International Road Trip/Share Your Voice in Valdelavilla

WHERE: Spain. About 3 hours north of Madrid.
WHY: Spend a free week helping Spaniards improve their English.

By Emily M. Grey and Mary Gallagher

When Juan Carlos Medina attended international business meetings, he struggled with his English. Other Spanish professionals shared this challenge. Although their companies offered English-speaking classes, students felt restrained in this structured grammar-correcting environment.

In 2001, Medina united with Texas mogul Richard Vaughan to found an English-speaking village called Pueblo Ingles. For one week, Spaniards are immersed in English for 15 or more hours per day. To qualify for this program, they must demonstrate a minimal level of English speaking and comprehension and pay tuition.

In exchange for free accommodations, meals, and bus transportation to and from Madrid, Anglos from all over the world share their native tongue and regional dialects. They cover their own airfare and hotel in Madrid on arrival and departure nights. Other out-of-pocket expenses include on-site massages, between meal snacks, and libations from the bar.

For this Anglo, the magic began in Valdelavilla, a beautifully restored pueblo village in a lush valley overlooking the Iberian Range. At this 180th program, nineteen Spaniards and twenty Anglos spoke English during one to one 50-minute conversations, telephone conferences, and hilarious skits. There is also siesta time, Internet access, and unlimited wine at dinner.

A Master of Ceremonies and Program Director, who plan the activities, hosted a paella dinner, Quemada party, and other indigenous treats.

These indefatigable individuals ensure that everyone is kept motivated, entertained, and speaking nonstop English. Spanish dialog is forbidden at the villa.

One morning, our group hiked along a winding wildflower path to El Vallejo, an abandoned 12th century village. Footprints of Pterosaurs, found here 70 million years ago, are still being discovered in this once prosperous, history rich area. Centuries ago, Romans, Muslims, and Jews sought refuge along this silver and bronze trading route. Just five years ago, Valdelavilla was in shambles like El Vallejo.

“I think is it incredible in the middle of the country with 2000 years of history, a small village changes language and helps Spanish people improve their English, the universal business language, “ says participant Benjamin Rodriguez Caneiro, Head of Vodafone’s Central Network Infrastructure. “When you finish the program, you can understand there is an end goal with the same importance, to meet extraordinary people.”

“For me, it’s easier to feel free, perform, express yourself, and loose shame through making theater,” adds Lois Sanchez, Da Vinci Perfume representative. “It is very good to improve self-confidence.”

“If people are willing to learn a language as difficult as ours, then the least I can do is offer my help,” explains Tom Eason, a third time Anglo participant from Calgary, Alberta.

I was surprised that most Spaniards already knew an advanced level of English. I was delighted to see how quickly their conversation and knowledge of my language improved. What I did not realize was how much I would learn by listening to the Spaniards about their culture and about myself. Some of my new friends commented that my southern drawl was the hardest to comprehend, yet I made the greatest effort.

For extroverted, caring Anglos, this intense experience is a remarkable way to help Spaniards understand the universal business language. There is even a summer program for teens and several other year ’round venues in Spain and Italy.

To apply on-line and for additional information, contact:

* www.puebloingles.com
* www.vaughanvillage.com

And then if you’re interested in expanding your Spanish skills…
Shasheen Walton, from South Africa, in conversation with Mario
Shasheen Walton, from South Africa, in conversation with Mario

Few things could be more fun and practical than the new Berlitz Language book Hide this Spanish Book for Lovers. This purse or pocketsize (2″x 4″) lightweight hardcover features all the “in and catchy” phrases you’ll need to make it through the beginning and perhaps end of a great relationship with that Spanish speaking heart throb. Great graphic design using black and red with some white accents make learning a pleasure. Berlitz favors promoting this book for young lovers which seemed odd to me as older and middle aged people who speak Spanish and English have love interests too.

There are no boring grammar drills just chapters with catchy phrases to cover everything from a pickup to more erotic and safe sex. Even breaking up is here. The phrases are coded with little chili peppers: the more pepper symbols the “hotter” the subject. At only $6.95 they serve as the perfect bon voyage gift for world travelers or those learning Salsa dancing. The series is also available in Italian and French.
Available at major bookstores or online at www.berlitzbooks.com/catalog 1 800-432-6277

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