Guide to Work, Study, Travel and Living Abroad  FacebookTwitterGoogle+  
Related Topics
Volunteer in Spain
Living in Spain: Articles, Resources, and Websites
Related Articles
Volunteer in Spain and Make the Desert Green with Sunseed Desert Trust

Volunteer in Spain in a Spanish Village

Free Room and Board for Speaking English

Volunteer in cobblestoned village of Valdelavilla
The cobblestoned village of Valdelavilla.
Photo taken and owned by Roy  A. Barnes.

Imagine going away for seven full days to a place where cell phone and internet access is generally much harder to come by, a place where you are forbidden to speak your native language. Such a place is nestled in a valley of Mediterranean scrub forest in north central Spain. It is called "Valdelavilla," and the program with all these hardships is called Pueblo Ingles.

More About Pueblo Ingles

Since 2001, Pueblo Ingles programs have touched the lives of more than 10,000 Spaniards and English-speaking volunteers who have come and are still coming together with one goal in mind: improvement of English language fluency for the Iberians, especially those who have to deal with English-speaking clients in their jobs. The Spaniards leave the program with greater conversational mastery of their second language, and the volunteers get enriched in other ways. What makes the Pueblo Ingl�s experience unique is that the Spaniards' difficulties in conversing in English with their English-speaking clients are overcome in an atmosphere that is as low key and supportive as possible—compared to the dog-eat-dog business environment, where not being able to understand English and its many nuances can be costly.

Commons area of Valdelavilla
The commons area of Valdelavilla is a great place for interacting.
Photo taken and owned by Roy  A. Barnes.

Requirements for Volunteers

The first two requirements for volunteers to go to Pueblo Ingles are to be fluent in English and be between the ages of 22-80. An outgoing personality and being open to interacting with people of a different culture is also a must because conversing is job one for all the participants of Pueblo Ingles. The day begins at 9 a.m. with breakfast and ends sometime after 10 p.m., after the last meal is completed. There is a 90-minute break in the afternoon for siesta after the 2 p.m. lunch. Even the three daily meals of traditional and regional Spanish dishes serve as class time for the Spaniards, who are matched evenly with volunteers for conversation at the tables.

Spaniards and Volunteer Anglos conversing at a meal
Spaniards and Anglos use meal times for English language conversation immersion.
Photo taken and owned by Roy  A. Barnes.

The other talking and interacting sessions vary, including pairing up for 50-minute one-on-one conversations during the day and afternoon between one Spaniard and an English-speaking volunteer, with the ensuing sessions alternating partners. Each pair may take a walk on the cobblestone streets of Valdelavilla, or along the trails that lead to and from the village. Or the couples can lounge around in the large patio area of Pueblo Ingl�s and even play a table game like Spanish Trivial Pursuit, in which the Spaniards are required to translate the questions from the cards into English. Anything, as long as the Spaniard and volunteer converse in English. Full group activities also occur during the day involving the participants splitting up into smaller groups to brainstorm ideas for mini-skits and other presentations.

An hour before the 9 p.m. dinner, everyone gathers at the big meeting room that overlooks Valdelavilla for a nightly variety show. Both students and volunteers are encouraged to make at least one presentation on any subject during the week. Improvised skits are one of the big hits of this week-long experience, for it brings out the creative and acting abilities of the participants.

Benefits of the Pueblo Ingles Experience

This intensive exposure to English over the course of a week brings a new confidence in the Spanish professional, in part because he or she has been exposed some 20 different English accents on a continual basis.

Volunteers like myself have gotten to connect with people who are really accepting and inquisitive. I have become a temporary Spaniard via each program, made to feel at home by the natives as they strive to reach their goal of conversational English language mastery.

Valdelavilla is in a deep valley
Valdelavilla is nestled in a deep valley.
Photo taken and owned by Roy  A. Barnes.

For More Information

The Pueblo Ingles program is also offered at other locations across Spain, and more locations are added yearly. The programs run year round from January through November. Slots fill up fast, but if applicants are flexible with their dates, they have a great chance of securing a spot. Programs exclusively for teenagers take place during the summertime.

Volunteers pay for their airfare to Spain and expenses before and after the program. Once a program begins at a bus pick-up location in Madrid, Pueblo Ingles provides the transport, accommodations, three meals a day, as well as accident insurance from the moment the volunteers board the bus in Madrid until they are returned back a week later. See the website for more information on all the program locales, offerings, as well as updates.

Editor's Note: Recently Pueblo Ingles ceased running its a program in the town of Valdelavilla, but the organization continues to offer similiar programs in several locations across Spain. See their website for more details.