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What are the essential qualities for a Spanish teacher to have?

By Jon, published on 20/02/2018 Blog > Tutoring > Advice for Tutors > Master Spanish and Become a Teacher

Are you hoping to become a Spanish teacher?

Whether you teach at a college, high school, or as a private tutor, you’ll need to have mastered the Spanish language, but you’ll also need other skills…

How can you keep your students motivated? Share your knowledge? Prepare interesting lesson plans? Use your teaching skills?

There are so many questions running through your head as you contemplate a future teaching Spanish.

There are set qualifications you’ll need to be a Spanish teacher in the public school system, including passing your state’s teacher qualification exam.

Do you fit the description of a Spanish Superprof?

You need to be more than just good to teach Spanish, you need to be bilingual!

Do you speak Spanish well? Unfortunately, that’s not enough to be a Spanish teacher, college professor, or private tutor. You need to perfect your language skills to be truly bilingual in Spanish.

It’s difficult to teach something if you haven’t completely mastered the subject matter, and you’ll need the right background to teach Spanish. For language learners, one of the steps to becoming bilingual is usually spending some time in a Spanish speaking country. An immersion experience can be key to achieving your goal.

As a private tutor, even if you aren’t totally bilingual, you could still give lessons as long as you make sure you’re teaching students at a lower level than you. Many college students offer tutoring services (for example, there are more than 330,000 on Superprof!)

Discover this complete guide for future Spanish teachers…

Even if they haven’t finished their college degree yet, they’ve already mastered the basics and have a high enough level of Spanish to teach high schoolers.

A Spanish tutor should be able to answer all their students’ questions. A tutor should be able to:

  • Respond to all of their questions
  • explain clearly the reason and importance for different grammar rules
  • give concrete examples
  • and share their experiences, even if they aren’t a fully qualified Spanish teacher.

Experience is often the most important quality in a good Spanish teacher. Learning to teach a language takes time, practice, and an investment of personal effort. Teaching experience is, therefore, an essential skill which will determine your ability to share everything you know about a language’s grammar and vocabulary.

In order to become a Spanish teacher, you need to know how to teach the difficult points of Spanish grammar and verb conjugations

It is important to listen to your students to help them overcome their challenges learning Spanish.

Spanish is a romance language, which means that it has some common roots with English. However, there are still many differences that you’ll need to teach.

Many of your students might initially think that Spanish will be an easy language to learn – it’s much easier to pronounce than French, and often seems like everyone in the US speaks Spanish as a first or second language. However, you definitely can’t just do word by word translations into Spanish from English…

No! A village is not “un villagio!”

As their Spanish tutor, you’re responsible for teaching them that just like any other language, learning Spanish requires specific skills. It’s important for your students to learn to think in new ways, as well as learn new Spanish vocabulary.

Do you feel like you can explain all the Spanish grammar rules to your students to help them make the perfect sentences?

You need to know, and also know how to teach:

  • explanations
  • respond to questions
  • give practice exercises
  • offer practical advice on how to memorize all the grammar rules…

Among all the grammar rules students usually struggle with when learning Spanish, the most common are:

  • Impersonal verbs like gustar, encantar, or doler where you conjugate for the object, not the person.
  • Different ways to talk about things without specifying a subject – the ‘se’ first-person plural, the third person plural, uno/una.
  • Using progressive nouns (gerunds) with action verbs in the present tense
  • Conjugating verbs in Spanish isn’t always easy and has some unique features like:
  • Irregular verbs, verbs with diphthongs, weakening, or which swap between the two
  • the verbs to be and to have which each have multiple conjugations in Spanish – ser/estar  and haber/tener
  • The use of the passive tense, which is especially important in Spanish
  • And lots of other specificities of the language that you’ll learn if you major in Spanish in college…

The role of a tutor is to help students understand the fine points of a language. Sometimes, this can be pretty difficult.

Every language has its irregularities, and as well as Spanish you’ll also run into trouble teaching Portuguese, Russian, French, English, Chinese, German, Italian…

You might think about incorporating technology into your Spanish lessons…

In order to teach Spanish, you need to be able to explain the different sounds in Spanish

As well as learning about the technical side of the language, your students will also be working on their oral comprehension and spoken Spanish.

For this as well, in order for your students to master Spanish and begin following conversations, they’ll need to learn all the building blocks of the language.

How do you learn Spanish and all its irregular rules? With an experienced Spanish tutor!

Phonics, pronunciation, and accent – they’re all crucial when speaking Spanish!

You’ll need to help your students improve their Spanish pronunciation for the following sounds:

  •  ll
  •  j
  • rr
  • ch
  •  ñ

And as for the ability to roll their ‘r’s, it’ll be something easy for some students to learn, and near impossible and frustrating for other students.

If you’re already completely bilingual, your expertise will be a great help to your students. At some point, as you learned Spanish, you too also had trouble pronouncing the new words. You found your own strategies and tricks to master the Spanish accent, and now you can pass them on to your students.

