Monday, June 15, 2015

Spanish Immersion

[June 8 – 10, 2015] Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday

The resources and support given by the Senior MTC to us to help us refresh/learn Spanish have been nothing short of amazing. We spent the first three days of this week at a chapel in Provo immersed in Spanish, with all kinds of volunteers, young and old, there to help us.

We started on Monday morning at 8:00 am. Since Molly and I are at different levels in our learning, we worked separately with the instructors and volunteers. Every hour, we would get a different person to help us, or have an hour of study time to assimilate what we were learning. It was actually more intense than I remember my old Language Training Mission experience to be, with the realization that this was only three days, not eight weeks. 
Some of the volunteers were native speakers, some had served missions in Spanish speaking areas, one had taught Spanish at BYU for 40 years. Each one helped us in a different way. In addition to those helping us learn Spanish, we also had the assistance of Learning Coaches who helped us focus on how we learn best, and how to outline a study plan to help us make the most of our time with the volunteers. I'll outline the sequence for me, and let Molly outline hers. 

First thing on Monday morning, I got to work with a young lady named Olimpia. I indicated to her that the thing I needed to work on most was just conversational Spanish at a normal pace. She was wonderful. She had me talk her through a number of situations that I would experience in a normal day in Bolivia, and made me stretch both in vocabulary and grammar.

Following the hour with Olimpia, a Sister Cox came in. She and her husband had served in Uruguay as a Senior Missionary couple, and she had worked very hard to master the language. She pointed out some resources that she had used in her two hour daily study session, and gave me ideas on what had been particularly useful to her - all, mind you, in a conversation between us that used no English.

I had an hour to study on my own, where I focused on the Subjunctive tense, and triggers for its use, then got to spend an hour with another young lady named Aline. Again, no English, and conversation as I would expect it in Bolivia. All these sisters were delightful, cheerful, and so eager to help.

For lunch, my Spanish Instructor, Jamison, came and we (he, Molly, and I) went to lunch together across the street from the chapel. Jamison introduced us to the monster sweet roll at Zubs Subs there in Provo. It was so big the three of us couldn't finish it, and we even ate it first (Thanks, Emily!) while we waited for our sandwiches and salads. Way too much food!

Jamison with Elder Lyon

After lunch, I got to work with Sister Cox's husband. I was so impressed by his commitment and diligence. We talked about all kinds of missionary things, again, all in Spanish. He and his wife both give service in many ways. If I recall, he and his wife basically are serving three different service missions right now. Needless to say, my head was full by now.

But, it was only 2:00 pm. The last two hours were spent with Jamison in an intensive review of the use of the subjunctive tense, and another hour of personal study. 

Tuesday was similar, but I got to work with McKay, my learning coach, Brother Jarman, who had taught Spanish for forty years at BYU (great insights and help), Juan, who is a native of Columbia, and Grace. I'll tell you more about Juan in a second - what a joy it was to work with him both on Tuesday and Wednesday, but let me tell you about Grace first.

Grace with Sister and Elder Lyon

Grace is from Salt Lake City, and served a Spanish speaking mission here in the United States (I forget now where that was, though.) When she came in, we started talking, and I asked her her name. Grace Bertch, she said. I asked if she knew a Fred Bertch, who used to teach math at Orem High.

Just as an aside, Mr. Bertch was far and away my favorite teacher in High School, and ranked above most of my college professors as well. He had such a wonderful personality - always smiling, with a dry sense of humor. But most of all, he was a master teacher. He made Calculus not only interesting, but fun. He could write out differential equations on the chalk board with either hand equally well, whether he was facing the board or facing the class. Needless to say, he kept us on our toes. I enjoyed that class more than any other in High School, and actually learned enough Calculus that I didn't have to take it again at BYU, despite taking classes in Physics and Physical Chemistry which both relied pretty heavily on an understanding of Calculus.

Sister Bertch - Grace - told me that he was her grandfather, and was touched when I told her how much I appreciated him, and what a good teacher he was. She told me that he had passed away just three years before, and had ended his career teaching at BYU. I was so grateful that he waited until I had had the opportunity to learn from him before he stepped up the the university level. She told me that her grandmother would be so pleased to hear that his skills and personality were such an influence on me.

Juan studying with Sister Lyon

Now for Juan. What a joy. He invited me to go for a walk while we talked. We walked up around the lower BYU campus on Tuesday, and down to the Provo Library on Wednesday, never pausing the conversation (all in Spanish) except to point out the ducks, or some particularly beautiful view. We talked about all kinds of things, including the Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown. I'd never used that kind of vocabulary, but he helped me along with such ease and grace, correcting me gently when needed. What fun.

Wednesday was a repeat, with Olimpia again, Brother Jarman, who worked with Molly and I together, Jamison again, and Juan one last time. This was truly a very productive three days, and prepared us both for next week, when we fly to Bolivia.

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