Spanish

Growing up a writer

20049028_10154908909078507_1358458897_oIt’s a sweaty afternoon in Palma but Emily Benet arrives for our lunch meeting looking very cool and composed. She’s just got off the bus (rather than drive, she’s only just passed her test and Pierre the seven seater Citroen Picasso is a bit of a handful in Palma). We’re meeting to talk about her most recent novel, The Hen Party, set in Mallorca with the tag line ” A party of eight arrive on the island, but not everyone’s going home.”  The story features film director, Kate Miller, who is in serious trouble: the entire cast and crew of a reality TV show “The Hen Party”  have gone missing whilst filming. Kate thinks it’s all her fault, well she hasn’t exactly been following the guidelines, but if she is to blame, why are the hens arguing among themselves? And why is the groom-to-be calling her in tears…. ? Emily’s book is a fast, fun, summer read full of comedy and drama and having read it myself, I’m going to tell you to get it because a) you’ll enjoy it and b) Emily is a local author, living here on the island and we should support her.

But, back to the interview, once we’ve ordered our lunches we get down to it.  Aside from living on the island for the past couple of years Emily is an author, journalist and award winning blogger. But her story starts way, way back when she was eleven. “I always wanted to be a writer, I wrote a book, Dandelion Abbey, about talking animals. But it wasn’t until I was encouraged to enter a writing competition by my English teacher at my school in Barcelona that I really believed I could do it. I won first prize, 350€!”

The daughter of a Spanish dad and a Welsh mum Emily was thirteen when they all moved to Spain. “I was determined to pass my Selectividad (the Spanish University entrance exams) because this boy at my school had said he didn’t know why I was bothering. And I did it.” As it was she found herself studying back in the UK at the University of East Anglia, but she didn’t feel like she was getting anywhere, and she didn’t like her surroundings either. “Everything was burgundy, the place looked like a Swedish prison”.  Emily was quickly frustrated by the lack of time actually being taught, only six hours a week, and for a determined, ambitious, some might say workaholic, writer, this was just too much to bear. She dropped out.  An ultimatum was posed, either she studied in Barcelona or went to help in the family business, a chandelier shop in London. She chose the shop. “I decided, I’m going to take a year and help my mum in the shop whilst I write THE novel”.  One year rolled into more but she didn’t stop working on her goal, “I went to creative writing groups and classes, I read A LOT. I found myself inspired by the daily things in life, a single overheard sentence on the bus can spark a “What if… ” in my brain. Then one day she went to watch a football game, Germany vs Spain, with her dad and she met her future husband who was to have an impact not just on her, but on her writing career.”  He suggested to me that I start writing a blog. This was 2008 and not so many people were writing blogs then, I decided to write a blog about my life in the shop. I called it Shopgirl Blog. But I wasn’t really a shop girl, I was a writer, a writer trapped in the body of a shop girl working in a shop”. That’s when things really started moving and Emily started to get noticed. “I posted a link to my blog on the Salt Publishing Facebook page, and I got a response! They were interested in what I’d written and wanted to turn it into a book.” The blog also became a TV pilot (you can watch it on You Tube). Then mega publisher Harper Collins picked up her next books, The Temp and Please Retweet. But as she quickly discovered despite being on the roster of a publishing house that didn’t mean they would do much promotion of her work.  So this time around, with The Hen Party, she’s going it alone.

She admits it hasn’t been easy, switching from being with a publisher to self publishing, but she realises now that she might have been better off doing it her way right from the start as sales for The Hen Party are already surpassing her previous novels. She attributes her success to make this switch to someone she’s never met, Joanna Penn, the host of a podcast The Creative Penn which interviews successful author entrepreneurs.  As Emily tells me, “The word entrepreneur has a lot of positive connotations. An entrepreneur sounds like someone who is driven, creative, has get-up and go. Unfortunately self-publishing entrepreneurs aren’t always met with the same admiration in the writing world. Self-publishing still has a lot of stigma – and I get why. People want the credibility of a big publisher. They assume if a big publisher didn’t print it, then it can’t be good. In reality, a traditional publisher might like the book but may not have space for it on their list. They may well have a similar author writing in the same genre. I didn’t wait until the very end to find out if a publisher wanted my book. It takes months and months for replies and the first so-called ‘rave rejections’ that I received convinced me the novel was good enough for public consumption. The book took me over a year with two massive edits so I wasn’t going to just discard it because three people liked it but weren’t sure they’d be able to sell it. I didn’t just hit publish once I’d made up my mind. It was important to me that it would be produced with the same care as a traditionally published book. Next, it went through a professional editor. After that, a proof reader. For me, it’s about being proactive about your career, treating it like a business and taking the wishful thinking out of it.  It’s about taking creative control of your project, getting fair royalties and being able to adjust prices and book covers if at first it doesn’t succeed.”  We talk at great length about book covers and she shows me the most recent version of The Hen Party, she’s not quite happy with it. I tell her to stop worrying about it, but then if it were my book I think I would be just as fussy. After all it represents more than a year’s work, and who can say that about anything they’ve done?

When our date is over we find it hard to say goodbye, and wander around the streets of Palma together for a while, until finally Emily decides she’d better go find her bus. As I head off I wonder how many new ideas for stories she’ll come up with on the ride home and pledge to take the bus a bit more often myself.

                                                                                                                                                                   

You can get Emily Benet’s books online at Amazon or at the Universal Bookshop in Portals.

Visit http://www.emilybenet.com for more.

