In this edition of Coffee with Gringos, we’re joined by our pal and fellow Dynamic English teacher, Victor! Victor shares his inspiring journey to learn English and build a life in Chile. He tells us how a guy from El Salvador ended up in Santiago and shares his passion for bike riding. This is a good one. Whether you’re driving, cooking dinner, or avoiding doing your actual work… hang out with Victor, Paige, and Mariah for the next 15 minutes.
Paige: You are listening to Coffee with Gringos. I’m Paige Sutherland.
Mariah: And I’m Mariah Wika. Today is an exciting episode because we’re joined today by one of our good friends and a fellow Dynamic English teacher, Victor. Victor, thanks so much for being with us today!
Victor: It’s a pleasure. Thank you very much for having me.
Mariah: Of course! Today we’ll be chatting with Victor, what brought him here to Chile. Victor has a unique perspective that might be relatable to a lot of you English language learners because Victor’s bilingual, so he went through the process of learning English as well. So we’ll be talking a little bit about that and just getting to know Victor in general.
Paige: Exactly. Yeah, so, since our audience doesn’t know you Victor, just tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from? How long have you been in Chile?
Victor: Well, my name is Victor, and I’m from El Salvador. And I grew up in El Salvador, and I learned English in University because I am an English teacher, as you said. But, I’ve been going to the US. I’ve been living in the US for the last six years. Like I was going back and forth to El Salvador and then to the US because I was working at MetLife, which is an insurance company. And um, well, learning English has definitely been the most maybe challenging process I’ve gone through because it doesn’t stop. It’s an everlasting thing. I will never stop learning English, just the way I will never stop learning Spanish. Right? Because it’s something where you’re always getting something new.
Mariah: Have you got that listeners? The process will never end!
Paige: Don’t give up!
Victor: I mean, it never ends. But of course, you get to a point where you can definitely manage the language. And I cannot explain to you how useful and helpful learning English has been to me. I mean, English has opened so many opportunities in my life that I think I wouldn’t have done many things without it.
Mariah: Can you say a little bit more about that? First of all, what inspired you to study English at University?
Victor: Well, honestly, my first option was to be an architect.
Mariah: No way!
Victor: And I so wanted to be an architect. But my second option was… I mean, I love English. I’ve always loved English. English is such an amazing language that I just wanted to study it. I mean, when I got to university, I was going to study architecture, but I found out that I was maybe going to be unemployed for so long that I just wanted to have a job fast, right? And I know English is like a language that’s definitely going to help you to get a job very fast.
Victor: And I got a job at MetLife, right? And that was because I spoke English because it was MetLife US. So, that was the best thing that help me improve my fluency in the language and also the pronunciation because I was speaking with native speakers all the time. So, it was a process of three years, I would say.
Paige: When you went to university, did you have any level of English?
Victor: Oh, when I started university six years ago, I couldn’t speak any English.
Victor: I mean, I was able to say like “hello” and “how are you?”, but that was everything!
Mariah: I think my first week in Chile when I was trying to speak Spanish, I was like, “I am from the north of the United States. I have two sisters!” The most basic things. You know? The simplest of the simple.
Paige: And then you just practiced, practiced, practiced, and now you can have conversations in Spanish. And the trick was practice, right? And you use Spanish everyday.
Mariah: Right, exactly. Like Victor said, his experience at Metlife speaking English was what really gave him the leverage that he needed to take his English to the next level. It’s those conversations with native speakers and just practicing all the time.
Victor: Yeah, I mean when I worked there it helped me a lot, but when I started working there, I was already able to speak English.
Mariah: Totally, totally.
Victor: But, I got to speak English very fluently because I was practicing all the time. I remember, I was studying. I was in university from one to five, and then I got home at like six. And I remember, I used to get home, have dinner, and then from nine to two a.m., I was listening and practicing. I would say, I was doing a lot of interesting things, entertaining things like I was watching videos, movies. Something that helped me a lot was to see the news, like CNN in English. I mean, I sometimes, I honestly don’t care about the news. I don’t care at all. But I just like the fact that I’m understanding what they’re saying. So that helps a lot.
Mariah: And that’s a good point. It doesn’t have to be a boring process, you know? You don’t have to listen to standard listening exercises or do Duolingo to practice your English.
Paige: You could listen to a podcast!
Mariah: You could listen to a podcast! For example, Coffee with Gringos. My personal favorite podcast.
Victor: It helps a lot to be surrounded by natural context. Right, cus’ that’s something that I also faced. I learned the rules and everything. It’s perfect. That helped me to understand the language properly, but getting to the US and listening to actual natural context language that was so different to what I was used to.
Mariah: Yeah, like the casual language.
Paige: The accents, the slang.
