Spanish Immersion Series Pt 4: Rio 2016

Olympics or not, the natural beauty of Rio De Janiero is hard to describe. Massive, strangely shaped mountains lay on one side, and beautiful bodies of water – the Iconic bay(Guaranaba) and the Atlantic Ocean on the other.


I wake up, and take the bus from Niteroi into Rio De Janeiro. It is important to note that “Rio De Janeiro” means “River of January,” which is a misnomer. The first Portuguese explorers to arrive mistook the mouth of the Guanabara Bay as a river. In modern times, the Guanabara Bay is quite polluted; so much so that many residents will not go into the water.

However, the beaches on the adjacent side – Copacabana, Ipanema, and Leblon – are absolutely stunning, and that is the first place I decide to go. There is a saying in Rio De Janeiro, that “the beach is everyone’s living room.” It’s where most Carioca’s(people from Rio De Janeiro) meet during the day, and the place to be while the sun is out.


It’s hot, but not too hot. Beach vendors pass by, selling everything from beer to freshly caught shrimp. More than anything else, the intense Brazilian heat is best counteracted with chilled young coconuts. Brazilians sell them whole, using large machetes to hack the top away. The chilled, potassium rich coconut water is extremely refreshing.

While sitting on the beach, I look up and notice both of Brazil’s world famous landmarks. The first is “Christo Redentor,” or “Christ the Redeemer,” which is the massive statue of Jesus Christ, arms outstretched. It sits perched on the very top of a mountain. It is absolutely huge, making it visible from very far away. It is lit up at night, making it visible from nearly every part of the city, at nearly every time of the day and night.


The other is “Pao de azucar,” which translates to “Sugarloaf Mountain.” These are two massive mountains that are connected by cable-car, giving perhaps the best view of Rio De Janeiro. The scenery in Rio is intrinsically wild – the raw and natural beauty is simply not available in a place like Los Angeles.


Like the background, Rio De Janeiro’s inhabitants are also extremely beautiful. Brazil is a place where many cultures have historically come together: Portuguese, African, and Indigenous Brazilians. The result is a mosaic of features that delight the senses.

While both Rio De Janeiro and the people who live there have immense physical beauty, perhaps the best part about Rio De Janeiro is the pervasive “Carioca” attitude. Once again, a “Carioca” is someone who is from Rio De Janeiro. At the end of my 21 days, I feel comfortable saying that most “Carioca’s” enjoy having a good time. That means dancing, drinking, and being exceptionally friendly to a foreigner like myself, who speaks limited Portuguese.

This attitude is very much Latin American – and a reason that I loved my time in both Bogota and Rio. People seem to be more laid back. They take their time, and they don’t seem to take themselves or their lives too seriously. Constant laughter is a way of life.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of learning the local language when traveling. My experience would have been a fraction of what it was had I not been able to communicate with the people who actually live here.

The beautiful thing about immersion is that this is always the case. More than where you go, it is the people that you meet that shape your experience – and it is much more easy to meet people when you can speak their language. People are generally amused and appreciative.

On top of beautiful and nice people, Brazil also offers some very delicious food. The fruits are insane – larger and sweeter than the United States. Things like guava, acai, and coconuts are available at all times. Fruit juice is a staple of the Brazilian diet – as is a toasted flower mixture known as “farofa,” which is sprinkled on nearly everything.


Brazil is also known for its savory stews and delicious meats – both dried and grilled. The famous Brazilian “Churrasco” is no joke, but the most famous Brazilian meal is “feijoada,” which is a stew of black beans with beef and pork. The meal is extremely heavy, but fantastically satisfying and is only served during the day.

However, when the sun goes down, the city becomes even more alive. There is a vibrant night life in Brazil – one that is only heightened by the Olympic experience. The caipirinha – the most famous Brazilian drink – is a mixture of “Cachaza”(a pungent alcohol distilled from sugar cane), lime, and sugar. Although they go a little overboard with the sugar for my taste, the end product is refreshing and delicious.

Sounds of samba fill the streets. This is especially true in neighborhoods like Lapa – where it turns into a full-blown street party on the weekends. Vendors and party goers pack the road to the point where it is nearly impossible for busses and cars to get through. Guitar, drum, and wind instruments work together in unison to create a rythym that is infectious.

All of the sounds, smells, and sights are only amplified by the festive nature of the Olympic games, which turned out to be a massive success.


I speak to many locals about the Olympics and the controversy that has surrounded it – topics ranging from the Zika virus, National Security, the suffering economy and the Olympic implications, as well as the tumultuous political situation that Brazil finds itself in. But by the end of my stay, it is obvious that the positives of this experience have outweighed the negatives. Although Brazil has a lot of work to do, there have been improvements in poorer areas. An entire downtown area was built for the Olympics that Brazilians are utilizing. And last, but certainly not least, the overwhelming national pride that Brazil has for its country, it’s inhabitants, it’s culture, and it’s athletes, is overwhelmingly infectious.

