Mi Primera Lección

Brushing myself off and tilting my hat just right (which is slightly akimbo), I stacked my Spanish books haphazardly and brought myself into full composure for the start of mi primera lección.  The last time I met a Guatemalan for the first time I prepared myself for hours rehearsing the simplistic lines, although Mama Margarita wouldn’t have known the difference at 1AM on a cool summer’s night, delirious as I’m sure she was.  So knowing that Rosa would be completely cognizant of everything I said, and would in fact be correcting most of it, I wanted to make a solid first impression.


With los angelitos on el volcan. I had just roasted it in the ground!

She smiled without hesitation and carried forth as if it were natural, “¿Todavia vives en Tejas?”  Caught off guard I replied with slight trepidation in my voice but quickly became excited, for some reason I had expected her to speak to me at least a little bit in English.  However she didn’t presume to think I didn’t understand and carried forth in natural response to my wanderings about Ukraine (so strange to speak about that country in Spanish), how I had met Señor Fortin and my prior associations with Guatemala.  Waiting patiently for me to relate my story about los angelitos y el volcan, she laughed and expressed genuine interest as she noticed me opening up, almost giggling as I do when I am speaking excitedly in any language (although it is heightened in foreign tongues.  A girl in Ukraine noticed that I talk much more like a babushka (grandma) in Ukrainian as opposed to my normally bass register voice).  All of this happened without even so much as a natural introduction, more like old friends finding one another after all this time and resuming where they had left off, telling old stories and letting the let reflect sentimentally off the spaces in between.  It was a great start to my first lesson with Rosa, instructor of the Spanish language at Homeschool Spanish Academy (HSA).


Congenial in manner and light in voice, Rosa is just one of the personalities at HSA, and I felt she was the one for me because of the passion she showed in her biographical statement.  From what I recall, she claimed to want to “inject” the spirit of learning into each one of her students, as it is her greatest passion.  I found her idea of injection to be quite infectious (don’t pardon the pun, embrace it) and so I signed on for my Spanish voyage under her tutelage.  Now, for an indecisive person like me the choice had to come down to such a minor detail as the injection, for each one of the seven teachers are more than qualified and offer shining smiles and a closer look at who they are so that you can find the señorita (there are no gentlemen, sorry girls) who best suits you.  Whether wavy-haired Ana who boasts eight years of experience teaching and is technologically-inclined, or Luisa who enjoys spending time with her children watching cartoons and receives her passion through the inspiration of others, there is a personality that can fit you perfectly.  The beautiful thing as well is that if the teacher you’ve chosen doesn’t suit your personal learning style, you can without offense or insult choose a new teacher the next time around, to ensure that you receive the full benefit of learning at HSA.  Such flexibility (with scheduling as well, between the seven teachers you can find virtually any time to meet) is a hallmark of HSA as their greatest priority is the satisfaction and growth of the student.  It is clear from the design and practice of the organization that they are willing to do anything to provide for that zest of language learning that many people have.


Time passed so quickly and flowed by easily; I hardly even noticed I was doing Spanish grammar (and enjoying it!).  Rosa was quick to hand the torch to me after our story-telling time and ask me what I wanted to accomplish through our time together.  It was so refreshing to be able to shape my own future in my language-learning, but I found that I didn’t want such power, and so I spoke a few words about what I plan on using Spanish for, and then gave Rosa the reigns.  She was understanding and adaptable in both regards, letting me lead when I wanted to, taking over when she saw that I was being deferential.  If Rosa is indicative of the teachers at HSA, it is clear to me that the methodology of the organization is built in a malleable way, providing for a great deal of creativity in how the learning experience is played out.  This is very critical to me, as I need to be with someone who knows how to be the captain and the teammate simultaneously.  An aggressive teacher can be intimidating and reduce levels of comfort and familiarity, which in a conversation based setting is extremely inhibiting to the growth and confidence of the student.  A warm and affable aura can do wonders for me personally, allowing me to open up and take more risks as a non-native speaker.  Such a learning style may not suit all learners, and Rosa demonstrated tact and control when necessary to provide direction when we began to stray off course (digression is most often traceable back to my footprints, but I digress).


I have the great opportunity to learn Spanish in various capacities.  Whether through Madrigal’s Spanish book at my dining room table, or in community-based courses here in San Antonio, the language has suffused itself into my daily life.  However, short of returning to Guatemala and throwing myself headfirst back into the cobblestoned streets and park-bench conversations on Friday afternoons, the opportunity to work with HSA is the best one to find the Spanish that will really give me the strength and skill to communicate with la gente de Lationamerica. 

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