Victor: The way people speak is way different than the books. The books, the audios of the book. So, it’s way different. It’s way better just to be surrounded by natural context.
Paige: So, going back a little bit… how did you get to Chile? You talked about… We kind of want to know you’re story.
Mariah: Tell us your story, Victor!
Victor: I love Chile. I have to be honest. Chile is for me one of the most amazing countries I’ve ever been to. I remember I came for vacation in 2016. And I want to tell you all a story. It’s a very dramatic story. I was very sad because I had gone through a breakup. And I was devastated. I was devastated. And I remember, I think everyone has gone through a situation like that, I mean not the same, but similar. And I remember I wanted to come here because my twin brother -- I have a twin brother who lives here and has been living here for the last four years. He was here, and I just wanted to see him. He was studying at the Catholic University -- Universidad Catolica. So, I came here, and he was living in the south at the time. So, I had to go to Pucon. And I was not expecting anything. I was not expecting anything whatsoever. And when I came here, what I saw, what I experienced… I can tell you that month and a half was the most exciting and amazing time of my life so far that I promised myself that I was gonna come back. I applied for a job here, and I got the job, so I came here.
Mariah: That’s so brave!
Paige: What was it about that month and a half that was so incredible?
Mariah: Right?! Because you just told us that you started with devastation. And so to go from devastation to the best month of your life…
Victor: Well, I had never been so close to nature in my life. And Pucon is definitely a perfect place to be connected with nature. And imagine, having that connection but also having the opportunity to have an amazing night life everyday in summertime! It was like no way - I’m living in fricking paradise here. So that’s why it was amazing.
Mariah: That’s awesome.
Paige: And when you got that job here in Santiago, did you think when you accepted it that this was long-term? You were gonna move here permanently and stay, or did you think “oh I’ll put in a year, maybe two and then go back to California”?
Victor: Well, I definitely have to go be going back and forth to the US and Chile. I have to visit my family in Los Angeles. I’m planning to like once a year. But, I’m planning to live here in Chile because I think Chile is such a great country to live in. People say it’s unsafe, but I think it’s safe, compared to my country, El Salvador. And even the US. Sometimes in the US, you think, oh my gosh… threatened by I don’t know, anyone who looks crazy.
Mariah: Slash just higher rates of gun violence.
Victor: So, Chile is a perfect country to start from zero. And I came here. I already got an apartment because I wanted to be prepared. And I love my life here. It’s really nice.
Mariah: Victor is definitely nesting. Victor is settling into his life here. It’s awesome.
Victor: Yeah, I’m not planning to leave Chile. I’m planning to be citizen maybe in the future, I don’t know.
Paige: And how do your parents feel that, you know, both of their sons are here in Chile?
Victor: They are very happy. They live in El Salvador. They have a business there. But, they are happy. They are happier with us being here cus’ El Salvador is very dangerous.
Paige: So they’re happy. Can they visit?
Victor: They are gonna come to visit us next year.
Mariah: Ohhhh that’s so exciting.
Victor: They’ve been very busy with their business, but they’re coming in winter time because maybe I don’t know in the future, maybe when I’m really settled down, I want them to come here to live with me. So they’re coming to experience winter time because, you know, our weather is so different. I mean, here, it doesn’t matter how hot it is, it’s actually never hot for me because it’s dry weather.
Mariah: It’s dry heat, yeah.
Victor: And in my country, it’s so humid. Humidity is the worst. It’s your enemy, for real. I love bike riding, and you start sweating in my country when you get out of the shower. So imagine, if you bike ride. That’s even worse. I love it here. I love the weather. I love everything.
Paige: Do your parents speak English?
Victor: My father speaks English because he lived in Belize. Belize is an English speaking country, so that’s the reason why I had a little notion of the language. So, maybe my father was the one that motivated me at first, in the very first years of my life.
Mariah: We know a little bit about your story now. We talked a little bit about learning English and what that process was like for you. What do you do for fun?! Who are you when you’re not teaching?
Victor: Well, I love bike riding. I definitely go places with my bike.
Paige: You just bought a new bike?!
Victor: I just came here with my bike.
Mariah: We can confirm that Victor did bike here. It’s parked right over here in Coffee with Gringos studios.
Paige: It’s in the studio as we speak.
Victor: I also love drawing. I actually love drawing.
Mariah: Really? I did not know that!
Victor: I wanted to be an architect, so I love designing things.
Mariah: What do you design?
Victor: I design houses. I love designing houses. I want to… maybe a plan for the future is to buy a place in the south and build my house with my style, so that’s a long-term plan.
Paige: Any certain area in the south that is in your dream vision?
Victor: Anything close to Pucon, Valdivia, Puerto Varas, or anything beautiful. But, I think anywhere in the south is good. Because the south of Chile is just beautiful to me.
