Elena has spent a good few months in England now and, as a native Spanish speaker from Madrid in Spain, she offers her opinions and perceptions on what it is like to live and work in England.
Pharmacist in Spanish, waitress in English.
Elena is ‘licenciada’ in pharmacy and despite being fully qualified in Spain to work as a pharmacist, she was forced to come to England to find work. Spain is still currently in the depths of ‘la crisis’ with little hope of seeing the light at the end of the tunnel for some time yet.
Because of her grammatically strong yet inexperienced English, Elena could only manage to find work in a restaurant. That said, within the first week of actively searching for a job, she secured one as a waitress. In Spain, even restaurant jobs are very hard to find these days.
A recent story emerged about a job vacancy that was advertised in Madrid, and although it was nothing fancy at all, they received over 20, 000 applications.
The language barrier
One of the issues of not having strong English skills is that, without even doing it consciously, people make assumptions about someone’s intelligence based on their language skills. As you will hear in this Spanish listening test with Elena, this is very much what happened to her.
When we hear someone speaking our language badly, we automatically think that they do not have a very good education. This isn’t our fault, nor is it the fault of the speaker, it’s just a fact of life.
So, unfortunately for Elena, because she wasn’t able to express herself very well in English, she began to notice that she was being treated in a somewhat condescending way, sometimes bordering on disrespectful.
English is the key
Fortunately, Elena has been able to quickly build on her English skills and has began to pursue pharmaceutical work in the area. Despite what she says in the interview, which took place around two months ago, she has since found herself a boyfriend (José from Tenerife) who works as a chef in the UK and so, Elena doesn’t intend to move back to Spain in the near future.
I recall working in a Spanish restaurant in our local area about 6 years ago when my business collapsed and we found ourselves in a bit of a bad financial state. In the kitchen the entire staff was Polish. All of them had degrees and were teachers, scientists and things of that nature, and yet they were all there in the kitchen.
The only thing they all had in common was that their English was very poor. And, that was why they were in the kitchen and not teaching or discovering things in laboratories.
As Elena is finding out, to be taken seriously, having a good command of the native language is key to progressing and securing a good job.
The same applies to us
Surprisingly, there are still a lot of Brits who go off to find work in Spain with only a handful of Spanish words in their pocket. Needless to say, most of them end up coming back to the UK with tales of how nothing worked out for them. Perhaps, if they had worked more on their Spanish, they might have had quite a different experience.
Enjoy this Spanish listening test. Three out of five stars for difficulty.