Private Language Study with Elisa Valero, a Remarkable Teacher

In Living Abroadby JamieLeave a Comment

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We haven’t mastered Spanish yet, but 90 percent of the progress we have made has been with the consistent and friendly assistance of Elisa Valero Peris, our delightful Spanish teacher.  We’ve been studying Spanish with Elisa for more than a year now and during that time we have come to consider Elisa as much more than a tutor; without exaggeration, Elisa is a friend.

When we first started our weekly lessons with Elisa, we were struggling with elementary language skills. Grocery shopping was a challenge. I mean it took us hours to work up the nerve to go into a mercado with a shopping list. We had Tarzan Spanish, “¿Dónde harina?” (Where flour?). We found flour only to face the next challenge: half a dozen flour varities we couldn’t decipher.

So naturally our first lessons with Elisa were all about the essentials. She led us through example after example, worksheet after worksheet, picture story after picture story until I was lost in memories of my early primary school lessons with Sister Rosarita but without that 1950s classroom smell of ditto machine ink.

Fortunately, Elisa isn’t the authoritarian figure those nuns who plagued my early years were. In fact her approach is friendly and engaging. The majority of our 90-minute lessons follow a basic pattern:

  • Unstructured conversation, with gentle real-time corrections,
  • Vocabulary and grammar review based on the knowledge gaps evident in our conversations, and
  • Introduction of new materials or the reintroduction of material we’ve asked to be reviewed.

Of course all this is going on in, sometimes painfully inadequate, Spanish.

Unstructured Conversations

Our sessions open with a conversation about what we have been reading, doing, or thinking about in the past week. Most often, Susan and/or I are the primary speakers. Whenever we bring up travel plans or something we’ve learned about our adopted city or country, Elisa is sure to have insights and details to enhance our knowledge.

Then, sometimes Elisa shares what’s been going on in her life. That’s how we’ve learned the inside stories of Valencian traditions and festivals, family values, and rights of passage.

Filling in the Gaps

If you’ve ever tried to have an unstructured conversation as a language learner, you’ll appreciate that it’s easy to run to the end of your tether before you’ve gotten halfway to the idea you’re trying to express. So you try ideas like “mice of the sky” for bats, or you use the present tense with a lame “but in the past” tagged on to your sentence.

That’s actually when Elisa’s teaching method shines. Because right after our unstructured conversation, she teaches us vocabulary that would have helped us converse, reviews verbs and verb tenses that we confused, and pretty much debugs the communication missteps we just made.

It’s great, because it means that pretty much every lesson is pertinent to our lives or interests. They’re edifying too.

New Materials or Review

And of course, we spend the last part of class reviewing the homework Elisa gave us at the last lesson. And we have a more formal learning time that’s closer to what you’d imagine a language class would be like. There are still those Spanish verb tenses to be mastered.

I like the fact that the formal stuff happens at the end, because I can slip into a passive learning mode knowing that I don’t really have to master the stuff or even think about it until my mind is ready for quiet study.

Maybe you’ve already read about our rather frustrating exposure to formal Spanish language study during an intensive language class offered by the University of Valencia. Well, Elisa’s approach couldn’t be more different. Instead of pushing through a prepackaged presentation about grammar rules as quickly as possible, we progress at a pace that is comfortable for us. We learn Spanish that is relevant to our lives. But most importantly, we share our learning journey with a dedicated teacher we are happy to call our friend.  

Not Sponsored

Our review and recommendation of Elisa’s Spanish teaching service is based on our appreciation of the friendship and learning we have received. We neither solicit nor do we accept any form of compensation for the reviews and recommendations we make on GentleCycle

Meet Elisa

Elisa is a native of Valencia and has lived in the community for her entire life. Today, she and her family live outside the city in L'Eliana, her partner Nacho’s hometown.  She studied Geography at the University of Valencia, and has completed several certification classes in Spanish language instruction from the University.

Elisa has been teaching for nearly 20 years.  She started teaching Spanish children but for the past 9 years she has been helping a weekly average of about 25 English speakers to acquire and master the Spanish language.

“I love my work because I meet a lot of people, and I learn about my students, their lives, their countries – I love this.”

Over the years, Elisa’s teaching techniques have evolved.  Traditional book-centered learning has given way to a more fluid and informal process that she adapts to the student’s needs at whatever life and learning stage they’re in.  But above all, Elisa always tries, “to make my students feel confidence. I think it is very important.”

Besides being our favorite Spanish teacher, Elisa also goes out of her way to help her students who may be new to Valencia and Spain.  For example, she helped us find and meet with a gestor when we needed to file our income taxes for the first time.  She has accompanied other students to medical appointments and translated letters and government forms too.


Contact Elisa


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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

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