Personally, I can’t wait to go back! And I cannot emphasize enough how helpful learning Spanish by immersion has been in my journey!

So what are you waiting for? Sign up for Kallpachay and Play Your Way to Spanish!


Rio Adventures Part 3 of Travel Immersion Series

As I stepped off the plane in Rio De Janeiro, I was relieved that the weather was more similar to Los Angeles. Bogota had been cold and wet – Rio, on the other hand, was all clear skies and sunshine.


I walked through the airport, and immediately noticed a heavy presence of what looked like the national guard – numerous policemen, armed with assault rifles. Obviously, security was a huge issue as the Olympics loomed, and it looked as though Rio was not taking any chances. I wasn’t sure if the sight of heavily armed guards made me feel safer or more in danger – it was an interesting combination of both.

This portion of my trip would be much different from the Bogota portion, and I could feel that instantly. I would be staying with a friend of mine for 21 days. Stephanie spoke little to no english, and we would be communicating in Portugeuse – which I do not speak as well as well as Spanish. Communication would be more difficult, and  I did not know Stephanie as well as Maleja.

She was doing me a huge favor by allowing me to stay at her house, and I would spend far less time inside of it. Most of my time in Rio was spent out and about, exploring on my own and experiencing the city as a traveler – someone who had come for a massive, global event(the Olympics!).


I would walk extensively, to the point where I was sore at the end of the day. I would take numerous busses, taxis, Ubers, and metros, all over the city. I was pretty insulated in Bogota; not the case in Rio. In short, I was more vulnerable here, and my time was much less structured. I was nervous.


I walked through the airport, and asked around for a bus to Niteroi, which is where Stephanie’s house is.  I immediately realized that my Portuguese was rusty, but I was able to get my point accross.

Gramatically speaking, Portuguese and Spanish have have many similarities. People no longer welcomed me with a “Bienvenidos.” Instead, it turned into “Bem-Vindo!”

“Yo hablo Espanol” turns into “Eu falo portugues,” which is similar on paper. However, the pronunciation is what throws most people off, and people hearing the language for the first time might feel as though it couldn’t be farther apart from Spanish. Like Spanish, Portuguese has a distinct rhythm that is essential to it’s understanding. Distinguishing words becomes more difficult, as one word blends seamlessly into the other. On top of all that, Portuguese relies more heavily on intonation and pitch than Spanish.

The things that make Portuguese tricky also make it extremely beautiful. It is commonly said that it sounds as though people don’t speak Portuguese, they sing it. The accent(or “sotacky”) of people from Rio De Janeiro is one of the best examples of this. I personally believe it makes listening to people speak that much more interesting.

Although the learning curve is steep, my Portuguese improves drastically within the first few hours as I regain the rythym of the language. The truth is that those who speak Spanish can easily learn the language with some effort and determination. Most Brazilians understand Spanish if you speak it slowly – something I am eternally thankful for. My Portugeuse is a mixture of key Portuguese words and Spanish – that I try to put a Portuguese accent on. It may not be pretty, but it works.

This is why learning Spanish is such a huge tool, not only in Spanish speaking countries. A very phenomenon occurs with Italian. French is similar, to a lesser degree. But the fact remains that Spanish is the perfect “gateway language,” and this is something that I was extremely happy to learn – and something that should make you even more eager to learn it.

The Bus to Niteroi is long, and it provides a glimpse into the city of Rio De Janeiro. Just as in Bogota, I am not necessarily staying in the middle of the city. Instead Stephanie’s house is a little more than an hour away. Niteroi is much less touristy because of its location – it is actually across the famous Guanabara Bay. One must either take a ferry or travel across a large bridge which connects the two masses of land.


Although I am here for the Olympics, Niteroi is not nearly as effected by the festivities as Rio De Janeiro is – which means I am able to assimilate into the actual Brazilian culture more, and that my trip is not necessarily all about the Olympics.

However, when I’m on the bus into Niteroi, all I can think about are the Olympics – which begin tomorrow! I purchase my first ticket – which is for the female gymnastics qualifying event. I buy the ticket from a friend of a friend, and it only costs about $120 reias – or $40 USD. I rest my head on my brazilian pillow, eager for what the next 21 days have in store…


To be continued!


Our Vision for Spanish Learning in 2017

What’s Taking Flight in 2017  —

¡Feliz año nuevo!

At the moment I am writing this in a hotel lobby listening in as the hotel receptionist asks a little girl how to say goodbye in the girls’ language (Chinese). Right before that the receptionist was speaking her native language with another guest, you got it …Spanish.  Now I am in Chinatown, but earlier today I was in Runyon Canyon Park in Hollywood and reminded again of the uniqueness of the place I live where on a 20 minute hike I often overhear conversations in five languages!

