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New Challenge

Javier Garcia Pajares

Andrea Pérez interviews Javier García Pajares, the first Erasmus+ student who is both deaf and blind

How did you learn English language? I started to study the English language in the last year of my secondary school and the two years of my Baccalaureate but I studied only written English. I finished my studies with good marks but my level of English wasn’t good enough.

How did you attain the mandatory B2 level of English for your Erasmus+ programme? A year and half ago, when I knew that I was going to do the Erasmus in London, I started to study English language again, after four years of not studying it. I was looking for a private English language teacher in a language school but every time that they heard that I was deaf-blind they always had excuses because they thought it was impossible to teach someone like me.

Thanks to my intervener (assistant) in Spain, Lorena, we found a teacher who is also a psychologist and together we took this on as a challenge to overcome.

How did she teach you? We knew that I didn’t have to do the oral test but I was going to live in London so I really needed to speak English. So our priority always was to improve my speaking level. My teacher wrote everything on the computer in English language as a normal conversation. At the same time I read it in my Braille line – a device that reads in Braille everything that appears on the computer screen – and I also read it aloud so my teacher could correct my pronunciation if I was wrong. The correction system consisted of writing in parentheses the equivalent literal pronunciation in Spanish. For example, ‘who’ in Spanish would be ‘ju’. I repeated and memorised these pronunciations until I did well, while preparing my response in English to continue the conversation. I also did grammar exercises and I passed the exam.

What’s life like in London? I was very proud of myself when I arrived here because the people could understand me. I speak faster than I did three months ago and my intervener Teresa, who is with me in London, is always helping me with my pronunciation through the finger-spelling – she spells the words into the palm of my hand. I speak English all the time, eve with her. It was very hard at the beginning.

What’s your daily routine like, studying at Regents University? In the first month I had to adapt to everything, memorising the routes around the university, introducing myself to the professors… I was easily overloaded at the beginning but now, I am confident. I even did a 20-minute presentation in a class! I am always in class with my laptop and my Braille line. Teresa writes everything that’s said in class and I read that in Braille afterwards with a short time lag. I complete my studies with articles and books but I need everything in Word format because otherwise I cannot read them in Braille. If I want to speak with my teachers, Teresa helps me with the finger-spelling.

What are your future plans? First, to finish my double degree in business and law and after that… well, maybe I can take another degree such as psychology and I would like to do another Erasmus exchange in a different country and learn other language. Maybe Italy? I like to challenge myself.

Pic courtesy: Javier García