Learning a new language takes much time and effort, especially for a 54-year-old, retired adult such as myself with depleting brain cells.
I have been taking Spanish lessons through Colegio de Ajijic for the four months of my 2015 summer stay in Ajijic, averaging two, one-hour sessions per week. In that short time, I’ve been astonished by the amount of Spanish I’ve learned.
Instructor extraordinaire Lina Doyle-Polonsky employs a somewhat unconventional approach to language training based on scientific studies of how the brain learns language. Just as a young child learns to talk and later read through repetitive watching and listening practices and guided speaking/reading exercises, Ms. Doyle-Polonsky used these same methods with me. Grammatical rules and verb conjugations, which so commonly overwhelm beginners, were de-emphasized in favor of a gradual exposure to them through guided readings. Her methods — which for the first 15-or-so lessons were interestingly applied to digesting and describing scenes from the movie “The Mariachi” from various perspectives — proved effective with me. I suspect they would work with most anyone.
Ms. Doyle-Polonsky is clearly passionate about her techniques and interested in her students’ advancement. She also is reassuringly patient and willing to tailor her pace of instruction to her students’ individual needs.
With my time in Ajijic coming to an end, I remain daunted by the challenge of achieving conversational proficiency in the Spanish language — a long-held goal of mine. Nonetheless, I depart here confident in the feeling that I have a solid foundation in the language from which to build upon, and I’m inspired to continue studying Spanish after arriving home in Texas. Should I make it back to Ajijic next summer, as hoped, I certainly will resume my sessions with Ms. Doyle-Polonsky.
Douglas W. Cowie
My husband and I have been visiting Mexico for various periods of time over the past 20 years and have always talked about improving our Spanish. Somehow we always seemed to put it off. The time would fly by and we would be back in the US without having furthered our education at all. That changed this week. Arriving in Ajijic for a one week vacation, I decided it was time to get serious about my attempt to learn Spanish. Lina graciously worked me into her schedule. I spent the week in intensive one on one sessions with Lina. Her methods are different from any I’ve tried in the past. We watched scenes from El Mariachi which I had never seen before the class. She has a tried and true method which works. It includes listening, reading, translating, and talking. I’m on the shy side, but Lina made me feel very comfortable. She understands people very well with all of our different strengths and weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Each day I could feel my confidence grow in speaking and understanding Spanish. She can tell exactly when to push you further and when to slow down so that you are not discouraged.
I’m sorry to leave so soon because I can tell that I made a lot of progress this week. It was definitely the jump start I needed and Lina gave me many tips and tricks to work on while I continue this journey of learning Spanish. I feel like she shared very valuable and practical instruction. My goal is to incorporate her tips and tricks into my daily schedule. Hopefully she will be pleasantly surprised the next time I visit Ajijic and see her for additional classes.