The Azul team are excited to be running an extra special retreat week this May: the Yoga, Pilates & Spanish retreat. Guest instructor Noelia Ruiz will be flying in from Dublin to join the team at Villa Azul in hosting this healthy holiday with a language-learning twist. Here she tells us more about her experiences with learning English, teaching Spanish and living abroad.
As a Spanish woman living in Ireland how did you find the experience of going to live in another country?
I always felt the need to travel, to know other cultures, to get that experience. Initially it came from my love of reading. It was not so much about the desire to see exotic places as to gain experience from life. I also love writing and my favourite writers had all travelled, had had that basic experience of life that you could breathe in their books. I remember I dreamt of living in London, it was the cool place to be in the eighties and nineties. But life has its own ways and I ended up in Dublin after living for a few months in Boston. Those months were my first experience abroad and my command of English at the time was not as good back then. Language is the first barrier you encounter but once you overcome it, things become easier and you can really access the culture.
I’ve been in Ireland since 1999. I came for six months! I never thought I would stay in Ireland for so long. After so many years living abroad sometimes I feel a foreigner in my own country and more integrated in Irish culture. The funny thing is that you are always going to be a foreigner in another country and you become somehow estranged from your own culture, so it’s kind of a grey space.
At the same time, living abroad makes you realise how much you are a product of the place where you were born and bred. I soon realised how Spanish I am! But overall it is a positive experience I would recommend to everybody. It broadens your way of looking at life and enriches you so much.
In your experience what is the best way to learn a language?
The best way is with no doubt living in the country. You have to experience language. Of course, you can learn a language taking a course in your home country, especially to get the gist of it, but eventually you need to practise in a real situation. Language is about communication so the exposure to the language in a real context is fundamental, especially when you are able to practise everything you learn immediately.
Did you enjoy studying languages at school?
My favourite subjects were always languages and literature. I’m from Barcelona, so Catalan is my second mother tongue and we also studied it in school. English was only one hour a week, so my mother decided to enrol me in a language school when I was only eight years old. That proved to be really helpful, not only because I was always ahead of my class but also because I developed much quicker and when it came to travel and living abroad it wasn’t as difficult for me. I enjoyed the private lessons in English more because it was more fun and my teacher focused on oral communication. In school it was all grammar. Nowadays learning a language is much more fun because methods have developed enormously.
How long have you been teaching?
I’ve been teaching now for eleven years. I started in adult education, teaching people who had properties abroad, or wanted to travel around the world, or always went on holiday to Spain and wanted to be able to communicate a bit in the local language. Then I started in a university, which is quite different but still very enjoyable and as I develop the programme I’m able to apply new concepts in teaching, always seeking new ways of motivating my students.
What do you enjoy most about teaching?
I love communicating with people but what I like the most about teaching a language is that you are able to see progress very quickly. It is very satisfying to see how much people learn in a short period of time, how they can have a basic conversation or are able to get by in a foreign country. They are normally able to do more than they realise.
Do you think it is harder for adults to learn languages?
Not really with the right approach. It is a matter of time and pace, that’s all. Students in college are focusing exclusively on studying. Even if they have part-time jobs, the main priority is their studies. Adult life is more complicated, especially in our era. We are all so busy and our minds are full of information, duties, emotions. When people come to evening classes they have probably been working all day, and you must be aware of that. However, adults are very motivated in general and in that way they are easier to teach; the higher the motivation the bigger the progress.
If you could speak any languages in the world which would you choose and why?
I would probably choose Japanese. I’m fascinated by Japanese culture, starting with their food!
What have been some of your favourite language teaching/learning experiences?
My favourite experiences have always been with adults. You develop a different relationship. In college you cannot do certain things and you have a different position with respect to the student. For example, with my adult courses I used to organise cultural trips. We’d go for tapas or to see a Spanish movie during the film festival. We always had fun and it was great to see people coming from many different backgrounds being brought together by their common interest of learning a language. With a few of them I have even developed friendships, which is a beautiful thing.
You are teaching Spanish at Azul’s special Spanish, Yoga and Pilates retreat week. What can people expect?
People can expect to learn in a relaxed and fun environment, being able to practise in the villa and its surroundings. With beginners we will be focusing on the basics to get by around the island, from shopping and getting on the bus to ordering in a restaurant. So the practical element is very important. We’ll also be focusing on cultural tips, which are very handy as well. Finally, the participants will be encouraged to suggest topics they are particularly interested in.
As I said before, nowadays we all very busy, so a Yoga and Pilates retreat is an ideal setting to disconnect the mind and immerse yourself in a different learning experience.
About the special week: ‘Yoga, Pilates & Spanish Retreat’
Dates: 23 – 30 June
What is included in the week?
What is included in the Spanish course?
This special week starts from as little as €500. For more information please visit the Azul Yoga & Pilates Retreat website.