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"Each experience has de-Spanishised me, de-Catalanised me, ‘de-Marionised’ me and changed me with different ways of seeing the world, perceiving life and happiness"

Mariona Anglada Escudé is an experienced teacher. She has studied two degrees (one in Humanities at Pompeu Fabra University and another in East Asian Studies at the Autonomous University of Barcelona) and two master's degrees (Intercultural Communication at Jaume I University and Education at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya), and her professional experience has taken her to various places. She has worked in the university world in China and secondary education in Hong Kong as a Spanish language teacher and at Bromsgrove School and the British School in Jakarta as a specialist in special needs. We caught up with her today to find out more about her background and experiences.


What brought you to China as a Spanish language reader?

It was actually the other way around, China led me to become a Spanish reader. After finishing my degree in East Asian Studies, I decided to go to China to learn Chinese better. China dazzled me, so I decided to stay and, at that time, the most viable option was to work as a Spanish reader at Nanjing University.


You co-wrote the first textbook for teaching the Hispanic world in China. What was this experience like?

Well, for us it was a journey of initiation into the world of Chinese academia. At that time, that was 2007, there were not many materials published for university students of Spanish, so we had to create our own materials. Talking to other teachers we realised that all these materials could be useful for others, so we contacted one of the university publishers specialising in language learning and, after a long tug of war over content and format, the book came out.

For us, the merit was not so much the book itself, but the fact that we managed to publish material in a world that was still very closed to the foreign world at that time.


And apart from buying it, what do you recommend for those who want to learn more about day-to-day life in a Hispanic country or prepare to live there?

Nothing prepares you for large-scale cultural leaps because, in the end, it's the small, everyday things that end up being the biggest shocks. Sometimes you need to jump into the void and live the experience to the fullest. The one thing that is always advisable is to have someone to help you navigate the cultural taboos. A very simple example is that the Chinese find it normal to talk about people's weight or age and in many countries this can be considered offensive.


You have frequented international schools in Asia, first in Hong Kong and now in Jakarta. What attracts you to them?

The general respect in East Asia for learning and teaching. All contexts have their advantages and disadvantages, but in all my years working in Asia, I have never encountered any student disrespecting me. For me, this is paramount and it is a cultural thing. Asian cultures have a very affable way of being and that is vital for me because, because of the way I am, I need social contact.


What do you think enriches students who choose a foreign curriculum, or who meet students from very different backgrounds from theirs, as happens in your schools?

It enriches everything. Amin Maalouf talked about the concept of hybridity. He introduced it in the context of Africa and the colonies, but it is a concept that can and should be transferred to intercultural communication. We are socio-constructed beings, every person we meet, every country we visit, every language we learn changes us, we hybridise into multicultural beings. I would not be the same person I am if I had not lived in China, or in England. Each experience has de-Spanishised me, de-Catalanised me, ‘de-Marionised’ me and changed me with different ways of seeing the world, perceiving life and happiness. An international school is a well of hybrid experiences.


You had a career shift from language teaching to special needs. What made you make this decision and what has it brought you since then?

Working in special needs means immersing yourself fully in what it means to educate and learn. And it is a constant effort and struggle to remind each and every student of the wonders they are capable of. To look for the lights and use them to illuminate the shadows. My background in foreign language teaching and intercultural communication has been very useful to me and I consider them essential steps in getting to where I am. Again, back to socio-constructivism. I became interested in learning difficulties when, as a teacher, I felt that I was not doing enough to teach everyone equally. And I think this step has made me a better teacher and a better person.


You have moved from one country to another several times. Do you consider moving again in the future? Where to? 

If it were up to me, I would move every couple of years. The world is so big. There are so many experiences to be had. I love to get out of my comfort zone, the world is a big puzzle box. Anyway, for family and professional reasons, I think that now we have to settle down for a longer period of time. But no one stops us from travelling. We continue to discover the world and put ourselves in peculiar situations and continue to meet interesting people and, in short, to write and colour the book of life.


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