International Friendship Club: Pity The Poor Mexican

It’s hard learning another language. Trust me, I know from my own attempts to pick up enough Spanish to make feeble attempts at conversation with the friendly taxi drivers here. But have pity for Mexicans who are trying to learn English. ( Why does “poor” mean both evoking sympathy and lacking pesos? )

Last week I went to the International Friendship Club (IFC) to listen and learn at the graduation ceremonies of the forty or so graduates from the club’s English Outreach program. What a great experience that was! From January to March, IFC provided free English classes, twice a week for ten weeks to any Mexican who wanted to learn English. Twenty or so volunteers from Canada and the USA gave their time to help Mexicans, aged between nine and ninety, learn our crazy language so that employees could improve their job skills and school-aged students could learn too. Ten young kids and thirty teenagers/adults made up the Class of 2018. The English Outreach classes have been offered for five years now and each year it becomes more and more popular with Mexicans. However, many of them find that the timing of the classes (4:00 to 5:30 on Tuesdays and Thursdays) makes it difficult for them to attend and so IFC is planning to offer Saturday morning classes next year.

One of the students, Julio Olavarria, told me that he was born in Puerto Vallarta, graduated from high school here, went to university at UNIVA and then moved to Guadalajara to work because, at that time, he had no English. There, he trained as an accountant and an administrator but he was homesick for his family so he moved back here a few months ago and now works as a condominium administrator. But, like so many people here he needs to communicate with his condo owners who speak only English so, since January, he has been stud- ying English with IFC and at Proulx.

Julio, this guy who has been learning English for just three months, gave a speech on behalf of all of the students thanking the teachers, the administrators (Lee Anderson and Gail Jarema) and the grand organizer, Etta Jacobs. Sure, his English is a bit fractured but for we unilinguists but it’s good to remember the saying “Never make fun of someone who speaks broken English. It means they know another language.” Included in the students was team of a mother and her three sons as well as a mother and daughter combo. What better way to encourage education than to participate in it with your kids! Bravo!

One grandmother teaching another. Louella, one of IFC’s very active members, spent ten weeks helping Maria improve her English. Maria is fifty, has three children, two grandchildren and, because she grew up in a rural village, a sixth grade education. Once her youngest child, Josué, has finished high school Maria plans to enter university and will find her English acumen a great asset there. Her husband, Hector, is her biggest supporter. Bravo! Some of the adults receiving their certificates from IFC were very emotional as they hugged and thanked their teachers. For some of them it was the first time that their efforts, either in education or in life, had been acknowledged by teachers and peers.

But how hard can it be to learn English as a second language? There are hundreds of examples of quirks that exist in the spelling and pronunciation of English but think about this as an example of the daftness of our Mother Tongue …”Laid is pronounced like Paid but not Said and Said is pronounced like Bread but not Bead and Bead is pronounced like Lead but not Lead.” I’m amazed that so many Mexicans excel at our language.

However let’s not forget that when writing Spanish we have to pay very careful attention. For example,….. Mi papá tiene 47 años = My father is 47 years old but….. Mi papa tiene 47 anos (no accents) = My potato has 47 assholes. However, if I add just a capital letter….Mi Papa tiene 47 anos = My pope has 47 assholes.

This year’s English Outreach program at IFC saw teachers and students share a lot of education, fun and personal commitment to each other. We look forward to doing it again next January. For more information about IFC please see

BTW, the closing brunch will be held at Oscar’s Restaurant on Sunday, 8th April at 10:00am. Everyone is welcome. Tickets available from the website above.

John Warren on Email
John Warren
John Warren is in charge of Publicity for the International Friendship Club (IFC). His articles describe the programs and charities that IFC supports, the sources of income of IFC and the social experiences, lectures and classes that members can enjoy.