I was a new mom and a Spanish teacher to over 200 students at a parochial school in Southern California. Exhausted and trying to find a semblance of work/life balance, I practically fell into the office of Elizabeth, a coworker who had become a mom a year before me. "How do you do this? I can't do this..." were the words that escaped my tired lips. Little did I know, I was about to receive the best advice of my life. And not just for motherhood.
Practice how you wish to succeed.
This one, prolific sentence has sat with me for almost a decade now. However I want to succeed, that is how I should practice and that is what I should work toward. At that time, it meant "Don't let your baby sleep in your bed unless you want a toddler sleeping in your bed three years from now."
Today, it is the advice I give all of my prospective Spanish students.
As the director of Spanish Learning Network, I get several calls a day from prospective students, and when I ask them what their goal is, they say, "I just want to be able to have a conversation in Spanish." Much like you, they have tried many different ways to accomplish this and none of them have worked.
Here are top three most common pitfalls I hear about daily:
1) I took Spanish in High School and never learned to speak it.
2) I used Duolingo every day for months, but I still can't hold a conversation in Spanish.
3) I spent loads of money on a private tutor but I still can't speak Spanish.
These are all valiant efforts to learn a language. But none of them include practicing the real thing that you want to succeed at: Being able to engage in a conversation in Spanish.
1) Our generation's high school (and even college) Spanish courses were designed around learning grammar, memorizing vocabulary and passing tests. But you weren't trying to succeed as a professional grammarian or a "test passer." You were trying to succeed as a conversational Spanish speaker. That's why your high school Spanish classes didn't work.
2) Apps like DuoLingo or Rosetta Stone involve acquiring words and phrases through clicking buttons on a screen. They are wonderful add-ons and vocabulary builders, but remember: You aren't trying to succeed at clicking the right buttons on a screen. You are trying to succeed as a conversational Spanish speaker. That's why these apps don't work.
3) Private tutors can cost from $50 - $100/hour for a professional tutor who will probably spend just one hour a week with you. They can teach you grammar and even have Spanish conversations with you for part of that hour, but you aren't trying to succeed at speaking one-on-one with someone who isn't at your level. You are trying to succeed as a conversational Spanish speaker with other people on the same level as you. And maybe have money left over for a coffee at the end of the day. Re-scheduling and cancellations also leave you with large gaps in your exposure to the language. That's why private tutoring doesn't work.
The solution? Well, to be realistic, I wish I could buy you a three year paid vacation in Perú or Guatemala or Barcelona and welcome you back to the US with open arms and a pin that says "Hablo Español."
But that isn't realistic.
Instead, you need the closest thing to a full, immersive experience as possible. But what does that look like for a busy professional?
You need a program that offers affordable, unlimited opportunities to connect and engage with the Spanish language through real-life conversations. Our competitors are charging $300-$600 for 1-2 Spanish "classes" a week where the instructor does most of the talking, and if you have to miss a class you're automatically behind. I refuse to be a part of that kind of scam.
I created Spanish Learning Network in 2013 to offer you a better path to fluency than I had as a 15-year-old kid in rural Ohio. While I am fluent today and can fool almost any native Spanish speaker into thinking I'm "one of them" with my accent, I knew there was a better, faster way to get there than my tedious, decade-long path.
The answer is offering flexible, frequent, fun, and affordable Spanish opportunities for every learning style, budget and schedule. That is why I offer over 100 LIVE classes, conversational groups and workshops every month with the most qualified and experienced instructors in our field. From "Level 1" to "Beginner Conversation Group" to "Latin Cooking in Slow Spanish," you are bound to find a host of low-pressure opportunities to engage with the Spanish language through the lens of a variety of subjects that interest you for a price that is accessible to everyone.
Want to learn more? Check out my training video here. Then, feel free to schedule a complimentary strategy session with me! Let's chat about what you've tried, what could work for your learning style/schedule, and see if our program is a good fit for you. There is never any pressure to make a purchase, ever. We simply enjoy helping people find the best next step to Spanish fluency!
- Bex Paz
Spanish Learning Network