• Learning Spanish the hard way!

    I learned English the old fashioned way with tons of grammar and no practice; it was like my teachers thought I was never going to use it! Then when I moved to the United States I realized that all those years of classes did almost nothing to my fluency and I had to start from scratch, like a little child. I remember it was really hard to get into a conversation since my "perfect grammar" was keeping me hostage and by the time I had constructed a phrase, the conversation had move into a different subject. Even worse were routine things like going to the doctor and being talked like I was deaf (for some reason when people talk to a foreigner with low fluency of English they immediately assume that talking louder will help…go figure!). All of the sudden regular chores like ordering cold cuts at the local grocery store made me feel constantly taking a test! How come a professional like me, with a degree in communications simply couldn't communicate?

    Nevertheless, all those negative experiences just made me stronger; our daughter was eight months old and she needed me to communicate on her behalf; also I had a "very supportive" husband who decided to cut all Cable TV in Spanish. Suddenly I was immersed in daytime TV in English which not only taught me the language but the culture too. I would watch with fascination the "hearings" of Clarence Thomas being accused of sexual harassment by Anita Hill (nothing better to understand the intricate political system of this new country so different my Mexico).  After a year of this immersion I emerged victorious being able to understand everything in the TV or radio, order my cold cuts and do visits to the doctor by myself; this last chore was still painful since the doctor was very skeptic of my language abilities and kept on talking to me like I was a 5 year old.

    When we came to the United States we decided to speak Spanish at home, because it was part of our culture and the best way to communicate for us as parents, so our daughters had to become bilingual. Their language acquisition was a natural process, we spoke, they listened and after a while they started to speak it too. This Spanish language became an essence for our family. I would always talk to my daughters in Spanish when I needed to tell them something that I did not want anyone else to listen. They liked the idea and we became accomplices because we had our "secret family code" that no one else could understand. So when people ask me how we accomplished making our daughters bilingual, I simply say "we made it fun and they thought it was cool".

    As a result, when I founded CONVERSA I could only think about one concept "learning a foreign language has to be natural, fun and cool". Having those things is mind in addition to my experience of learning English "the hard way" is what drives our program. I understand very well the meaning of total comprehensible input; it can’t be any other way to make the language acquisition natural, this is the main reason why we have translations in our materials. Our books have stories developed by children, for children so they are not only entertaining but they are fun. And finally the teacher is given a wide variety of activities in the teacher’s guide that will allow him or her to relate to culture and real situations. This will make the student feel comfortable with the language and culture, being able to speak Spanish and look cool.

    Check out our materials and let me know if you have questions or comments...

    Laura "la maestra" Zuchovicki




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