• Spain's news in English
My Spanish Career
The man on a mission to teach Spaniards English
Daniel Welsch outside Madrid's Royal Palace. Photo: Daniel Welsch.

The man on a mission to teach Spaniards English

Jessica Jones · 28 Mar 2016, 11:55

Published: 28 Mar 2016 11:55 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Where are you from originally and what brought you to Spain?

I'm originally from Phoenix, Arizona, out in the middle of the Sonoran Desert in the USA. I came to Spain on vacation and somehow met a very nice girl who was living in Madrid. Sparks were flying! After a few days, I went back to Phoenix, but I realized I needed a big change in my life. So I decided to come back. That was 2004, and I’m still here 12 years later.

(At this point, everybody always says "Oh, how romantic! Are you still with that girl?" The answer is no. But we’re still friends.)

What do you love about Madrid and what do you loathe?

I love a lot of things about Madrid - there are people from everywhere, there’s great food, lots of art and lovely architecture, and always something to do.

It’s hard to say what I loathe. Maybe the thin-walled flats. Hearing everything that’s going on in your neighbors’ house is sometimes less than exciting.

Daniel has written several books on learning English. 

Tell me a bit about your business - what made you want to teach Spaniards English?

Really I just fell into teaching a few months after I arrived in Spain. I never expected to do it for long, but I ended up loving it and giving face-to-face classes for more than ten years. The interaction with people is great, and you’re able to help them achieve one of their major life goals.

Speaking another language really changes everything for a person, (it certainly has for me) and you can be a part of that.

I started teaching online because I wanted to get my name out there and find private students, which didn’t work very well. But in the process I realized I could reach thousands of people around the world, not just in Madrid. And I had always liked writing, so the project just sort of transformed from advertising my private classes to "English teacher to the world". 

What is the key to making a successful online business using YouTube, blogging and ebooks?

There are a few things that certainly help. The main one, I think, is persistence. I've started several other blogs that have completely failed, written books that nobody bought, had people complain and call me a scammer on Amazon because they didn't like the $3 ebook I was selling (or they didn’t like the fact that I was selling anything at all). 

You have to keep moving forward, despite the setbacks, and if you're going to do that, it has to be a topic you're really passionate about.

You also have to be willing to get out of your comfort zone constantly. I just passed 10,000 followers on YouTube, which is funny for me, because I remember how embarrassingly bad my first videos were. But I decided that I wasn't going to get better by not doing videos, so the only solution was to make a hundred bad videos, and improve along the way. If you just try something once or twice, decide you're bad at it, and give up, you're not going to get very far.

Your blog, books and YouTube channel are all in Spanish: do you enjoy working in Spanish and was it difficult to master the language?

I do enjoy it.

Spanish wasn’t particularly difficult for me because I never thought of it as work, it was just a sort of game. Talking to people, reading books, discovering a new culture. I had a lot of fun with it.

I got the C2 certificate from Instituto Cervantes several years ago, a bit before I started writing my blog. When I look back on my early articles, I realize I’ve improved a lot as a writer… There’s a whole world out there beyond C2.

I enjoy the expressiveness of Spanish a lot, too. People worry about their accents, but I get comments all the time from people who say “Your accent is great, please don’t lose it!” 

Having said that, people imagine that you reach a level in your language learning where all doubts disappear and you just speak perfectly. I don’t know if that’s really possible or not, but it certainly hasn’t happened to me yet!

Photo: Daniel Welsch

Your method focuses a lot on speaking before learning perfect grammar: why is this important for Spaniards?

It’s important because it’s the opposite of what they’ve been doing since they were kids. A lot of people study grammar for years and end up (naturally) with a huge fear of making mistakes. Then they don’t want to start speaking until they’ve done even more grammar, to eliminate those mistakes, and they never make progress on actual speaking. 

My method does the opposite because for most people, speaking is the goal - not filling in blanks in a grammar worksheet.

Do you think Spaniards have gotten better at English over the past ten years?

Definitely! These days I go to a lot of restaurants where the waiters just start speaking English, for example. That’s something that would have been unthinkable ten years ago. There is certainly progress because of the bilingual schools and the program that brings "Auxiliares de Conversación" to Spain. But there’s also a lot to do for Spain to reach the level of other countries like Germany.

What’s the typical profile of someone who uses your resources to learn English?

I really have people all over the world. My online courses have people from 52 countries. But most of them are in the larger Spanish-speaking countries: Spain, Mexico, Columbia, Argentina, and the US (we have more than 40 million Spanish speakers in the US these days).

Other than that, they seem to be educated, ambitious people. I get a lot of emails from doctors, engineers, people who work in different creative professions. 

Story continues below…

I also have a lot of students and younger people: Spaniards and Latin Americans who have moved to English-speaking countries and are living with English daily. It’s a little bit of everything.

Have you been able to identify any specific problems Spaniards have when learning English?

There are a few big ones. The pronunciation is difficult, especially because they usually spend years studying grammar without actually hearing anything pronounced correctly.

