By Abigail Nobes

02 November 2018 - 14:17

Two bottles of red wine on a barrel in a vineyard
'In the vineyard, I interpreted simple conversations between the chefs and the tourists.' Photo ©

Rodrigo Abreu used under licence and adapted from the original.

Abigail Nobes spent part of her Erasmus+ year in Ronda, Spain. She translated, interpreted, and organised cooking events that brought the community and visitors together. 

Language is an essential part of slow travel

For me, slow travel is all about experiencing culture first-hand. You get to know people who live in the place you are visiting. You also visit the places that local people visit, not just the obvious tourist attractions.

To do this, you need to understand the language.

I spent four months in Ronda, a small Andalusian town. I did a traineeship through Erasmus+ for Escuela Entrelenguas, a Spanish language school and cultural hub. By cultural hub, I mean that they welcomed visitors, including tourists, and offered them the chance to experience the area through guided tours, cooking lessons, craft workshops and farm visits.

In Ronda, all of the shops close on Sunday. There are traditional fairs and events for festive days, like Halloween and Easter.

Many people in Ronda speak Spanish only. I think that only speaking Spanish made me feel a lot more involved and integrated into local culture.

It was also a great opportunity to practise my Spanish language skills

My placement wasn’t paid, but Entrelenguas gave me free Spanish lessons. The lessons helped me improve my level of Spanish – from B2 to C1 in the Common European Framework (CEF). Then I put my learning to practical use, at work and socially.

When I arrived I struggled with the local accent. After about a month, I began to understand more, and could use longer, more detailed sentences. It was satisfying, particularly because my colleague and closest friend had a regionally distinct accent from Cadiz. Over time I could understand more of what she said. The language seemed to come naturally.

My role in the slow travel business in Spain was varied 

Some days my job was office-based. I translated blog articles, the company’s website and course brochures from Spanish to English. Those tasks helped me strengthen my translation skills, and my knowledge of the slow tourism industry. I learned a bit about marketing, and how to make written content appealing to readers.

I helped to take a British school group into Seville, and did more complex interpreting. That included texts in museums, signposts, questions that the tourists had for the guides, and the guides' responses. 

I planned a gastronomic event and interviewed a band

People made a dish from their country. Everybody living in Ronda could attend the event and pay one Euro for a tapas portion of the dishes they wanted to try. Then, people could vote for their favourite dish. The winner received a bottle of wine. The money we raised went to a children’s charity in Yemen. It brought the visitors and local people together as a community, which isn’t common in mainstream tourism.

In October we had a concert with the British indie band Time for T. It was my job to interview the band a few weeks before the concert, so that we could use the interview for promotional material. I also created advertisements and posters for events, like our movie night and tapas night, and hiking tours. 

I helped with the cooking courses in the vineyard

In the vineyard, I interpreted simple conversations between chefs and tourists. Those included cooking instructions from the chefs, and responses or queries the tourists had for the chefs. People often asked where the ingredients came from. The tomatoes came from a farm just down the road, and the olive oil was from another local farm.

Big groups often cooked things like bread, gazpacho and paella, and watermelon with honey for dessert. I interpreted from Spanish to English, and English to Spanish. This was a big new challenge for me. When interpreting, you can’t say ‘Hang on a second while I look in a dictionary’. It has to be instant. 

In the vineyard I also did things like ensuring everybody had an apron for cooking classes, chatting to the tourists and ensuring they enjoyed their experience.

I gained a lot of experience as a translator

It was valuable to understand what translators do on a daily basis. They use lots of sources to find unknown vocabulary, and they have to keep the translation within a word limit. That is important for translating adverts or posters where your text needs to fit into a certain space.

As a translator you research the topic you’re translating, to ensure that your work is accurate. After you translate, you have to proofread. During the proofreading process it was valuable to have a person who knew nothing about the topic to read my work. That way, I knew that it was understandable and precise.

I also improved my communication skills, and became more confident in myself and my language abilities.

Abigail's book, Brit Abroad: How to Survive a Year Abroad, is available on Amazon. 

The Erasmus+ 2019 call for proposals is now open for organisations to apply for funding. 

Erasmus+ is  the European Union programme for education, training, youth and sport. The programme is managed in the UK by the Erasmus+ UK National Agency, a partnership between the British Council and Ecorys UK.

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