There Is No “Schwa” in Spanish

Ariela y Yo

This week, I’ve been writing about my decision to return to school to become a teacher of English as a Foreign Language and how that has led me to spend the next eight weeks teaching in El Salvador.

Sr. Diaz was great and helped me to learn so much, but I wanted to supplement class with a coach who could help me reach a level of being conversational in Spanish. Through a website called, I met La Seniorita Ariela. She is a student in the Dominican Republic, who teaches both English and Spanish when she is not in class or doing her homework. We scheduled lessons twice a week for an hour each to develop my listening and speaking abilities.

It was scary at first to put myself out there 1:1 with a tutor, but it was so worth it and quickly became comfortable. She and I would find topics to explore: clothing, physical descriptions, small talk, health, directions, food and others. We would work on basic vocabulary and how to speak about a topic. With a private teacher, we could customize the lessons. When we covered directions, we printed off a map of the area where I will live and work in El Salvador and use this as a template for giving directions. This also gave me a working knowledge of the layout of the city.

My favorite part of our classes was when she would ask what I have been doing. It was a chance to converse. If I wanted to tell her a story or about something we did, though, I had to figure out how to do it in Spanish. At first, I’d have a page of notes and then at some point, I said “There will be no notes in El Salvador, so no notes here”. I might look up a few words I needed to communicate, but would learn them before we met. It really made me stretch my skills. And over time, I could understand better what she told me about her life or when she asked me questions.

This is the two of us during one of our sessions. I am very grateful to have met her and worked with her for the past few months. I’ll miss our lessons and hope that we can keep in touch.

FYI: The title of the post comes from an often repeated phrase in our lessons.

35 thoughts on “There Is No “Schwa” in Spanish

  1. Monika

    I’ve been enjoying your newest post a lot! It’s so interesting to gain insight in the upcoming changes, thank you for sharing with us 🙂 can’t wait to see what comes next! take care 🙂

    1. milfordstreet Post author

      Thank you, Monika. It has been an interesting process. I am interested to see what next also. That’s the great thing about life, we can’t read ahead like we do in a book. Cheers!

    1. milfordstreet Post author

      It’s been a fun experience, but I’m a bit tired of reviewing flashcards and word lists. It makes me appreciate the perseverance it takes for people to really learn.

  2. Miss Gentileschi

    This is such a lovely picture! You both look very happy! Your description of your lessons sound totally funny 😀
    And remember: there are no notes in El Salvador! 😉

  3. Alba Marie

    Good luck! I spent taught English is Costa Rica, Spain and Poland and while difficult, it was a really, really great experience! I then moved to France to learn French, do a Masters degree and take a break from teaching…and I’ve been here ever since (and am fluent)! You’ll get there!! It is SO much easier when living in a country where the language is spoken 🙂 Bonne chance, buena suerte!

    1. milfordstreet Post author

      Thank you Soheir….My teacher is even more clever than I am. She challenges me but sometimes I surprise her by knowing something she did not expect. We laugh a lot and have fun. Have a great day also. Cheers!

      1. milfordstreet Post author

        Of course! She is currently charging $17 USD (I think) for an hour. Teachers set their rate (some cost much more). Italki is a place for teachers and students to find each other and make arrangements for sessions. Italki also collects the money and pays the teacher (and I’m sure takes a percentage). You can do it for all languages. We use Skype for our meetings. You can check out the site and see what people are charging for sessions. People also make videos to promote themselves. You can look at some teachers’ videos, if you want.Let me know if you have other questions. Cheers!

  4. Alexandra

    Hola, Chris!! (and that’s all I know in Spanish lol 🙂

    you look very happy in the picture… I so admire your decision to pursue teaching 🙂

  5. Nancy

    Thank You for sharing all of this. What an adventure for you! The tutor education is like home schooling, kind of. Sort of! HA HA HA !!

  6. homegrownspanish

    I know this is a little late. However, Synergy Spanish and Say Something in Spanish are two great programs to increase your conversational ability in Spanish. Synergy Spanish will have you speaking compound sentences in minutes.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s