While driving to the park a public radio show reported on how the German community is addressing the immediate need of the Syrian immigrants to learn German quickly.  

Such radio stories are not rare. I’ve noticed throughout 2016 weekly language topics featured on public radio broadcasts from business to cooking, arts/culture to politics, and of course education.  (We will be posting those links in future blogs in the coming months but here is one recent example – listen.)

The global community we have here in LA is inspiring in many ways. With joy and dedication I strive to have our program easily available and affordable because I feel it is needed and appreciated.

Many parents share their personal stories with me about language and culture and why giving their child Spanish lessons directly links them to their own heritage.

They report to me a feeling of love and pride for their own culture that is reignited when their child learns Spanish.

Other parents are clearly in step with the latest research on brain development and seek a new path of education for their child, one that prepares them for deeper and easier language learning as they grow.

Families also seek support for their own efforts to teach their children Spanish in the home.  

While language learning is a prescribed, tailored and a life long process, the driving force behind success with language learning is consistency and so Kallpachay strives to make the learning fun and meaningful for kids so they will stay with it.
Continue reading Our Vision for Spanish Learning in 2017

Spanish Immersion Series Pt 2: Colombia

After a slight delay at the airport, I arrived in Bogota, Colombia at around 2:00 P.M. local time. I made my way throughout the massive El Dorado International Airport, contacted my friend Maleja and met her outside.

“Bienvenidos a Colombia,” she said to me smiling, as I hopped in her car. The adventure had officially begun, and it was time to switch into Spanish mode. I gave her a single kiss on the cheek, which is how people generally greet each other in Bogota. I had made the mistake of doing the Spanish style two kisses (one on each cheek) a year before.


I met Maleja a year ago in Medellin, and she had also let me stay with her when I visited Bogota. A year later, I was back, and she allowed me to stay with her once again. We excitedly spoke as we drove through the city.

It looked as though it had just rained. It was colder than I had remembered, but just as green. The sky was a deep, intense blue. Being over 8,000 feet above sea level, the air was crisp and felt noticeably thinner. Bogota is massive, larger than Los Angeles, and twice as populated.


If you think Los Angeles has bad traffic, you should really visit Bogota! They have a policy called “pico y placa,” where cars are restricted from driving on certain days, based on the last number of their license plates – and it doesn’t seem to work. The streets are huge in some places, at least five lanes across, and tiny (only one small road) in others. People from Bogota drive like crazy people, not necessarily respecting the lanes. The horn is used often, and everyone drives their stick shift cars in a way that makes it feel as though you are in the middle of a highly contested go-kart race.


Maleja doesn’t live in the city, but instead to the north in a town called Chia. It takes about an hour to get to her house, but we are able to drive throughout a good chunk of Bogota – the good parts, the bad parts, and the rural parts. The closer we get to Chia, the more farm land there is. Cows and goats are tied to fences, and large groups of stray dogs roam the streets, barely moving out of the way of oncoming traffic.

We arrive to her house, which is a massive brick structure in a beautiful gated community. I spend the majority of the next week with Maleja and her extended family – which is very large. She lives with her two parents, two younger siblings, three cousins, the live-in housekeeper, as well as the housekeeper’s daughter. If your keeping count, that’s 11 people, including myself.


This was without a doubt the best part about my Colombia experience, and a huge reason I love Spanish speaking countries so much. Everything is centered around family, and it’s a huge part of the culture. Coming from a relatively small family, it is always amazing to see how important family ties are.

As Maleja worked full time, I spent just as much time, if not more, with her family – who spoke zero English. Through their kindness, I learned a lot about Bogota, as well as Colombia. The housekeeper is actually from Barranquilla, located on the northern coast of Colombia. She cooked for the entire family, preparing delicious meals that always included Colombian staples – rice(arroz), beans(frijoles), and fried plantains(patacones).

I ate a lot, and everything was fantastic. My favorite plate was absolutely the “bandeja paisa,” which includes generous amounts of – you guessed it – rice, beans, and plantains, as well as three different kinds of pork, a generous portion of avocado, and a Colombian corn tortilla, which is called an “arreipa.”


Colombia is known for it’s coffee; it is the third largest producer in the world.  However, I quickly realized that I was the only coffee drinker in the house. Even more interesting was that most of the good stuff is exported, and most Colombians drink “tinto,” which is a noticeably lower quality product.

During my time at the house, I got to know Malejas parents, siblings, and cousins very well. Her father had been practicing some English, but it was visibily difficult for him to pronounce many English words. Spanish from Bogota is quite easy to understand, in comparison to other dialects in Colombia, although Colombians don’t open their mouths much while speaking. This means a lot of words are said essentially spoken through their teeth, and that can be tricky.

There are certain words in Colombia that aren’t used in Mexican or Castillian(from Spain) Spanish. The two most common are “chevere,” which means cool, and the verb “rumbear,” which means to party. These two words happened to come up a lot in conversation.

