Answers to Common Questions About the Spanish Lessons

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.

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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.

37 Comments on "Answers to Common Questions About the Spanish Lessons"

  1. You are quite an impressive individual! Thanks for caring about “us!” (BTW, how did you develop the name Q-Roo? And your computer skills are amazing!)

  2. I LIKE the fact that you teach in a non-traditional way, that is benefit to us in my opinion. I think a lesson from the non-native speaker to another non-native speaker is going to provide better insight for how to learn certain things that a native speaker wouldn’t even think of. Your tips and tricks are helpful. Thank you for the time and effort that these blogs take.

  3. What I like about your method is that you know English, so you can show us the similarities. That eliminates a lot of memorizing. I have lived in Oaxaca for 20 years, yet was never taught some of the things you point out. Also, your pronunciation is great and you speak slowly. I find it difficul to get native Spanish speakers to slow down. Mas despacio, por favor, and depende are two words I use a lot. The latter almost daily when some asks me a question about what is happening when and where. I love the casualness of life here.

  4. I really enjoy your style of teaching, Paul. Keep up the good work! Hola from Toronto.

  5. Thanks for the lessons, I really appreciate them.

  6. Kathy Castelli | July 12, 2017 at 11:33 am | Reply

    Your lessons are awesome.

  7. Paul, I LOVE your Lessons/videos. I never learned Spanish & the lessons I have tried are the “memorize & regurgitate” variety. Yours are so much more fun and a completely different approach. Is your online program that you used for LEOs still available in any form?

    Thanks for all you do, especially with your brutal ‘work schedule’.

  8. Cool backstory! Thank you for your work; it’s helping my understanding of the language and our beautiful Mexico.

  9. Thank you, I love your lessons!

  10. Lori Hastings | July 12, 2017 at 1:06 pm | Reply

    Thanks! I too am one of your fans. It’s all starting to make sense to me! I also enjoy the blogs and helpful hints!

  11. I am loving your lessons, this method makes it sooo much easier, thank you for taking the time to do this

  12. Great feedback on your Spanish lessons from all my expat clients. Keep it up.
    Thanks Paul!

  13. Marshall Mellard | July 12, 2017 at 3:18 pm | Reply

    I’m really enjoying the lessons and appreciate very much your taking time to teach us. I’ve tried several language programs and, to date, I think yours is the most fun, common sense way to learn quickly. Gracias!

    • I’m glad that you like them. I’m drinking my morning coffee and working on the next one right now 🙂

  14. The lessons are great! Just what we need

  15. Allison Walters | July 12, 2017 at 5:32 pm | Reply

    Always make an effort in a country to speak the language! Even a simple hello, thanks, etc. Great lessons!

  16. Hola Paul ! Question: most all of us have been around numerous Spanish People. They speak so very fast in their native tongue I must say at least for me it is a bit intimidating to understand with us knowing so little Spanish, any suggestions on how to overcome this instead of just hanging out with English speaking Expats ?
    Thanks Paul your the Best !

    • Verbal comprehension is the most difficult of learning a language. Your “ear” for the language will develop through exposure. Leave Spanish language TV on during the day etc, and your brain will adapt. Pretty soon you’ll start catching a word here and there; then two words; and then sentences.

  17. Thanks for the great Spanish lessons! I just bought a copy of your book on Amazon. If you ever feel like assembling your on-line lessons as a book I’m buy that too.

    • Thanks! People have been asking me for years to write one geared toward “civilians”. Now that I’m retired, I might just do that 😉

  18. Thank you!

  19. I studied French, Russian, and Latin in middle school and high school–back in the Middle Ages–and I have to say your technique for teaching usable conversational Spanish is so much more effective than any other instruction I’ve ever been exposed to–terrific achievement!

  20. Congratulations on an excellent and innovative approach to teaching Spanish! What application(s) do you use to produce the content?

  21. once again, thanks for the Spanish lessons. I just connected with your site about a week ago. So impressed, so much valuable information. About the lessons, I am only on #8 (because I start each day with a review from #1, I’m probably going slower than average.) But, today I went into Merida with some ladies who have been here in Progreso for several years, and I could string some sentence together, ask for things in stores, and find the clearance signs in clothing stores, and was the only one who could….everybody is excited and we are trying to get a group together to do your lessons. Trouble of course is with finding a day and time that work for a number of ladies! Anyway, however innovative your approach is considered, I love it. You have made the light come on! Have realized the words I thought I knew, I was pronouncing wong. Great lessons on the accents. Voowel lesson was invaluable.

    • Thank you so much for taking time to look at the lessons and comment. When I hear from people like you who found value in the lessons, it makes all the work to make them worth it. 🙂

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