Since starting the little animated Spanish language lessons on the site, I’ve received quite a few questions related to my background in the language and my unorthodox style of teaching the language.
In the interest of reducing the emails in my inbox, I’ve decided to answer the most common ones in a post.
Where did you learn Spanish?
I learned Spanish on my own out of necessity while working as a deputy sheriff in Central Florida. My jurisdiction was home to tens of thousands of Mexican nationals, many of whom could not speak English. According to the Mexican Consulate in Orlando, my county had the second largest population of Mexicans out of the 54 counties that they covered.
In other words, going to work each day was like entering a total immersion Spanish class. There were many days when I spoke Spanish more than English during the 12-hour shift and as a result, my Spanish improved very quickly.
What’s your Spanish level?
This is always a tough question to answer because it’s difficult to quantify language ability without taking a standardized test designed to measure such things. Perhaps the best way to answer it is to share some of my history with the language.
Over the course of my career, I conducted over 3,000 work-related translations on cases ranging from homicide to domestic violence. Although defense attorneys commonly attack the quality of translations in criminal cases, none of my translations were ever successfully challenged in court.
I represented the agency at Spanish language events held by churches, community organizations and even the Mexican Consulate. I was required to speak at the majority of these events and I would end by answering questions from the audience in Spanish.
I’ve also appeared twice on Spanish language television speaking about cases being handled by my agency.
Hopefully, that answers the question.
Why does your style differ so much from traditional Spanish courses?
There are two reasons: 1) I didn’t learn Spanish the “traditional” way, and 2) my goal is to make you conversational, not prepare you for a high school Spanish test.
When I first became a deputy, I didn’t have the luxury of being able to take a year or two off to go and learn Spanish — I needed to get up to conversational speed quickly. I was responding to crimes in progress on a daily basis involving people who only spoke Spanish.
In order to accomplish this, I started developing simple techniques to make grammatically correct sentences in my head in real time. I also started incorporating cognates in and focusing on verbs that I could use in a wide range of situations. That meant less memorization and fewer words to forget.
I started teaching these techniques to other officers, and the feedback was very positive. I then incorporated the techniques into an online Spanish program and made it available to other police agencies. Over 4,000 law enforcement officers across the country took the course before I discontinued it last year.
I’ve tweaked the techniques a bit to meet the needs of retirees living in Mexico but the basic principles are still the same.
Do you have a posting schedule?
Nope. One of the things that I like best about being retired is that I don’t have to adhere to a set schedule.
Does Linda speak Spanish?
Yes, she was born in Colombia and Spanish is her first language. She moved to the U.S. when she was 10 years old.
FUN FACT: During our first date, I suddenly started speaking Spanish to her in an attempt to impress her. To be honest, she looked more shocked than impressed; however, it must have worked, because we’re still together 18 years later.