And as I mentioned earlier, the fear of speaking really limits people. A lot of Spanish people have told me they don’t particularly mind speaking English with natives, but they would rather die than speak it in front of other Spanish people.

A lot of people also have a larger problem of not having a really clear goal or a good motivation: just a vague, nagging feeling that they need to “learn English” with no real idea of how or why or how they’ll know they’re finished. That’s why I’ve started writing a lot about goals also. It works!

What are your plans for the future? 

I really just want to keep improving on what I’m doing now. There’s always more to learn and more to teach. These days I’m working on three things simultaneously: a book about learning and personal development, another book about colloquial English, and a course about business English and job interviews.

In any case, I feel very lucky that I’m able to make a living off of writing, and I plan to keep at it as long as I can. There are a lot of talented people out there who never manage to earn a living this way, and I’m happy to be one of the lucky few. 

Plus, I feel lucky to live in Spain - people in other countries in Europe might earn more money, but they spend it all coming to Spain on vacation. Those of us who live here full-time have a lot to be happy about. So I’m planning to stay here as long as I can. We’ll see!

Daniel Welsch is an author and founder of aprendemasingles.com, madridingles.es and expatmadrid.com. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter

For more news from Spain, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Jessica Jones (jessica.jones@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Two imams arrested in Ibiza resort over 'Isis support'
The men were arrested in the resort of Sant Antoni de Portmany. Photo: Jose A / Flickr

Two Moroccan imams at a mosque on the Spanish resort island of Ibiza were arrested Tuesday on suspicion of backing the Islamic State group and inciting jihad.

Balearic Islands choose to keep summertime forever
The islands will have longer evenings during winter. Photo: AFP

The Balearic Islands want to keep summertime when the rest of Spain turns the clocks back on Sunday.

  Brazilian had 'uncontrollable desire to kill': Spain police
Francois Patrick Nogueira Gouveia has been charged with murdering his uncle, his wife and their two children. Photo: Guardia Civil.

A Brazilian teenager accused of dismembering his uncle and aunt and killing their two young sons in a grisly crime that shocked Spain had an "uncontrollable desire to kill", police said on Monday.

Man rescued from bin after climbing in to find old clothes
Photo: Policía Local Murcia

Police were called after passersby reported hearing a man calling for help from within a rubbish bin in the Vistabella neighbourhood of Murcia, southern Spain.

Spain faces crucial week as conservatives re-take power
Mariano Rajoy hopes to form a government this week. Photo: AFP

Spain entered a crucial week as acting conservative PM Mariano Rajoy prepared to re-take power, ending ten rollercoaster months without government marked by hope and disillusion.

Eight very creepy Halloween costumes ideas from Spain
Photo: Pan's Labyrinth

Forget flamenco dancers and bullfighters, The Local counts down the freakiest alternative costume ideas to dress up in this Halloween.

Man attacked by racist thug in UK street for talking Spanish

Tomas Gil, 27, from Valencia in eastern Spain was talking to his girlfriend in their native language after a night out in the British seaside town of Poole when he was set upon by a racist thug.

Malaga: Police probe bizarre 'sex death' of homeless Brit
The man was found near Malaga airport. Photo: Dennis Howlett / Flickr

A British homeless man was found dead tied to a bench near Malaga airport with his trousers down and his genitals in a can of tuna.

Clock ticking as Spain races to avoid third elections
Third elections could now be avoided. Photo: AFP

Spain's Socialists voted on Sunday to allow the conservatives to take power, likely averting a third election for Spaniards tired of going to the polls.

Spain worries about tourism future
Photo: Josep Lago / AFP file picture

After basking in its best tourist summer season in 15 years, Spain now sees dark clouds on the horizon as popular destinations reach saturation point and holidaymakers are more thrifty, industry experts say.

Analysis & Opinion
Out of the dark: Five years on from Eta ceasefire
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Spanish 'La Mafia' restaurants banned after Italian complaint
Spain's top court overturns bullfighting ban in Catalonia
Hunt launched for ten most wanted Brit fugitives hiding out in Spain
Napflix: Spaniards launch very boring TV channel for siestas
Madrid parish church faces fine over 'too noisy' bells
Celebrate expat life at Madrid’s THRIVE convention
Fury after kids told to bring their own loo roll to school
Disney announces plans for Don Quixote action movie
Activist tells 8-yr-old matador wannabe with cancer 'just die'
King to make last minute push to avoid third vote in Spain
Amazing photos of Catalonia's 'human tower' contest
What's on in Spain: October 2016
'No way, Jose! You'll never get your hands on our Rock'
Recipe: How to make a classic Spanish tortilla de patatas
Chorizo in paella? Go back to cooking school Jamie Oliver
Spain in eye of a perfect storm after 10 months without govt
Thousands share clips of life for 'Spain in a Day' film
Ten incredible Spain locations for Game of Thrones season 7
Analysis & Opinion
Why moving to Spain could be the best decision of your life
Seven reasons why autumn is the very best season in Spain
Spanish study finds four types of personality. Which are you?
New search underway for civil war grave of poet Lorca
jobs available