Friday, May 17, 2019

Love Letters to my life #11: What happened in 1492?

Jaime Hernández
by Joyce Wycoff

(We know the day we were born, but most of us do not know the day we will die. This love letter to my life is written on the day I've designated as my death day, the 17th of every month, and reminds me to be grateful for my incredible life.)

Jaime Hernández, my guide-extraordinaire, asked me, “What happened in 1492?” and I, of course, gave the automatic grade-school response: Christopher Columbus. Turns out, a few other things happened that year and the full Wikipedia list is below. 

Jaime was referring to the process of expelling Jewish people from Spain, some of whom wound up in Mexico, bringing with them Arabic influences which can be seen on the plaza in Pátzcuaro. Of course, Spanish culture in general is rich with Moorish influence.

Stephen Woodman writes for the Culture Trip:
"Mexico’s Arabic heritage can be traced back to the Moors, the North African Muslims who invaded Spain in 711 and ruled for almost 800 years. The Moors had a dramatic and long-lasting impact on the Iberian Peninsula, introducing scientific, mathematic and philosophical concepts that are still used today.”
Woodman outlines some of the Moorish heritage: over 4,000 words of the Spanish language (including “Guadalajara” which means valley of stones), arches, domes and mosaic patterns which grace the architecture across Mexico, and spices such as coriander, cumin, cinnamon and cloves added to the food we now call Mexican.

Petroglyph stone from the ruins at Tzintzuntzan*
Jaime's question triggered a star-burst of thoughts …  627 years ago, there was no "United States” (or Canada or Mexico for that matter). There were only indigenous peoples actually living without the benefits of Facebook or Twitter. Things change and wandering though this land where history can be seen and touched makes me more aware that we are all transients on this amazing planet.

The indigenous peoples of Mexico have not been treated better than the indigenous of any country, and yet they continue living as close to the old ways as possible, honoring and respecting the land, blending the new religion into their old beliefs, celebrating the elements of the earth along with the saints of the church.

View of Tzintzuntzan and Lake Pátzcuaro from ruins
These people and ceremonies, touchstones to the past, have become a product, luring tourists hungry for connection willing to exchange their dineros for experiences lacking in modern life. One of the best-known customs of Mexico is the celebration of the Day of the Dead, popularized by the beautiful and touching Disney movie, Coco. The makers of the movie were influenced by a village on the edge of Lake Pátzcuaro in the state of Michoacán in central Mexico where "Mama Coco" still lives, as well as the all-night ancestral vigil that takes place every year in the cemeteries on the islands of the lake.

Millions of people were touched by the animated movie and, apparently, last year, all of them journeyed to Pátzcuaro for Day of the Dead. In addition to thousands of individual travelers, over 400 bus loads of tourists navigated the narrow roads, overflowed the hotels and restaurants, and trekked through the cemeteries in search of some experience, some connection with spirit … or a story to take home for the next cocktail party. One of the star icons of the movie is a white guitar. Now, the village where the movie guitar was made can’t make them fast enough to meet the demand.

Last summer, I followed the lure of swarms of fireflies to a reserve outside Puebla. The reserve had been discovered within the past eight years and yet it had already created chaos in the village closest to the reserve. In Puebla, I joined a dozen people in a tour van and drove through the gentle rolling hills for about an hour and a half. Then we turned off the highway and began a bumper-to-bumper, hour-plus journey (maybe two miles) to the reserve at the foot of the mountains where the fireflies come every year. The village was lined with villagers standing three deep to sell all things related to fireflies as well as rain panchos and flashlights. 
The six-weeks of the firefly mating season had become the season of commerce for the village.

Monastery of San Francisco, 16th century
All of this brings me back to Jaime’s question: What happened in 1492? Thanks to historians, scholars, records and books, we now know that things were set in motion that changed the world as it was known. 

What we don’t know is what is happening now, in 2019, that will change everything and what future those changes will create. 

I've had many years to create a philosophy of gratitude which encompasses gratitude for all things. In my personal world, it is relatively easy to be grateful for all things that come my way. 

Watching the changes in the world at large, however, it is a bit more difficult to find gratitude for all things. I wish I knew the outcome of what we're doing here in 2019. How will our actions today affect the world 627 years from now. 

