Don Guillermo's Professional Spanish Center
925 E. 17th Ave., Denver, CO  80218
DonGuillermo@gmail.com
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Frequently Asked Questions



Q.  How long does it take?
A.  How long is a rope?  People have different capacities and goals.  I just got a call from a former pupil of a world famous language school who has completed their level 4 program.  Why does he want more Spanish lessons?  It has something to do with forming new goals.

Q.  How fast can I learn?
A.  The faster you go, the faster you forget it.  Do it right this time, so that you don't become one of the many who say "Well, I "took" Spanish, but I didn't get anything out of it".  Don't "take" Spanish.  Learn Spanish!
 
Q.  Do you teach "Executive Spanish"?
A.  Executives can get priority treatment in private sessions. There is no-one else present to hold you back or to push you too fast.  If you are referring to business Spanish, beginners can supplement their studies with business vocabulary.  Advanced people can specialize in business Spanish while doing some brush up and practice in other areas.

Q.  What is the best way to memorize new vocabluary words?
A.  Memorization is good for short term memory and necessary for taking an examination under pressure.  Also, memorization is perhaps fun or a comfortable way to prepare for class at home.

In the live classes my style or approach could be called "familiarization". Class exercises are designed to target all aspects of the language separately.  Hiding the page or covering the words is discouraged in class as this cultivates pausing, fosters speaking broken Spanish, hinders versatility, and slows down the pace of the live class.

Q.  Are classes conducted exclusively in Spanish?
A.  For advanced and some intermediate students classes are conducted in Spanish. For beginners and some intermediate pupils I use English to get the students initiated and comfortable, and for explanations. In the conversation part of the class for all students Spanish is used exclusively.

Some schools do everything in Spanish, period. That is fine for certain students who can pick it up that way. Other students cannot learn well that way, and after paying a large amount of money, they are sacrificed and told that it is their fault. Be sure that your "teacher" is an actual professionally trained and experienced teacher. For example, you could get a job as an English teacher in any country. Could you answer all questions about the English language? Would you improve as a teacher after a few years?  Would you even consider it your profession?  Or would you be there today, and gone tomorrow?  Caveat emptor!

Q.  Is Spanish easy or difficult?
A.  It is easy to speak single words or phrases for daily life or travel.  Water, beer, beach, ash tray, and bathroom are essential words at the lowest levels of functionality. It's an accomplishment to get to the intermediate and higher levels.  One prospective student on the phone asserted that he was not interested in listening comprehension (of sentences), reading, or writing.  He said emphatically: "Only the speaking, because I just want to tell them".

Q.  Isn't a group class better than a private lesson?
A.  One imagines the ideal group.  In that case, a group can be very rewarding.  Bright students must be patient and not tap their pencil while waiting for another to respond.  Students who do not believe in homework must not giggle or make subtle comments if they cannot answer questions due to lack of preparation. Bad pronunciation by classmates is contagious. So, to answer the question: No.  Unless you are looking for a social outlet, one-on-one is always better! 

Q.  I am a very busy person.  Could I just go to class and not do any homework?
A.  Yes, there are several students that do "alright" that way, but will not quite get the punch for the buck that they could by studying a little. Their memory is not as sharp as the other students. It's noticeable.  Also, I once had a young guitar student who didn't own a guitar.  He would use the extra guitar that I have here during his lesson.  As soon as his parents bought him an instrument and he was able to practice, his abilities blossomed.

Q.  What about learning from tapes, CDs and videos?
A.  All materials are helpful to some degree or another.  Recordings serve best as a supplement.  At some point live human beings, face to face, should be introduced into the equation.  Many "American" travelers (not all) are famous for their preference for tourist guide books, maps, and elementary recordings over human contact.  Finding a good teacher can help overcome the tendency toward isolation.

Beware of  claims by some that their materials are free of boring drills. After opening the package, you might find the standard old "pattern drills", which are the most mechanical and  boring of all drills. In that case, somewhere between lessons 5-7,  the expensive materials may end up just setting on the shelf.

A certain course claims that their materials are almost as good as having a private teacher in your home. Don't be so gullible! Some of the major skills of a teacher are to answer questions and to motivate. No CD's, DVD's or tapes can directly answer questions of the simplest nature. Motivation doesn't mean motivation to make a purchase.  (That particular course subsequently made another commercial ridiculing the value of teachers, which has been pulled more recently in favor of another commercial suggesting that "trying hard" is the enemy of learning, and that all correct learning is incidental.  Apparently their sales department is "trying hard".)

One course is now offering online live sessions with "native speakers". This
firmly acknowledges the limitations of the materials, after years of puffing, and contradicts the claims that the materials themselves are superior.  There is a huge "army" of their students who have the growing reputation of not being able to use the correct verb form.

Q.  What is the objective?
A.  The objective is always the task at hand.  It's similar to a baseball pitcher where the goal is to retire next batter.  The various exercises feature different facets of the language, such as recognition and comprehension, while others work on pronunciation, flow, word order, speed, and vocabulary. All of this is to foster versatility as opposed to going by a static script.  If you turn it around the other way and focus on the "pie in the sky",  you will marry the best salesman. 

In the military services they differentiate between an objective vs. a plan to reach the objective. In learning a language a qualified teacher has a lesson plan and does not delegate the plan. 

There seems to be some connection between retired military people and early attempts to design a language learning program for the Department of War, which later became the Department of Defense.  Some of these materials and their spin-offs are still used by the Department of State and are still sold under various brands. While it's true that all materials can be helpful, bear in mind that recent news reports (2006) show that American diplomats, as a whole, are seriously lacking in foreign language skills.

Q. What is the difference between you and other local schools?
A. There are good Spanish teachers in the world, and there are others who are not very good. Make sure that your teacher is qualified and experienced. What I have noticed down through the years is that some have imitated and still imitate quite a lot of what I do: the name of the business, the teaching materials, the page layout, the course terminology,
the wording of ads, the exact promotions a week later in local tabloids, etc.  One of my students actually designed the curriculum for another prominent school (no longer offering Spanish). She had told them that they were not "organized", and after her efforts they were organized! One thing to bear in mind is that most of the time the business organizers are different from the teachers they employ.

Q.  Can I learn Spanish in my sleep?

A.  Yes, but then you'd have to go back to sleep to use it.  Aim a little higher!

Q.  Isn't there a secret to learn quickly and painlessly?
A.  Here is a hint to the answer:  if your heart is in what you do, then ...Guess what?
... In that direction lies the so called "secret".

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