Mariah: Okay, we have to ask since all of our listeners -- or the majority of our listeners -- except for maybe my mom, who might be listening, are English language learners… what advice would you give to people who are in the process of learning English?
Victor: My advice would be not to get stressed when they are not understanding most of the things that they listen to cus’ you know, it’s a process. So, the more you listen, the more you will understand. Another thing is for example, when they’re corrected… really take that. For example, if they’re corrected with a word, they’re not pronouncing the word correctly. Repeat that word in your mind as many times as possible so you can get it right. So you can keep it in your mind. Because if not, you’re gonna go through a process in which the word is just going to stay the way it is, the way you think it is. But it’s not actually correct. I think, also, another thing that helps a lot is to listen to music in English, watch your favorite movies since you’ve already watched them in Spanish -- watch them in English, that’s really good, you’ll understand those. You will understand most of what they say because you have already watched the movie before.
Paige: What advice would you give when you were learning when you had days where you felt so discouraged? If I don’t understand what they’re saying or they keep correcting me… I’m not getting it right.
Mariah: Or I couldn’t even order a coffee today without somebody correcting me.
Paige: How do you break that discouragement?
Victor: Just don’t give up. It’s a learning process. You’re going to have good days, bad days. I can tell you many of my bad days experiences. Like for example, when I traveled alone inside of the US… oh my gosh. I couldn’t even ask at what time my plane was leaving, so it was terrible. I felt so bad, but I didn’t give up. I just tried and tried.
Mariah: Well, Victor, we think you are so inspiring. Thank you for sharing your story with us and all of our listeners. I’m sure that the people listening definitely feel hope listening to your experience, and we really appreciate you being here with us.
Victor: Thank you very much, it’s been lovely to be here with you. Thank you.
Paige: And next week, we’ll be talking about weddings and dating in Santiago.
Victor: That sounds so interesting.
Mariah: Yeah, a romantic episode next week.
Paige: So tune in.
Victor: Summertime is a perfect time for weddings.
Mariah: It is. It is. So it’s a very timely episode.
Paige: You don’t want to miss it.
Mariah: Thanks for listening, and we’ll talk to you soon.
KEY VOCABULARY, PHRASES, AND SLANG
Relatable (adjective) - able to feel empathy with someone because of shared experiences
Example: Victor’s story is relatable for many of you because he also had to learn English.
Go through (phrasal verb) - to experience something, particularly something challenging
Example: Victor went through the process of learning English.
Grow up (phrasal verb) - the process of childhood and becoming an adult
Example: Victor grew up in El Salvador.
Back and forth (phrase) - describing frequent movement between two places
Example: Victor goes back and forth between the Santiago and Los Angeles.
Challenging (adjective) - used to describe a demanding experience that requires a lot of work
Example: Learning English has been one of the most challenging experiences of Victor’s life.
Everlasting (adjective) - something that never stops
Example: Learning a language is an everlasting process.
Find out (phrasal verb) - to discover
Example: Victor decided not to study architecture when he found out that it’s difficult for architects to get work.
Unemployed (adjective) - without work
Example: Victor didn’t want to be unemployed, so he ultimately decided to study English.
Leverage (noun) - a big advantage to help you advance
Example: Speaking English at MetLife gave Victor the leverage you needed to become a totally fluent English speaker.
Surrounded (adjective) - to be immersed, to have something all around you
Example: When learning a language, it helps to be surrounded by native English speakers.
Properly (adverb) - correctly
Example: Learning grammar rules helped Victor to understand English properly.
Cus’ (slang) - informal slang for because
Example: Victor came to Chile cus’ his twin brother was already living here, and he wanted to visit.
Breakup (noun) - the end of a relationship
Example: Victor went through a breakup right before his first visit to Chile.
Devastated (noun) - completely sad and upset
Example: Victor felt devastated after his breakup!
Long-term (adjective) - relating to a long period of time
Example: Victor loves his life here in Chile, and he plans to stay long-term.
Nesting (gerund form of verb, to nest) - in the context of people, settling into a home or space
Example: Victor is definitely nesting. He bought a new television and great furniture for his apartment!
Settle down (phrasal verb) - to live a stable life in one place
Example: Once Victor is settled down, it’s possible that his parents will also come to live in Chile.
Humidity (noun) - heat with lots of moisture in the air
Example: El Salvador has terrible humidity! You start sweating when you step out of the shower.
Advice (noun) - counsel or helpful recommendations
Example: What advice would you give to English language learners?
Discouraged (adjective) - frustrated, having lost enthusiasm
Example: Sometimes English language learners feel discouraged.
Don’t give up! (phrase) - never quit, keep going
Example: It’s normal to feel discouraged when learning a language, but don’t give up!