Presenting: Hermilo Brito from the Ideal Language School in Cuernavaca – Making Spanish Learning Fun
4. Please tell us about your Spanish language classes, your class facilities, your weekly schedule and your teaching faculty.
The purpose of our courses is to introduce students to Spanish as a second language, as many have studied it as a foreign language in their countries of origin. Another goal is to encourage immersion not only into the language but in culture and everyday life.
Our program at IDEAL begins with individual Spanish of no more than 5 students and optional extracurricular activities which are a highly recommended compliment to the program. Every week these include charlas (informal talks) and conferences, round table discussions, songs and movies in Spanish as well as cooking classes, dance classes, coffee social and excursions to cultural and historical sites among many other options.
We teach 9 levels of Spanish; each level emphasizes communication and language practice as appropriate for each student’s level of proficiency, using various interactive techniques that allow the student to speak and communicate in Spanish from day one.
IDEAL has 5-student capacity classrooms (plus teacher); some of them are in the garden (palapas, small areas only covered by palm-tree roofs). IDEAL has 2 conference rooms with a capacity for 18 and 60 students, respectively. The meeting area at IDEAL is the cafeteria, where students socialize and enjoy the “Hora del Café”, the time when the school offers coffee and some snacks (at 11 am), Monday through Friday. Students are invited to enjoy the gardens and areas within IDEAL once classes are through, they can also watch TV, watch a movie or navigate on the Internet (wireless) which are included in the services offered.
A fundamental part of IDEAL is our teachers, who will accompany you every step of the way in the adventure of learning Spanish and discovering a new culture.
IDEAL’s teachers are specialists with university training or many years’ experience teaching Spanish to foreigners or both.
When teachers start working at IDEAL, they receive a course in “Techniques for teaching Spanish as a Second Language”, which covers the fundamentals of the method we use at IDEAL. All year we provide training courses in which teachers learn new techniques and theories, discuss existing teaching methods, and reinforce the teaching methods we use.
However, what distinguishes our teachers is their spirit of teamwork and enthusiasm for teaching and making the atmosphere at IDEAL pleasant and supportive.
A going-away party for one of IDEAL’s students
5. Please tell us about your Spanish language teaching methodology and your pronunciation improvement programs.
The method of IDEAL is directed towards the development of the student’s ability to communicate in Spanish, especially in the spoken world. From the very first day students will able to immerse themselves in the language and culture. In this way students will become familiar with how we live, our beliefs, our history, our politics, our fiestas and why we celebrate them, and much more regarding the Mexican culture and social life.
According to Stephen Krashen (www.sk.com.br/sk-krash.html): “One can learn or acquire a second language informally, the same way one acquires the first. Formal, structured lessons represent another learning process and are not indispensable in the process.” For this reason our method is based on this “Natural Approach” (http://maxpages.com/thena/The_Natural_Approach), and we try to channel the teaching – learning process in this direction, so that students learn by interacting: teacher – student, student – teacher, student – student, student – surroundings.
Also our work is focused on maintaining an atmosphere of courtesy and confidence in the classroom and in the institution in general. Here the teacher’s part is fundamental, as it consists of creating an environment in which students feel relaxed and at ease, which, in our opinion, is the best way to learn an language.
At IDEAL we place special interest in the process of immersing students in culture, for the accessible points of reference it offers them. For a student to develop sound communication skills, she needs to assimilate cultural elements of the country or region where she learns a language. Moreover, language and culture are inseparable.
At the beginner’s level, pronunciation is not a great issue, since we only focus in correcting pronunciation when it turns into an obstacle to communication. In the more advanced levels of our program, pronunciation is more important, because intermediate and advanced students need to improve the way they pronounce the words and the way they modulate when they speak Spanish. Above all, Ideal is able to develop a specific program to improve pronunciation if a student or a group so requests. We had worked for many years on pronunciation before I realized it is not essential when speaking Spanish as second language.
Some of IDEAL’s teaching faculty
7. Please explain your “Spanish for Professionals” program to us.
Each year our student body includes managers, attorneys, doctors, nurses, school teachers, law enforcement officers, firefighters, engineers, ministers, seminarians, nuns, and people in many other professions for whom it is essential to learn the specific vocabulary of their respective professions.
This program includes 4 hours of group Spanish lessons, designed to reinforce general language skills, and a 1 hour private lesson to study professional Spanish. Professional Spanish consists of vocabulary, aspects of Mexican culture, visits to places of professional interest for the student, analysis and discussion of documents and written information when needed, and meetings with professionals in the student’s field, if deemed necessary.
8. You also offer a “Family Program” in your school. What is this program all about?
Well, this program has now passed to a second term now, since we are pushing new programs: Basic Program (only 4 hours), Basic + Private Program, Cuernavaca – Cancún Program, and Volunteers Program, among others.
The “Family Program” is oriented to host full families (parents and sons) offering a complete solution to their needs such as classes for children, kid-friendly host families, child-oriented activities, and others. The Family Program has not yet had the success we expected, however, should families attend IDEAL to study we are able to provide them the best.
9. A variety of other specialized programs are offered by your school: Mexican History and Culture, Hispanic Literature and the Environment and Social Development / Sustainable Development. Please explain those programs to us.
We receive groups, for which we provide tailored language + cultural programs depending on individual needs and preferences. Simply they contact us to discuss their particular needs. For them, besides the training of Spanish we program classes regarding history, culture, literature, social issues among others. All activities for them are oriented to support their in-class learning experience. To this end we take them on excursions to specific places, we run workshops applying the knowledge of the students, we contact people that can speak about experiences and work in the field studied, and we put everything in place to suit their academic and learning needs.
10. Many of your students stay in homestays. Please describe this accommodation method and its advantages.
IDEAL students are generally placed with host families in Cuernavaca, who as part of the IDEAL program include their student guests in everyday Mexican activities. As a student you are not just a client, but rather a member of the family. With your time and preferences in mind students are always invited to go shopping, to attend family celebrations, receive suggestions on what to do in Cuernavaca, or simply wander around town.
Host families are selected by the IDEAL staff following our standards regarding the distance of the house from the school, the comfort level of the home and the student’s room, the quality of the meals provided, and most importantly, how friendly and hospitable the family is. The host families of IDEAL need to be part of the experience of our students, speaking with them, giving recommendations, involving them in their activities and providing a comfortable place to stay in Cuernavaca.
Andrea (2nd from left) with 3 students