In 2001, I fell in love with Spain while visiting my son, who was studying abroad in Granada. I hoped to return someday, but knowing no Spanish was a problem. That is, until a friend told me about Diverbo. This well-run English immersion program was my opportunity to see more of beautiful Spain while speaking English.
Designed for Spanish businesspeople who use English on the job, Diverbo operates at five resorts in rural Spain and one in Germany. All we “Anglos” had to do was get to Madrid, ready to converse in English. Other than our flight and an overnight stay in Madrid, we had no expenses. The eight-day program included all meals.
Since we weren’t teaching, we didn’t need to bring anything. As an educator, I felt a bit unprepared without my usual lesson plans. But my worries were wasted. All I needed was patience, a willingness to chat all day, the ability to speak English clearly and correctly, and the sensitivity to suggest and correct when needed. I could do that.
Our “work” began as soon as we boarded the bus in Madrid for our four-star resort in the Andalucian Mountains. The Spaniards who accompanied us were eager to talk. Before we hit the highway, English conversations had begun.
Our days, although long, were so well-structured that time flew by. Each day included “one-on-one” chats with one Spaniard; “two-to-twos,” when two Anglos conversed with two Spaniards; and room-to-room phone conversations that challenged the Spaniards to understand English without benefit of facial expressions or gestures. After siesta, evening activities included impromptu presentations and hilarious skits.
We ate our delicious meals together. We Anglos rotated through the tables of four, so by the last day we had dined with every Spaniard. At lunch and dinner, wine fueled lively and lingering conversations. No Spanish is allowed, so at midweek a late-night dance party celebrated the Spaniards’ hard work speaking English all day. Because they were eager to practice English, I listened much more than I talked. I hadn’t anticipated how rich and stimulating the conversations would be. These well-educated, well-traveled Spaniards, ranging from their 20s to their 60s, lead very interesting lives.
Beatriz described the H&M stores she’s in charge of. Jose Maria explained how he developed his creative business while growing as a husband and father. Miguel, a salesman, was in the final stages of adopting a second child from Vietnam. The ever-smiling Almudena discussed balancing her work as a human resources manager with raising twins. Rafi, an investment manager, livened our days with his delightful humor. Angel proudly told us about his long career and adult children. Abel, also our dance party DJ, shared his passion for music and traveling.
The Anglos in our group, who hailed from Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, were equally interesting folks – some recent college graduates; others, retired professionals.
I never imagined how close we’d become in just eight days and how much we’d learn about one another. And I didn’t expect to laugh so much. Friendships formed, and funny stories and jokes were shared.
On our last day, the tables were turned. After a week of explaining the complexities of English idioms, we Anglos had to decipher equally odd Spanish idioms. Amid peals of laughter, our bonds were cemented. But our sadness over saying goodbye began to sting. I hope to return someday and meet another wonderful group of participants.