Ecela Escuela: Spanish School

Sausages or suggestions? We started our Spanish immersion courses this past week in Santiago at the Ecela school. Although we both felt slightly nervous and pretty inadequate, we loved the advice our host lady gave us. Just imagine the most adorable and energetic voice saying, “remember to not be afraid to try… sausages or suggestions!” and then a cute little giggle.

Becky, aka the greatest host ever
  Becky, aka the greatest host ever

Our host lady, Becky, is a powerhouse of a tiny woman. She has traveled to countless countries and has several degrees in English. She holds various jobs but loves to teach English/Spanish and takes the time to help us with our pronunciation when we chit chat at her house. She also makes some cracking soups and I(sickly Elise) am forever grateful for her well insulated house and five blankets on our bed. Another wonderful thing about Becky is that she often takes our dog, Arie, to the dog park…just because. Dynamite of a woman? I think so!

One of Becky's delicious soups.
              One of Becky’s delicious soups.
The dog park
                  The dog park

When we first met Becky, we told her of our fears of being bad at Spanish and having fierce gringo accents. She shared with us how she learned English. Becky studied English in London and was adamant about practicing English at all times no matter how poorly she sounded. At one meal she proudly kept asking her host family to “pass the suggestions” until she finally realized that what she actually wanted was sausages. Her point was that it is important to not care how you might look or sound. It is most important to simply keep trying.

In honor of Becky and our attempt to simply jump right into Spanish, here are several Spanish fails we have had:

  1. Upon arriving in Santiago, I had a really bad cold. With a cloudy head and without preparing at all, Jon and I headed to the nearest pharmacy. Jon waited outside with our dog and I went inside to buy cold medicine. I expected to pick the medicine off the self, but instead I quickly realized that at pharmacies in Chile all medicines are behind the counter! I was already freaking out because the word for having a cold completely escaped me and none of the medicines I could see looked familiar. I waited in line for several minutes and realized that other shoppers kept passing me. Finally I figured out that I needed to take a ticket from a ticket machine and then would have my turn when my number was called. Praying for a pharmacist that knew English, it was finally my turn. No such luck. So I proceeded to use the word “frio” which means cold as in weather cold and not sick cold. Still no such luck. So I proceeded to act out my symptoms which was beyond embarrassing! Looking back, I now will never forget the word for cold (resfriada), and I am really thankful that I did not have to act out the symptoms for something much worse like food poisoning.
  1. In class one day I declared that my husband was redheaded. I quickly realized by the look on everyone’s faces and the laughter that my wording must have been wrong. They quickly told me that I used the word “peligroso” instead of “pelirojo.” “Pelirojo” means redheaded. “Peligroso” means dangerous. Whoops!!!
  1. In the supermarket I (Jon) was trying to checkout. When the cashier got to my bananas she started saying something to me. She repeated her words and repeated them. I stood there with a blank face and she ultimately walked away. A man behind me told me that I had to go weigh the bananas. (in Chile you have to weigh your fruits and vegetables before you go to the checkout). The same man proceeded to explain to me that he was from Santiago but he studied in Germany so he knew German and English. #fail

Apart from our fails, which are now pretty laughable, we have been really enjoying our time studying in Santiago.

Our school, Ecela, is a melting pot full of students from all over the world. In our classes we have met people from Germany, Australia, Paris, Brazil, Argentina, Belgium, and Japan. Many are college students, many others are Spanish teachers, and a handful of others are studying for work or to travel.

ECELA Escuela
                                 ECELA Escuela

Before starting classes, we took a written and oral quiz which placed us in classes at our level. Jon and I were put in different levels which turned out to be great because now we can learn in class and a little extra from each other when doing homework. I’ll let you guess who is in the higher class. (HINT: I(Elise) have the majority of the Spanish fails above)

We are currently taking three classes a day. We have 1 ½ hours of conversational Spanish, 1 ½ hours of grammar, and 2 hours of private one-on-one lessons. Our conversational and grammar classes are small, with four to seven students in each section. This has been great because you get a lot of practice and you become pretty close with the other students in your class. Our private classes are especially good, as well as challenging, because the teachers really dig into personal weaknesses. I personally am appreciating the extra help with my pronunciation.

A typical ECELA classroom
      A typical ECELA classroom
All of the students during a quick morning break
All of the students during a quick                        morning break
Our walk to school is about 18 minutes.
      Our walk to school is about 18 minutes.
Studying in style with Pisco Sours
Studying in style with Pisco Sours
Studying at our warm homestay
  Studying at our warm homestay

Our Spanish immersion program was only possible thanks to a number of donors who are currently supporting the Chile mission. THANK YOU! The goal to support and build relationships in our church here in Chile can only happen if we can talk to other members and prospects. Thanks to our dog, we have already had several opportunities to talk with people while on walks or at the park. We cannot wait to be able to hold deeper conversations with others about our Savior! We are also thankful that Jenny Proeber, another member of our team who will be joining us soon, is a Spanish teacher and can hopefully help us continue to grow our Spanish skills. Thanks in advance Jenny!

When thinking and talking about languages, I am reminded of a devotion I had with my 8th graders at St. Marcus. We were talking about Pentecost (Matthew 2) and I was explaining the tongues of fire that rested on each of the disciples symbolizing that they had the power of the Holy Spirit in them. Upon receiving these tongues the disciples were able to teach in various languages and perform miracles. My students already knew that Jon and I were headed to Chile to do mission work, so they quickly asked why we couldn’t get tongues of fire that gave us power to speak in other languages like Spanish.

Great Question!

My bible research and eventual answer hopefully not only helped them, but it also encouraged me. God no longer sends visible tongues of fire to his people, but that does not mean that we do not have the power of the Holy Spirit in us!

Galatians 4:6 Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child.

1 Corinthians 12:3 Therefore I want you to know that no one can say “Jesus is Lord,” except by the holy Spirit.

Ephesians 1:13b When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.

 1 Corinthians 12:4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

Is learning Spanish difficult? Yes. Do we feel inadequate? Yes. Do we have visible tongues of fire on our heads? No.

BUT … according to the verses above God gave us (AND YOU) the Holy Spirit because we are his children, the Holy Spirit gives us the power to believe, the Holy Spirit lives in us, and the Holy Spirit gives each of us various gifts to serve God.

Each of us are adequate. Amen!

Chilean Randoms from this past week:

  1. The apartment below us was loudly playing Bob Marley as I wrote this post.
  2. We have already felt two tremors or small earthquakes!
  3. We move all the way to Chile only to find that our new home in Linares is located on John Kennedy Street.
  4. It poured yesterday! Chile has been in great need of rain and it is finally here.
  5. A cup of fruit here is ridiculously cheap.

3 thoughts on “Ecela Escuela: Spanish School

  1. Joy Lyn Rehm

    What a wonderful experience! We will live vicariously through your blog and use it as one of our family devotions! Thank you for sharing and keep blogging. (I’m not sure why, maybe because I know how much M-House lost when you 2 dove into this, but it brought tears to my eyes to read this. Tears of happiness that you will share Jesus with so many more! Love sent over the miles with prayers…and tongues of fire to find just the right words…in any language!


  2. Heidi Hansen

    Reminds me of my immersion trip to Argentina. Enjoy every minute of it, talk to as many people as you can ( you will get even more fantastic stories!) and treasure this time in your lives as much as you can 😊
    God’s riches blessings!


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