Although I definitely didn’t understand everything that was said at these massive family meals, I was able to catch most of it, and my Spanish improved drastically over the first portion of my trip.

I ate well, and was able to spend the 5 days relaxing, speaking Spanish, and getting acclimated to being in South America. It was the proverbial calm before the storm.


Before I knew it, I was heading back to the El Dorado Airport, ready to catch my next flight, where my next destination awaited: Rio De Janeiro, Brazil!

To be continued…

Spanish Immersion Series Pt. 1: Introduction to My South American Adventure!

I recently spent 33 days completely immersed in South America. I traveled alone, to both Colombia and Brazil, and I couldn’t have done it without learning Spanish through Immersion!

Summer Olympics 2016
I made it!

Let me begin by explaining one thing: I am NOT a native speaker. I am from the United States, as are my parents. I have no Spanish speaking relatives – I am, and have always been, a GRINGO. However, I was lucky enough to study abroad in college, where I immersed myself while living in Spain for a year. I now have the confidence to travel in a way that would not have been possible otherwise.

But back to my adventure! I spent a little more than a month in South America, where I stayed with friends and their families – who speak little to no english. That forced me to speak in Spanish, and then Portuguese, exclusively.

Why? Because that is simply the best way to learn a language and experience a culture. I threw myself in, head first, hoping to come out having improved my Spanish and Portuguese, as well as creating some life long friends. And I can tell you that I was successful on both fronts.

I started and ended my trip with 5 days in Bogota, because I love the city and have a very good friend who offered to allow me to stay with her and her family. It was also much cheaper to get a round trip ticket from LA to Bogota, and then a round trip ticket from Bogota to Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.

Why Rio De Janeiro, you ask? Well, the 2016 Summer Olympics, of course! I hope to give readers an up close and personal look at my experience there – and I was there for the entire Olympics experience, which lasted 21 days.


I also hope to give insight on how learning Spanish has made this all possible for me. It will obviously help me navigate Bogota, where Spanish is spoken by everyone. But it has also opened my eyes and ears to other beautiful languages, especially Portuguese. A lot of people don’t realize that Brazilians don’t speak Spanish, but in fact they speak Portuguese. Thankfully the two languages are VERY similar, and learning Spanish has made learning Portuguese much easier.


I will compare and contrast Spanish and Portuguese, as well as the cultures in Bogota and Brazil.

More than anything, I hope that this blog series will inspire some of you to immerse yourself in Spanish as well – whether through Kallpachay or otherwise – and understand what a rewarding and useful tool it can be.

So, let the travel adventure begin!

Until next time,


Top 6 Things to Look for When Evaluating Your Child’s Spanish Language Program

First in Our SERIES :

Achieving Success in Raising a Child to be Bilingual

 Los Angeles is a city of paradoxes in many aspects and Spanish language education is no exception. Out of all the continental US cities Los Angeles has one of the largest populations of Spanish speakers, yet surprisingly the prospects of raising a child bilingual here  present unique challenges.

 A large number of native speakers report they struggle to get their children to communicate in the most basic ways even though they know that their child has the capacity from been exposed to the necessary vocabulary in the home. 

Could LA be an easy place to raise a child to become bilingual?  Of course…..what would be helpful is to demystify the second language learning process.  

Perhaps what is lacking is a roadmap for all who want to give their child the gift of a second language.  Our new series of articles will illuminate some of these processes.



Learn How to Recognize Key Factors that Matter

 Why is it that many mothers, fathers, grandparents, nannies who consistently speak to  their children in Spanish as part of their casual home life are seeking out ways to  guide them to become competent communicative Spanish speakers? 

There are simple steps to know what goes in will come out.
There are simple steps to know what goes in will come out.

 The shocking reality is that statistically the probabilities of a child successfully acquiring a language at the level that matches their English language development through home life exposure alone while living in a culture of English speakers is low. 

Here are some key factors to keep in mind if you want to make a difference in your child´s language acquisition success. 


First of all, be mindful that a person’s ability to speak a language does not automatically make them an effective language teacher. Frequently parents, family members, nannies, or simply bilingual speakers use a technique over and over that they THINK SHOULD work without really knowing if it is or isn’t working until it is too late. 

Real time results are available.
Draw your attention to the passage of time.

Making assumptions about what is or isn’t happening for your child is a true roadblock you want to avoid since retrieving this critical time for learning is impossible.

Fossilization is when a student makes the same error so many times in a second language that they are unable to correct it at later stages.  Picking up on this early is another benefit to finding a quality program. Teaching is a vocation that requires multiple years of training and second language instruction is no exception. 


One might assume if results are not evident in the beginning stages of a child’s home life acquisition that these will show up later when a child is truly motivated to speak Spanish for jobs, travel or forming new friendships.  

