16 August 2016

Spanish Classes in the Barrio

About a year ago, John started taking Spanish classes with a group of about 20 expats. They met once a week and their instructor, a local Tica, who is a native Spanish speaker. Wouldn't you know it, this past February, just as everyone was getting in the grove, their teacher up and quits because she accepted a job out of town.

We were at FUF one afternoon, enjoying a beer, and several of John's classmates and friends were bemoaning the loss of their teacher. Everyone was disappointed and they weren't sure what to do to continue taking lessons. Before I knew it, I opened my mouth and volunteered to step up to try to fill their learning gap.

Mind you, I am NOT a teacher, I never studied Spanish, but I am pretty fluent, with a strong grasp of the language. I picked up my Spanish back in my 20's via the school of hard knocks. Consequently, my Spanish is full of colloquialisms, or "dichos," as we say in Costa Rica.

In March, I started teaching Spanish to a small group of 6 students in our Rancho, on Tuesday afternoons. The group has now grown to 12 students, and I've limited the class size due to table & chair space, and the size of my PC's monitor. The class is informal and everyone brings their beverage of choice, and sometimes snacks to share.

I'm spending several hours a week preparing lessons and finding new material to teach. The stuff available online is amazing. I've found some terrific websites, some with downloadable PowerPoint presentations, and games to help reinforce the lessons.

Folks appear to be learning and the feedback has been good. No matter how hard I try to keep it interesting, not everyone is into homework. My goal is not to get them to speak perfect Spanish. I just want them to understand what they hear and be able to participate in the conversation. Half the battle at our age is just not being afraid to speak. It doesn't matter if it's wrong. It's the effort that counts.

We have a 22" PC monitor that hadn't been used in the 5 years we've been here. We figured out how to use a number of connectors to attach the monitor's 9-pin VGA port to the HDMI port on my laptop. It works pretty well, but it's still hard for everyone to see from a distance. We've talked about getting a true video projector, but they are so expensive. Anything decent will run a least $400-$500.

Several folks have heard about my class and have asked to join, but there just isn't any room. I've started a waiting list for a second class and we'll see if there is enough interest in the community to make it worth my time.

On Wednesdays, when I'm not teaching Spanish, I switch gears and help a local doctor with her English pronunciation. Wow, is that an eye opener. I never realized how many English sounds simply do not exist in a native Spanish speaker's diction. Trying to explain how to use the muscles of the tongue to produce English sounds has been an interesting challenge.

I kid you not, being retired is hard work and we are busy all the time. I use my appointment calendar more now than I ever did in my working career, and maybe part of that is because my memory isn't what it used to be.

¡Pura vida, mae!


  1. I'd like to be on your waiting list, Pat, if I am not already. I really do want to understand how to use the muscles of the tongue to produce Spanish sounds.

    1. I can't put on a waiting list without having your name.