As all my students have heard before, language learning and improvement comes from practice and more practice. The great thing about learning a language is that it is the most open subjects of all the subjects to learn. What do I mean? If you are studying math, you must study numbers, mathematical theories and algorithms, yet learning about the latest astronomical discoveries, the theories of Stephen Hawking or the pirates of Yucatan are definitely not going to help you advance your knowledge of pure mathematics. However, when learning a language, once you get past the basic grammar and structure of the language and you achieve a comfortable intermediate level of knowledge, you are free to learn about absolutely anything as long as that learning is done in the language being acquired. You can learn about math, history, sex, love or rock and roll and as long as you are doing all the reading, listening and conversing about the topic in Spanish, you are legitimately studying and becoming fluent in Spanish.
For this reason I love my profession. When I tell people I am a Spanish and English teacher, they assume I teach “hola, ¿qué tal?” to a group of bratty teenagers. They presume I have an extensive knowledge in grammar and syntax and that I force my students to work in those boring textbooks with tedious readings about la casa de tío Jose all in the verb tense we happen to be studying. Granted, part of that picture can be a tiny bit true for very beginning students–specifically the part about my knowledge of grammar and syntax! However, once my students get to a pre-intermediate or intermediate level of language we spread our wings and take flight. The world is literally at our fingertips and on the tip of our tongue. So instead of being the grammar and boring textbook Nazi, I have become a professional researcher of topics of interest. Because it is the interest of the student that will make or break their progress.
What does pirates, buccaneers and misfits of the Sea of Desires off the coast of Yucatan have to do with any of this you are asking? Well, this will be our first topic of interest in a new class I am offering in Merida as part of my Spanish Conversation Club “plática en español” series. This March 7th from 7-9pm at the restaurant Puerta Del Sol located in Colonia Montecristo, I will be hosting and facilitating a plática with Gabriela Vazquez Barke, PhD in History with a specialization in Colonial Yucatan, Central America and the Caribbean. She is from Mexico City originally, but has lived in Yucatan for the last two decades. She will be giving a lively talk to those intermediate Spanish learners out there who are interested in meeting fascinating Mexican people and who want to challenge themselves to improve their Spanish while learning about the real pirates of the Caribbean, eating exquisite tapas and having a cocktail (alcoholic or non-alcoholic). This will be the first plática in a series of talks that will be given by different Mexican professionals from Merida and the whole Republic of Mexico. Every two weeks, I will host and facilitate a plática with designers, chefs, business owners, artists, politicians, professors among others at a different location around the city. The idea is to help bridge the gap between the expats and the professional local Mexicans as well as get to know new restaurants, cafes or art galleries around the city while becoming fluent in Spanish. Each plática will be geared towards an intermediate to advanced learner and I will give you vocabulary and the topic of the meeting in an email the week before the meeting. This will be an informal environment where language mistakes are part of the experience. There is room for about 15 people maximum and the cost will be $250 per person including all you can eat tapas and 1 drink. If you are interested, be sure to reserve your spot by emailing me or PM me.
By Stephanie Carmon for TYT
Stephanie Carmon, “language lover” is an English and Spanish language professional with over 18 years of experience teaching and providing clients with effective communication skills. She works both online and in person with companies and individual learners and from Mexico, Russia, U.S. and Canada as a freelance language consultant, translator, interpreter and teacher. She currently lives in Mérida, Yucatan.
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