Matt Yarmey has been taking Spanish classes at the Language Academy since September 2017. Somewhere along the way we found out that he was the owner of a craft coffee business in Charlotte called so I decided to talk to him about his business and his experience with his classes. If you are interested in finding out more about what Matt does you can visit his website: https://pureintentionscoffee.com/.
You can purchase his coffee online and there’s free shipping on orders over $50. Currently I’m bugging him about doing a coffee related event for us so stay tuned for details about that, but for now you can read his responses to my questions below:
Tell us a little about yourself. What you do for work and for fun? How long have you lived in Charlotte? What’s something most people might not know about you?
I am the Founder and Director of Coffee at Pure Intentions Coffee, a wholesale specialty coffee and cold brew provider in Charlotte. The company was actually started back in 2011 as a hobby of mine, something I did for fun to share with friends and family. It grew to where we are now thanks to Charlotte’s thirst for craft products and great service. For fun, I really enjoy reading books by Tom Robbins and David Foster Wallace, and hanging out with my future wife and our little puppy. Something people may not know about me is that I have lived in Charlotte three different times. The first time being when I was born!
What made you decide to take Spanish classes? Is it for business, for fun, or both?
I am lucky to be operating a business in the coffee industry in the US, and since we are a top consuming country, most other countries bend to our way of doing business including our language. This is unfortunate because much of the heritage, work-ethic, and the stories behind the product are lost due to the inability of handlers like me to speak with the producers and farmers. After interacting with a few farmers in person at our roastery in Charlotte, I realized how much it meant to them to be able to communicate their passions and stories to the people working with their coffee – but also how difficult it was to try and get their message across in an unfamiliar language. I wanted to be able to communicate with the people creating the product I depend on in a manner that respected their history, their hard work, and their commitment. Even now with my limited conversational abilities, being able to speak basic sentences and share a laugh in these producers’ native language has proven to create much deeper connections and instill a sense that we’re in this together. I can’t wait until I am able to describe more complex ideas and learn more industry specific terminology to continue these conversations at the next level.
Have you taken classes before and how do your current classes compare?
My only experience with foreign languages previous to this was in classes in school. While these classes have a similar structure with grammatical rules, sentence structure, and conjugations, the atmosphere is less strict and is more focused on the goals of the student, not passing a test.
What can you tell us about your teacher?
Leisy is masterful at creating learning plans that have an immediate effect on the way I interpret the language learning process. She is able to understand my challenges, my strong points, and create exercises or ask questions that I feel comfortable approaching but also creating a learning opportunity in the same breath. Leisy has been patient with areas of frustration for me, and excited when I have breakthroughs. She shares in the enthusiasm when I report back that I’ve had a successful real-world interaction entirely en español, and holds me accountable to setting my standards even higher and to push myself to learn. I highly recommend Leisy as a maestra de español.
Have you had any interactions outside of class with Spanish speaking people either locally or when travelling?
I attempt to use my newly acquired skills in everyday life when interacting with Spanish-speaking people at my customer accounts, at restaurants, or just in general. I’ve had some good success, and also some failures, but in general these real-life experiences are the things that really solidify the classroom lessons. The biggest initial challenge for me was learning how to take the lessons on paper and create meaningful and culturally appropriate conversations with them. When we speak English we don’t always sound like a dictionary or English teacher – so creating that same colloquial affect was a hurdle that I am learning to overcome with the help of my teacher and continued practice, practice, practice! Listening to Spanish radio and following Spanish-speaking social media accounts help a lot too. I recently had a great experience when, while visiting Seattle for a coffee industry Expo, I was able to have a complete conversation in Spanish with the owner of a coffee farm from Ecuador. It was a basic conversation, but he told me about how long his farm has been around and how beautiful it was. I responded that his coffee trees looked like they were ready to pick and that I would love to come visit his farm and help him harvest next season. It was a great moment where my head was actually able to keep up with the conversation for the first time. I hope to have more experiences like that soon.
What advice do you have for beginning students or for someone considering language lessons?
It is a commitment, but it is very rewarding. Learning a new language can open your mind up to many things you don’t think about on a daily basis including experiencing a different culture without having to travel, sharing deeper experiences with people you may not have interacted with otherwise, and even making you think more critically about your language choices in your native tongue. Not every class is a good class – sometimes I am tired from work and didn’t get to invest as much time in the homework as I hoped, and my brain doesn’t seem to want to translate anymore. But for every day like that, there are many more days where I am excited to learn, and the new words and phrases I learn flow easily and freely. Keep at it, don’t get discouraged, practice, read, and listen as much as you can!
Craig Snyder is the Owner and President of The Language Academy of the Carolinas, Inc.