Laura at La Casita de Laura is on a mission to make the Spanish learning process easy, fun, affordable and convenient for everyone. She teaches in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and has built up a fine reputation online.
1. You have built up a great following across social media, when did you launch La Casita de Laura?
I remember it very well. It was December 7th 2013 and I was on my couch setting up the Facebook page. Well, I had no idea what to call my language project back then. I thought maybe something in English, to sound more international and professional. I was researching the already existing market and seeing what others were naming their language schools and academies. It all sounded the same to me. And then my boyfriend suddenly said: ‘Amore, why don’t you call it “La Casita de Laura”? Don’t people come here to your house to learn Spanish with you? Keep it in Spanish, simple and personal. Everybody likes that.’ And that’s when I saw the light. At first it sounded too childish in my head, but then after some minutes I realised it could represent my project idea very well. In the end it was exactly what I was doing: inviting people in my house and sharing with them my language and my culture. The new and current logo and the promo video came after and made a great difference! Now we are working on creating some free video content for our YouTube channel.
2. How many languages do you speak?
Oh, the question would be: how many more languages I would like to learn! I love learning languages, since a very little age. I started studying English because I wanted to know what the Spice Girls were singing in their songs hehe. After English came French, because my aspirations back then were to work in the diplomatic world, like the European Commission or the Parliament, or becoming an Interpreter at the UN. Then, when I lived in France I had the opportunity to learn Brazilian and Portuguese. After finishing my Translation and Interpreting studies and my Masters in Communication and Internal/External Relations, I moved to Canada to work for the Spanish Embassy at a Spanish resource centre at York University-Glendon campus, where I could practise and improve my English and French. After spending 3 years in Canada I came back to the Canaries and met my boyfriend and he has taught me Italian. I am just missing Rumanian to know all the 5 Romance Languages. Plus, I love how Hungarian sounds. And I also tried to learn Czech once when I was going to visit Prague, but the pronunciation is too hard. Languages for me are like secret codes, I see them as a challenge but like a fun one. I need to learn the code to decipher the message and be able to communicate. And that’s fun! That’s why I always try to keep my lessons fun, easy and useful.
3. What makes you stand out from the competition?
I try to keep myself visible and present online and in real life. People who know me or get to know me through social media or at some events, know that they can contact me or my team if they need help with anything, even non related to Spanish language, and that we will try to help them. I have also been in their situation: in a new country, without many friends and without enough knowledge of the language or how things are done. We want to make it easier for them, especially those who are thinking about making Las Palmas de Gran Canaria or Spain their new home.
4. What advice would you give someone who wants to learn Spanish?
To start learning like if it was a game, without stressing out. The apps are good for learning vocabulary, but if I had to really learn the language I would not waste my time with any of those famous apps because the learning process is really slow and you are not able to communicate or make sentences. What I would do is to write down a list of items and sentences I know I would have to use in my everyday life and would try to learn how to say those things and try to get someone to correct me when I try to speak. This is basically what we do with our beginner students. We keep it useful and easy for them.
5. Do you think teaching in warm weather helps?
Oh, definitely! People in Spain, especially the south and in the Canary Islands are very welcoming, open and they love interacting with others. And we tend to live our lives outside as much as we can. Imagine learning a language in a very cold place where people barely go out or interact with each other. The learning process would be much harder because you don’t get to communicate and practise enough. In order to help our students in this matter we have also created a community and a Facebook group for them, so they can interact with each other, do fun activities outdoors and improve their confidence to speak the local language.
And just for fun…
6. How do you relax when you are not working?
When you are your own boss and you manage a team and you use the social media to market your services, you are always kind of working. Sometimes it’s hard to disconnect. But when I do, I leave the phone at home and I go to have dinner with my boyfriend, or I go to the beach and read. I always keep myself busy and so I should work also to be able to relax more. I love traveling and photography, too. I would say that taking pictures and posting them on Instagram (I love the filters and the settings) is another way to enjoy one of my hobbies.
7. What is your favourite song to sing at karaoke or in the shower?
(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life from the movie Dirty Dancing. It’s always a fun one to sing at karaoke. Everybody knows it and sings along.
8. Favourite place to go on holiday?
I don’t have any. I love travelling, as you already know, so any new destination would be great. The good thing about teaching people from everywhere is that I have friends in almost every European country. So, when I travel by myself (which is something I do at least once or twice a year if I am lucky) I can always meet with them and share some experiences in their home cities. And then it’s them who share with me a little bit of their culture and language. For me, this is a philosophy of life. I always feel lucky to have a job I really enjoy.
9. Give us an interesting fact about you that not many people know.
I worked at the South Korean Consulate in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. It was less than a year, and it was a great experience but also one of the hardest ones in my life. I got sick many times because of the stress of working in a diplomatic office and the level of exigence of my boss, the General Consul. And there I realised I preferred working with people than working for institutions. And one of the most important decisions in my life: becoming my own boss and trying to be nice and understanding with the people who work with me. We are growing in teachers, every year the demand is bigger and so for me taking in some help from other teachers has been crucial. I had some issues at the beginning delegating and trusting others to do the things like I want. I have learnt that you need time to build the trust in someone, and so far I am super proud and lucky to have a growing team that I love.
10. What is your all-time favourite meal?
Hahaha I am obsessed with carrot cakes. Every time I travel I try to find a place where to try it out. It’s simply perfect. But, if I had to choose only one ingredient it would definitely be avocado. I eat one every day all year round. Here in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria it’s possible! When are you coming?