What is more likely to happen though is that the child’s level of Spanish will not match their age level and natural communicative interest.  If Spanish is not developing along with the child’s cognitive capacities then a gap exists.  To avoid this interruption in the language learning process quality programs would be able to show evidence of progressing students gradually through more and more challenging activities that include reading, writing and use of grammatical structures.  

There is a way to determine if your child is being taught using  proven strategies of acquisition. 
Good teachers will design and implement activities in class to practice language through a variety of learning styles that address the diverse needs of all the students.  This includes using rhythm, movement, visuals, gestures, acting, reading, writing, presentation skills, art and more.


When living in a Spanish speaking country for a number of years an English speaker will have context rich interactions making it possible to reach a communicative level even if their education was limited to speech only.  

Simple measures to overcome obstacles
Take simple measures to overcome obstacles.

Not so though for children living in the US.  To acquire Spanish in this English speaking culture requires design and planning to create meaningful, ‘artificial’, context.  Children here will be underserved from well meaning instructors that use ineffective strategies to guide their learning.  If you can discern what learning strategies are being employed you will have a sense of what results are possible. 


In the home, where a combination of English and Spanish is spoken, if reading and writing in Spanish is not introduced then becoming fully bilingual is rather improbable

While not impossible, generally speaking, it´s unrealistic to expect your child to gravitate toward reading, writing, and grammar from home life exposure alone.

Just as in English, a progression through the stages of reading, writing and grammar is vital to student advancement and requires consistency.  Would you want your child to learn English but not how to read, write or spell?


It is not enough to just know a language in order to teach it for there are fundamental teaching techniques that make a critical difference to the child’s ability to acquire Spanish.

What can you do to ensure that the ‘teacher’ is helping your child to internalize Spanish and not just hear it 

First notice if they are using different teaching techniques?  Notice if the main focus seems to be on comprehension? Pay attention to the types of activities and in which way the teacher is interacting with your child. If it is a lot of talking at the child then it is highly likely the child is not given the opportunity to internalize the language.


Motivation for speaking Spanish goes hand in hand with building up comprehension through dynamic speaking practice. The good language teacher will employ activities that boasts a range of diverse activities that are developmentally appropriate.

An overwhelming number of children whose nannies and parents are native speakers are faced with a phenomenon where the child is unmotivated to speak Spanish with them and this becomes a consistent home life struggle.

Social learning one key to success.
Social learning one key to success.

It is around preschool age when a child becomes disenchanted with speaking most likely because they form attachments with their new teachers and friends and notice that Spanish is not a language of choice among them.  Most children are not going to embrace the opportunity to stand out and be different.  Language development at this age is going through rapid advances and without proper reinforcement Spanish acquisition will suffer. 

When evaluating a class, teacher, or program you are looking to see if this dynamic is slowly turning around with positive associations created through natural opportunities to include Spanish instruction in ways that take advantage of preschoolers natural curiosity about their world and strong proclivity for social engagement.

For the preschool age child all activities and class routines must include speaking so that it becomes a natural part of the language learning environment just as it is in English.  

There are ways to study, experience, and live the richness of a second language within a classroom setting, but a laymen may be hard pressed to create such a balance. 

Keeping motivation and interest broadening for the child is so important and by introducing new material gradually and systematically.  Doing this in peer group settings enables a child to gain confidence and increase their joy in using Spanish.

Having fun together with friends in Spanish programs.
Having fun together with friends in Spanish programs boosts confidence in speaking.


 There are options available to find qualified teachers, or to connect with a program that can provide training, curriculum, materials, manuals, oversight and support.

 Imagine if our schools employed unskilled Math, Science and English language teachers? Unacceptable of course and the same should go for your children’s second language education. In most countries second language development receives a lot of attention and is an early years standard next to all other core subjects.

As we endeavor to help you sidestep the time and money drain that can occur during your child’s most productive language learning years we rely on you to share your experiences with us as well.  

I encourage you to read our next blog in this series, “Stages of Second Language Learning”, in which we discuss what are fair assessments of what you can expect your child to be able to do at each of these stages.

Through your continued self education on this topic you will gain a critical awareness that improves your ability to evaluate programs and teachers and your child’s progress toward bilingualism. 

—-Your KPY Team

SPECIAL EVENT NOTE for: Los Angeles Families: Please join us for an in depth talk on this topic: “The Science Behind Learning a Second Language”


Cartoon Face of man with a big mouth. His tongue sticks out. He is hungry

DAY: Friday, Nov. 4th

TIME: 9:30  – 10:30 am 

PLACE: Silverlake Ind. Jewish Community Center  1110 Bates Ave.

FEE: $10 per person or a couple

REGISTRATION LINK: Click here to register.

Speaker: Cristina Rubio Hignett

One year ago Ms. Rubio-Hignett relocated to LA from Valencia, Spain where she was teaching and creating programs for native Spanish speaking students to learn English.

