The Beth and Jim Conversations – 6

[Jim] ¡Hola Beth!

Last week you said ”Thanks to two wonderful student exchange opportunities, one in high school in Chile and one in college in Mexico, I was able to transfer my textbook Spanish skills into practical, every day fluency in Spanish. Reading, writing, speaking and dreaming in my 2nd language was a thrill for me, and I recall returning home to the States ready to make a difference in opening the minds of fellow Americans when it came to learning more than just English!”

At the moment I am on vacation, staying in my sister’s house in the Spanish city of Zaragoza. It would be exaggerating to say that Speekee began here, but surely without my year studying at the university of Zaragoza in 1992 Speekee could never have got off the ground. For it was here in this modern, thriving provincial capital that my Spanish learning really began in earnest.

It’s not that you cannot learn a foreign language in your own country, but when you are living with people speaking that target language you have the perfect environment for progress.

I recall arriving in Zaragoza and feeling utterly lost, linguistically speaking! After two years of Spanish study at an English university I arrived here with much less Spanish than I had realised. So I made a decision…
I resolved to make the most of my year in Zaragoza and to learn as much Spanish as I could.

I found a fellow (Spanish) student with whom to exchange English and Spanish. I watched a lot of Spanish television (I know, I know Beth – this verges on masochism). I lived with a Spaniard. But what most sticks in my mind is keeping a simple vocabulary book! I wrote down all the words and phrases I heard and that I felt were important to memorise. And I did exactly that – I committed them all to memory.

What techniques did you employ to help you learn Spanish in Chile and Mexico, Beth?

[Beth] Funny, Jim!  I had been somewhat of a ‘language nerd’ in what was called Junior High back in the mid 70’s!  I took Spanish as my second language starting in 7th grade and continued to do so each academic year through high school. By the time I traveled to Chile I had five years of classroom Spanish in my brain!

Immersion was the key to making it all CLICK! To live with a Spanish-speaking family in Chile and to attend school with Spanish-speaking students were the two factors that played into my fluency.  I recall waking up one morning and telling my host sister that I had a vivid dream all in Spanish during the night! What a wildly weird feeling that was at the age of 17!

When I returned to the United States to continue my education I made it a point to continue studying Spanish but more importantly to maintain contact with those abroad and in my own community who spoke only Spanish. This all helped me hold onto my love of and fluency in Spanish.

[Jim] As you say, immersion is the key, and I hope our readers have gained a few immersion tips today. See you next time, Beth!

[Beth] Happy Educating!  ¡Sea feliz educando!

Speekee TV is available at – the first two weeks are absolutely free. Subscriptions are $7.50 per month thereafter, and you can cancel any time (-;

Boca Beth Bilingual Products are sold online at – we offer award-winning CDs, DVDs, coloring/activity books that are presented in both Spanish and English with FREE shipping available.

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