Anna Clift / Ángel Gallardo
Friday, 28 July 2023, 18:03
Neshann Lacuesta, who studied languages at University College Dublin before moving to Spain in 2019, has become something of a celebrity in Malaga. Now, Nesh is recognised in the streets after a video she posted in which she spoke about her struggle adapting to the Andalusian accent went viral on various social media platforms.
In the video she explains expressions she has learned in Malaga such as 'aro' (instead of 'claro' meaning 'of course'), and 'amove' (how 'vamos a ver' meaning 'let's see' can sound in Malaga). She adds that she spent her Erasmus year in Ciudad Real in Castilla La Mancha and the Spanish she heard there was entirely different to what she is learning in southern Spain.
Speaking to SUR in English, the 27-year-old said, "I wasn't aware of the huge difference [in the accent], but I adapted to it quickly enough." However, she admitted, "I still struggle a bit with very strong accents from small towns."
Nesh is studying for a Master's degree to become a secondary school English teacher at the University of Malaga. She herself represents a mixture of cultures, being of Filipino origin and having moved to Ballina in Ireland when she was 11. She has lived in four different countries and shared flats with people from all over the world.
She first fell in love with Malaga when working as an au pair in Benalmádena in 2016. She then came back in 2019 to work as an English-language assistant and did this for two years before deciding to stay and do a Master's. She told SUR in English that she loves "the people, the language and the food" in Malaga, adding that "everything is reasonably priced".
What's more, Malaga is a city where she feels she can be herself. "I've always had an identity crisis and a crisis of not knowing where my home is. When I'm in the Philippines, I feel more Irish; when I'm in Ireland, I feel more Filipino; but when I'm in Malaga, I feel me."
In terms of Nesh's social media presence, her main page is called Live and Speak English. The idea to create the channel came when she worked as an English-language assistant at a secondary school and was asked to create an interactive video for her pupils. Then, in December 2020, she created an Instagram page for teaching English and soon after a TikTok one, as that was the platform the pupils at her school seemed to use the most.
Live and Speak English now has 156,000 followers on Instagram and 198,000 on TikTok, with most of the audience interacting from Spain or Latin America.
Last year she launched The Live and Speak Challenge, a digital course for learning English in an alternative way. After the TikTok boom, so many users have signed up that she has to select those who are going to be her students.
"We meet twice a week and every day they also have to send a video of themselves speaking English," she said.
She has also recently started a second channel called Live and Speak Spanish: "The funny thing is that most of my followers [on this channel] are now from Spain! I guess they just love learning about their language or seeing someone non-native teach their funny expressions."
This is not the first time Nesh's videos have gone viral. "The first time I blew up was in February 2022," she said. "From there my following kept increasing."
"One of my most popular videos was about Semana Santa in Malaga," she added, highlighting that videos specific to Spanish and Andalusian culture seem to be most popular.
The response to her video has been positive, particularly from Andalusians: "They have all been so welcoming."
Although she has received some comments claiming she is learning the 'wrong' Spanish, "which I then try to defend because having an accent or speaking another dialect doesn't make anyone speak the language wrong."
Nesh's channel represents a new way of teaching and learning languages - through social media.
"We have no limits on rules and the content we share. Plus, we can teach the most updated expressions that wouldn't be in normal textbooks," she explained, adding, "It's a lot more entertaining and accessible to everyone."
When asked about her future plans, Nesh told SUR in English that she aims to stay in Malaga, and to "keep making courses and spreading my passion for interculturality and multilingualism".
"I want people to know that learning a language is easy and fun and shouldn't be a burden or an obligation, that opens so many doors and lets us connect with others on a much deeper level."