Lifelong Learning 

Glossolalia, Palma de Mallorca,  language school

I’ve lived and worked on our beautiful island for almost eleven years. When I first moved here I could barely speak Spanish, let alone Catalan. Now more than a decade later, depending on who I am speaking to, I can “get by” in most conversations. But I can understand more Spanish than I can reply, and boy is that frustrating when I want to complain about bad service or tell a joke. I want to be better at languages, and try to get some understanding of Catalan, and I don’t accept that common myth that it’s “harder for the Brits” to speak a language, we just don’t have the same compunction to learn.

Aside from the obvious benefits of learning to speak a language fluently there are additional health benefits that I would enjoy whilst I am learning.  By taking in new information I would also improve my cognitive functions, my brain would strengthen becoming faster and more flexible: as if I was taking my little grey cells for a workout at the gym. My memory would improve as a result and I could delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.  As a result of learning a new language it also means my ability to express myself in English will improve. It sounds counter intuitive but it´s been proven that as you focus on one language and its abstract concepts of grammar you also apply your new understanding to your existing mother tongue.

Glossolalia, Palma de Mallorca. language school

But how will I achieve this? Especially when time is of the essence: I don’t have much free time to spare. I’ve studied Spanish off and on over the last decade with mixed results. Why haven’t I just “absorbed” Spanish the way that some friends of mine have done. I think partly it is because of the work that I do: I produce thousands of words in English every week, so how am I going to break out of this pattern and finally go from “frustrated beginner” to “UN translator” although I would settle for “advanced and completely competent”. And perhaps I just haven’t given it enough of a go yet. Glossolalia, a language school based in Palma, say that it’s normal to learn a thousand words in one week on one of their courses, but then they don’t teach in the conventional way. Their courses are guided by the results of advanced psychological studies in how we learn. The secret they say is to apply the techniques of “Super Learning” by using a method called “Suggestopedia”. A Bulgarian psychologist called Georgi Lozanov pioneered the method in the Seventies. Key differences to conventional teaching have to be followed. The physical surroundings and atmosphere in the classroom are vital factors to make sure that the students feel comfortable and confident, and various techniques, including art and music, are used by the trained teachers. In order to help the student remember the information it is delivered in several different ways: repetition in active and passive ways, with reinforcement through the use of different sorts of games in a comfortable setting. The Glossolalia method uses classrooms with audio-visual aids, comfy chairs, physical activities, excursions out for lunch and trips, role-playing games, memory training, speech therapy exercises and linguistic exercises.

Glossolalia, Palma de Mallorca, language school

Comfy chairs? I’m in!

 

Once upon a time I was confident that I would be able to speak Spanish fluently, whenever I am asked by a Spanish speaking person how long I’ve lived here I want to lie because my language skills should be spot on by now, surely? But I’ve decide that it’s not time yet to give up on my ambitions. It’s got to be worth a shot. I want to stop feeling embarrassed about my language skills and hold my own down the pub. And the doctors. And the post office. And at my daughter’s school, my workplaces, the garage… you get the idea? You can follow my efforts at www. mallorcamatters.com and get more info about their super learning techniques at www.glossolalia.com

By Vicki McLeod

What’s in a name?

Mallorca Tutoring Academy, Vicki McLeod

Back in September 2009 Julie Staley and Jay Hirons opened the doors to the Kip McGrath Education Centre in Son Quint Golf in Palma for the first time. It wasn’t long before I got to know and respect them for their professionalism, their standards and their ambitions. They set out to offer a very high standard in educational tutoring for children who either spoke English as their mother tongue and needed help maintaining a good level or children who were learning to speak English as a second language. I’m guessing that the first few years, just like for any new business, were challenging: it’s not easy to establish yourself on this little island, so many people come and go, and you have to keep working hard. But these gals certainly did that as they have just celebrated five years in business and rebranded themselves in the process. Just last week Kip McGrath renamed themselves Mallorca Tutoring Academy, with a fancy new logo and some big new ideas.

“We learnt so much about running a business here on the island”, said Julie. “Together with this knowledge and support from the franchise we have been able to develop the business you see today, and become a well-known part of the Mallorca educational community”.  The business formerly known as “Kip” manages to cater for a diverse range of clients from the age of four and up. Over the years of taking my daughter La Gidge to have educational support sessions there I’ve met kids who hail from all over the world that are now living in Mallorca and coping with its very particular language demands and educational peculiarities. The reason I take my girl to the centre is to get some help with her reading and writing in English, I didn’t want her growing up spelling things phonetically as that’s a difficult habit to get out of. If Gidg needs it in the future she can get help with her maths, her Catalan, Castellano, sciences, study skills, take her SATs and Cambridge language exams or study for “A” levels. MTA are now developing new services which include drama classes, a cinema club, and an expanded Senior Academy with a wide range of exams available for the students to take.  All of this as a support and supplement to normal school activities.

One of the things I really love about this service is that it means Gidge gets the benefits of being part of our local community as she goes to her fantastic local school where she’s taught in Catalan, Castellano and (to a lesser extent) English. She has Spanish mates as well as all the international kids who seem to have gathered in Port Andratx, we also have kids from all over the world studying at her primary school. But because of MTA she gets the benefits of 1:1 tutoring, a personalised approach to learning, and bags and bags of confidence.

They’re celebrating their rebranding this Saturday 17th January from 2pm at their centre when you can meet the MTA team, and loads of other educational specialists from around the island who will be available for free advice and assessments.

YOU CAN GET IN TOUCH WITH THEM HERE:

Mallorca Tutoring Academy

Golf Son Quint

Cami de son Vida 38

Palma de Mallorca

07013

Telephone: +34 971 79 14 10

E-mail: info@mallorcatutoringacademy.com

Web: http://www.mallorcatutoringacademy.com