Bonnie May

 Working at 4PFoods in Washington, D.C.



Introduce yourself: Tell us your background, where you live, and what you do?

My name is Bonnie. I live in Washington, DC in the United States, but I was born and raised in Mississippi and Louisiana in the southern part of the United States. I moved from New Orleans, Louisiana three years ago to DC, the capitol. I’m currently working at a small local food startup company after some years in college doing activism for environmental and local food issues. I still consider myself an activist, and DC is a great place for that because there is so much going on in the city. I also love my cat Clyde, and taking classes in aerial circus arts like silks, lyra, etc. My roommate/friend and I also have couchsurfers from all over the world stay at our place when they travel to DC, so it’s a lot of fun to meet other people from different cultures, learning different languages.


What language are you learning and why are you learning it?

I’m learning Spanish! I have a few reasons:

1. I have friends and family who speak Spanish. Some of my cousins are from Colombia, and I’ve always had at least a few friends who speak Spanish.

2. The United States is full of people who speak Spanish! It’s great to be able to connect to people in another language.

3. I learned Spanish all throughout school and college. However, I never succeeded at speaking it. I found the classroom setting to be really dull. I enjoyed learning Spanish as a child when the setting was more informal, but once it moved to a more formal classroom setting with strict teachers, I didn’t enjoy it. I also started to believe that as I got older it was impossible for me to learn a language. It turns out I just wasn’t learning it in a way I enjoyed.

4. I also think that more people should try to learn a 2nd language. It gives you more respect for others who are struggling to learn a second language, especially to survive in another country. It gives you a bigger appreciation for other cultures and helps you understand your native language in a different perspective.


Share your first A-HA moment with us: The moment when you felt that your language skills advanced to the next level. How long did it take to achieve this result?

I think my first A-HA moment was about six months into learning Spanish on Rype. Before then I was speaking to my teachers in Spanish a little, but not feeling confident speaking more than a couple of sentences. I was too scared to speak too much in Spanish.. I was mostly learning grammar in my lessons, but mostly in English. Then I started having a few classes with different teachers, and since they were new teachers for me, they started only speaking in Spanish to me – then I realized I could speak a lot more than I thought.

Now with all of my teachers I try to speak the majority of the time in Spanish, even if I stumble through it. I used to be really embarased about speaking and making mistakes. Now I realize now that it is ok to make mistakes, and in fact it helps me learn faster. My goal now is to speak more and make as many mistakes as possible so I can be corrected and learn more.


Tell us about your learning schedule. What time of the day do you take your lessons and how much time do you spend learning per week?  How do you find time to take lessons with your busy schedule?

I usually take 5 classes a week, usually in the afternoon or evening. I find I learn better in the afternoon or evening. I’m terrible with mornings. I used to try and schedule morning classes but it never worked out well for me.

My work schedule is all over the place, so it helps me a lot that I can schedule Rype lessons whenever I have some spare moments in between meetings, events, and work. I learn a lot faster when I practice outside of the Rype lessons too, so I try to stick in 5-10 minutes every now and then of learning whenever I can. I prefer to learn in short bursts of time all throughout the day instead of one or two longer blocks of time. If I had more time I could probably study a lot more each day and learn faster, but for now I’m making the most of what I can with a busy schedule.


Who was your teacher(s) at Rype, and why did you select him/her as your teacher?

I’ve had a lot of teachers! I started out with Santiago from Colombia (who is now in Spain), and Katie in Texas. I also take classes with Barbara and Milli (both from Venezuela), and Lupita from Mexico. As well as Maria B from Panama, Maria V from Spain, and some others. I think there are benefits to having one or two steady teachers, or having a few different teachers. Since my schedule is so strange and always different, it’s helpful for me to have a few teachers.


Could you share some top language tools and resources you use to learn a language?

I listen to podcasts whenever I walk to work or take the metro. Some of my favorites are “Coffee Break Spanish,” “Lightspeed Spanish,” and “News in Slow Spanish.”

Whenever I have any down-time, I use apps like Memrise. I also use an app simply titled “Flashcards” where you make your own flashcards.. I usually pull some new words I learn from classes and make flashcards for them, but I use the words in sentences that I would normally use.


What are your top recommendations and tips for new language learners?

I feel like this last year I had to do a lot of research on the right tools and resources to use. I definitely recommend blogs like Benny Lewis on “Fluent in 3 Months” or Olly Richards on “I will teach you a language.” Whenever I get frustrated with my progress, I’ll read their blogs to get ideas or tips if I’m falling into a tough spot.

The other tip is to not focus too much on being perfect and fluent right away, and to try and enjoy the journey. It’s easy to get frustrated when you make a lot of mistakes, which is why it’s also important to celebrate when you make small steps of progress. I get too hard on myself sometimes and feel like I should give up, and then other times I’ll see how I’ve made a lot of progress in even just one week, and that gives me hope. I’m trying to find ways where I can track my progress more. Learning a new language definitely isn’t easy, so give yourself some credit!


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