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U.S. Student Wanting to Study Abroad

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Kansas City, KS
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U.S. Student Wanting to Study Abroad

I am trying to decide where to study in the Spring of 2007. I don't even know where to begin. Anywhere in Spain, Central America, South America, and Puerto Rico are all options. It will be my junior year of college, and I am majoring in Business and Spanish. I'm looking for a place to experience the Spanish language and culture. I have been taking Spanish for 6 1/2 years now. Any suggestions of cities or schools would be great. Muchas gracias!

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21. Re: U.S. Student Wanting to Study Abroad

GoBuckeyes - I’ve traveled to Veracruz many times, and my impression of the English-language skills of people I’ve met and observed there is different than yours. I find the skills of people in Veracruz less than what I see in Mexico City. Because of its size and broader spectrum of people living there, I think you’ll find more speakers of English in Mexico City than many other places in the country. But maybe we’re comparing apples to oranges by not referring to interactions with similar groups of people when we talk about these particular cities.

In Mexico one frequently hears the statement that English is studied in elementary schools; all public schools. And, for the most part I think that’s an accurate statement. However, I think the teachers who are supposed to be teaching English typically have a poor command of the language themselves and they teach the students incorrectly. The poor quality teaching combined with a lack of opportunities for students to converse amongst themselves and/or native speakers of English results in student insecurity and inability.

The lack of opportunity for an “inter cambio” in private schools is a problem in some private schools, also – but the families that typically send their children to the better of the private schools tend to have members who can speak English and maybe an other foreign language and those foreign languages are routinely spoken in the home (thus overcoming the inter cambio issue at school). If you don’t use the language you lose it, or something close to that happens.

If the level of education in Mexico was better, and foreign language skills better – many/most USA companies would be sending to Mexico the jobs it’s outsourcing to countries such as India and hospitals wouldn’t be bringing in nurses to fill position shortages from as far away as the Philippines. The isolationist policies of prior governments in Mexico has resulted in a further limiting of economic opportunities that could supplement the inadequate number of jobs being created each year in the country (Mexico).

Since this is principally a tourism website, I suppose we should further link this conversation to that topic and I’ll do that by saying that the poorly performing education system in Mexico will cause the tourism industry to develop slower than it might – and create fewer jobs than it might – and bring in less foreign currency than it might – than if it were a better system that better prepared workers to deal with the international tourists.

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22. Re: U.S. Student Wanting to Study Abroad

Thanks for your opinion gomexico. Perhaps the people we have interacted with in Veracruz are quite different. But I would certainly defer to your assesment of english in the state of Veracruz. My experience has almost strictly been in the city of Veracruz and a couple of trips to Orizaba.

One point I'd like to share though is that the company I work for has many dealings with companies in Mexico and there seem to be quite of number of people who speak english. And speak it well. Now my company deals in the automotive sector and so the companies we deal with are mostly in the North of Mexico. But still, I know when we call Lear, JCI, etc in Mexico we will be able to talk to someone in english. I also know the opposite is not true.

I have always been impressed with the people I have met in Veracruz in that they were able to speak fairly conversant english with only a high school education. They can put together more than one sentence in english. The same can not be said of kids coming out of high school here in the U.S. I also feel that Mexico's exposure to english is far greater then the U.S.'s exposure to spanish. In Mexico the TV, radio, and movies are in english. The english language is all over, at least in Veracruz, Orizaba, M.C. and Toluca. Here in the U.S. people can choose their level of exposure to spanish. Not a judgement, just an observation.

Oh and one last thing, I know this is a travel related website but I feel this sort of conversation is fun AND good for everyone. I like the fact we can discuss things like language, education, and whatnot here. I think it helps break down stereotypes or misconceptions. Or maybe it helps to reassert those that are true.

Thanks again gomexico.

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23. Re: U.S. Student Wanting to Study Abroad

I agree with GoBuckeyes. Learning a second language is not that easy; here in England, I haven't met anybody, whose mother tongue is English, that speaks to me with a "decent" Spanish. Moreover, although France is just around the corner, very few people can speak French. Is education in Britain bad?

