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.
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.