Before I had bought tickets for my travels I decided that I needed to learn some Spanish in order to not be completely lost when I arrived in South America. I started my lessons with Esther in Gateshead and studied, one lesson a week, for 90minutes. Given I only had three months available I was realistic in what I could achieve – my aim was to simply become confident enough that when I arrived in South America, I wasn’t completely lost. To that extent Esther concentrated on teaching me the basic grammar so that I could understand what people were saying, although we did miss out a lot of vocabulary – the idea was that I can pick that up easily, but the grammar is more important.
For me, the grammar aspect is difficult. English language was never a strong point in school, so trying to learn the structure of a foreign language when not really understanding your own is a bit of a nightmare. I still don’t understand the intricacies of masculine and feminine, changing of the nouns and verbs depending on tense… It’s all, well, foreign!
When I arrived in Cusco I was able to pronounce words reasonably, ask for things in restaurants, understand monies and various other little bits and bobs, but still relied on English. my main problem was that whilst I could ask for something I couldn’t understand the answer. Things got better as I practiced, but after a month of travelling I decided that a booster course and learning some more words would be advantageous.
I remembered reading Never Ending Voyages blog post on a Spanish Schools in Sucre so after re-reading the post and wandering around, chatting to different schools and asking various Gringo’s I decided on Bolivian Spanish School. My teacher was a gent called Abel and after the first couple of lessons where he identified my skill level, we quickly moved on to vocab and played games such as Pictionary and memory games whilst using standard Grammar as a basis for the lessons.
I only took 7 lessons of 3 hours a time (although one was shortened to 1.5hours so that I could go on a trek to the Crater and dinosaur footprints) and since I re-enforcing that which I knew things progressed very nicely! Half way through I was much more confident in chatting and listening and was having great conversations with Abel in Spanglish (this was more down to the lack of my vocab than anything else).
Towards the end of the course I had lessons in Salsa dancing and ended up meeting the other members of the school – they were all slightly older than the norm (more my age) and really great people. It was great as a couple of really great nights out ensued! My last lesson consisted of me making Apple Crumble, looking at pictures, movies etc and having conversations in Spanglish.
Its been a great help as whilst Esther laid the foundations, Abel reminded me of them and it’s sitting in my memory much better now! I’m even holding conversations with locals in Spanish!
My lessons were B$46 (£4) an hour and everything else was paid for. I had to confirm the hours with the staff as they tried to overcharge me, but it all was worked out and I left a happy bunny. I can recommend the school.
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