The following is my article about a Spanish holiday course in Spain.
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Learning the Lingo...
Lacking inspiration for this summer's holiday? Philippa Lacroix
suggests taking a course to improve your language
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Like most people, I was less than gifted at languages at school
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although it probably had more to do with the so called academic
environment, than my ability (or lack of it). So when my best
friend Rachel suggested that we go to Spain to do a Spanish course,
I was immediately in two minds v would I be the tongue-tied ten year
old of yesteryear or would I roll my "r"s like all ragged rascals
can?. Holding back any reservations that I'd be no good at all,
Rachel persuaded me that it was a great opportunity to not only
acquire a new skill (my CV did need a bit of colour after all), but
it would also be an almost essential asset for all future global
escapades... (Spanish being the second most widely spoken language
in the world). Besides, she continued to reassure me, it would be a
culturally enriching experience and wouldn't I feel better knowing
that I hadn't wasted my holiday by lazing around on an overcrowded
beach somewhere? She had a point. Or two.
Learning a foreign language in the safety of an English classroom
isn't quite the same as actually living in the country and talking
to real live foreigners, as many failed conversations with the
waiter to understand what exactly is on the menu will prove. An
immersion type course is the best way to make a lot of progress in a
short space of time, whilst also enjoying a holiday of course.
Embarking on this holiday was beginning to seem like a remarkably
good idea, and so I grabbed the "toro" by both horns, and booked my
Of course, apart from a handful of words along the lines of "hola" I
knew no Spanish at alla I therefore enrolled in a beginners
course, and linguistically-lissom Rachel in the intermediate level,
with a school we had found on the Internet
(www.spanishlanguage.org). Weeks later on a warm sunny Monday in
June we joined a variety of fellow students from all over the world
in the picturesque town of Ciudad Rodrigo, in central Spain.
First impressions were good, yet it was obviously going to be
challenging. Ciudad Rodrigo is an ideal place to learn
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the majority of locals know very little English, unlike in most
larger towns or resorts, where you may splutter your question in the
local lingo only to find yourself being answered in fluent, although
accented, English. Yet here in Ciudad Rodrigo every encounter v
from asking the way to the ice cream shop to buying a stamp for my
postcard of the castle v proved to be a valuable opportunity to test
my newly acquired Spanish and no one, thankfully, replied in my own
mother tongue. The other important factor was being located in the
region of Castilla y Le+n v where "castillian" Spanish is spoken,
this is widely accepted to be the standard for good Spanish.
Accents and dialects vary a great deal in Spain, depending on where
you go. For example, the "s" in Andalucia is rarely pronounced,
whilst in Barcelona they speak Catalan v a completely different
language to what we know as Spanish.
The lessons held each morning were immensely enjoyable, and the
sincere efforts from my equally novice classmates really encouraged
me. We focused a lot on the practical side of the language, and
effective communication was the main theme. Rachel (having
completed A level Spanish many moons ago) was equally enthusiastic
about the progress she was making in her Intermediate class, and her
re-found fluency helped me cope when conversations were way beyond
my skills as a beginner! I felt my progress was swift though, but
not swift enough to avoid my embarrassment when I confused the
word "caballo" meaning horse, with "caballero" meaning gentleman. I
had wanted to say that I like riding horses... but it didn't quite
come out like that. My face turned a nice shade of puce a few
seconds after our Spanish teacher Isabel had kindly let me know why
she was laughing so hard, (fortunately she was proficient enough in
The classes were done by 2pm each day, so we had plenty of spare
time to practise what we had learned and to enjoy more typical
Spanish holidaymaking: swimming, sunbathing, and sampling tapas!
Again, the setting was a real delight, the town jammed full of
monumental historic buildings v mostly in sandstone, glowing warmly
in the evening sun. The tranquil ambience was a total escape from
London's rush and stress, and the "ma
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