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Thanks for chatting with us about your experiences learning Spanish. Could you tell us about yourself?

Kathy and her daughter outside in a field

I moved to the Pioneer Valley about 20 years ago and have spent the majority of my time here raising children and volunteering in the community. I started taking Spanish classes at ILI in January of 2020. I joined an intensive one week class with Samira.  Then, a couple of students from that class joined a weekly class with several other students.  We met in person until the pandemic hit. Fortunately, by then we were all hooked on the class and decided to continue online through 2020 and halfway through 2021 before transitioning back in person.

Which way did you prefer to learn Spanish — online or in person? Are there advantages to online Spanish classes?

What I loved during the online experience was that our teachers (Samira first and then Brenna) in addition to using Zoom for class time, added Google classroom for weekly assignments.   The online classroom made it so easy to keep track of new and old assignments and reference materials.  We could also share our assignments before class with the teacher and one another.  Now that we’re back in person, we’re happy to  keep the Google classroom aspect going. 

Zoom classes were very convenient. On snowy days, I liked being able to stay home and not have to drive thirty minutes on slick roads to get to class.  Also, there were times I was relieved to be able to do class from home since my kids were home due to the hybrid plans their schools had in place.  An unexpected bonus of online classes was that I learned how to use  Zoom and Google classroom and could then better understand so many of the tools my kids (and the world) had begun using.   

What were your reasons to learn Spanish? Is it in your future plans to travel to Spain?

Approximately 30 years ago, I studied abroad in Sevilla, Spain.  I really hadn’t used Spanish much since, but always knew I wanted to reclaim use of the language.  In January 2020, I finally reached a point in my life where I had the time to commit to the process. 

Fortunately, I’ve stayed in touch with some dear Spanish friends from my time there in college.  Last month I formalized plans to take two weeks of classes this winter with a school recommended by ILI.  I’ll be able to spend mornings in class and afternoons and evenings reconnecting with my old friends in person.  I can’t wait!

What aspects of learning Spanish did you struggle with the most? What does it take to speak Spanish fluently?

Definitely grammar. I struggle to keep the tenses and conjugations straight in more complex sentences.  Sometimes I feel like my ability spikes and I really improve. Other times, I feel like I plateau for long stretches of time.  I’m really looking forward to having another big spike from an immersive experience.

Our class is full of interesting, smart, kind and fun people!  I feel so grateful.  We laugh a lot, especially at ourselves.  For assignments, we watch Spanish movies and TV, we write stories from our lives and we do lots of drills.  In class, we spend most of the time conversing.  Our teachers have always been open to ideas and special topics of interest that we decide upon at the beginning of each session.  This openness keeps it relevant for where we are ability-wise and for what we are trying to accomplish!

What are some other benefits of learning Spanish you’ve experienced?

While I’ve been learning Spanish at ILI, my daughter has been learning the language in high school.  We’re speaking more and more Spanish together at home.  Our shared interest in Spanish has been a great way to connect and interact.  We’re hoping she’ll be able to join me for classes the next time I head to Spain.  Two of my Spanish friends have daughters around her age.  I dream of us all having great times together.

Another class I’ve taken at ILI is Yoga in Spanish. The yoga was fantastic and I especially appreciated learning the yoga-specific vocabulary with lots of repetition.  We’d do 40 minutes of yoga, and then we’d talk in Spanish about any new vocabulary or questions we had.   This new vocabulary will be so useful.  A friend in Seville runs a yoga travel company called Viajes Transformacionales.  While I’m there this coming winter, I will be able to join her for a weekend yoga retreat and will be able to have a clue as to what’s being said!

Would you recommend others to learn Spanish and why?

Oh, absolutely. It’s great brainwork. It’s a wonderful challenge to learn new things and be pushed to do some memorizing again.  Learning with great teachers and classmates makes the process efficient and really fun!

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