Teresa Ramon-Joffre has been teaching Spanish Conversation Beginner & Intermediate as well as our Spanish for Business Professionals Level 1 & Level 2 classes since 2015.
Originally from Peru, Teresa’s first language was Spanish, but she also speaks English fluently, and knows some German, French and Sanskrit.
She began learning multiple languages as a child, when her mother enrolled her in a French preschool. “I started learning Cantonese at 5 years old. But I didn’t really learn any Chinese, the ‘teaching methodology’ at the school wasn’t very educational,” she says. “No one really learned it but it was fun, we even prayed in Chinese. I started learning English at around 6 years old.”
While her parents were initially responsible for exposing her to multiple languages at a young age, Teresa took the reigns in elementary school. “I took my English learning ‘in my own hands’ and taught myself a lot of what I know now,” she says. “My parents and I loved The Beatles and we enjoyed singing along. Then, I learned about John Lennon’s solo albums and was hooked on the lyrics. I memorized them first, and later on I found out what they meant. It was almost the same that happens when we learn our first language, through lullabies.”
Teresa considers languages to be her friends — albeit imaginary — because of all the time that she spent figuring out songs and singing along. It also enriched her relationship with her parents. “[My mom] is a theater person and some of the plays were in English so we had fun with language and sayings,” she remembers. “My dad also liked songs in English, so I guess language helped me connect even more with my parents, share common interests. I also loved Mark Twain and was able to read him in English as a teenager.”
She began traveling with her family at a very young age, which helped to expand her ability to communicate with others who speak a different language. “My first trip was at 4 and we went to Amsterdam. After that, we never stopped traveling,” she recalls. “So, I think almost half of my interactions with people in my life have been in a second language. I can say languages allowed me since an early age to connect with people from other countries, other realities, and also allowed me to share what I had.
“My mom remembered an incident in Germany. I was four and she took me to a park and in a second or two I was playing with all the little girls … and we were ‘speaking’ in our own language.”
In terms of the benefits she’s experienced as a result of learning multiple languages, Teresa thinks it has helped her adapt more quickly to different cultures, and to feel more comfortable in new surroundings. “It makes you feel more independent and self-assured,” she notes. “Also, it is great for connecting with others and creating meaningful connections.”
In her experience, taking a language class is about more than just learning how to communicate differently. “It’s also an excuse to socialize, and socializing usually makes us happier,” she smiles. “Have you seen the movie Italian for Beginners?”
She also believes that knowing how to speak multiple languages is a great addition to any resume; our work is getting even more and more globalized, and it can help you land your dream job.
It’s one thing to learn languages, but what inspired Teresa to teach others? “I think there are two words in Sanskrit that can best answer this question: Dharma and karma,” she laughs. “In the sense that teaching became my path at a very young age. I started teaching (informally) when I was 12 years old to a friend who wanted to learn English and didn’t have the means to afford it. Later on, a school principal, who was also my friend, invited me to teach English in her school. Since then I haven’t stopped. In a way I didn’t decide it, it happened naturally.”
Here are a few of Teresa’s favorite words and phrases in the different languages she speaks:
- Gorgeous: “I love the sound and when I first learned the word I thought it meant chubby because it sounds like gordo in Spanish.”
- Whatever: “It is just perfect and I don’t think we have just one word in Spanish that encompasses the meaning of whatever. I specially love it when life gets challenging.”
- Tant pis: “This means never mind. It is one of the first words I learned in French and my dad still jokes about it with me. I think what we liked the most was the sound of it.”
- Est tut mir leid: “It is very handy. It means I am sorry.”
- Adho mukha svanasana: “Really, all the yoga words!!! But this is one of my favorite poses, down dog. It doesn’t mean that literally, but this is how it is being used in yoga.”
- Saudade: “Even though I don’t speak it, I love this word, which is a concept to say you are missing someone or something, but it means so much more. It is nostalgia, longing.”