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Frequently Asked Questions About Spanish Classes

Spanish in Marin FAQ's

What is your teaching background?

I have been teaching in Marin County for over 15 years. Since 1985, I've offered a range of courses in the adult education program at Redwood High School, and presently offer courses at all learning levels at various locations around Marin. In addition to private tutoring and bicultural business consultation, I developed a specialized course, Conversational Spanish for Health Care Providers, which emphasizes medical terminology and interaction with Hispanic patients. I have taught this course as a five-level training at Kaiser Permanente, Marin General Hospital, and Petaluma Valley Hospital. I also taught courses for teachers of Spanish in the Kentfield School District. Over the years, I have worked hard to continually refine and develop my teaching method, and feel that I have come up with a highly successful conversation-based technique. Also, with ten class levels I'm able to offer the continuity of a complete learning experience. These higher level classes are seldom available at other schools, which typically offer only the basic levels of study.

What are the benefits of learning a second language?

Many people want to learn a language so that they can have a fuller travel experience , or because their business is expanding into new markets. But in our increasingly shrinking, global world, knowing another language opens doors to broader perspectives, and gives us a window into a wider world. For adults, learning to speak and think in a second language keeps the mind active and expansive, and has been shown to improve memory .

Why learn Spanish in particular?

According to the U.S. Census, the Latino population in the U.S. is expected to account for 44% of the nation's growth over the next 25 years. In the Bay area especially, where the Latino population is the second most populous ethnic group, learning Spanish is simply a way to fully participate in all that the Bay area offers , and to take full advantage of the richness and diversity of Latino life and culture.

Why the conversational approach?

It's the most natural way to learn. It's the way that children learn language, and it's the way that I learned when I came to this country, constantly having to speak and make myself understood. I've used my personal experience in learning English — the techniques and exercises that worked for me — as a guide in developing my teaching method. Books and tapes are helpful, but there's no substitute for face-to-face interaction, with the ability to use the language in context, to repeat as often as needed, and to receive personalized attention and feedback. Even so-called “interactive” on-line courses have inherent limitations.

How do you teach grammar in a conversation class?

I have kind of a “stealth” method for teaching grammar, so that it is built into the conversation in small increments where appropriate. The truth is that in order to make progress, you do have to learn the verb conjugations and proper usage. This is basically accomplished through methodical repetition of each element — each verb, each tense, each grammar construction — in varying contexts, including drills and simple exercises, in the course of class conversations. I use cartoon sequences to teach the basics at the beginning levels. Students enjoy these cartoons. Not only are they fun, but the visual connection to the grammar and vocabulary stimulates learning and enlivens conversation.

At the intermediate levels, students read entertaining detective stories based on the guidelines of a respected European accrediting organization. These stories, especially crafted for learning Spanish as a second language, offer a humorous slice-of-life insight into everyday Spanish life, romance and culture. Carefully structured at six levels of difficulty, each story introduces incrementally more complex grammar and vocabulary, along with sophisticated idiomatic usage. Advanced groups read works by classic and contemporay Spanish writers

Are the classes difficult? Will I be able to keep up?

In a conversation class, participation is very important. Class sizes are limited, so that everyone has a chance to speak, and I am able to give personal feedback, tailored to each person's ability and learning style. To foster an easy-going atmosphere where students feel comfortable speaking, even when they are unsure of themselves, I break the ice with humor, and strive to make the learning process fun and entertaining. A strong bond often develops as class participants get to know each other, and they work as a team, staying together through many class levels. Some of my classes have been together for years. We work hard to improve, but without pressure. I take into consideration that adult students lead busy lives, and studying Spanish is not always their main priority.

How do I know which class is right for me?

Contact me at (415) 806-8101. I'll ask you some questions, and we'll have a brief dialogue to ascertain your level of comprehension. Also, check class schedule to see which class will work for you.

Where do classes meet, and what is the cost?

Classes meet at 1312 Mission Ave., San Rafael 94901 - (at the Elks Club building)

How do I register for your class?

You can register for all classes by contacting Patricio by phone: (415) 806-8101 or by e-mail.