Learning Spanish

When we moved to Almunecar Spain in June 2019 it was evident we would need to learn Spanish if we were ever going to be able to talk with locals.  Almunecar is a traditional spanish town where the people speak mainly Spanish. Some people who work in local shops and restaurants have limited English, but Spanish is prominent.  Well of course! We are in Spain anyhow! I do want to point out though that our local bank (Banco Sabadel) and the local cell service company we dealt with (Orange) did have people who spoke English very well.  

We explored taking Spanish language lessons at a few schools in town but realized that the cost to keep up these classes was going to be somewhat significant for our budget.  So I went to the internet to see if there were any free online Spanish language classes and the first one to pop up was Duolingo (duolingo.com). I decided to sign up for the free version (with ads) and have been taking their lessons ever since.  At the date of writing this article I am now into exactly one month of taking daily Duolingo lessons. I receive daily email reminders and spend about 15 to 20 minutes each day taking their language lessons. There are various categories to go through such as Intro, Phrases, Travel, Family, Restaurant, Shopping, School and People.  The lessons take you through five levels of learning for each category. Once you complete the lessons in each of the five levels, and for all of the categories, the app moves you up another phase where the categories are more advanced and the lessons get a little harder. There are a total of 5 phases.

Both Mark and I have gotten a lot out of the lessons. I do want to point out that we did have some basic understanding of Spanish already at the time of signing up for the lessons.  Before the first lesson you will take a basic test which then configures the app for the first level.. Mark and I are now feeling more confident about having some basic knowledge of Spanish and are able to order food in restaurants now after just one month of learning the lessons on Duolingo.  We would like to take some classes with an instructor in person at some point, but for now this type of learning is working out very well for both of us.

What I love about this app is the style of teaching. It reminds me of the way we were taught how to read and write and speak english. You remember, don’t you? Those first grade reading guides where the story was, “See Dick run. Run Dick, run. See Dick with his dog Spot. See Dick and Spot.” Yes, this DuoLingo App is that basic and repetitive. You’ll not only be introduced to the words gradually and the grammar at a pace everyone can keep up with, but you also get to see how to use those funny little accents and spelling too.

Other features the app provides include adding friends to your watch list where you can see their progress and they can see yours. There are ‘Achievement’ awards too for things like getting through a lesson without mistakes, completing more lessons in a single day than planned, and more. And of course, there are bells, whistles, and sounds built in to keep you encouraged to keep going.

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Getting the FBI Background

After setting the appointment for the fingerprinting from fieldprint.com I went to the appointment on time. The location I chose was a camera store. They had the fieldprint fingerprinting machine there and after logging into the system they confirmed my appointment in the online portal. It tool less than 5 minutes to scan a full set of my prints. A few hours later I had an email letting me know my FBI report was ready for download.

The email confirmation contained a link for me to follow to get to my report. I logged into the system and was prompted to request a verification code. A few seconds after making the request I got an email with the code. From there it was a quick copy – paste and the online portal gave me the official FBI background report in a PDF format. I downloaded it to my computer. It was such good news to read the FBI did not have any criminal record on me.

Apostilling The FBI Background

Spain requires the FBI report to be apostilled by the U.S. State Department which is located in Washington D.C. To accomplish this from my location in Phoenix AZ I found monumentvisa.com provided the service. The website provides an online application, online payment, and a document upload where I was able to provide the pdf for my FBI report. Monument Visa will print the report and hand carry the FBI report to the State Department to make the apostille request. The State Department takes two days to complete the appostilling. After two days, Monument Visa retrieves the apostilled document and mails it to me. They have a few return options including a free, 3 day USPS with tracking, and for extra fee they can provide next day shipping.

I’ve completed the form, uploaded my FBI report, and made payment. A few hours later I had an email confirmation of the payment. Early the next morning I had an email from Monument Visa letting me know they had everything they needed for the appositilling and that they would be delivering the document to the State Department the next morning. And three days later, they sent me confirmation they had my apostilled documents and had mailed them. the email included the USPS tracking number.

Next blog I’ll let you know how it goes.

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Getting your extended stay Visa

There are a few steps to cover before you can get the extended stay Visa. Most of the consulates will require that you meet specific criteria which can be:

  1. FBI background check
  2. Financial stability
  3. Medical release
  4. Insurance
  5. Application
  6. Translations
  7. Appointment at the consulate

The first thing to do is set the appointment with the consulate. Most of them provide an online calendar. I couldn’t find anything less than 60 days out so you’ll have time to get all of the paperwork and legwork done. However, the FBI and Insurance requirements will take a long time to complete, and 60 days goes by pretty fast when you’re trying to get something done from the government. Apostilling these documents will take even longer. Once you have your appointment set, it’s time to get the FBI background report.

FBI Channeler

There are a few FBI channelers that can expedite the process. You can find a list of approved channelers on the FBI website, here. For my purpose and location I went with Fieldprint. I also liked their modern — online processing and scheduling system — better than many of the other services which were all done by traditional mail. The FBI report is sent in PDF to the email you registered. For some countries, that’s all you need is the report, but some will require apostilling. I’ll explain this process later.

The channeler company will schedule you for a fingerprinting appointment and once they scan your prints, you’ll need to complete the FBI request form. With Fieldprint, I completed the form online, than waited for them to approve the form. Within a day I received an email from them notifying me that I was approved and they provided a link to complete my appointment. I followed the link from the email and logged into the platform using the username and password I set up previously. There were a few more questions to complete for my height, weight, eye color, etc. before the appointment could be set. I chose the location closest to me that had Saturday appointments available, and set the date and time. After completing the payment ($50), I was finished. Fieldprint emailed me confirmation of the appointment, and another for the payment receipt.

I’ll cover the fingerprinting appointment in the next post.

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