Will there be a year 2646?

* Petroglyph found during the renovation of the cloister of the Monastery of San Francisco in Tzintzuntzan,  founded in the 16th century. 

January–December, 1492
More Information:

Mexico’s Hidden Arabic Heritage, Stephen Woodman, Culture Trip
Journey to the Heart of Disney's 'Coco' in Mexico, Gretchen Kelly, Forbes


Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Love Letters to my life #10: Talking with Warren Buffet

Warren Buffet
by Joyce Wycoff

(We know the day we were born, but most of us do not know the day we will die. This love letter to my life is written on the day I've designated as my death day, the 17th of every month, and reminds me to be grateful for my incredible life.)

Of course, I wasn’t actually talking with Warren Buffet, however, in one of our weekly conversations, my wise friend Pat told me something that she heard him say on PBS.  

Anyway, Warren was saying … imagine that as a young person you’re given a car and told that it is the only car you will ever own. There is no such thing as buying a new one or trading yours in for a different one. This is it. Your one and only car. Knowing that, how would you treat it? Perhaps you would take care of it, keep it clean, avoid accidents and change the oil regularly? Probably.

Of course, Warren (since we’re in conversation, I think it’s okay to use first names) was talking in metaphors, using a car to represent our bodies. I don’t know how far he took the metaphor, but I’ve been thinking about it since Pat mentioned it. 
Pat and I talk often talk about our health and physical conditions. We’re both health-oriented and Fitbit buddies with a gentle competition going on with our daily steps. (Actually, I’m gentle; Pat’s a bit more fierce and is known to walk around her property until her numbers are ahead of mine.) We average about 70,000 steps a week which isn’t bad for two 70-ish women. 

However, going back to Warren, we only get one car, but we don’t get to choose the one we want. It’s the luck of the draw. Some get Lamborghinis; some get Corvairs. This month, two men in our small village died suddenly, leaving gaping holes where they once walked. It left me wondering if they were “ready,” and what that might mean. 

I know “being ready” is more than having wills written, arrangements made, and clutter distributed. As I pondered this question, I brought my friend Google into the conversation and he failed me utterly, offering only thoughts on suicide, signs of impending death, and some religious sites with their “make your peace now” messages.
Are these voladores "ready"?

The closest I came to decent advice was the statement attributed to Crazy Horse, “Today is a good day to die.” While that comment is probably apocryphal, it generally means, “I am ready for whatever comes.” Taking that to Google yielded mountains of face-your-fears-and-do-it-anyway advice, and more make-your-peace-now platitudes, leaving me still groping around in the dark.

I like the grand mysteries of life: What was there before the Big Bang banged? Does everyone have a soul mate? Why do some people like creamy peanut butter more than crunchy? I can argue most sides of an argument, but there is one thing I am certain of … one morning my car is not going to start.

Knowing that, what should I do? I could park my reliable, high-mileage Toyota and only use it for emergencies, but what fun would that be? I think it would be better to keep having adventures, exploring the world, changing the oil regularly, checking the brakes, and washing the bugs off the windshield. 

The only answer I have to this particular question of how to be “ready” for what comes next is to keep doing what makes me feel alive and accept that “this, too, shall pass." Maybe it's only by living fully each moment that we are ready for that day when our particular car follows the pattern of Oliver Wendell Holmes' poem ...
Have you heard of the wonderful one-hoss shay,
That was built in such a logical way
It ran a hundred years to a day,
And then, of a sudden, it --

However, as for Warren, he’s now 88 and, as far as I know, his car is purring strongly.

(Dontcha hate metaphors that have gone on too long?) 
"Love" labyrinth in Ajijic.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Lost ... and Found ... and ...

Update: this blog post from almost nine years ago reminds me of how much happens when we're not looking. Louise's post is now called Dare Boldly; Live Bravely and we're still blog buddies.

Missy has moved on to wherever the best friends in the world go when they're no long here. And, I'm in Mexico, light years away from the place where I was so lost.

Along the way, I have found pieces of myself and keep meeting that powerful stranger called Here.

In a few minutes, I will get on a bus and go to a placed called Morelia where I will meet other strangers and see what they have to say.