Regarding public education in Mexico, we should not make generalizations. Most of family and I studied in public schools in Mexico; although our education was not excellent, this did not not represent an impediment to our academic performance; I have just completed my PhD in England and my brother did his postdoctoral fellowship in neuroscience in the US. Many Mexican scientists I know were educated in public schools. Attending private schools does not necessarily mean that children are being better educated than those who are attending public schools. Students who attend private schools usually they have good living conditions, so we must take this into account seriously when we assess public schools.For instance, when I was

s at university in Mexico (where I did my BA and MA) some of classmates had to work to support themselves; in contrast, as I'm from a middle class family, I could enjoy myself travelling or doing "extravagant" activities such as volunteering and learning French and Italian during my free time.

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24. Re: U.S. Student Wanting to Study Abroad

GoBuckeyes, the automotive sector is one in which the level of English is probably higher than many others in the country because most of the automotive operations are related in one fashion or another to American auto companies and their suppliers or to European/Asian automakers where English is the language of commerce in Mexico (for them). Mexican auto plants turn-out vehicles, generally, of a higher quality than are produced in the USA, and engines for Mercedes Benz that are better than those produced in Germany or elsewhere - workers and engineers in those plants do a very good job. In the early-1990’s I worked in the Mexico City plant of General Motors for a company providing business training to mid-level management, together with quality control personnel and some assembly line supervisors. I worked on some of the “push and pull” and “just in time” initiatives at GM.

About exposure to languages: I live in Chicago now and Spanish language billboards, newspapers, radio stations, TV programs, signs everywhere, are ever-present. I lived/worked in Tucson and I’m assuming the situation today is similar to what I experienced in the early-mid 1980’s - Spanish language was everwhere. You can see much of the same across much of the USA today, even in places like Des Moines, Iowa. Lots of non-Mexicans speak Spanish in the USA.

Mexicans on the whole are exposed to a lesser amount of English, IMO - and that varies by region of the country. Sure, there are movies shown in the English language with Spanish subtitles just about everywhere in Mexico, and many people in Mexico like to listen to music in English - even though they may have little idea of what the words mean. Many middle-class and upper-class Mexicans do have an excellent level of English and they travel to the USA for business or pleasure and use the language in their jobs, etc. But, overall, I don’t think the exposure to English in Mexico, whatever the degree may be, has benefited as many Mexicans as exposure to Spanish has benefited people living in the USA.

About the relevance of a discussion such as ours to a website such as this: I think there is relevance, but travel/tourism should be brought into the conversation, also. Of course, hearing the views of different people, from different countries, is helpful/educational - even when we have different viewpoints. Differences are sure to crop up because we come at the issue from different starting points and life experiences. Non-Mexicans are likely to see the issues a bit differently than many Mexicans do.

Like so many other topics, there are no definitive rights and wrongs, or absolutes.

Thanks for the back and forth comments.

chichifo2005, thank you for your thoughts and perspective.

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25. Re: U.S. Student Wanting to Study Abroad

Thanks again for your input gomexico. This has been a fun little conversation. And thanks for your insight chichifo2005!! I hope I didn't offend you with my comments about public education. I sincerely apologize if I did. Congratulations on the educational accomplishments you and your family have made.

I hope we can have more of these little discussions in the future.

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26. Re: U.S. Student Wanting to Study Abroad

There is a very wise popular saying:

"Tell me what you show off and I'll tell you what you're lacking of."

And it seems GoMexico is showing too much and missing the basics and for this reason I think he has no authority (nor pedagogic experience) to question the educational systems of ANY country.

"I find the level of English spoken in Mexico not very good, for the most part. The public education system, in which English is allegedly taught, is very bad - and the teachers of English in those schools not well qualified for the subject matter."

Of course... the official language in México is Spanish, so English is no spoken there. FYI English is not taught at elementary level; it starts by 7th. grade. Few elementary schools with English options are pivate and, as in some states of the US, private schools have less requirements for their teachers' credentials.

"The level of English in Monterrey is probably the best in all of Mexico, though, as that city is very closely associated with Texas and the USA."

