In the first of a new series, we interview this month’s Featured Teacher, Federico Luque Macías. Federico teaches English using Touchstone at Premier Language School in Sanlúcar de Barrameda, and was visiting Cambridge as the winner of our recent Touchstone competition.
What do you think is the most difficult thing about learning English?
Different accents can be very challenging for learners – for example, when my wife came to England, she stayed with a family of miners in York. She studied English all the time, with all the correct grammar and pronunciation and rules, but in this family it sounded completely different – it was almost impossible to understand!
Pronunciation is also difficult – different speakers use different sounds; for example, in Spanish there are particular sounds that we always get wrong – the sounds are very different!
What is your least favourite thing about teaching?
As I teach in a Cambridge English preparation centre… it’s the nerves of waiting for exam results and hoping that your students have done well!
What is your biggest challenge with teaching?
Over-confident students, and when students are forced to learn and don’t see the value in learning.
If you were looking back at yourself when you were starting to learn English, what one piece of advice would you give?
Good question! Probably to be more persistent! However, I was quite lucky – learning English was quite a natural thing for me. At home my parents always listened to music in English. Even when my mother was pregnant she was listening to Pink Floyd, and other bands like that! So I was listening to music even before I was born. And then when I was maybe 11 or 12 years old, I was listening to the music myself, reading the lyrics, and I really liked doing that.
Nowadays, I am a musician myself so I have very wide tastes. I used to like progressive rock, but now I like jazz, and classical music. I like a bit of everything.
So music was a big influence for you to learn English?
Yes – When I was 15 or 16, I met an English guy that lived in Seville. He was an English teacher, and we had the same musical tastes. He didn’t speak a word of Spanish and in the beginning, I spoke Spanish and he spoke English, and a year or so later we were both speaking in English. I had a reason to learn and it followed my interests – that’s why I think that finding topics that interest students is really important.
Do you use music to help your students learn?
Nowadays, I use music in the classroom a lot, particularly with all the resources we have, such as YouTube, and the internet. Sometimes I plan classes around using music; for example, I plan that we will listen to a certain song and look at the lyrics, but sometimes I will just be teaching and I think of something! For example, there is a song that shows the two possible pronunciations of a word – either/either, neither/neither. It came to my mind and I thought – what a perfect example! And within a few seconds I was playing it to my students – it’s amazing how having these tools at your fingertips can help in the classroom.