Louise at Recover Your Joy talks this morning about being lost in the woods and it reminds me of David Wagoner's powerful poem "Lost" from the book "Traveling Light: Collected and New Poems" 
published by the University of Illinois Press in 1999.

A week ago I set off on my journey to pick up Missy.  It was a journey back to roots, to a place where I was lost.  And, as sometimes happens when one has lost their bearings, I had a mishap.  Fortunately a minor mishap that was put right by a mechanic's expertise, a transfer of dollars and insurance data.  Soon I was winding my way back to where the forest could find me again. I'm already starting to feel "found."

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Love Letters to my life #9: What am I supposed to do?

Artist reconstruction of Mitla
by Joyce Wycoff

(This love letter to my life is written on my death day, the 17th of every month, and reminds me to be grateful for my incredible life.)
This has been a challenging month. I’ve learned that friends have lost loved ones and beloved pets. People I know are dealing with debilitating health conditions. I visited Oaxaca, the 2nd or 3rd poorest state in Mexico and visited the homes and workshops of artisans creating incredible beauty in the midst of debilitating poverty and hardship. While in Oaxaca, I walked through a city, a civilization that no longer exists.

And, I read a book. A young US woman, half-Mexican, goes to Mexico to discover her roots. It started out in the style of “Eat. Pray. Love.” She makes new friends, eats new foods and struggles to learn Spanish and decide whether or not she is “Mexican enough.” Slowly she is drawn to troubled places that turn the heat up on her journalistic tendencies as she uncovers the ugly underbelly of Mexico.

My keys often disappear. Lately, words disappear and take their own sweet time showing up again. In Mexico, the word is neon, flashing distrust … danger … death. 
In a country where death is part of life, the “disappeared” leave a gap that can never be closed as the lost loved one is forever in an impenetrable fog between life and death. All the annual rituals meant to attract and honor the spirits of the ancestors are broken. How can you put your son’s favorite foods on the altar of remembrance when you don’t truly know he is dead? When everything inside you screams that he is still alive ... somewhere.

I had my first experience of "the disappeared,” in September, 2014, as I walked through the cathedral square in San Cristóbal de las Casas. The plaza was crowded, a speaker’s voice booming words I couldn’t understand. I thought it was a concert ... until my chest started to tighten as I walked through the people and saw pictures of young men everywhere. There was a paper quilt of their pictures on the ground sprinkled with flowers. I finally found an English-speaking friend who could tell me about the 43 students who had just been disappeared. The number 43 on a wall is enough to trigger pain, grief, and helpless anger for thousands of people, mostly poor and indigent.

In the mountains of Chiapas live the Zapatistas, another one of those words that stirs a lot of images as well as fear and uncertainty: masked warriors, conflict, primitive dangers. In her book, written in the time frame of 2005, Stephanie Griest tells of a 1997 massacre, unknown to me and probably to most outsiders. Seventy men, women, and children were at Sunday mass when they were attacked by a right-wing group of paramilitary men with automatic rifles. 45 died ... children, 4 pregnant women, one whole family. All members of a pacificist group known as "The Abejas," the bees.

When the author asks Rafael, one of the men she interviewed, why all of this is happening, he takes her to the top of a hill and points to an especially attractive mountain peak. He says, “Because they want to be able to say, 'Mira, look how pretty that spot is, let’s put a Holiday Inn on it,’ and then do it, without worrying about who might live there."

The roots of these things are always complicated, however, apparently, they go back to a cause common to most conflicts: land, money, power. The indigent peoples of Chiapas revere the green mountains of their ancestral lands. Giving up that land would be somewhat similar to someone coming into your home and telling you that your living room is now going to be a convenience store. 

As I thought about the things that have happened, and are undoubtedly still happening in a land I have come to love, I realized that there is little difference in what has happened in the United States and still happens all too often in the name of “progress.” Although we all come from indigenous roots, we, the world, treat the still remaining indigenous peoples as if they are somehow less important, less civilized, less human, than those of us who have managed to gather our tokens of progress, our six-car garages, our self-driving cars, our plastic doodads.

