Every year, thousands of students head off to the continent to teach English, armed with a language A Level and plans to spend a few hours teaching and the rest sunbathing and spending their student loan on sangria and tapas. Who wouldn’t opt for a year out of uni to travel, improve their knowledge of another language and earn money by singing nursery rhymes to small children? Zen Kyu Maestro: An English Teacher’s Spanish Adventure is the true story of one such individual, the one difference being that its author, Jeremy Dean, was a teacher in England for 25 years before taking the plunge and moving to Spain with his wife, Linda. Oh, and they spoke barely any Spanish. What could possibly go wrong?
The book begins appropriately with the first day of term, and it doesn’t take long for Mr Dean (or Meesa Dee, if you’re a Spanish 7 year old) to discover that his year 3 class isn’t quite as bilingual as he was led to believe. It’s instantly clear that the coming school year is going to include a lot of charades and extensive use of wordreference.com. The first challenge: getting to grips with the pronunciation of Spanish names, made even harder by the fact that Spanish people have two surnames.
Throughout the school year, Jeremy Dean chronicles the highs and lows of teaching English to small children, dealing with foreign bureaucracy and living as an immigrant in Spain. From buying a car to obtaining a residency permit and from ordering a beer to partaking in a traditional bull run; it’s all explained in a series of hilarious anecdotes that anyone can relate to. We’ve all had the embarrassing task of ordering foreign food from a foreign menu, or asking for directions to the nearest beach only to be met with a blank-faced look and muttered swear words about the uncultured English. At the end of each chapter, Dean also includes a handy list of words and phrases that could come in useful if you ever do come up against one of the many challenges that he faced during his first year in Spain.
This hugely entertaining compilation of stories and experiences is a must-read for anyone interested in traveling the world and experiencing other cultures. Yes, it’s a daunting idea that will almost certainly involve frustrating paperwork, linguistic mishaps and culture shocks, but judging by Dean’s positive and inspiring afterword, written several years after his move to Spain, it could be the most rewarding thing you ever do.
Zen Kyu Maestro: An English Teacher’s Spanish Adventure is available as an ebook on Amazon for just £2.99!