One day, long, long…. LONG long ago, I attended my first day of school in a Spanish Immersion program. I was enrolled in this program from 1st grade until 7th grade, when I finally switched to regular English classes. Now, some years later (now that I’m old and wrinkly, I’ve come to appreciate the whole “a lady never tells her age” thing) I wonder if there is some sort of Spanish Immersion program for adults offered anywhere.
Wondering why? Why would I wonder about an adult Immersion program if I attended the program for so long? Should I be fluent (granted the fact that you don’t know my age… but I’m sure you’re looking at my photo thinking, eh… she doesn’t look THAT old… listen, I’m old enough! Alright?! Just trust me) Well, let me explain! Shall we go back to the beginning? Yes, I think we shall. Waaaaaaay back…
If I remember correctly, Señora Guerra said one sentence in English. The very first sentence she spoke to us. I want to say she said something along the lines of “Good morning students, my name is Mrs. Guerra. Welcome to the first day of Spanish class.” And went straight into Spanish from then on, save for 30 minutes a day for English studies (this increased to 1 hour a day in 3rd grade), though I don’t remember much of the English studies.
I have a pretty rotten short term memory (short-term as in anything early 90’s and after. I’m pretty sure my Alzheimer’s kicked in right as puberty hit) But I actually remember the first day of school clearly. The classroom, the teacher, I remember her face, (her dress even! With her short, tightly-curled hair and light, flowery long dress a-la-1980’s style), the students all looking at each other completely bewildered as to what the teacher was saying. I almost wonder if at 6 years old I really even understood that the class I was in wasn’t “normal” school?
I will tell you though, it was absolutely the BEST way to learn! I recall having a couple conversations as a child with my grandparents in Spanish (though these were few and far between). My Spanish was a bit slower than theirs, but I was speaking it, and understood it. That was about the extent of any usage of Spanish outside of the school room though, as my parents did not speak any Spanish and my grandparents did not live locally.
As for my fluency in the language, I would say I was fluent in the classroom setting only. I consider “fluency” in a language to be when you don’t have to do much translating in your head. Outside of the classroom I struggled with real-world conversational Spanish, which led me to avoid conversations with any Spanish speakers I would come across outside of school because I wasn’t confident in my abilities.
I had always believed this was because my parents weren’t able to help me with my homework because they didn’t speak Spanish, and the program (at the time, I’m not sure if things have changed) did not offer guides, or any sort of assistance to English speaking parents to help their children (although, that doesn’t really explain why they didn’t help me with math, which I struggled with very, VERY much).
There were a good amount of Parent helpers, which was great, and I’m sure, also integral in helping students excel. For myself however, it did not help me grasp mathematics any better. In fact, after one parent helper was a bit impatient with me while we were in a small group practicing our times-tables I felt so humiliated and defeated that I dreaded math and assumed I am “bad at math” for the majority of my life, though I did always give it my damned best try.
***Note to parent-helpers: Snapping your fingers at a single 4th grader in front of 5 of their classmates, who are all staring at you wide-eyed and tersely telling them they need to be faster and they should be answering them quickly like this *snap*snap* does NOT a good helper make.
The psyche of a child is immensely fragile. While they are resilient beyond belief, it would be wise to remember the child in front of you today will be the adult next to you tomorrow. Imagine this child becomes your boss. And they remember. Ohhhhhhh they remember. You’re nervous now, aren’t you?
Speak only words that make souls stronger. For once words are spoken they can only be forgiven, not forgotten.
I’m mature enough to forgive you, but I’m not dumb enough to forget.
Before you say something, think of how you’d feel if someone said it to you.
