Learning Spanish for a Better Life Overseas

You want to move abroad. You want to retire, or expose your grandchildren to a different environment, start a business overseas, or simply buy a home overseas. But…but…the language.

How will you ever get a job, run a business, make friends, speak to real estate agents…if you can’t speak the language?

You’ve heard all the excuses from friends or, more likely, in your own head—I’m too old to learn a new language. I don’t have a gift for languages. I’ll never be really fluent. It’s just too hard.

But it doesn’t have to be. With a good teacher and an excellent system, learning the language of your new country is not only possible; it is fun and very fulfilling.

I began developing my Spanish course for expats over 25 years ago at my school in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. We have proved that it’s not complicated. We’ve taught almost 20,000 expats and everyone has developed at least the basic skills to get along with the locals.

When beginners show up in my class, I always ask them how much Spanish they speak. Most people say, “I know a few words.” Then I jokingly say, “I bet you speak fluent, don’t you?” This always brings a nod and a laugh. Bill Johnson was one such person. He could order a cold beer (una cerveza fria) or another margarita (otra margarita) and sound like a native.

Bill came to Mexico with the idea of settling down and living a simple life. At 66, he was recently widowed and wanted a break from the construction industry that he had worked in all his life.

He took my Power Verbs course and bought a simple home. It needed some work so he found a good mason and began to show him what was needed. Of course, Bill knew exactly what he wanted because he had worked in this field all his life. With the point-and-talk method and lots of laughs with the mason, Bill began to get construction words into his vocabulary.

Very quickly he was able to go to the hardware store and order cement (cemento), lime (cal), re-bar (varilla), sand (arena), and so on. Within a month, he and his “new best friend,” Maestro Antonio, were communicating famously. Bill worked on his new home for about three months and his fixer-upper slowly transformed into a beautiful and comfortable home.

Bill told me that he thought he was retired, but this project was so rewarding that Bill got the idea of selling this home and trying the same with another. After all, his friend Maestro still needed work and Bill needed another project.

Soon Bill had his home on the market and was looking for a new one. The two intentions came together: The first house sold at a nice profit and a second house was purchased. Bill and Maestro took on another project, this time a bit more ambitious. Walls were torn out and rooms were added. All of this under the supervision and guidance of Bill…in Spanish. Bill is now an entrepreneur in the real estate flipping business.

If you were to ask Bill how his Spanish is, he would tell you that his Spanish is lousy, but he speaks fluent construction. Learning Spanish will change your entire experience of living overseas for the better.

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