All of this made me wonder if I have lived too long? 
As this existential angst tossed my rose-colored glasses into the wind, I contemplated my slide into skepticism and nihilism. What am I supposed to do? Am I just taking up space, contributing to the CO2 overload, depleting resources that should be saved for the young and energetic? 
After 73 years of developing a positive belief system, I know that giving up is not the answer. One friend reminds me that this is all an illusion. And, it may be, but it doesn't mean the pain is not real. Everyday, we see examples of the most amazing creativity and kindness ... while at the same time, we see leaders around the world deliberately turning their backs on the poor and weak, willingly sacrificing our planet for their personal gain.

For some reason, all of this reminds me of the Zen quote: "Before Enlightenment chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment chop wood, carry water.” At my age, I’m not very proficient at either chopping wood or carrying water, but I can honor the honest efforts of every day life and light candles wherever I find them. 
This doesn't seem like much of a love letter to my life. But, I am still alive and I do love my life, even if it is a bubble. I am healthy and constantly learning. And, I still have friends. Fortunately, this train of thought intersected with my weekly call with a friend in San Diego. She always makes me laugh, even in times like this, and reminded me that my job was to carry on, to add as much kindness and goodness as I can to the world, knowing that what I do is not enough, never enough, but it’s all I have to offer. I guess that's my chop wood; carry water.
PS: A couple of days ago, this cup was in my favorite coffee shop. The message is:
Good day! Today is a good opportunity to smile. 
Maybe that's enough.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Love Letters to my life #8: The Joy of Being Unqualified

by Joyce Wycoff

(This love letter to my life is written on my death day, the 17th of every month, and reminds me to be grateful for my incredible life.)
"My most creative work seems to be on projects where I'm inexperienced and uniquely unqualified for the job.”  — Paula Sher

When I first read that quote, I thought, “Wow! That’s me.” My first thirty-some-odd years were spent becoming more and more qualified to do work that paid well but didn’t feed my spirit. When my first marriage disintegrated, the idea of normal died with it, which may sound nice, but it left me in that space of not knowing which direction to go. I began experimenting with the idea of doing stuff that I had no experience or credentials for and discovered the joy of steep learning curves.

Over the next few decades, I kept plunging into unknown, marshy territory … sometimes with success, sometimes with abject failure, always with joy. Gradually, I learned that, for me, success has little to do with money or most things that are measurable. As long as there was enough to fund the basics of life and the “necessities” of whatever project I was on, it was enough. Following this happenstance path didn’t change the world, make headlines, or feed the starving children in Africa, but it made me happy.

Last month I dropped out of the Spanish immersion class I had paid a lot of money for, with no real idea of whether or not I could make progress on my own. Fortunately, the resources I found have brought back the joy of learning a new language and, while I'm still light years from fluency, I am making progress. My confidence is blossoming and I can imagine the day when I will be able to actually talk, in Spanish, with my new neighbors.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that this has become a project. However, I was amused when I announced to a group of friends that I was going to start “teaching” Spanish. Not in the normal sense, of course. What I’m really doing is making a series of self-study lessons which I hope will become a tasty salad of Spanish sprinkled with the joy of Mexico, it’s culture, history, people and amazing geography.

This week, four of my friends will try out the first lesson. Will it work or fall flat? I don’t know. Right now it’s in that glorious “perfect possibility” state. It works for me and has brought me immense joy putting together the pieces and imagining possible outcomes. 

Stay tuned. In the meantime, I am grateful for my bottomless well of ignorance which gives me such splendid opportunities to learn.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Love Letters to my life #7: Confronting hubris

There is a line ...
by Joyce Wycoff

(This love letter to my life is written on my death day and reminds me to be grateful for my deslumbrante life.)

There is a line between insanity and genius. 
It is a wide line, perhaps a field ... a field I like to play in.

Four years ago I did a deep dive into learning Spanish and quickly decided that something was wrong somewhere. 

Because of a multitude of past failures, I had deliberately decided to do an immersion in a San Miguel de Allende language school. By day two, I asked to move from the group class to a private coach. My coach was a lovely person and I was learning stuff, pieces of grammar and words, but they weren’t creating a picture, nor coming together into language. On the whole, our sessions were like a foggy mountain range. The peaks were individual words or phrases I could hear and understand but the vast range was obscured by the fog.