I had a hard time staying focused in school and would usually be drawing pictures, making crafty things with tissues or making “rubber” out of the powdered soap in the restrooms.Later in life…. Much, MUCH later in life… I came to realize I have ADD. This explained a lot of my childhood educational struggles, but made me proud that I was able to achieve graduation without the need for medication or extra assistance. I believe this is because I had a fantastic stretch of incredibly wonderful Spanish teachers who were very caring and encouraging to myself, and all their students. You felt as though you were one of their own children. They were patient and kind, yet pushed me in a way that encouraged me to try harder, without making me feel like I could not achieve the goals at hand. It was also beneficial that the school district I attended offered an excellent variety of subjects like music, art and P.E. So I was able to experience subjects I excelled at, which helped balanced my self-esteem and encouraged me to try harder or at least hang in there with the subjects I struggled with. The funny thing is, I learned as an adult, I actually really love to learn about the subjects I struggled with!
Overall, I’m glad I was enrolled in the Spanish Immersion program. Although I am no longer even remotely fluent in the language, I have been able to retain some comprehension of the language which can only work to my benefit. I can definitely see how valuable it would be for a student, especially if they were to maintain the fluency to adulthood. Unfortunately for me,, since I left the program in 7th grade, and never used it on a regular basis, what fluency I had was mediocre at best. I would try to speak with Spanish speaking coworkers but the feedback I would receive from them was that they could understand what I was saying, but that I spoke with a very proper Spanish style versus the conversational style as most Spanish speakers use in our area. For example, in Spanish “Usted” (Ooh-stead) and “Tu” (to) both mean “You” however Usted is used in a formal setting. For example when asking the Queen of England whether she would want one lump or two, and when you would ask your brother if he wants a bite of your candy bar.
Best Spanish Immersion Programs for Adults
Now, since I have forgotten most of my Spanish, I have looked into language learning programs in an attempt to regain these skills, as I do believe they’re valuable. There are several programs that are free or cheap, and some that are expensive. But which is the best? Well personally, for the fastest results, I believe an immersion program would be best. But are there any immersion programs offered for adults? And if so, which program would be best?
Physical programs vary (obviously) from state to state and city to city. The nearest program to where I live is a good 30-45 minute drive. Not really practical for a full-time working mother of two kids in school with after-school activities.
My other options were apps or software. I tried Duolingo which is a free app similar to Rosetta Stone. It was easy, and I enjoyed the simplicity of the app. And you have to stay on top of your training or it will make you review some of what you’ve learned previously before you can move forward in your training. However, if you are like me, and sometimes life just gets in the way and you forget a day, or 90… Well, it’s easy to give up and move on. For this reason, I’m glad I never invested in the more expensive software.
Those programs require you to be accountable for your progress. You would need to pretend you’ve enrolled yourself in an online college course so you are continually increasing your knowledge. BUt that’s easier said than done for me.
From what I could find, most of the currently available Spanish Immersion programs require you to physically travel abroad to a country and be immersed in the language and culture; except one. But that one is only convenient if you live somewhere on the upper east coast. However, if you’re thinking you could use a week-long-all-inclusive-vacation/learn Spanish-at-the-same-time then you might want to consider this:
Concordia Language Villages
This program was the only one I could find like this in the continental US. And does require your travel and stay for one week. Allowed for ages 18-99 at the rate of $835. The thing I like about this program is it not only teaches you the language, but also the Spanish-speaking cultures, including food and activities.
The reason I think this would be top of the list is because it’s basically an all-inclusive vacation to what feels like a foreign country without the hassle and cost of a Passport! You literally are “met” at the village and have to go through Customs (isn’t that wonderful? It will give you real-world experience if you were to ever travel to the country!) You are able to bring some spending money that they exchange for the true Spanish-speaking country currency (which, I’m not sure) that you are able to spend at their shops. From the moment you reach the Village there are no English-speaking workers at all. Absolutely everything you do, see and experience will be in Spanish.
Not only can you go, but this place also offers a FAMILY week! That’s right folks… take the entire family for a week and you all learn Spanish together! You were already planning on taking a family vacation, why not make it educational as well? Then you can all continually practice your newly learned skills together and maintain the knowledge once you’ve returned home.
In my search for Spanish Immersion Programs for Adults I am completely sold on this course. This is absolutely something I will be looking into for my family in the future. I think the experience as a whole would be something incredibly memorable for our entire family. Being able to experience the culture, food and heritage of latin countries in the comfort of very own US while together as a family is something pretty unique.