By Eleanor Piazza
July 25, 2003: Atención
We have so many opportunities to participate in the richly varied institutions here in San Miguel de Allende. Some favorites might include dazzling our senses at the Tianguis on Tuesdays, attending the Biblioteca’s inspirational house tour on Sundays, or going to the colorful Ignacio Ramirez covered market on Wednesday evenings, or Thursday at the latest, to get flowers at their peak of freshness.
There is another institution in San Miguel, equally well known among the community of visitors, and that is Warren Hardy: both the man and his school, Warren Hardy Spanish.™ When friends come to San Miguel from the US and Canada, Warren Hardy Spanish is the first name that comes up as the place to go to get your Spanish kick-started if you are a beginner, or to polish and refine the language skills you already have. Warren’s wife and business partner, Tuli Hardy, and their team of competent native speaking tutors provide a unique and successful environment for adult learners.
Unlike the delectable cuiclacoche, or huitlacoche, Mexico’s answer to the black truffle, Warren’s teaching techniques did not pop up overnight after a Spring rain shower. Warren began teaching English in Argentina when he was nineteen, and at age twenty-one he returned to the US to complete his studies. Upon graduating from college he was offered a contract from Public Health Services to train doctors in two week immersion courses, which he did for three years. Armed with the rich experiences provided by a wide variety of students, he wrote a Spanish textbook and founded his own successful language school in Tucson Arizona in 1975. There his clients were maquiladores, corporations, local business people, and tourists.
As of 1990 Warren Hardy’s career as a Spanish language trainer had spanned twenty years and thousands of students. By now he had pioneered a flashcard system with games where students could work with partners in timed exercises. In his method no one was “called upon” to recite or answer a question in front of the class. Adult learners, some of whom had been humiliated in bygone classes, were able to relax and learn at their own pace with partners of similar skill levels. Paired learning is still one of the star features of Warren Hardy Spanish.
The students weren’t the only ones learning things. Hardy began to see that his organized style and class materials had evolved into a method that was quite powerful and could be passed on to other teachers. Warren had an epiphany. He realized that with the advent of a global economy, there would soon be millions of adult learners wanting to speak Spanish and that the public school system would never be able to meet their needs. He decided to devote himself to the training of other teachers and to the publication of his learning system. In acknowledgment of his work, Hardy was awarded a Paul Harris Fellow, an honor given by Rotary International for distinguished international service.
Warren and his bride Tuli came to San Miguel de Allende for their honeymoon in 1990 and never left. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? So many of us have responded similarly to the call of the San Miguel Sirena. Almost immediately Warren obtained a teaching contract with the Desisto School, a Boston based private school for adolescents in the Atascadero. Disisto provided a venue for further developing his teaching system. Many of his students had learning disabilities, such as attention deficit disorder. His theory was that if he could develop a method that would work for these kids, it would work for anyone. And it does.
Eventually Warren was given permission by the Mexican government to start his own program, which was to be a research center for developing his teaching method, writing books, and training teachers.
The first research center (CardGame Spanish) opened in 1993 at the Unity Church when it was at its old location at Santa Domingo #3. The students wrote their own verb cards and the “textbook” consisted of handouts that could be put in binders.
By 1994 they had moved to Pilancon #19, which would be the home for Warren Hardy Spanish for the next seven years. It was there that the first version of the textbooks were published: VerbCards, GameCards, CD’s and cassette tapes were made available, and a video was created.
In 2000 Warren and Tuli discovered an old building on the corner in front of the San Juan de Dios Church. It was a ruin inside, with no floors or plumbing. The building had been El Escondido, a bar and dancehall, from 1945 to 1975. Warren and Tuli saw this thousand square foot dancehall with two boveda ceilings as the perfect classroom. They renovated the building and today their students enjoy its spaciousness, warmth, and wonderful acoustics.
So what about the millions of adults needing Spanish? Hardy and his team could never teach them all here in San Miguel. So here is the rest of the story, one to which most San Miguel residents are not privy.
For several years, Warren and Tuli have been attending national conventions promoting The Warren Hardy Method and The Warren Hardy Foundation Course. Last year they exhibited at the National Community Education Convention in Austin and Warren spoke at the American Foreign Language Teachers Convention in Salt Lake City. Warren is a dedicated advocate for adult learners. He believes that adults’ brains learn differently than younger brains. He believes that his learning system, which he calls “cross-training” should be the standardized system for all community colleges in the United States. A pretty ambitious goal? Not when you have devoted your life to this cause.
After many years of intense focus, much of Warren´s dream is coming to fruition. There are now twenty-seven teachers using The Warren Hardy Method. On the Warren Hardy Spanish website, www.warrenhardy.com, you will soon be able to access online learning and free-learning to enable you to continue studying if you leave San Miguel.
Not only has Warren Hardy Spanish become an institution in San Miguel but he is becoming a nationally recognized player in adult education: just one more point of pride for us sanmiguelenses. Pride and appreciation are the feelings most often expressed by Warren and Tuli for all of the work done by students through the years: catching errors and typos in the texts, coming up with ideas that have maximized their learning, and for proving out his method by becoming proficient in Spanish.
But most important, they celebrate the accomplishment of the mission statement of Warren Hardy Spanish: Uniting People through Language Learning and Cultural Understanding.