In between the hour-long coaching sessions, I walked the streets and discovered a new school …. la escuela de las calles. In that school, words started to come to life. When I noticed that many businesses were identified with words that ended with -eria, I began to take pictures of them … and learn from them. This continued as I moved on to San Cristóbal de las Casas and the list of -eria words has now grown to almost 100 ... such as: 

For a few weeks of the almost four months spent in San Cristóbal, a coach worked with me with with almost the same result as San Miguel. I was “learning” words and grammar but not really connecting with the language. And, I definitely wasn’t speaking in spite of the fact that everyone kept telling me to just start talking. I wasn’t sure how to do that. It wasn’t particularly that I was afraid of making mistakes ... more that I didn’t have enough words to make mistakes with.

This tossed me into researching how other people were learning a new language. Suddenly a whole new world opened up. If you google, “How to learn a new language,” almost 4 BILLION results will show up … ranging from academic research to hundreds of resources, and uncounted classes that promise you fluency in 3.4 minutes. 

It was a relief to see so many other people having similar problems, reporting the same failures ... long series of adult ed classes (dropping out because they were so boring), big boxes of flash cards (disconnected and boring), tiny labels all over the house, cassettes littering the floors of cars, and, for me at least, an expensive set of Pimsleur CDs. 

A lot of what I was reading connected with what I had learned in my years of creating workshops for adults: learning needs to be relevant, engaging, and related to our own life and goals. The first aha! I had on this path was that no one was asking me why I wanted to learn Spanish or how much of it I wanted to learn. They just started in, generally, right after "Buenos dias, Señor," with grammar and verb conjugations. 

I realized I had never gotten clear about why I wanted to learn Spanish. So, I went back to the streets, taking pictures, falling in love with Mexico, wishing I could speak Spanish, realizing it was going to take more than being in the country or attending a few classes to make it happen.

As I was trying to find my way through the forest of a new language, I started thinking there must be a better way, a thought form drilled into me by years in the world of innovation. This was immediately followed by: 

Who am I to challenge the way language is learned?

After I left Mexico, the idea of learning Spanish took a back seat for two years, until one day I was living on the largest lake in Mexico, surrounded by English, suddenly determined to learn Spanish.

I had volunteered to be on the board for the Feria Maestros del Arte, the premier Mexican folk art fair, and I desperately wanted to talk to the artists about their work and their lives. I wanted to explore Mexico, the parts of Mexico where the ability to speak Spanish was critical. I truly needed to speak Spanish.

What to do? I knew the Spanish class route wouldn’t work for me, so when I discovered Warren Hardy’s Self-paced Home Study program, I thought that was it. For a little over eleven months, I worked my way through 600 pages of grammar workbooks. Well-organized but tedious and boring workbooks. I felt like I had built the foundation for language and I was ready to step into spoken Spanish. 

I knew why I wanted to speak Spanish and I knew my goal was conversational Spanish. It was time to find an immersion program that would provide a bridge into spoken Spanish. I found a highly rated one in Cuernavaca that offered a sub-text of women’s issues in Mexico. Perfect. I would learn more about the Mexican culture and have a two-week immersion in Spanish, including a home stay with a Mexican family.

Spoiler: mid-way through day one, I dropped out of the class part of the course.

Claudia (home stay mamá) and CD (class mate)
It wasn’t the school. The people were delightful and caring. The activities they had planned were enticing. It was that class thing again. I had learned along the way that classes can only go as fast as the slowest student in the class. Because of all the Warren Hardy work I had done, I wasn’t the slowest person in the class even though I still sounded like a first-year high school student.

Dropping out and having to tell the people at the school that I didn’t want to take their carefully planned classes was one of the hardest things I’ve done, especially because of the language gap. While their English was good, talking about abstract learning concepts was difficult. However, I knew that if I didn’t take charge of my own learning path, I might give up the entire idea of learning Spanish. 

I knew they wanted to help me. One of the things I had discovered about learning a language and my own progress to date was the importance of the sound of the language. Most of the Spanish I was hearing was falling into a chaotic chasm of meaninglessness and it was clear that my ears and mouth needed to be trained to hear and speak the sounds of Spanish. I could stay with class and play nice or I could take responsibility for my own learning.

Sounds good, except for the fact that I had no Plan B in place.

