I try not to do that! I tend to leave that question to one side and then go and look at all the sources I can to see if I have some light from somewhere that I can shed on it. Or, it's difficult sometimes when you see that it's an A1 student asking a C1 question and you don't want to say, "of course you don't understand that, because you have missed about 40 steps before you get to this." I have to be very diplomatic when answering and pretty much give them a whole lesson there on the answer.
What's your 'superpower'?
I'm a really good listener. I'm not a super-chatty person, I'm more of a listener, and that is something that my friends have always appreciated, because you always have to have a good listener. And I'm not too judgemental, so I'm very objective. So people love coming to me and getting everything out and they feel really good afterwards. So I would say that is a positive thing!
What language do you wish you spoke?
I would love to go back to Portuguese, that would be my first choice. I'm very inclined towards the Romance languages, so Italian would be one I'd like to start because I don't know anything. Recently I've been watching this series called Il commissario Montalbano - it's a kind of comedy about a policeman in Sicily, and I just love the sound of it and obviously because it's similar to Spanish, sometimes I find myself not reading the subtitles anymore and just listening to what they're saying. And I love the sound of Italian, and I guess because of it having the same root and everything, it would be a language that as a Spanish person, I would learn quickly. (Like Portuguese as well.) I hope that Kwiziq goes for Italian next!
Gracias Inma! More interviews with the rest of the team coming soon!