Interview with Holly Human

Philippa Holly Human is a British ESL teacher and translator who lives and works in Barbate, Cadiz. I met Holly on proz.com when I was looking for a translator. Today we are talking to Holly to find out what she thinks about the ESL industry in Spain and what she likes about her two jobs.

English-Team:
Holly, the first thing that struck me about you when I met you on proz.com was your name. Holly Human. This sounds so divine, a bit a like ‘holy human’. Do you like your name?

Holly:
When I was younger, I wasn’t sure if I liked my name. It definitely is an original name. ‘Human’ is quite an unusual surname. Many generations back in the family you can find the surname ´Hewman´ meaning woodcutter and it seems that at some point the spelling changed. Now I really like my name. It’s unique and always leads to interesting comments!

English-Team:
So where is your family from?

Holly:
My family is from the UK. I was born in London and lived there until I went to university in Exeter, but I have lived in Spain for the past seven years.

English-Team:
Where in Spain do you live?

Holly:
Until this summer I was living in Badajoz, Extremadura, close to the Portuguese border. I am now living in Barbate, a coastal town in the province of Cadiz. I have also lived in Seville and Madrid for short periods of time.

English-Team:
The climate and living conditions must be great in Barbate?

Holly:
Yes, Barbate is a great place to live. It has beautiful beaches and a good climate too. The people are friendly and the town is small enough to be able to walk everywhere. However, if you need to go to a big shopping centre or to the cinema you do have to travel out of town a little.

English-Team:
It must be the ideal place for companies that provide ESL services. You work as a ESL trainer and translator. Who are your customers?

Holly:
Spain in general is a great place for ESL trainers. There is an increasing demand for English teaching in schools, private academies, companies and individual classes. As an ESL trainer I focus mainly on small groups of young learners, individual classes and company classes. I also work as a translator, with experience in German – English and Spanish – English general translations.

English-Team:
What do you like more — teaching or translating and why?

Holly:
Both teaching and translating have different aspects that I enjoy. Teaching allows me to work face-to-face with all kinds of people, of all ages. It’s very varied and I enjoy that. With regard to translating, it is a very flexible job and can be done from almost anywhere. I find languages fascinating, the way they are used and how they evolve, and both jobs challenge me to delve deeper into the subject of language and how we communicate.

English-Team:
Do you also provide online English training and tuition?

Holly:
No, not at the moment. It’s something I might consider in the future though.

English-Team:
What language do you speak in the classroom? Do you always stick to English or do you also sometimes give explanations in Spanish?

Holly:
With young learners I always try to stick to English. It’s surprising how quickly they learn when they are constantly exposed to the language with games, pictures, songs etc. At this level no explanations are normally needed, so I would only use Spanish in exceptional circumstances, for example if a child was upset or misbehaving. With other learners I use English as far as possible but it depends on their level of English. If grammar explanations are needed for example, it may be possible to stick to English but sometimes Spanish is necessary with lower level learners.

English-Team:
So you are bilingual and give explanations on any topic in Spanish?

Holly:
No, I’m not bilingual but after 7 years of living in Spain I can communicate in the language fairly fluently. Of course, in an ESL class I will always try to give explanations in English first but sometimes Spanish is necessary.

English-Team:
What would you say are the most commonly made mistakes by Spanish speakers when it comes to learning and speaking English?

Holly:
In my experience some of the most common mistakes are subject omission and word order. In Spanish the subject of the verb is often not required so this is understandable. Using false friends is another common mistake, for example compromiso/compromise or actualmente/actually which have completely different meanings.

English-Team:
You translate texts and websites from German and Spanish into English. When and where did you learn German?

Holly:
My grandmother was born in Germany so I have always been interested in the language. After learning German at high school I went on to study it at university and spent my year abroad in Innsbruck, Austria. Three years ago I went on honeymoon to Germany and Austria and spent two weeks travelling around different places including Munich, Lake Constance, Innsbruck and Salzburg. It was a wonderful trip and definitely one to be repeated!

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