The Secret to Easy Spanish

In 1990 my wife, Tuli, and I took our honeymoon in the Mexican city of culture and art, San Miguel de Allende.

We were young and in love. It was in the early hours morning when we arrived in San Miguel. The streets were empty and silent.

We parked our conversion van in the center of the city, right in front of the of the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel—a 17th century church that had a spectacular Neo-Gothic facelift in the late 1800s. Its Gothic, pink towers stand watch over the city, like a magical castle straight from a story book.

We sat in the central plaza for hours watching the world go by as the city came alive around us and the morning light reflected off the pink stone of the cathedral.

That day we fell in love with San Miguel; the perfectly preserved colonial architecture, the rustic cobblestone streets, the colors, the joy in the people, the Mexican food, the music, the markets.

As the streets began to fill with people, signaling a new day, we crossed the plaza to grab a little breakfast at one of the many restaurants where we met a group of expats.

Over delicious coffee and a hot bowl of huevos rancheros, they told us all about their lives in their adopted city—what they loved about it and the challenges they faced moving here. Most of the expats said they wished they could speak Spanish, to be able to comfortably chat with everyone in their new home.

That was the moment we decided to stay. We quickly discovered that there were many expats here in need of learning Spanish, and as an experienced Spanish teacher I was in a unique position to help them. And why not? San Miguel is one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

I began teaching private classes almost immediately. I was used to teaching young executives who needed to have word-perfect Spanish, and doctors who’s Spanish-speaking patients’ lives depended on their ability to understand them.

But my new students were all over 60 and they didn’t need or want to be fluent. They just wanted to communicate.

I think one of my first students, 70-year-old Sharon Dalton, said it best. One day, she took me aside and said “Warren, I don’t want to learn to speak Spanish. I just want to be kind and tell people what I need.”

A light bulb went off in my head. This has since become the underlying philosophy of my entire teaching method. I immediately began to hone in on teaching people the courtesies of the Spanish culture and how to express their needs with confidence.

I couldn’t believe how quickly the students took to this new way of learning. They began to come back to class, excitedly telling stories of ordering food, giving directions, and making friends with the local community. I could not have been happier for them.

Over time I improved on this idea and today over 15,000 people have passed through my school and achieved success speaking Spanish in their daily lives.

Tuli and I have had a charmed life here. Twenty-six years later, and we are still in love with each other and with San Miguel.

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