Bless the Late-Blooming Bilinguals

When older adults learn another language, they don’t have the advantages of toddlers, whose minds are wired to learn two or three languages simultaneously. Nor do they have the flexibility of young adults who can acquire a native-sounding accent. But this episode of America the Bilingual tells the story of adults who deploy other abilities that come with age and experience. Late-blooming bilinguals are not only capable of learning languages, but capable also of combining their language skills with a measure of wisdom in order to deliver great blessings to others.

America the Bilingual is a storytelling podcast for people who think bilingualism is good for themselves, for their families, and for their country.

Listen on iTunes by clicking here: America the Bilingual by Steve Leveen on iTunes or on SoundCloud: here. I’ll let you know about future episodes on Twitter as well.

Scroll down to read more about the Late-Blooming Bilinguals
you’ll meet in this episode.

Robin Loving holding two girls

Robin Loving answering her vision, “Go help girls.”

She went to help girls

At age 51, Robin Loving sold her public relations business in Austin, Texas, sold her home and her furniture, and drove south. She didn’t stop until she reached San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

Many expats living in San Miguel help out with local charities, of which there are more than 100, but Robin took it to an extreme. After experiencing a strange vision, (“and I don’t get visions,”) she began working with Santa Julia, a Casa Hogar that cares for girls in the most need.

Today Robin is the president of Jovenes Adelante, which provides university scholarships to economically challenged students from San Miguel de Allende.

Robin with the Santa Julia family, 2011

Robin with the Santa Julia family, 2011

“The world is better for having Jennifer Lawson”

Since we recorded our interview with Jennifer Lawson for this episode, she has made good on her promise to return to San Miguel to continue her disciplined learning of Spanish. She wrote:

Jennifer Lawson at Frida Kahlo’s House, Mexico City

Jennifer Lawson at Frida Kahlo’s House, Mexico City

I went back to San Miguel for two weeks this past August, following a one-week visit to Panama, and I’m planning to return to San Miguel de Allende in February for five weeks. I am re-enrolling in the Intensive Immersive class again in San Miguel and will stay with a Mexican family for a month.

Jennifer Lawson is modeling the “dissolving” of traditional retirement that Ann MacDougall (see below) advocates. Jennifer is moderating a panel at the Library of Congress celebrating the history of public broadcasting. And for Duke University, she is helping to collect and develop oral histories of civil rights activists.

While home in Washington, D.C., Jennifer has been conversing for 90 minutes, twice a week via Skype with a Spanish tutor she met while in San Miguel. She also meets with a Spanish conversation group in D.C.

Lori and Steve Leveen with Warren Hardy

Lori and Steve Leveen with Warren Hardy (center) at his school in San Miguel

More Mexicans leave than arrive in the U.S.

In a lecture at Stanford in 2016, professor and Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David Kennedy, who leads the Bill Lane Center for the American West, said that the great era of Mexicans coming to the US may already be over. He cited the declining birth rate in Mexico as one key factor. Data from PEW puts numbers on this decline.

Connecting at the heart

Warren Hardy had a language school in the US but sold it and decided to move to San Miguel in 1990. Together with his wife, Tuli, he has been running the Warren Hardy language school ever since. In 2000 they both became Mexican citizens.

“We’re still proud American citizens,” says Warren. “We’re fortunate to have dual citizenship. When you live abroad for so many years, one has to engage and be a part of life. It was just a natural part of the immigration process that, at that point, we became citizens.” He advises his students to “smile and use the courtesies. People will connect with you, the fear will go away, and you’ll find yourself connecting at the heart.”

“Dissolving” old ideas of retirement at

Ann MacDougall had a successful career with the Acumen Fund and at PricewaterhouseCoopers, where she spent five years in Paris as Global Deputy General Counsel and became fluent in French (along with her husband and two daughters).

Ann MacDougall, president of

In 2013, Ann was a Fellow in the Harvard Advanced Leadership Initiative before being tapped to be president of

She wrote a recent column for USA Today on the subject of persistent ageism in the United States, and what is being done to combat it.


My thanks to Mark Ford and Jennifer Stevens of International Living for introducing me to Warren Hardy and his school.

The America the Bilingual podcast is part of the Lead with Languages campaign of ACTFL — The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages.

This episode was written by me, Steve Leveen, our producer Fernando Hernández, who also does our sound design and mixing, and our associate producer, Beckie Rankin. Our brand and editorial director is Mim Harrison. Graphic arts are created by Carlos Plaza Design Studio.

Music in this episode with a Creative Commons Attribution License by:

Kevin Macleod — Quasi Motion

Francisco Penilla — Chicle Bombita

Lee Rosevere — More on That LaterSad Marimba PlanetKeeping Stuff TogetherNew Day.

Komiku — Action discovery

Jorge Mario Zuleta — IntroTemporal

Fernando Air-Nandez, No es un Corrido

Loyalty Freak Music — People are spinning
Nctrnm —In Medias Res

Fernando Air-Nandez — No es un Corrido