Tonight we had our first Spanish conversation class at Mestizo Coffeehouse, a funky little multicultural gathering place just west of downtown Salt Lake City. At http://www.mestizocoffeehouse.com/ you’ll catch a glimpse of the vision for Mestizo, including the following statement:
Mestizo was created by artists, activists, community builders and private investors for the purpose of bringing a community center and gathering space to Salt Lake’s Westside. In addition to bringing great food and quality free-trade organic coffee and teas, we share space with our sister organization Mestizo Institute of Culture and Art (MICA), a non-profit arts and cultural institution. Together, we invest in community and youth. We believe in people! We believe in youth! We believe in community!
The conversation tonight was fabulous! Our teacher (“maestro”) is Carlos, a native of Guatemala who has been in the U.S. (I think) about 20 years. His wife and daughter are with him here in Salt Lake City, however his son’s family (including the grandchildren) still lives in Guatemala. I met Carlos through work, and after I told him that I was learning Spanish, he voluntarily worked with me every time he saw me to teach me a little more Spanish.
For this weekly meeting, I requested just one thing – force us to rely only on Spanish. Sólo en español. And Carlos is glad to oblige. For one hour he spoke only in Spanish (with the exception of 2-3 short statements to get us unstuck), and he required us to speak only in Spanish. Yes it was difficult, yes it was frustrating, but yes it is exactly what we novitiates need.
How many Latino immigrants show up in the United States every year not knowing a lick of English, and yet figure out a way to learn English and become assimilated in the culture? They are examples of fortitude, perseverance, and hard work to all us Gringos.
Carlos is an excellent teacher … he speaks slowly in simple Spanish, and patiently repeats himself over and over again if necessary. He’ll give you plenty of opportunities to participate, or leave you be if you just want to listen and observe for awhile. Though the focus in this gathering is on listening and speaking, he also brings handouts to help facilitate exercises and learning.
So if you are in Salt Lake City and want to stumble and bumble and fail over and over, and yet get back up over and over again in order to learn Spanish, come meet us at Café Mestizo (631 West N. Temple) at 6:30 PM on Tuesday nights.
Just remember, leave your English at the door because we are sólo en español.