Spanish Learning Spotlight: Jade Graddy

Spanish Lessons Chicago

Our student Jade Graddy is currently enrolled in the A 2.2 Advanced Beginner’s Spanish course with us at LALC.

Querida Comunidad LALC, we hope that you are all safe and doing well. This post we are continuing with our Student Spotlight. This time we interviewed our student Jade Graddy, about her Spanish learning journey.

Jade is originally from Seattle and has lived in Washington DC. She now calls Chicago her home where she works as a communications consultant working with non-profit organizations. Jade began taking classes with Vanessa at LALC. She started in the A 1.1 course and is currently in A 2.2. The following is an excerpt of the interview held on April 23, 2020.

Vanessa (V): What interested you in Spanish?

Jade (J): I studied Spanish in the past, in university as a part of my degree. I hadn’t studied it for a long time and was very out of practice. There was a day at work when they asked if anyone on my team spoke Spanish and nobody did, and I thought that was a problem. I wanted to look up if there were any Spanish schools in the area and I found you guys.

V: Why [did you choose LALC]?

J: I had learned from a Spaniard and I had a very castellano accent when I first started speaking Spanish… So, I really wanted to focus on Latin American Spanish because the Spanish speakers in the US are primarily from that region.

V: What made you want to take Spanish during your undergrad?

J: Well, it felt useful. I’m also from the West Coast so there are a lot of things in Spanish that feel like I knew them just because I had been exposed to them… It’s very useful to be able to talk to people. A lot of people where I’m from speak Spanish. Also, I needed to study two languages for my linguistics degree, so [it went] towards my degree. 

V: How do you find your experience different at LALC from when you took Spanish at school?

J: I like that it’s focused on conversation and actually being able to use the language. I think that’s very important. When you take a language in school everything is focused on grammar and writing and then you’re not able to speak it. Maybe you can write it, read the newspaper, but you can’t speak the language. It was really important to me to have the focus be on [becoming] conversational so that I can actually talk to people, rather than being able to write an essay on Don Quixote or something.

V: Where would you like to see yourself in terms of skills or just use of the language?

J: I think basic reading and writing is important for me. I know that so many of my clients are Spanish speakers or have constituents who are Spanish speakers. I just feel like language is such an important part of culture. And I feel like it’s important, if I am a consultant, to be coming from a place of where I have a fuller view of people’s situations, the mission of nonprofits…

On a personal level, I have friends whose families speak only Spanish, so I also see it as [helping] those friendships to be deeper. My best friend is from Chicago, and her mother and grandmother only speak Spanish. I’d go to Little Village and I’d have a couple of things I could say, but I wasn’t really able to have a conversation with them. As I was sitting at the table with her mom, and I was thinking to myself, “I should really be able to talk to my best friend’s mom.”

V: What interests you the most about Latin American culture and what do you do to immerse yourself?

J: A lot of my immersion is with Latinx friends and colleagues… My conversation partner is from Colombia and we’ll communicate via voice note. I’ve been listening and trying to understand the podcast Radio Ambulante so that’s been helpful. But I was thinking when coronavirus is over and we can all travel again, the first thing I need to do to go to a Spanish speaking country so I can have this external goal I’m working towards where I will be 100% immersed in the language. It helps me set goals like that in my language learning. 

V: How [else] do you use Spanish in your everyday life?

J: Podcasts, Duolingo has been a really good habit builder, even over the past couple of days I’ve noticed if I have a 15 minute period where I need to step away from a work project, I’ll just go on Duolingo and do a couple of lessons. So it’s nice to build that into my day. This morning, I got up early and did flash cards. I wrote a page of sentences just to practice the present tense and past tense and verbs and read it out loud. And then I’m on Whatsapp all the time with my friends from other countries.

V: What is your favorite thing about LALC so far?

J: I like the way the lessons are structured. I think especially in class 1 where we were really getting off the ground it felt like it was focused on immediately having utility, like we could walk out and say a sentence in Spanish because we started with the verbs. The way it was structured was more useful than other language classes I’ve taken in the past, particularly university classes. I have the key building blocks that allow me to walk out in the world and “give it a go”. The focus is really on getting you out there and speaking as soon as you can.

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We hope you enjoyed hearing about Jade’s journey with Spanish. If you would like to share your story, please feel free to email us at

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