Alvaro and Abraham: Bridging Language Barriers

January 25, 2018

Photo courtesy of Alvaro Sanchez Diaz

By Andrea Lopez-Villafaña

Co-founders of a language learning platform, Alvaro Sanchez Diaz and Abraham Arechiga Arias, found themselves in careers unrelated to education, but were deeply interested in bridging the language barriers that they witnessed at work.

Based off their own experiences, the pair decided to create Spanish 55, an online personalized Spanish course for professionals who are interested in learning Spanish for work or travel.

“In a classroom setting it is called a ‘teacher centered approach’ but with us it is a ‘student centered approach’ because classes are one on one,” Sanchez Diaz said.

Both born in the United States, Sanchez Diaz and Arechiga Arias lived part of their lives in Mexico where they learned the language and culture of the country, which has formed them into completely bilingual and bicultural individuals.

Not only did the pair share a similar background but they also shared a nostalgic feeling toward Mexico when living in the U.S.

“Although there is a lot of people like you, especially in California, it is not like being in Mexico,” Sanchez Diaz said. “You always have this nostalgia of where you are from and the feeling of never wanting to forget it.”

While attending San Diego State University, Sanchez Diaz, who attended for a year, and Arechiga Arias developed a close friendship from their shared experiences of growing up in the binational region of California and Baja California.

Arechiga Arias graduated from SDSU with a bachelor’s degree in business administration with an emphasis in finance. During his time at the university, Arechiga Arias tutored students in Spanish, which would later influence the creation of Spanish 55.

Sanchez Diaz received a bachelor’s degree from California State University Northridge in civil engineering.

When he began working in construction as a project engineer he began to see how language barriers were affecting the efficiency.

“I became aware of the communication barrier that existed between site workers and members of the management team,” Sanchez Diaz said. “I definitely saw that the relationship was not the best or that it there could be more productivity or that there could be more unity as a team.”

Arechiga Arias noticed those same barriers at his job, and the pair shared their observations with each other when they would Facetime or Skype while Sanchez Diaz was in San Francisco and Arechiga Arias worked in San Diego.

Through those long distance calls was how Spanish 55 was born, and has now been operating for almost three years.

Arechiga Arias and Sanchez Diaz pictured an online Spanish class through which a student and teacher would interact via Skype.

“We are very meticulous with the service, with the quality of what we do, and not only in the service that we provide but also with what we do daily,” Sanchez Diaz said. “We selected people who had the same values, in this case the teachers.”

They work with teachers from Tijuana because they wanted the language and culture that their students are being exposed to be the most authentic possible, Sanchez Diaz said.

“On the border we consider that we have the ideal teachers,” he added.

Having a personalized teaching approach allows the teachers to focus on the needs of the student based on their level of understanding of the language, their professional environment, and social environment.

“We get a lot of attention from professionals in the area of healthcare, mainly in San Diego and South California, because obviously there is a large influence of Mexicans, particularly who are patients in the State,” Sanchez Diaz said.

He said they are touched by the dedication of those individuals to give their patients better care.

They also work with people in a variety of professional fields like construction, business, social workers, and many more.

Sanchez Diaz said they never imagined that they would fall into something that involved their culture, history, and language, and to combine it with something that benefits others.

“At the end of the day, it is a service that is offered at a distance, I believe that our personable approach and warm culture keeps people motivated to learn,” Sanchez Diaz said.

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