Douglas Hamerski

 Doctor (Nephrology) living in Wilmington, North Carolina

US News

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

My name is Douglas, and I live in Wilmington, North Carolina where I work as a doctor specializing in the kidneys.  I’m married with three children in college.  Work and family keep me very busy but in addition, I have a seemingly endless supply of hobbies and interests that fill the rest of my time.  Over the years, Spanish has had to compete with martial arts, reading, writing, astronomy, running and numerous other projects.

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

I’ve been studying Spanish for at least eight years.  I’ve always wanted to learn a second language – it has the child-like appeal of learning a secret code and provides a window into other cultures and thought.  At work, I have patients who only speak Spanish and I’d like to be able to communicate better with them.  And maybe someday I’ll be able to do some traveling.

I studied French in high school and Latin in college but I retained nothing from those except a smattering of vocabulary and a primitive understanding of grammar.

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? 

There have been a lot of little A-HA moments and I’ve enjoyed them all.  They bring back memories of youthful excitement when I first learned to read.  The reading milestones came first, after only a couple of years.  There was my first dual language book, the point where I was able to use a Spanish-only dictionary and the first Spanish novel I read.  The spoken language milestones didn’t begin until after I started working with online tutors.

I remember my first conversation with a patient in Spanish (just a few words, but still…) and my first Spanish TV show (I only understood a little).  I crossed my most recent milestone only two weeks ago when I discovered the CNN en Español podcast.  I’ve been listening to it ever since and am pleased to say that I’m able to understand most of it.

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’m not much of a morning person and I would never have expected that to be a good time for me but I tried it almost by accident and it worked great.  Having a lesson before work helps get me out of bed and gives me a half hour to sip coffee and get my brain started.  I had found that after a hard day of work I sometimes dreaded evening lessons but that never happens in the morning.  So now I’m a huge fan of the morning time slot.

Lately, I’ve been having lessons Monday through Friday.  My tutor isn’t available on weekends but quite a few times I’ve visited other tutors on those days. Otherwise, I don’t spend a lot of time working on Spanish.

Recently I’ve been listening to podcasts while running or driving.  I grab Spanish newspapers whenever I find one and I often find myself trying to translate things I’m saying or thinking into Spanish and if I can’t, I make a note to look it up or ask my tutor at the next lesson.  Once and awhile my tutor gives me homework, something to reinforce a topic we were working on.  I almost never get around to it, but that’s no problem. I like having it if I do find the time.

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

My first few weeks at Rype were with Barbara.  She has a lot of energy and I very much enjoyed learning about her experiences in Venezuelan medical school.  When Barbara returned to school she wasn’t available in the mornings anymore so I changed to Masielle who I’ve been with for many months now.

Masielle is great.  She always corrects my mistakes (which I feel is super-important) and her patience seems to know no bounds as I’m certain I’ve made the same mistakes hundreds of times.  She’s fun and enthusiastic and I’ve learned a lot.

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

I started out with Rosetta Stone.  I did all their lessons and didn’t find it terribly useful (it was an older version).  I did Pimsleur and it was a little more useful, but still very limited.  It wasn’t until I started doing live tutoring that I started seeing actual progress in my spoken language.  I had a Skype tutor in Peru for over a year which helped a lot.  A year after we stopped working together I decided to look for another tutor and discovered Rype where I’ve been a happy customer for ten months now.

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

Sometimes I think that I am a particularly slow language learner.  The ability to speak and understand spoken Spanish, in particular, has been elusive.  I’m pretty sure that I could have read books and done various language classes forever and never made progress with speaking and listening.

For that, I need to converse with a native Spanish speaker.  Regularly. The second ingredient is perseverance.  This is definitely a situation where the tortoise will win the race.


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