Thursday, 18 February 2016

Embracing New Ideas: Cleaners.

I wanted to write this article for two reasons. To show a difference in culture and also to  make a point about learning. As most people know I'm currently in Belo Horizonte in Brazil and I really love the city and the culture here. I hope you enjoy this article:

Ok, so we have cleaners in England. 

This concept is not a new idea in Britain. It's not like we haven't discovered the possibility of paying someone to do a thing that most people hate doing. It's just that a person like me: someone normal on a rather average wage who can do the cleaning, does it themselves. If you are rich or not able to clean in England then it makes perfect sense to get a cleaner, but if you're a normal family working 9 - 5, why pay someone for something that is just part of life. The other thing is that cleaners in England are quite expensive on a relative scale. The wages in England are quite high compared with South America and therefore getting a cleaner could impact on your quality of life.

My parents had a cleaner: someone to help my mother because she wasn't capable after an operation. The irony is that she ended just using it as a social occasion because my mum got a bit lonely while my dad was at work. They would clean together like friends and then stop for tea and biscuits and just have a chat. I can see how strange this must be, because this lady's job was to clean and not be a friend. My job is a teacher and I can't imagine a student planning my lesson for me while I have a cup of coffee. This is my job and I am paid to do it.

Clean for the cleaner


I know this expression may sound bizarre, but that's what my family seem to do and in my experience most British people do it. I can't understand whether it's cause they are embarrassed for another person to see their home in a mess, or they don't want to ask someone to clean, I have a cleaner here right now as I am typing this and probably the awkwardness of the situation for me is prompting me to write this. I am very much out of my comfort zone. I made sure before this lady came that I tidied the house a little bit and, most of all, I cleaned the toilet so she didn't have to. I wouldn't want to clean the toilet of a stranger so my thinking is why should she clean mine. I have bought food and coffee and I am finding it hard to not get up and help her, but I can't imagine a student has ever thought that when watching me teach.

My History with cleaners

I first ended up with a cleaner in Bogota when I lived in Colombia. The lady came as part of the flat and to be honest I had no idea she was coming. One day Blanca just turned up on my door step. I welcomed her in and then she looked around my flat and got confused. It was clean and she asked me if everything was ok. My Spanish was limited, but we managed to communicate and I ended up cooking her lunch and she helped me learn a bit of Spanish.  This then became an almost daily thing where she came and we ate together, had coffee and she taught me some new words. I had no idea what to do with her and I was close to putting on a film and watching it some days. She barely cleaned, but she did make the bed for me: something I hate doing.

Bogota, Colombia
Why am I writing about a cleaner?

I think it's a couple of reasons.  Marcia arrived at my house this morning, a lady who cleans my girlfriend's flat. I wasn't sure what to do with her as well and I am currently wondering if she wants to eat something or learn a bit of English. I asked my girlfriend if I should take her to a cafe for some food and she said she's there to work, not go out for lunch.

1) Sometimes a cleaner is like a teacher. You can learn (clean) by yourself and on a daily basis and make things a lot easier for you, but for the harder things you should always get a teacher (cleaner) to help. Teachers can answer your questions and show you new things, but you should always help yourself by studying at home, This a major battle we teachers have. The student often will come to class and think that is the only time they need to study. They will then go home and talk in their native language until their next class. You should be practising the things you learn everyday, interacting in the classroom. watching films every night and using things like Duolingo (look at an article here about Duolingo) as much as you can. You will not learn English through osmosis. If I could put my English on a USB stick and give it to you in five minutes then I would, but sadly we can't. Study and it will make things easier for you and quicker.

Let the teacher (cleaner) do their job. They are professionals. Help them by studying, but don't do things that detract from your learning experience like watching the TV in your language. You can prepare yourself and study, but if you want a teacher, let them help you.

2) When you go to a new city or country where the language is different, make sure you learn a few words to help you before you go. The onus (responsibility) is on you. Before Marcia arrived, she was a little worried about being able to communicate with me. She doesn't speak any English. When I heard this I was a bit surprised, as it is my responsibility to learn some Portuguese to speak with her. She is now quite happy and I've just made her a coffee, much to her protests. We are talking in Portuguese and even though I am making mistakes she is happy that we can communicate.

3) Finally, use every opportunity you can. With Marcia today I have learnt a few words like poeira which means dust (yes, it needed cleaning) and areia which means sand (we started talking about the beach).  I am using the opportunity to learn new words and phrases while she is working and if you are in a foreign country you should do the same. Interaction with people is vital to learning the language which is why we are setting up meet ups in bars around the world. In the next few weeks we are opening new groups in bars in Belo Horizonte in Brazil and Quito in Ecuador.

Until the new face to face meetings happen, why not join our online group: English Right Now Group

Enjoy your lives guys.