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How to Teach or Learn a Language Online

Maria in Brugges at the Christmas Market.

Maria in Brugges at the Christmas Market.

Teaching Traveling: Curious about making a career through online teaching? Learn more from Maria Ortega Garcia!

Maria, tell us about your background.

Maria: I am a 32 year old teacher of no fixed abode. Since I finished my degree in Arts and specialized in Applied Languages, I started teaching and traveling, and accomplished a Masters and a PhD in the meantime, all on the move.

I have taught Spanish in a high school in France, French in different enterprises, and French, English and Spanish as foreign languages in different School of Languages to all ranges of ages and nationalities.

I was a language teacher working face to face in group and private classes until I started my own business working online because I wanted to travel. However, quitting my students in the middle of the process of their learning until their fluency made me feel bad because I didn’t want to break the commitment I had with them.

So I found the solution: Teaching via Skype, I could travel without the necessity of stopping teaching! So I became an online teacher two years ago. I traveled around Ireland, India, Turkey, Belgium, Indonesia and I am currently in Australia. And I keep teaching my students from everywhere I am.

The only downside is that while traveling I don’t get to have many in person classes so whenever I get the chance and stop for over a month in place, I organize group classes on site.

TT: Amazing! Tell us more about your travels.

M: I don’t belong to the formal education system, which means that except my school year teaching in the high school in France, the rest of my teaching experience belong to school of languages.

So I have really never had time outside my regular teaching job. I have only changed locations. From France back to Spain, then to Ireland, then to some traveling around Amsterdam and Belgium, then India, Turkey, Bali and now Australia.

Maria falling in love with a kangaroo in Adelaide, Australia.

Maria falling in love with a kangaroo in Adelaide, Australia.

TT: Tell us one moment from your travels that was particularly funny.

M: As I said, I continue teaching while I am traveling, which means that sometimes I give my class in different and not always perfect locations. Last May I was teaching from Dharamsala from a nice cibercafe with the sound of honking cars and cows as the background.

A month later, I was teaching from my hotel terrace in Istanbul while the muezzin called to prayer from a mosque nearby… during my class. That brought on the consequent shocked face of my student and the resulting question: “Where are you now María?”

In the Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey.

In the Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey.

My students are sometimes shocked with all the changes of location until they learn their teacher is a bit nomadic. But since my travels don’t affect their classes in any way, those things add excitement to their class and all of them they have come to appreciate the changes of scenery of their teacher.

TT: Love it! How have your travels impacted you as a teacher, and in your current career?

M: Traveling has had a major impact in me as a teacher and I believe it made me a better one: more understanding of other cultures and ways of thinking as well as how and why different cultures do things.

All my classes are always multicultural, which I am thankful for, so the more I travel the more I get to enjoy and make a multicultural class to thrill and excel because the culture of the students is familiar to me, and when it is not, I am so curious that, somehow, I transmit the curiosity into the rest of the students, so that the class is not only language class but multicultural class where all have something to contribute with.

I think traveling made me more open to listen and watch out for assumptions about right/wrong ways to do things just because the dominant or native culture does them that way. Traveling made me more aware of the possible biases or assumptions that the teacher may bring to the classroom.

So now I foster a broader view that I hope might serve as a model for my students’ behavior. Traveling helped me to consider other ways to tackle problems, interpret issues, and demonstrate learning that may be different from what I or others have experienced.

TT: How have your travels impacted you as a person?

M: My travels are what have changed me more as a person, and they keep doing it. They opened my mind to different ways of thinking and doing things. All these differences made me less judgmental and more understanding and compassionate.

I am more curious about other cultures. My travels have had a very strong impact in me. I am now more independent and resourceful and less strict with the idea of “how things should be” because this idea is different in every place. I have a broader view and a more relaxed attitude towards difficulties and different situations.

Blown by the wind in the Cliffs of Moher, Ireland.

Blown by the wind in the Cliffs of Moher, Ireland.

TT: What advice do you have for teachers who are dreaming of travel, or travelers dreaming of teaching?

M: Just do it! Take the leap and do it! There’s always a way, and fortunately for us, travelers and teachers, we can combine both. Teaching is one of the most rewarding professions in the world, and traveling, well, it’s one of the most rewarding activities one person can accomplish.

If you are a teacher who wants to travel, there are many ways to do it, and this blog is a proof of that. If you are a traveler and got the teaching bug, I’d advise you to form yourself as a teacher and start practicing. If you are a traveler, you’d likely be a great teacher.

TT: Thanks so much, Maria! Readers, what questions or comments do you have for this traveling teacher? And do check out her site, mariaortegagarcia.com!

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