Join the discussion: what language skills are needed to teach Spanish?

Another unique feature of the Spanish language – the tone that’s emphasized…

English doesn’t have any accents, and in some foreign languages like French, the accents are all written so you can clearly tell how to pronounce something based on the way it’s written. In Spanish, however, you need to be aware of where the stress falls in the word.

Placing the stress on the right syllable isn’t always an easy thing for a beginner to guess! You need to figure out which syllable to accentuate in your pronunciation. The accent isn’t written unless the word doesn’t follow the standard rules. It’s hard for non-Spanish speakers to learn, but it’s part of what makes Spanish an interesting language to learn!

Can you become a Spanish teacher without passing your state’s teacher certification exam?

In order to become a Spanish speaker, you need to know a bit about Latin American and Spanish culture

Spanish is a language that’s spoken all over the globe.

After English, it’s the most widespread language – 21 countries have Spanish as an official language.

The reason for this is simple – Spanish spread around the globe relatively early. Explorers like Christopher Columbus helped the Spanish empire spread its tentacles across the Atlantic Ocean.

Alhambra is one of the great sites where you can clearly see the Muslim influence in Spain

Spain has a rich history that you need to know in order to give Spanish classes…

Spain was originally part of the Roman Empire, before being invaded by the marauding visigoths, who left traces of their presence in the Spanish language.

Next, the Muslims invaded, and over the course of eight centuries, Christians and Muslims battled it out in Spain. You can still see many traces of the Muslim period today.

The Alhambra in Granada and the great mosque in Cordova are two of the most beautiful relics of this period.

Next came the conquistadors and their discovery of the Americas and the people living there: Mayans, Incas, and Aztecs. Latin America has a rich history all its own, and it’s worth looking into the history of several countries: Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Guatemala…learning about new places can add a touch of the exotic to your courses!

As you may have understood, teaching your students Spanish is more than just teaching them the language!

Learning about Hispanic civilizations is a great thing to do, and can really help get your students interested in Spanish history and culture, as well as language.

Understanding the culture isn’t just an anecdote to tack on to the end of a lesson. A language is a living result of its peoples’ history. In order to understand a language, you must also understand the culture and countries where it is spoken. Any good teacher should have a good understanding of this information.

In order to teach Spanish, you should love Spanish culture

Literature, films, food, art…you must love all aspects of Spanish culture if you want to teach Spanish!

Learning to speak a foreign language also requires you to immerse yourself in the country’s culture.

Often, our ideas of a country will be based on just a few stereotypes. Ask someone who’s never been to Spain and hasn’t ever studied Spanish, “What does Spain mean to you?”

In response, people might say paella, bullfighting, flamenco, beaches…and those are definitely all part of it, but as you become bilingual and learn more about the language, culture, and country, you’ll learn so much more too! In sharing this knowledge, you’ll help your students learn more about Spain than just the stereotypes.

After all your studies, you’ll be able to share your love for Spanish literature, movies, art, and music. And as for food, there’s more to Spanish cuisine than tapas, paella, and chorizo!

Find out more on how you can become a self-taught Spanish teacher

Goya’s paintings are often studied in Spanish classes

In order to teach Spanish, you can share your passion for different elements of Spanish culture with your students:

  • Artists like Goya, Picasso, Miro, Dali, Velasquez, El Greco…
  • Great filmmakers: Almodovar, Bunuel, Bardem…
  • Writers: Cervantès and the famous Don Quijote, Calderon, Garcia Lorca, Neruda, Semprun…
  • Pop culture like la tomatina, la semana santa, public holidays, the day of the dead…

Share the rich cultural history of Spain and Latin America with your students. If you have done lots of traveling, you can share your favorite experiences in order to broaden your students’ horizons. Some of them might find a new passion or hobby themselves!

What are the ideal qualities for a Spanish tutor?

As well as a solid knowledge of the Spanish language and culture, in order to help your students as much as possible and see them achieve their goals, you’ll also need to develop some of the skills that will make you a good teacher:

  • Patience and listening skills to adapt to your students’ levels and abilities
  • Adaptive teaching styles in order to provide the most appropriate support to children of all ages and levels.
  • humor in order to make learning and teaching fun,
  • Good communication skills in order to get and keep your students’ attention
  • The ability to adapt your lesson plans to your students’ needs and goals
  • Creativity in order to make learning fun and original

There are also lots of good online resources for teaching Spanish

In order to become a Spanish teacher ready to tackle any class or private tutoring session, you’ll need to develop your teaching skills and be truly interested in sharing your linguistic skills with your students. This is also true for teaching other living languages (Chinese, Arabic, English, Italian…)

Ready to dive in? Teaching is a challenging vocation where you must be able to constantly learn and adapt to your students’ needs.

Find out now what training you need to become a Spanish teacher

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