Introduce yourself: Tell us your background, where you live, and what you do?
I am a Christian living in Dallas, Texas. I have been an emergency physician in the Dallas area since 2004. My parents moved to the United States from Thailand in 1974. I was born in the U.S. learning the Thai language at home but became more comfortable with English because I grew up in a small town in the western part of Texas.
What language are you learning and why are you learning it?
I am learning Spanish for many reasons. I had learned some Spanish during high school but didn’t really use it much until I started training to be an emergency physician at a busy county hospital in Dallas where many patients did not speak English. Throughout my career, I was able to learn the necessary words and phrases to take care of patients but moving to Africa in 2015 changed the way I looked at languages. My wife and I moved to the Democratic Republic of Congo to be with our son who we had adopted but were not allowed to enter the United States.
During my 3 months living there, I saw that the people in the Congolese capital spoke both Lingala at home and French in schools, government, and businesses. I worked hard to learn French and enjoyed trying to improve my communication skills while immersed in a new culture. When we came home to Texas, I wanted my children to learn Spanish due to the abundance of this language in our city, this part of the country, and in the Western Hemisphere. I wanted to learn myself so I started looking at ways to improve my Spanish.
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?
My wife and I took our kids to Mexico City last summer and had a great time. We learned a lot of Spanish from just trying to talk to people and reading all of the signs we came across. We enjoyed the trip so much that we came back the following March with another family since our kids had Spring Break at the same time. Coming back to the same place less than a year later allowed me to see how much I had improved. The hotel did not have the correct reservation and initially did not give us connecting rooms as promised when I had called months earlier to ensure that our children would not be separated from us. In hindsight, I was firm but polite and was able to communicate the situation and our needs to the front desk in Spanish. This conversation was much more advanced than my prior visit. I was excited to realize how far I had come!
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 like the ability to schedule lessons at different times each day using Rype, depending on when I am free. I try to do one lesson each weekday. Sometimes it is in the day and other times I find time in the evening. I have a sticky note on my laptop that allows me to see what days I have scheduled and completed a Rype lesson. I am on my computer a lot so it is a good way to remind me to get more Spanish lessons done if I haven’t done enough.
Who was your teacher(s) at Rype, and why did you select him/her as your teacher?
I tried as many teachers as I could to experience different teaching styles. I work the most with Maria from Panama City, Panama because she does a great job of starting a variety of conversations. She speaks slowly so that I can understand. She corrects me when I make a mistake in a way that is not discouraging. I have really enjoyed learning with Maria!
What are your top recommendations and tips for new language learners?
My top recommendations are to learn the basics but to also use what you have learned in conversations. I try to find people at work, church, and in public to speak Spanish, French, and Thai with. The availability of such opportunities will vary so using Rype guarantees that I can continue to improve at the speed I desire. I have enjoyed using apps on my phone, audio courses while driving to work, and practicing with friends to improve my language skills but the routine and ease of Rype has kept me from missing much needed conversational time with teachers who are native speakers and very good at helping me reach my goals.
I would encourage new language learners to keep practicing and not to get embarrassed. That seems to be the biggest obstacle because when we stop trying, we can’t get to that next level which stimulates us to learn more and try to speak to more people. My mistake was wanting to be perfect before starting to speak to people and that time will never come unless we try to practice speaking imperfectly first. The better I got at overcoming my fear of making mistakes or being embarrassed, the more I learned from speaking to others. Rype is a great way to do this from the comfort of my laptop without others listening in and with very kind teachers who understand that I am a student trying to get better.