I like your site...I read it before we went to Mexico and someone praised Laura Olchea for her individual language instruction. Now that we're back I want to share my experience with her...which was great.
It was my first time to do one-on-one instruction and I think it is the way to go if you have only a short time to study. I met with Laura for several hours everyday for two weeks and we concentrated on what I chose to work on. I asked her to be strict about all my speaking errors, and strict she was, in her sweet friendly way. When my boyfriend was there she was just the opposite, giving him the gentle encouragement he needed, without grammatical corrections.
I really liked Laura personally, she is very friendly and tried to do whatever she could to make our stay in Oaxaca satisfying. She helped us with all our "tourist questions" about places to go and things to see.
If someone wants to study with her and knows when they will be in Oaxaca it might be a good idea to email and reserve a time. When I was there in January she was very busy, although she did her best to fit everybody in. Her email is email@example.com and I saw she has a letter in the Oaxaca section of your website describing her teaching.
Keep up the good work on the site.
Heidi Freestone, Sebastopol,California
Before meeting Laura I visited most of the well known schools in Oaxaca. After meeting Laura it was a quick and easy decision to hire her as my personal language instructor for about the same price that group lessons would have cost me at the other schools. I am sure that most of the schools I visited provide excellent language instruction, and they offer many outside activities like cooking, weaving, and salsa classes. I would have been comfortable enrolling in their programs, but when I met Laura I felt that she really cared about me and that private lessons with her would be much more rewarding.
Laura and I met for four hours a day of private instruction in the pleasant patio of Cafe Gecko where she conducts her classes. We also went for numerous walks around the city, to the market, and often to lunch or dinner. She found me a wonderful living situation in a delightful Oaxacan home. She loaned me her portable radio/CD player and a variety of Spanish music CDs because there was no TV or radio in my room. She invited me and another student to her home to watch a Spanish language movie. She invited me to her best friend's bachelorette party (men were invited), and to her salsa classes. When I got gastritis she took me to the market to buy me a tasty drink called Yakult, which contains acidophilus, and it helped a lot while I was taking antibiotics. These are a just a few examples of how she treats her students. Laura did everything she could to make my stay in Oaxaca and my learning experience positive. I have had a lot of teachers in my life - not one of them has ever treated me so kindly as Laura. When you meet Laura it becomes very clear that teaching is her passion.
Laura is well known in Oaxaca. While I was there she appeared in a photograph on the front page of the "Social" section of the local newspaper as a guest at a party held by a prominent Oaxacan family. Walking around town we constantly ran into her friends and associates. She has extensive contacts in Oaxaca, such as an excellent and affordable English-speaking physician who is available 24 hours a day. She has students that she has taught for years who are from Canada and the United States and have moved to Oaxaca to retire. She has students who return to Oaxaca every year to study with her again (I will become one of those students next year).
In my opinion the benefits of private instruction far outweigh group instruction. The bottom line is that in group classes you always only move as fast as the slowest person in the class. In private classes it's entirely about you, slow, fast, or like most of us - slow some days, and fast other days. When you're the only student in the class, the considerable teaching skills of someone like Laura are entirely focused on you - and you won't believe what a difference that makes until you experience it. Hanging-out and trying to converse with other non-native speaking students who are at the same level as you are, making (and getting away with) the same mistakes over and over again until they become ingrained habits of speech that are very difficult to correct - is not best way to learn to speak Spanish. In fact, much of the value of meeting with Laura privately was in discovering these types of errors in my own Spanish - for example, I will never (after being corrected numerous times) say "un otro" or "una otra" again (you don't ever use an article with otro/otra). Or even worse, but very common, it is easy to spend the entire time outside of group classes talking in your native language - because you meet someone interesting and you're talking about interesting things and you want to be understood and to understand. I can't tell you how many conversations I overheard, taking place entirely in English, by people whose entire purpose to be in Oaxaca was to learn Spanish.
Laura and I had no problem filling up our four hours a day with useful activities (most students do two hours a day), the time seemed to pass very quickly. Laura always found ways to engage me in conversation, to get me to use the verb tenses or new vocabulary we were studying at the time. She has traveled and lived all over the world and can converse intelligently on a wide variety of subjects. We talked a lot about literature and relationships. When I would arrive early for my class, I would hear her talking with Gilberto (a retired gentleman from Minnesota who was an international sales representative for a sports clothing company) about economics, politics, and the intricacies of the sports clothing business in Latin America.
Laura is fluent in Italian - she received a scholarship to study in Rome to become an instructor of Italian. Her English is also excellent, although she will pretend that she doesn't understand a word you're saying in English if you become one of her students. Because she has formally studied, and become fluent in two foreign languages - she thoroughly understands all of the problems associated with the process of learning a foreign language.
I have taken numerous French and Spanish language and literature courses at different colleges and universities in the United States. I completed a three month long intensive program in advanced French at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in Monterey, California, and also an intensive Spanish language program of several months duration in the early '80s at Instituto Fenix in Cuernavaca. I have extensive experience with foreign language instruction and instructors and I can say without the slightest reservation that Laura Olachea is as good as it gets. She personalized my entire language training, constantly assessed my progress and changing needs, and implemented appropriate changes in our activities to optimize my learning experience. She also made me feel at home in the city of Oaxaca, a lovely place that I will be returning to many times in the future.
I am going to post this regrettably long commentary of my experience on several different sites related to Spanish language instruction in Mexico, so don't be surprised if you see it elsewhere.
Laura's email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org
I had emailed Laura that I wanted to brush up on the subjunctive and compound tenses and at our first class she handed me a spiral-bound notebook of photocopied pages of lessons on the topics I wanted to study.
I highly recommend Laura and would be happy to respond to any questions. She is extremely professional and a delightful person.