Ms. Rubio-Hignett has a double B.A. in Hispanic Literature and Linguistics (University of Pittsburgh) and a Master in Applied Linguistics specializing in Teaching Spanish as a Foreign Language (Universidad de Jaén, Spain).

After graduating university, she spent a summer teaching Spanish in Nicaragua and then moved to Spain where she continued to expand her skills as a foreign language teacher (Spanish and ESL).  In the process, she has written six foreign language textbooks, taught for ten years, developed curriculum for after school activities, study abroad programs and summer camps.

Last November she presented her research about Spanish-USA exchange programs at the American Council of Teachers of Foreign Languages Conference.

Now, after having lived in Spain for almost a decade, she is passionate about sharing her love of Spanish language and culture here in the US.

Ms. Rubio-Hignett holds firmly to the belief that communication is the key to understanding others, achieving personal goals, and above all, having fun!  Teaching others to have this opportunity is rewarding personally and professionally.

*Be our guest : Bring a friend and we waive one entry fee of $10.  Funds raised go toward our camp scholarship fund.


Our Super Teaching Team of Summer Spanish Camp Counselors Venice, CA


¡Hola! I am delighted to introduce our team of counselors for our Camp Aventura summer camp season at Venice Lutheran School  in Venice, CA starting 7/11/16.

It has been my pleasure to work closely with each of them.   They are warm, intelligent, caring, creative, fun, adventurous, hard working and skillful.

Remember counselors will only speak to you in Spanish, so please direct your inquiries if in English to myself or Matt (our asst. site director).  No matter what group your camper is in they will get to meet everyone!

Thanks again for being a part of our Kallpachay family!

Miriam Epstein, Site Director/ Owner and co-founder Kallachay SPANISH Immersion


Cristina Rubio Hignett

I am delighted to be lead teacher trainer, curriculum designer and counselor for Kallpachay. Nine months ago I moved to LA from Valencia, Spain where I was teaching and creating programs for students to learn English.

I have a double B.A. in Hispanic Literature and Linguistics (University of Pittsburgh) and a Master in Applied Linguistics specializing in Teaching Spanish as a Foreign Language (Universidad de Jaén, Spain).

After graduating university, I spent a summer teaching Spanish in Nicaragua and moved to Spain where I continued to expand my skills as a foreign language teacher (Spanish and ESL).  In the process, I have written six foreign language textbooks, taught for ten years, developed curriculum for after school activities, study abroad programs and summer camps.

Last year I began work on a research project about Spanish-USA exchange programs that I presented at the American Council of Teachers of Foreign Languages conference this past November.

Now, after having lived in Spain for almost a decade, it is exciting to be back in the US to share my love of the Spanish language and its culture that I am so passionate about.  I enjoy taking my dog on daily outings to the local park, traveling and reading.

Communication is the key to understanding others, achieving personal goals, and above all, having fun!  Teaching others to have this opportunity is rewarding.  


Sandra Rios

I  am currently a Special Ed. assistant at a bilingual school. I have been in the field of special education working with children TK – 5th, and it is the best job ever!

I have over 5 years experience working with children from newborn – 10 and am currently finishing up school studying early childhood and special education. I am excited to finish to explore further my passions in the field of education.

Aside from working with special needs, I also tutor in Spanish across a wide range of topics. I am a native Spanish speaker from Mexico.

  I am looking forward to working with your children this summer. We will have a lot of fun and I will do my part to make this a memorable experience for all of our campers.


Mildred Martinez

I grew up in Mexico where I  attended university majoring in Business and Hospitality. I am currently completing a degree for Math secondary level teaching at Cal State Northridge.  Over the past few years I have been tutoring children of all ages and levels in math.

 I love working with children and am thrilled to give Kallpachay campers  the opportunity  to learn and advance in their Spanish skills. It is one of the greatest gifts a child can receive because it will expand their opportunities.  

I enjoy traveling, taking pictures, doing crafts and gardening in my free  time.

This summer is going to be a fun and rewarding experience for my campers and I can’t wait to meet all of them.


Marcia Bautista 

I arrived in LA from El Salvador in 2007 and have been a teacher in K- 4th bilingual programs since 2000. I have also worked as an intervention paraprofessional in special education. Last year I was on the resource team at Larchmont Charter Middle School. Next year I will be the lead Kinder teacher at Camino Nuevo charter school. I am finishing the UC San Diego Extension program for credentialing.  

In my free time I like to dance, do zumba, play basketball and soccer too. I love working with kids, especially in Spanish Immersion programs because teaching Spanish and sharing my culture makes me feel at home!!    This will be my third summer teaching as a Kallpachay camp counselor.



Adrian Velazquez

I was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley, my parents are from Mexico. From as early as I can remember I had an interest in art.  It all began when my uncles gifted me small drawings they made.  I noticed the admiration they received for their talents and was delighted when my art received the same attention.  What began as a simple hobby has become my chosen profession.

