We invited Claire Balch, partner and teacher of NELC, to have a chat with us. Claire is one of the most experienced team members with a teaching career of more than 33 years. Originally from Reading, a town in southeast England situated on the River Thames, which she says, “is neither nice nor interesting but in 25 minutes you are in London and in 30 minutes in Oxford or if what you like is the countryside, reaching Berkshire Downs is extremely easy.”
But first things first.
Claire, tea or coffee?
I’m afraid I’m very English in this respect and it has to be a cup of tea. Black, no sugar and just a drop of milk.
When did you first get to Barcelona?
I arrived here in 1987, after passing through Madrid.
Tell us your favourite English word.
“Sapphire” because it’s such a pretty word, “game-changer” because it is strong and shows innovation, progress and hope. Another word I like is “fabulous” because it is simply “fabulous”.
What’s your least favourite?
“Awesome” because it’s been over used.
A story of something that happened to you in class.
After so many years you can imagine that there are many stories. I once tore a pair of trousers in the middle of class and had to continue the class with my right buttock peeping out from below the sweater I had wrapped around my waist to cover it up. But the best moments are the ones the students create, when they make me laugh and we have a good time in class. Some wonderful spontaneous funny moments often occur when students get really involved in a role play or when a debate gets really heated. There have been many moments like these.
What do you like most about teaching at NELC?
Firstly, the variety of the classes I can teach. It could be a general language course or a skills course such as presentations or helping university professors lecture in English. Secondly, the freedom I have to teach in my own style. In NELC we don’t usually follow a book, so this allows me to focus on the needs of the group and try to create material that’s useful and interesting for that particular group. Finally the small group size, means I can really get to know the students and work closely with them. It can be very rewarding to see how students improve and begin to grow in confidence as they start to use the language more naturally.
What NELC features are not offered by other language schools?
The intensive format of the classes allows NELC students to progress much quicker. The dedication of the teachers to their classes which is shown in their class preparation and development of online support through the Moodle. The teachers´ continuous interest in self-improvement and training to keep pace with the latest developments in teaching. Our classes are famous for being fast, active and dynamic.
What song do you play to motivate yourself?
The Cure “Just like heaven”. It doesn’t just motivate me, I can get completely lost in it. Or just Blondie’s “Atomic“, or Depeche Mode’s “Never Let Me Down Again” or New Order’s “True Faith“.
Could you recommend a book?
Anything by Kate Atkinson.
And a movie?
“Boyhood“. It was a very good film and I found the idea of filming the same actors over 12 years very original.
What dish from your country do you miss most?
There are so many. Good English food can be excellent. When I go back to England now I don’t go to Reading I go to the south west of England to the county of Devon. In the countryside there are some wonderful pubs where you get excellent food such as a steak and ale pie. Also we often pop into Cornwall for fresh fish and chips. Then, at teatime we go up onto Dartmoor and enjoy fresh scones with raspberry jam and of course clotted cream.
What is your favourite local dish?
Another food question? I think I’m a bit of a foodie and just one dish is difficult. Sometimes the simplest of dishes can be the most delicious, a slice of good bread with olive oil, some anchovies from L’Escala, black olives from Aragón and ham from Extremadura, all accompanied with a good red wine from the Montsant. Perfect.
Your favorite place to get lost in Barcelona.
My flat in the Borne.
What do you do on a Sunday morning?
Relax. Perhaps have a lie-in, read the Sunday papers, and do a couple of Sudokus then go for a walk round the neighbourhood.
What do you always carry in your bag?
A pair of binoculars because one of my passions is being in the countryside birdwatching and looking for wild orchids.
Who do you think should appear on a 20-euro note?
What super power would you like?
Teletransport myself from one place to another.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned from your students?
To never give up.
And Claire takes a sip of her tea that is getting cold and we refute the myth that the English stick out their little finger to lift the cup.