Visiting English Classes in a Mexican Pueblo

Akumal Community Center (Source: Q-Roo Paul)

Linda and I both spoke Spanish fluently when we moved to Mexico, so naturally that’s the language that we use when communicating with the locals.

Last week, we had a friend visiting from Florida who doesn’t speak any Spanish. On his first day here, we stopped by a local store located outside of the tourist area to buy some soft drinks and snacks. This is a store that we visit several times a week and we’ve gotten to know the handful of employees there fairly well.

One of the employees working already recognized our friend from his last visit back in November. She remembered that he didn’t speak Spanish and she asked if he would be interested in visiting her English class the next day. She said that the instructor was looking for native English-speakers to help the students practice their English.

Our friend was flattered by the invitation and agreed. The store clerk immediately called her instructor to make the arrangements.

English Classes

Although we only live a few minutes from the pueblo of Akumal, we never knew that they offered free English classes to the residents twice a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays, at the community center. There are actually two classes back to back: beginner and intermediate. The classes are an hour long and the first one starts at 7:30 PM.

We arrived around 7:25 PM and were greeted by about a dozen students who were already in their chairs and ready to begin. The class was made up of both children and adults. The children in the class were aged 10-17.

The thing that surprised me most was to see a couple of teenagers in the group. As I sat down in front of the class, I found myself wondering how many teenagers in the U.S. would give up their evenings to sit in a non-credit course to learn a foreign language. My guess was not many.

The students took turns asking us questions related to our favorite music, sports and colors. We would answer and then ask them a similar question in return. Everyone seemed to be enjoying the interaction and the class time flew by. When it ended, the instructor asked us if we would be able to stay for the second class. We were enjoying the experience, so we agreed.

The second class for the intermediate students was smaller than the first. Our friend from the convenience store was in attendance and we spent another hour answering questions in English about our lives. It was great helping people who truly have a desire to learn.

Let’s Wrap This Up

My admiration for the Mexican people continues to grow and it’s the direct result of experiences like this one. Here was a group of people who, after a full day of work or school, chose to attend a voluntary class just to better themselves. During both classes, everyone was engaged, attentive and I never saw a single student glance down at their cell phone – not even the teenagers.

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About the Author

Q-Roo Paul
Paul Kurtzweil (Q-Roo Paul) is a former lieutenant from the Polk County Sheriff's Office in Florida. During his 25-year career, he received numerous commendations to include two of the agency's top honors: a Meritorious Service Medal and a Medal of Valor. In 2015, Paul retired and moved to Mexico with his wife. He now spends his days enjoying the Riviera Maya and blogging from the beach.

18 Comments on "Visiting English Classes in a Mexican Pueblo"

  1. Lynnmarie Clark | May 16, 2017 at 8:29 am | Reply

    In my experience the Mexican people are hard workers who crave opportunity. Whether thats am opprtunity to better themselves personally or processionally. Learning English opens doors and good for them to see the value and grasp the opportunity to embrace personal and professional development. I loved this story. One if my favorites.

  2. Karen martin | May 16, 2017 at 8:38 am | Reply

    Thank you for your blog!! I just returned from my third visit to isla mujeres and I came back with a renewed spirit. One thing that weighs on my mind is the amount of trash on this beautiful island. The locals do not seem to value this beautiful place and respect the land. I find myself trying to devise ideas to get the locals to want to keep their land clean. Ie: Putting out more trash cans, signs placed to remind people to use the trash cans and keep their land beautiful. Fines for littering, Etc. What are your thoughts?

  3. Deanne Barber | May 16, 2017 at 9:01 am | Reply

    I had a similar experience going to a high school in a poor town. The students stood up when I walked in! They were wonderful to interact with. Very polite and attentive. I enjoyed it so much I volunteered at a church here where they teach English twice a week. I learned Spanish teaching them as I also asked questions. I have been a snowbird for 8 years, this is our first year full time. I love it. I am doing things like teaching Spanish, acting, singing, that I never dreamed I would be doing at 69.

  4. Loretta Schwartz | May 16, 2017 at 9:02 am | Reply

    All he times, which is a lot we visited Mexico we always found the Mexican people trying to better themselves and making extreme effort to learn English. We hope we have as much determination trying to learn Spanish when we move to PDC.

  5. David Stahlecker | May 16, 2017 at 9:11 am | Reply

    Great post, thank you! I just completed a TEFL certification program and want to start doing some ESL teaching. Would love to do it some day in Mexico! Thank you again.

  6. Wonderful post and love that you share your insight!

  7. Coudn’t agree with your summation more, one of the very reasons we hope to retire there. It’s not just a beautiful country, but a country filled with beautiful, soulful people. Thanks for sharing another inspiring post!

  8. John Fosbaugh | May 16, 2017 at 10:31 am | Reply

    A heart warming story. Bless you, Paul and Linda, thank you for your positive influence in the world.

  9. I am always impressed by how many Mexican people speak wonderful English. Makes me work harder at my Spanish Lessons.

  10. Ethel aka Fran | May 16, 2017 at 12:39 pm | Reply

    Speaking another language is always an asset. It is wonderful that you and Linda are taking the time to help those who want to speak English. What a blessing your are!!

  11. As a child we always vacationed in Saltillo, Coahuila, Mex for 3 weeks in the summer. It was so amazing to observe the respect, manners, and cordiality shown to all of the guests. In my experience, I have never seen such hard working individuals taking great pride in their jobs no matter how menial. I am a second generation Mexican; parents and I were born in South Texas. After earning a B.A. in Spanish, and an M.S. in bilingual education, I taught high school Spanish and ESOL for 39 years having retired 8 years ago in Florida. Sadly, I am the mother of your non-Spanish speaking guest. (smile) LOVE your blog!

  12. I’m hoping that when I get to Mexico next year that I can find opportunities like this to volunteer for. I think that it is great that they want to learn a second language and give of their time. I took Spanish when I was in high school but only remember certain words and some phrases. I know that I will be trying to learn some online before I head south but I also want to take some classes when I arrive in Mexico.

    Thanks for all you do for all of us and those around you

  13. Si conoce un curso de intercambio similar aca en Playa del Carmen, me encantaria a dedicar ratos durante de mi corta queda a placticar ingles de los quien estan aprendiendo ingles.
    George Woodward
    gfwtres@aol.com

  14. frugalcheapskateDean O. | May 16, 2017 at 6:22 pm | Reply

    I’m not a teenager, but I’d sacrifice a lot of time to get the chance to speak Spanish. I wish it was offered here (in the US where I live). I’d gladly help Spanish speakers learn English and get to learn their language as well. Not sure how well Rosetta Stone is, but we just bought it (waiting for it to arrive now). Nice post QRoo.

  15. Great article / Blog. I work daily with Mexican people here in Oklahoma. I speak what I like to call “Tarzan Spanish”. It gets the job done. There are often free English classes offered at schools and Churches.I have noticed over the years that many Mexican people are eager to learn, as the opportunities have not always been available to them in Mexico.

    My family and I have booked a trip to Akumal for July. Staying in a condo near the La Buena Vida.

    I hope to run into you and say Hi.

    Thanks for your blog.

  16. I love your blog. I also applaud those wonderful students that are trying to better their lives. However I come from California where there were areas in which individuals lived for many years and were not capable of conversing in English. I found this not just in the Hispanic community but also in the Vietnamese and Armenian communities. Its similar to those persons from the US and Canada who choose not to learn Spanish while living in Mexico. Like people attract like people. There are many people not motivated at all.

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