One of the reasons we decided to live in Spain was to meet new people and learn the language. One way to do that, we thought, was to participate in one of the scores of Spanish/English language exchanges (intercambios) hosted by restaurants and bars across the city.
But for a couple of slightly hard of hearing language rookies, trying to understand any language, even English, in a noisy bar is darned hard. It took only a couple of tries before we gave up in frustration.
Skip ahead a year or so, mix in a lot of language study with a great tutor, add a bit of luck in learning about a really smart structured approach to language practice and that’s how we met and became friends with Maria.
Maria conducts her popular intercambio at 2 p.m. each Wednesday afternoon in a small café in La Galería Jorge Juan (Calle de Cirilo Amorós, 62). You can find it through this Meet-up Posting: Valencia English/Spanish exchange guided conversation group.
We learned about the group through word of mouth and joined in about four months ago. It’s been fun to explore the variety of topics with both the regulars and the new people.
Why Maria’s intercambio stands out
There are really three reasons we enjoy Maria’s intercambio and make certain to attend.
First, Maria carefully structures the event. She assigns participants to tables of 4 or 5 speakers who share a similar level of language acuity. And every week the table leader has a list of conversation topics anyone can speak to without being superficial. So many of the other intercambios seem to be endless rounds of “What’s your name?” and “Where are you from?” that never get past the small talk.
Second, the atmosphere is always cordial. Every regular participant understands how challenging it can be to communicate in a new language. And we all pitch in to help each other out.
And third? That one's easy. Besides addressing our primary objective of developing listening and speaking skills, we have met some very nice people. And each week we learn something new about Spain or Valencia or sometimes we learn about a tablemate's novel approach to life.
Our journey on the way to learning Spanish hasn't always been easy. There were times when we wanted to give up; couldn't face another confrontation with Spanish verbs. But since we found Maria's group, we haven't skipped a week because it's so thoroughly useful.
Maria, a native of Madrid, met her husband when they were both living in London. Today they live in Valencia, JuanJo’s hometown, with their three children.
Maria didn’t start out to be a language teacher. After working in financial law and as a public defender, she decided to prepare and pass the B2 English exam.
In order to pass the B2 exam Maria knew she needed more conversation practice. Because there weren’t many English/Spanish intercambios in the city back then, she decided to start one. And that is how Maria began to uncover her passion for language teaching.
Maria enjoyed guiding intercambios so much she decided to begin teaching Spanish. Because she likes to do things “just so” she became certified by the Cervantes Institute. For 6 years now, she has never felt like she has a job. To Maria, teaching Spanish is “like the fresh air when you open the window. It is like a gift.”
Besides organizing our intercambio, Maria teaches,
- one-on-one or group lessons
- in person or via Skype
- tailor made full immersion experiences in Valencia
Telephone: +34 628 559 550
Conversation Meetup: www.meetup.com/dale-al-pico/
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Jamie Wyant is a retired American living in Spain. After a multifaceted career ranging from ecosystem science to digital marketing, he moved to Valencia in 2017 with his wife, Susan, and their senior pets. He writes about the joys and tribulations of living overseas. Jamie also manages the technical aspects of GentleCycle.net