Published On: Sat, Jun 23rd, 2018

How I Started Speaking Spanish with OptiLingo on Day 1

I recently returned from an unforgettable two-week home stay in one of the world’s most iconic wine regions – Chile’s Colchagua Valley. As a college student studying viticulture, seeing the wine making process in person, from grape harvest to barrel tasting, was a remarkable experience. Prior to my trip I was told that my host family spoke little English. I felt this was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and that it would be up to me to get the most out of the experience. Flash-forward two months before my plane was schedule to depart, I panicked. I knew just two Spanish phrases – “Buenos Dias” and “Hasta la Vista” (yes, I’ve watched too many movies). I knew this wasn’t enough to get by.


When the homestay opportunity to live with a Chilean vintner came along, I wanted to make the most of it. However, I was reluctant to plunk down my hard-earned money on a language learning program that may or may not get me to the level of Spanish proficiency I required. Moreover, not only am I on a shoestring budget, I didn’t have the time nor energy to commit to learning a new language on top of my already overwhelming university course load and part time job.

Admittedly, my demands were high. I had two months to learn Spanish, zero time to study, and no minimal cash to fork over for an expensive class or online program. I asked around, when a history professor who happens to be an avid traveler told me about an affordable and efficient alternative he’s used many times, called “OptiLingo.”

OptiLingo is an language learning program that helps students of all proficiency levels learn their chosen language in just 30 minutes per day. After looking at the OptiLingo website, the program resonated with me immediately. It wasn’t a program designed by some faceless corporation – it was created by a language activist, Jonty Yamisha. I read his story and was astonished to learn that he didn’t set out to create a language learning program. He’s an ethnic Circassian who was born in the United States and wanted to learn his family’s language – Circassian. The language was on the brink of dying. Moreover, there weren’t really any language resources for Jonty purchase to learn this ancient language, so he was left to do what he could to learn the language on his own. In the process, he developed a method of learning languages he calls “Guided Immersion.” What began as a labor of love transformed into an effective strategy to learning foreign languages – and Jonty set out to make his process available to anyone that either tried to learn languages in the past unsuccessfully, or simply wants results on a small budget and little time. Sounded like me to a T!

OptiLingo’s method of Guided Immersion is fun and effective. Through learning words and phrases spoken by natives in everyday activities, it’s easy to pick up a new language in a matter of weeks. In fact, in my case I felt comfortable with a handful of Spanish words and phrases after the first lesson.

Granted, thirty minutes a day doesn’t sound like a lot – but when you’re as busy as me, it feels like you can’t spare five minutes out of an already packed day. I decided to use the block of lost time during my morning commute on the metro. Because the course material is offline, I didn’t have to worry about staying connected to the internet or getting distracted by social media and texts. Each morning, Monday through Friday, I hopped on the subway and hunkered down for a 30-minute OptiLingo Spanish lesson.

Each lesson is divided up into smaller segments, so the content can be easily absorbed. As the lessons are focused on context – that is, words and phrases spoken by natives in everyday activities – the lessons feel more like entertainment. Each morning during my commute, working through the day’s content was like peering through a window into another culture rather than a language lesson. Within a week’s time, my confidence blossomed. Soon, I felt ready to practice the Spanish I was learning each morning. Whenever I came across a Spanish-speaking person, I’d practice what I learned – always thrilled that I not only was understood but could understand their responses in Spanish as well!

What I enjoyed about OptiLingo most of all was that I could work through the lessons at my own pace, in my own time. Having the scheduled Monday through Friday courses worked perfectly, and I appreciated my weekend breaks, which gave the material a chance to “set in.”

Moreover, OptiLingo’s process taught me not only Spanish but introduced me to a new way of studying new material. In fact, I ended up applying the process I learned in OptiLingo to other college courses. For example, each day I learned new material, however the opportunity for self-testing and review is built in. Each day after I learned new content, I reviewed the oldest content next – in this way, information is reviewed and re-reviewed so that it’s eventually stored in your long-term memory. I never enjoyed memorizing vocab and grammar from my high school French class days – and those days are over!

With OptiLingo, I came to understand Spanish on an intuitive level. My ability to recall what I’d previously learned astonished me. Not only was Guided Immersion and OptiLingo’s staggered approach to reviewing previously learned material more effective, it was fun too!

Finally, with my airplane ticket in hand it was time to board the plane for my homestay in Chile. I felt confident in my Spanish language proficiency – so confident, in fact that I was able to focus more on the task at hand: learning viticulture from a true Chilean vintner. Thanks to the OptiLingo program, my understanding of Spanish was absolutely fluid. I could converse with my host family effortlessly and was in a fabulous position to pick up new words that are specific to my trade. Seeing that Chile is the 5th largest exporter of wine in the world, knowing Spanish wine terminology will prove invaluable no matter what role I play in the winemaking process after graduation.

I’m thrilled that I took a chance on OptiLingo. When I returned from my trip, I brought the teacher who tipped me off to OptiLingo a bottle of Chilean wine as a “thank you.” I’ve decided to continue my OptiLingo courses in Spanish as well, so that I can forge an even deeper connection to my host family back in Chile through email and calls. Who knows, maybe there will be a place for me to work on their vineyard when I graduate next year! Regardless, I’ll enjoy continuing my Spanish studies and learning more about the culture and history I’ve grown to love so much.

Update: OptiLingo is running a special where you can get started for just $9.99.

Jonty Yamisha is the creator and founder of OptiLingo and the Guided Immersion method, a language-learning strategy that Jonty himself developed while studying his family’s ancient and dying language – Circassian. Guided Immersion is a revolutionary method that focuses on specific words and phrases used within the context of everyday activities as they are spoken by native speakers. Unlike other language-learning programs that are rely on rote memorization, OptiLingo emphasizes word context and structure, fostering comprehension and allowing students to understand what is being said and be understood in their target language within the very first lesson.


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