Two new resources appear

Pollito Tito
That night as I was sitting in my casita wondering, "What now?" when I recalled a delightful retelling of the Chicken Little story I had found online a few days before. The story was produced by The Spanish Experiment, and combined audio with the story.

The main character of the story was Pollito Tito and that alliterative phrase had played across my mind many times. Now it prompted a new idea:

What if I used that story as a learning aide ... read and study it until I knew all the words, practiced the sounds since it included an audio version, and had a coach listen to my reading it and give me feedback?

I asked the school if they would help with this process and they generously agreed. Since The Spanish Experiment is from Spain, the pronunciation is slightly different and required using different pronunciation guides but it started me on a process that is proving helpful.

The second resource appears.  

Pollito Tito gave me one process study process I needed but didn't address the need to build vocabulary. I had tried flashcards more than once, but couldn't get past the boring routine of them.

Flashcards are a staple of language learning. Turns out, however, there’s also some basic flaws with them … the first (after being boring) is that they are translations. One side is an English word, the other side is the Spanish equivalent. Sounds fine but it means your brain is translating from one language to another, slowing it down and limiting connections.

Words are actually abstractions of objects, actions, feelings or thoughts so the brain is going from one abstract concept to another, a process of translation, boring at best. Plus they are someone else's ideas of the words you should be learning. What if you don't want or need to learn the Spanish for helicopter? (Which was actually in one of my early workbooks.)

Gabriel Wyner in his book Fluent Forever, taught me a new process similar to flashcards but which eliminates English and substitutes an image chosen by the learner. Thus, the bridge between the two languages is an image common to both, taking the learner out of translation mode. Being a primarily visual learner, this process appealed to me and I began to make "flashcards" using Apple Keynote (PC Powerpoint).

Suddenly, learning was fun … and it should be fun. It shouldn’t be a chore.

Wyner has created an app that I’m just starting to use. The benefit of the app is that it has a built in spaced memory repetition system that works with the brain's pace of forgetting in order to create long-term retention. Apparently you can create the same type of cards with Anki. For me, however, using Anki was not an easy, intuitive process.

The Fluent Forever app (still in Beta ... I'm using it since I supported it in Kickstarter) also has a sound-training process that I'm just starting to use and think it will be a powerful aid to making better Spanish sounds.

Connection slides 
In the process of making what I'm calling connection slides using Keynote, I discovered that each slide was webbing a connection to other words and images. Each image found in Google Images also has a subtitle that suggests other words which can be built into slides ... or ignored if it doesn't seem relevant.

It's an engaging and fun process that pulls me further and further into the language.  Google Images makes it really easy to see how words are used in a new language and to pick an image that connects to your specific experience.

For instance: I have had trouble remembering the word for knee. When I looked at Google Images, I found a lot of choices including:

Looking at the possible choices reinforced the concept of knee. I chose the last one for my slide because, to me, it was the most purely "knee" and it echoed the word in the subtitle.

Because words are related to other words, the connection slide process makes it easy to connect with cousin words, such as in this example. Because I chose each connection between words and images, the words are becoming "mine," creating a level of engagement that I believe will help me remember the words more easily ... and permanently.

Note there is no English used. And, in choosing an image, the subtitles of each image offer other words that can be added to your vocabulary. Some of my connection slides are getting fairly complicated like this one for the five senses:

At some point, I will work with a native-speaking coach to make sure I've interpreted the words properly.

In the beginning of this journey, I thought my challenging the status quo in language learning was sheer hubris. (Is hubris ever anything except sheer?) 

Now I'm grateful that I listened as it has led me into finding processes that work for me. I'm grateful for the trials along the way and for the abundance of resources available to every language learner. I'm grateful for finding resources that speak to me. 

For the first time on this long journey, I feel confident that I will be conversational at some point in the not too distant future. I am already hearing more words on the street and having more complex conversations in my head ... and even a few more basic conversations with other people!

The best advice I can give on learning a new language is to know why you want to learn it, what you're willing to do to learn it, and what will make it fun along the way. After that, I agree with this Spanish Experiment quote:
Ultimately, the best Spanish course for you is the one that you can stick with. Getting bored or discouraged and giving up is going to hurt your learning more than anything else — so whatever course keeps your enthusiasm burning is the best one for you! — Spanish Experiment