Conversation Starters in Spain

LEADspainConversationPueblo Ingles, an English-immersion program for Spaniards, helps Spanish professionals gain fluency in conversational English. This skill has as many twists and turns as the roads that lead to Valdelavilla, in a valley of Mediterranean scrub forest in north-central Spain.

Pueblo Ingles has touched the lives of thousands of Spaniards and English-speaking volunteers. The Spaniards leave the program with a greater conversational mastery in their second language, and the volunteers leave Valdelavilla enriched by Spanish culture and new friendships.

The Spanish professionals’ difficulties conversing with their English-speaking clients are overcome in an atmosphere that is as low-key and supportive as possible; that is, compared to the dog-eat-dog business environment, where not being able to understand English and its many nuances can be costly.

Spanish business people make up most of the program’s participants; it’s rounded out by students and others interested in becoming fluent in English.

The first requirement for volunteers at Pueblo Ingles is to be fluent in English. Any kind of English fluency will suffice, including British English, Boston English, South African English, Minnesota English and Australian English. An outgoing personality and being open to interacting with people of a different culture is also important, because conversing is job one for all the participants of Pueblo Ingles.

The day begins at 9 a.m. with breakfast, and ends sometime after 10 p.m., when the last meal is completed. After the 2 p.m. lunch there’s a 90-minute break in the afternoon for a siesta or whatever the participants feel like doing.

Even the three daily meals, which include traditional and regional Spanish dishes, serve as class time for the Spaniards, who are matched evenly with volunteers at the dinner tables for conversation.

The other talking and interaction sessions vary, including one Spaniard and one volunteer pairing up for 50-minute, one-on-one conversations during the day and afternoon. The pairs may take a walk on the cobblestone streets of Valdelavilla or along the trails that lead to and from this village, which radiates a medieval ambiance.

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