In my position as an after school group leader for the past four years I am rewarded by being a positive influence on my students and it warms my heart to know I am paying it forward from my time as a student in the very same enrichment programs.  

Working with children inspired me to switch majors from graphic design to art education.  I am a recent graduate of Cal State Northridge with a BA in Art and I plan to obtain my teaching credential and continue for my Masters in Art Education.  I am thrilled that I can guide others to learn the joys of education through the arts.

In my spare time I like to play sports, practice the saxophone, and read.  

Elizabeth Lopez

I am a student at West Los Angeles College studying child development and plan to be a teacher one day.  My experience working with children started as a volunteer assistant leader at my church where I coordinated group activities and led art and singing with the children.  

I was captain of my High School track team and I still make time to  run, make art and listen to music.  I am very excited to be a part of the Kallpachay support team.  I was born in LA and my parents are from Mexico.  I am fluent in Spanish and Italian.   

COUNSELORS in RANAS : (ages 4-5)
Marcia, Sandra, Elizabeth

Cristina, Mildred, Adrian






Speak Up! Finding Comfort In The Uncomfortable

Speak as often as you can the language you are learning to move out of discomfort and into comfort at a pace that quickens the learning process. Speaking in another language that you haven’t yet mastered can be terrifying. So many questions begin to swirl in your head. What if I sound stupid? What if they don’t understand? What will they think of me?

The answers are yes, no, and it’s not what you think. As in; you WILL sound stupid. It’s okay. They WILL NOT understand you. It’s also okay. And they WILL BE appreciative of your effort, and be able to help you out immensely. That is more than (1)

This is the proverbial elephant in the room: In order to learn how to speak another language, guess what? You have to actually speak! The biggest mistake beginners make is staying silent. The only way to learn is to fail, over and over again, until your failures become fewer and farther between.


Now, speaking is a task that is obviously easier said than done (please excuse the pun). It is much easier to simply listen – to movies, music, and other people’s conversations. And these are all very important and helpful, but the process of speaking is a naturally corrective one. It gives you the most important answers the quickest.

So instead of wondering how stupid you may sound, whether or not they will understand, and how they will react, I will tell you a little secret. When you speak, it will ABSOLUTELY be very difficult for ANYONE to understand. You will ABSOLUTELY be asked to repeat what you say – and this is extremely helpful for both you and the person you are speaking to. It forces you to think about your pronunciation and also learn perhaps the most important phrase for beginners. “Can you repeat that?”laugh

You will try again, perhaps slower, with a little more thought (your second sentence!). The native speaker will then correct you. The magical thing about speaking is that answers to questions you didn’t even realize you had will be answered. This is why the vocal student learns so much quicker than the silent one.

It all comes down to having the right attitude. This can be a painful process if you take yourself too seriously.  You are going to be saying things that don’t quite make sense.  You can either laugh or cry about it, and I would highly recommend laughing.


Finding comfort in the uncomfortable is a skill that is essential to learning a language. It isn’t easy, but it makes you realize how entertaining a language barrier can be. It also allows you to shift your attention from your poor language skills to notice what amazing empathy is directed your way. They will appreciate you trying to learn their language – because they know it isn’t easy.

It turns out that 9 times out of 10, people are appreciative that you are trying to speak their language, and are more than happy to help.


So start speaking, and watch your lesson plan unfold in front of you naturally!



Immerse Yourself! 5 Affordable Spanish Language Destinations

Hope you like use these suggestions for affordable Spanish language travel immersion experiences.  These are tried and true vacation options.

In our Medieval Spain camp unit, our campers time-travel back to the Middle ages, where thousands of castles were built as Christians, Muslims, and Jews battled for control of the Iberian Peninsula. Beautiful, expansive fortresses built in places like the Alhambra in Granada and La Mesquita in Cordoba live on to tell a rich story of the past.

However, we cannot all travel throughout time just yet. Still, one of the best ways to learn a language is to immerse yourself in the language and culture. Continue your Spanish learning adventure in the following 5 Spanish Language vacations, at a discount!

Colombia – I’m going to start things off with one of my favorite places in the world; Colombia. Colombia is as diverse a country as can possibly be; with a variety of people, cultures, and natural beauty.

From beautiful Carribean beaches and island culture on the cartagenaeastern Coast (Cartagena) to it’s huge, sprawling, and urban business capital (Bogota), there’s something for everyone.

My personal favorite is Medellin, which is a wonderful, green city. It is tucked between a mountain range and has amazing weather year round. If you crave wild life, the amazon river starts in Southern Colombia. This country has access to two oceans, the amazon river, the Andes mountain ranges, and immense wildlife. A round trip ticket from LAX to Bogota is only about $500, and food is cheap and delicious once you arrive.

Puerto Rico – There are two official languages of Puerto Rico -English and Spanish – which makes it a great place to visit for those learning Spanish.  A lot of people don’t realize that Puerto Rico is an American territory. That means you don’t need a passport to get there, and it also means that Puerto Ricans are Americans.


