Spanish Student Learning

LALC Student Spotlight: Lynn Olsen

Querida Comunidad LALC, we hope that you are all safe and doing well. Given the circumstances and the shelter in place orders, we wanted to reach out to our students here at LALC and discuss and celebrate their Spanish language learning journey. For this month’s post we interviewed one of our students, Lynn Olsen.

Lynn started taking classes at LALC last September and has since ascended from the beginner’s series A 1.1 to the intermediate B1 series. She is originally from Milwaukee, however her work for Bureau van Dijk, A Moody Analytics Company has taken her to different offices all over the world. Currently she calls Chicago her home. Below are excerpts of our interview conducted by one of our instructors, Vanessa, on April 16, 2020 about her time at LALC.

Interview with Lynn Olsen

Vanessa (V): I read that you originally started taking classes right after grad school and that a coworker made the experience a little difficult, can you tell me more about that?

Lynn (L): …. We had a lot of business in LATAM and the [the owner of the company she worked for at that moment] had offered to pay for me to take Spanish classes… [My co-worker at the time] wasn’t very helpful or supportive. It got to the point where there wasn’t any opportunity for me to really be using Spanish at work [which is why] the owner had been willing to do this, so I felt guilty continuing.

V: How long ago was that?

L: 25 years ago. I lived in Germany for 8 years on and off in between. There wasn’t really a reason [to learn Spanish]. Now [the need to learn Spanish has] become more prevalent. I needed to do something about it not just because of work but because I really want to. Now I have two excuses to do it.

V: Did you really like it over there?

L: Not so much. …  People in the German culture are very closed and it’s hard to meet and make friends and they’re very rigid. I don’t get that impression from people from Latin America at all.

V: How and when did you start with LALC?

L: So, I started at the very end of September [2019] actually. I had let this guy go in July. And I had been toying with this idea for a while…I had someone working for me [who spoke Spanish] who was taking care of this, taking care of the region… I wasn’t getting the right information out of him which was a part of the problem. I don’t ever want to be in that position again. I need to know enough to be dangerous. And when I let him go, I was joking I knew German, but it wasn’t really funny anymore.

And two, we had some reorganization within the region as far as the sales teams are concerned. So, when I made the marketing manager in the office in Mexico City redundant [the Latin American offices] got a little nervous. What did this mean and what type of message did this send for all of the LATAM region, you know?

Part of [learning Spanish] has some other benefits because it was showing to them that we’re still committed by doing this. I don’t necessarily need to spend so much time talking to them individually because of my seniority in the company. Most of them do their day to day work in Spanish. They don’t have lots of opportunities to speak in English. They’re more comfortable now when they have to send emails to me for work because they see I’m willing to make a fool out of myself trying to speak to them [In Spanish]. It [has] had benefits that way.

V: What is your learning style if you have one, and how has LALC accommodated or complimented to that learning style?

L: Part of what I like about it. When I had done research online. It had good marks as far as reviews. It was one of the only places that had allowed for private lessons. And that was really important to me because I travel a lot for work. It wasn’t like I could be in group classes that were scheduled same time/day every week because I knew I would miss them and that wouldn’t work out well.

The other thing was I’ve done this without asking my company to pay for it. So it’s out of my own pocket so I’m holding myself accountable that way. And with private classes again, you can’t hide behind other people. I can’t not show up to class without being prepared. And also, because, back to my [Latin American] colleagues, they’re willing to take time out of their workday every week to spend a half an hour with me. I make sure I’m not wasting their time. I make sure I’m prepared for that as well.

The other thing I really like about class in particular is we usually start out class with a game. Some of them aren’t as easy even though they’re probably for a 3rd grader or something. But last week I won at hangman and I was like, “Yes!”. So that’s fun and I think that is a good way as an adult to learn. Because if you have a full-time job it’s hard to go home and focus on actually studying so that kind of thing works for me.

V: What has been your favorite concept to cover, are you intermediate?

L: Yes, I just started at intermediate.  I’m really enjoying the class we just started because I’m learning imperatives. And I was saying to Mara [founder and owner of LALC] last week when we started, I’m excited because I tend to be very bossy at work especially in my position, and now I can be bossy in Spanish. [laughter].

V: I saw that you incorporate Spanish into your life quite a lot… How has it enriched your life; do you have access to more media?

L: I didn’t have a Netflix account until I started at LALC when Mara recommended [that] I do that to start watching [media in Spanish]… I moved into a new place in January. I had a box tv at my old place. So, I couldn’t put on Netflix and other things on it at the time. I managed to put Netflix on my new tv now that I have a regular size television. And now with coronavirus I’ve gone nuts binge watching all of this stuff on TV because what else are you going to do?

V: What show has been your favorite or what movie has been your favorite so far?

L: I really like Casa de las flores and next season starts on the 23rd. I have a notification coming so I can start [it]. And I really like this series I found [on Netflix] Las chicas de cable, but it’s Spain Spanish so I needed the English subtitles in order to understand them.

V: How has it been navigating the different accents? Because Casa de flores is very Mexican and Las chicas de cable [uses] Spanish from Spain

L: With Casa de las flores my favorite person on there is [Paulina] because she’s on Xanax she over enunciates everything so she’s very easy to understand. But then when I watch Las chicas de cable, at first, I could barely understand anything, and I had the subtitles on in Spanish. It wasn’t working so I changed it to English. And after a while I could hear the difference. There was a new character introduced in one season, I don’t remember which one, and they didn’t say right away but I could tell he spoke differently, and it came out he was from Argentina… I was proud of myself I could recognize there was a different accent within the series.

V: What’s been a highlight at LALC for you? What moment at LALC has been the “aha!” moment where you feel like it’s really working, and you’ve been proud of your learning?

L: I think it was maybe a month ago or so, I was practicing my homework [on] the partner question I had with one of my colleagues. And I wouldn’t say it was a joke but I said something that was meant to be funny and it was. I felt that way when learning German, when I could be funny in German, I was starting to really get it. It was another step in [my] progress.

V: Once this is over, hopefully soon, what’s the first place you would [travel] to use your skills?

L: Probably the first place I would go would be Mexico because of work obviously. If it were for personal reasons, I’ve always wanted to visit Buenos Aires. A lot of it has to do with [the fact that] I’m a history buff. And the history of the city is fascinating to me and the migration of the people.

V: Yes, [Argentina has a] very interesting history with immigration in general…Anything else you want to add?

L: …When I initially started, I had paid for lessons and I think we’re about to the end of the lessons and I plan on renewing what it is I’m doing because I’m enjoying it. (Update: Lynn is continuing to take Spanish lessons at LALC)

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We hope you enjoyed hearing about Lynn’s journey with Spanish. Here at LALC, we are very proud of all the progress that Lynn has made and are happy to hear that she enjoys the program and the many ways in which she incorporates Spanish learning into her life. If you would like to share your story, please feel free to email us at

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