So French is perfectly spoken in Boston and New York, according with your generalization, because they are close to Montreal and Canada; or people in Helsinky should be fluent in Russian because they are close to St Petersburg? (this last one could be true because the educational system of some European countries require the domain of a second (or a third) language).

"...I think the teachers who are supposed to be teaching English typically have a poor command of the language themselves and they teach the students incorrectly."

Teachers are well prepared. They have to go through an extense syllabus which includes grammar, conversation, British and American literature, phonics and phonetics, US History, and more. There's also a shortage of English teachers (because you should know salaries for teachers are not the best) so the positions are filled with "instructors" whith certain/some/a lot knowledge of English but lacking of didactical theory. There are also many socio-economical problems that interfere in the learning process (that's why some students just get the survival skils). If you really "lived" there (México) I don't think you were unawared of the situation. Few are the privileged ones who have the oportunity to take additional English classes besides the ones received in regular school. But it doesn't matter if you studied at the Anglo, Interlingua, Mexican-American Institute, Berlitz,... if you do not practice it beyond the walls your skills are not nurtured there's no progress (just an example: my brother-in-law [a nice typical redhead] was the top Spanish learner student in his high school group but now barely speaks few words because he couldn't practice it in Ohio).

...and the list would be endless (and more if I add political factors/reasons). It's the 21 Century. The image of the tourist thinking that everybody should speak English only because he/she does belongs to the past. If you have as occupational therapy writing on this space do it with pride not with arrogance.

Don't blur you lines with expressions like "The Centro Historico and Zocalo areas aren't where most of what there is to see/do in the city". Who is going to believe that the capital of the ancient Aztec Empire mixed with the heritage of the Colonial period has nothing there? Not all the tourists believe in that saying "you see one, you see all".

KM

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27. Re: U.S. Student Wanting to Study Abroad

Hi guys,

I didn't read every word of the last discussion, but I don't think who speaks the best English in Mexico or whether/she he was educated in the public or private secton is very relevant to a young person wanting to learn Spanish.

In my opinion, one problem with studying Spanish in many Mexican cities (vs. cities is Spain) is that many Mexican will insist on speaking good, bad, or mediocre Spanish if you APPEAR to be an English-speaking person. Not very good for learning Spanish.

I look gringa, and my Spanish level is to the point of working as an interpreter Spanish-English. Nevertheless, one look at me tells a Mexican "English". I pursist in speaking Spanish since usually, but not always, my Spanish is better than their English...and after all we are in Mexico.

However, this is difficult for a young person learning Spanishi to pull off, and also, in my opinion, they shouldn't have

to.

That said, it is certainly more economical to live in Mexico than other countries, Spain, for example. the student just must focus on the opportunities to speak Spanish whereever they are...in a family-setting, social, educational ,etc.

One last thought, one can go to a village nowadays where only Spanish is spoken, and if the student of Spanish keeps in touch with friends at home through internet and phone calls, you are constantly losing your focus on the task at hand...immersing yourself in Mexican/Spanish culture and language.

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28. Re: U.S. Student Wanting to Study Abroad

I liked that last post... thank you.

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29. Re: U.S. Student Wanting to Study Abroad

Hi whitz,

Thanks for your thank you. I make this comment on focusing on your goal while you are in a program to learn the language with this experience in mind. Some years ago, I lived in Spain for a year and talked to my parents once during that time on Christmas Day. It cost about $25 (in 1960's dollars) to talk a few minutes. Now those dollars would be comparable to $100, but now telecommunications is cheap, cheap, cheap, and a real problem with young people leaving the country is cutting the cord. It's very hard to do even for someone my age when traveling out of the country, but you must make a conscious effort to speak the language while giving yourself maybe some time off during the day to be realistic. Ideally, you would immerse yourself and not be calling and emailing friends and family at home.

Good luck on all of this. I can assure you whatever effort you invest in this will pay off in your personal and professional life for many, many years.

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30. Re: U.S. Student Wanting to Study Abroad

A good source of information is peoplesguide.com/1pages/…1spanindex.html.