Puerto Rico is a beautiful island that is rich in history, and a very popular tourist destination. Round Trip tickets can go for less than $300 at some points in the year. And did you know that there is a rain forest in the middle of it? On top of that, the entire island is about as large as Los Angeles County. That means you can explore most of the island easily within a week. And yes, they use dollars, so no need to change your currency.


Miami – There is a reason that Miami is knomiamiwn as “The Capital of South America.” It is the gateway to the United States for many Spanish speaking foreigners – Colombians, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, and especially Cubans, flock to Miami in huge numbers. Miami is immensely hispanic, with over 60% of its population having hispanic background. That means that Miami’s culture is rich with delicious food and music. It also boasts some of the best beaches in the world, and you don’t even have to leave the United States. $400 can get you a roundtrip ticket from LAX to MIA.


Cuba – At last Cuba is open to U.S. citizens, and it is a beautiful destination for food, music, and beach lovers. Cuba is interesting because of its relationship to the US. Since it wasn’t open to the outside world for decades, it is saidcuba that walking around Cuba is almost like walking in a place that has been frozen in time. All of the cars are old American models, in mint condition. The architecture style is colonial, and people are EXTREMELY hard to understand, even if you speak Spanish. But take advantage of Cuba while you can. It’s a beautiful place to visit.


Mexico – Of course, this list wouldn’t be complete without our southern neighbors. A lot of people don’t realize that it only takes about 3 hours driving from LA to get to Mexico. I know people who live in San Diego that literally take an uber to the border ancabod walk across, which is the most time and cost effective way to experience Mexico. You can buy cheap tickets from TJ to more popular tourist destinations like Cabo and Cancun (sometimes less than $200). The truth is that you don’t need to go far for delicious food and beautiful beaches.

Our Spanish camp here in LA is a favorite option for families that are traveling but first want to acclimate their children to an immersion experience.


More from Devin Lester when he returns from holidays in Spain traveling for none other than some culture through fútbol.


Kids’ Choice: Language Game to Try at Home

We are proud to announce that Kallpachay’s Summer Camp is officially underway at Judson’s International School in Pasadena!

The private school campus has ample space indoor and outdoor, and has proven to be a great place for  Spanish adventures to begin.

Campers painted their own flowerpots.

The campers are having a blast thanks to the team efforts of lead teacher Angela Alverado and assistants Kristen Hollenback and Wendy Carrasco.

Angela, who was born and raised in Los Angeles, has been a life long educator. She has experience teaching in classrooms, summer camps, and after school programs, and is very excited about the progress she has already seen from her first group of campers this session.

Hand print birds hang above these happy campers!

Angela admits that, “the most difficult task as a Spanish teacher is the balancing act between having fun and ensuring that progress in Spanish acquisition is taking place.”

This is Angela’s first year working with Kallpachay’s immersion approach.  Using their tailor made curriculum she notices how having fun and learning are one in the same.

It’s the end of a camp day and Angela just finished leading the group in their favorite camp songs during the closing circle.  Some of the children are waiting to be picked up, and as Angela and I talk we watch as they congregate and direct themselves in a game that was taught earlier in the day.  Instead of rushing to play out in the yard they choose to extend their learning time.

Playing balloon’ Keep It Up’ game with Spanish words.

Campers are playing keep it up with a balloon and shouting out Spanish theme words they have been using all week.  They giggle and laugh as they chase the balloon waiting for their chance to chime in : loro, cocodrilo, mariposa, rana ….. Angela and I smile knowing that there is definitely learning going on.

The best way to learn anything, especially with children, is through games. That’s what is linking lessons throughout Kallpachay’s tailor made curriculum. Campers respond positively to this balance of-songs, arts and crafts, sports, activity pages and, most importantly, games.

Angela is also a talented face painter, and she explains all of this to me with her face painted as a tiger. It’s hard not to crack a smile.  Celebration day for this week’s theme includes animal face painting!

This camper poses in front of ‘la selva’ a mural of the forest this group created.

But she insists that the summer camp is not all fun and games. These kids are here to learn. As with most things, learning Spanish is not about talent or natural ability. It comes down to effort, time, and most importantly, consistency.

Children love to learn and be creative, but they have to do it in a structured and consistent environment. That’s why Kallpachay focuses on routines, and a daily structure that becomes second nature to students by the end of the week.

A camper reads what she wrote to Angela

“The ultimate goal is getting these kids comfortable speaking in Spanish to us, as teachers, and each other, as peers,” Angela says.

It’s only day three, and it looks like they’re off to a great start. Pasadena’s camp goes from 6/6 to 6/17, and then 7/11 to 8/05. There’s plenty of space available, so you can still sign up and have your child Play their way to Spanish too!

Have a wonderful day and summer.