With the latest Lingoda Marathon in full swing, we caught up with Paul De Stefano, a Lingoda student, who is currently taking the Half Marathon in Spanish. 

Paul isn’t what you might think of as your average learner. He’s not studying for a university course, or a promotion, or for work exams. He’s studying for himself and for future endeavours… 

Hi Paul, tell us a little about you. Where are you from and why did you decide to take the Lingoda Marathon?

I am a sixty-five year old, semi-retired physician with a special interest and expertise in Chinese medicine. I live in Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA. I’ve been taking two private lessons per week starting as a raw beginner in Spanish (via Skype) with a great teacher, Maria, living in Oaxaca. I considered doing an immersive there but when I heard about Lingoda I thought “I’ll do this half marathon first”. I took lessons for six month before starting group classes with Lingoda

How do you schedule your classes?

During the first half of the Marathon, I took some classes in the evening but I found that my mind is sharper in the morning. For my next 15, I have scheduled 7am Tuesdays and Thursdays before my 9am private lessons with Maria. For the weekends, I chose 10am after my 8am Pilates on Saturday. Sundays? I am doing 8am before my 10:30am weekly FaceTime call with my 35 year old son in Los Angeles.

What do you hope to achieve by taking the Lingoda Marathon? 

My passive knowledge tested as B1.1 but I thought that the Lingoda process would be ideal for converting passive into active! So I have been taking group classes at the A2.1 and A2.2 level. Also, the variety of teachers and students in the classrooms gives a more realistic setting to communication. We learn language at our mother’s knee but eventually we need to speak with other people! Lingoda offers the opportunity in its small classes.

Have you had any particular highlights in your language learning journey, so far?

One lesson with a teacher called Andrés  presented a challenge when another student (who was a seventeen year old Russian woman) knew no English and spoke Spanish with an Argentinian accent having previously lived there. Andrés, who is Columbian, started speaking with an Argentian accent. That was an amazing experience!

For speaking it has also been great to get compliments that my Spanish pronunciation was much better than expected for a native English speaking American. Honing three short sentences for the self-introduction to begin each group lesson has also built my confidence. 

Is there anything you’ve found particularly difficult when taking classes with Lingoda? 

I have used hearing aids over the past 12 years. It helps if all the participants use the camera because I learned that I read lips to assist my understanding – even in my target language of Spanish.

What tips do you have for people out there who might want to follow in your footsteps?

To get the most out of each group lesson it is important to review the excellent lesson plans in advance for unfamiliar words and phrases. Also, make a list of direct and concise questions for the teacher.

What do you hope to do after you’ve completed the Marathon?

I hope to succeed in attending 45 group lessons over 90 days and plan to use my 50% credit to continue with Lingoda for at least two more months. Five months for the price of three is a great deal!

My goal in Spanish is to reach the C1 level in active as well as passive communication. I would love to visit the Galapagos Islands which are administered by Ecuador and put my Spanish skills into practice. 

I am still ambivalent about sharing with my excellent and kind teacher in Mexico that I am cheating on her with Lingoda by taking these group lessons while still studying with her… Should I let her think that she is an even better teacher of Spanish than she truly is?

The tips

Being a semi-retired physician and studying Spanish, Paul knows a thing or two about priortising.

Don’t forget his tips:

  • Take classes at the time you are ‘sharpest’. Are you a morning person or a night owl?
  • Review the Lingoda lesson resources before your class
  • Have a series of questions ready for your teacher

So, there you have it! Should Paul tell his teacher why his Spanish skills are dramatically improving?!

Has Paul's story inspired you?

Remember, you can start learning a language at any age, at any time! Head over to our website to start your Lingoda trial today.