Maria Cruz Diez Huidobro is from Madrid, Spain. She’s lived in the United States for almost two and a half years. She is in a high intermediate English class (3B) here at LETC. I sat down with Maria to ask her about her experience here in DC and also as a student at Language ETC.

What do you think of the United States as a someone from another country?

In Spain I left behind a job, and since I came here with my husband for his work, I had no employment in the US. At first that was very hard for me, but later I took a volunteer job teaching Spanish to American kids. I found that it isn’t easy to mix or connect with Americans or when I do speak with Americans, they prefer to talk to me in Spanish.  It’s hard because when you don’t practice English, you don’t improve. Even though I’ve been here for two years, I still find it very hard to speak English. I wish that people had a little more faith in my ability to speak, and a bit more patience. When I teach American children Spanish, I encourage them to keep talking and making mistakes until I understand them well. I like it when American people do me the same favor.

                What has it been like to be a student at Language ETC?

Here at the school I’ve learned a lot of English. Right now I am in a very small class and I have some excellent teachers. I really like when we play mental games: like we imagine that we are going to take a trip somewhere and need to communicate what we want to do in English. I like it when the teachers make us use real English instead of just practicing grammar. I think that my favorite teachers understand why the students are coming to class. Most of the people here want to learn how to communicate in English and be with Americans, and not necessarily become a Harvard professor.

I also work with a tutor who has become a friend of mine. We write to each other in English and have weekly study sessions. My tutor is very patient with me and our work together has complemented  my class very well.

I think that the center (LETC) has a social function as well. This is a welcoming place for immigrants and for many people one of the few opportunities outside of work they have to make friends. I’ve made some good friends here. The center is one of the many places in the United States that cares for and attends to immigrants. I’ve come to realize that the United States is a country of immigrants, so this makes sense. For example if you ask me where my father, grandfather, great-grandfather and so on are from, I will respond with the same village in Spain. This is entirely not the case in the United States, where many people are more recent immigrants or at least have family from many different regions.

                Are there places like Language ETC in Spain?

In Spain there are fewer places like this one. The state helps immigrants in Europe, and it seems like in the United States private organizations take care of the immigrant population. As a result, the United States is well-equipped to welcome immigrants.

Another difference I’ve noticed is volunteerism in the United States. In the US it seems like almost everyone is a volunteer. In Spain people do volunteer, but many go abroad to do so or work through large organizations or the government. In the US volunteerism is part of the culture.