When we think of moving abroad, particularly to a Spanish-speaking country, we become nervous and intimidated at the daunting idea of having to learn a foreign language. For most baby boomers, the thought of learning Spanish is daunting or seemingly impossible.
As a baby boomer, I know that people our age don’t want to work that hard. If it isn’t fun and easy, I don’t want to do it. There is a belief that older people cannot learn a foreign language.
When I founded my Spanish school in 1990 in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, all my students were 60 years and older. It became my mission to create a course of study that would not only be easy and fun for my students but would also give them the skills to get along in their new Spanish-speaking country.
It took several years of teaching students daily and experimenting with different learning tools, different techniques, and different approaches to content. Over time, and with the help of some very smart students, I was able to create a course of study that has now been successfully used by thousands of students. I think that the magic lies in its simplicity.
If you can say “I need” in Spanish and you know a bunch of verbs like “to speak” or “to study” or “to run” or “to go”, then you’ve already learned a lot. Add in a few important nouns and you are immediately creating sentences that allow you to express your needs.
Of course this is what we all want to do when we begin to learn Spanish. I’m aiming for the kind of functional Spanish that allows you to ask for directions and understand the answers…order a steak and tell them how you want it cooked…ask your new neighbors about their family…look at real estate options.
I’ve seen the difference it makes in lives. Most people that move to a Spanish-speaking country are just interested in finding a secure home, settling down, and relaxing. I run into these folks all the time at the conventions and conferences. They are through with working and want to live well doing other things.
Then, once in a while, I meet a younger person—someone in their 50s. These are adventurous folks who want to give the expat life a try. They are looking to live in another country and to earn a living at the same time. Some of these people end up working in real estate. They were licensed in the States and want to try selling real estate abroad. They don’t necessarily speak a lot of Spanish but just have the personality for sales.
Crystal Calderoni is one such person. She wanted out of Texas. She started attending conventions and soon gained an interest in Mexico. She attended a Mexico convention and felt that this was the place for her. She didn’t speak much Spanish so she felt that San Miguel de Allende would be easy. In fact, it was. It’s a place where you can get by easily in English.
She was able to contact a real estate firm in San Miguel and was hired with one caveat: She was told that she would have to improve her Spanish.
So she got my product and began to study. Soon, she learned all the vocabulary for houses and could speak in sentences. In her office, she picked up the real estate terms and was now ready for work. Today she’s a top sales person. At least half of her clients speak English, but she always looks forward to Spanish speaking clients so she can improve her game.