“To have another language is to possess a second soul” – Charlemagne
When we first decided to move to the England we were really keen to spend a couple of months travelling through Spain before we arrived in the UK. We however, did not want to be those tourists that muddle their way through the country expecting everyone to speak English, we wanted to at least be able to try and speak to the locals in Spanish. So, we did our research and booked a 2 week Spanish course with AIL Language School in Madrid.
AIL offers lots of different learning programs, 24 to be exact, but we settled on a 10 day program, classes running on Mondays to Fridays for 5 hours a day. AIL were extremely helpful from the beginning; they organised a 1 bedroom apartment for us for 55€ a night, answered all of our questions via email and even sent us useful information about arriving in Spain and what to expect.
We arrived in Spain late on Friday night, so had the weekend to start exploring the city before starting classes on Monday. Read all about what we did in Madrid in our 10 things we recommend you do in Madrid blog.
Spanish Class Day One
Holy Moly, I really don’t even know how to put onto paper the way I felt on day one of our classes; totally confused, out of my depth, flabbergasted are all words that spring to mind. Have you ever been in a class where the teacher is talking at you but you just do not get the concept, AT ALL? In fact, they could be speaking in another language for all you know because you just cannot understand what they are trying to teach you? Well, this was literally my reality on day one at AIL. On reflection, I went into classes very naive and VERY unprepared. For those of you that are considering taking language classes be warned, they don’t speak any English…at all. In fact, the teachers would rather make a fool out of themselves trying to mime things such as dancing, skiing or even performing surgery, rather than giving you the world in English.
We had 8 people in our class; 5 people had previously taken Spanish classes, 1 Frenchman who found Spanish ‘easy’ as its quite similar to French and 2 people who had not spoken a word of Spanish in their life, myself and Andy, a 65 year old American man whom decided to learn Spanish because his daughter and grandchildren had recently moved to Madrid. I took much comfort in the fact that Andy must have been feeling the same way as I was; until about an hour into the class Andy dramatically slammed his books shut, stood up, spoke far too loudly, with a much thicker American accent than he had previously been speaking in. Announcing that this was far too hard for his old brain before storming out of the class, never to return.
Despite this rocky start, I have to say I leant a lot. Nothing, in the big scheme of the Spanish language, but I can now order food, ask for directions and have a very slow and simple conversation with people. It was a very challenging and tiring two weeks but I have loved trying to communicate with locals throughout Spain and I will definitely continue Spanish classes when we arrive in the UK.
Taking night Spanish classes over the past two years made it a very comfortable transition into the first two weeks of an intensive beginner Spanish program. Two weeks of classes was a great way for me to practice and consolidate the Spanish I had previously learnt. The classes have definitely motivated me to go back to Spain one day and complete the remaining 10 weeks of a beginner program…if money and time permits. In saying this, I do think that classes only give the basic framework of how to start learning a language. Having the opportunity to actually stay in a country for an extended period of time, whilst forcing yourself to communicate in the native language is definitely the best way is to learn. Maybe I’ll just have to stay in Spain for a year or so!
Would we recommend others to take Spanish classes with AIL?
Learning another language is not for the faint hearted. It’s an ongoing commitment, because you loose what you don’t use, it’s mentally challenging and at times it can feel extremely overwhelming. But, it’s rewarding and eye opening and we both believe its well worth the effort. We are by no means experts in the subject, but we have picked up a few tips along our travels that we think are useful. For those that are considering taking language classes before they start travelling through another country we say, do it! We do, however have a few suggestions:
- Language classes are expensive, so you probably wont get bang for your buck if you aren’t going to spend at least another month travelling through the country and communicating with locals.
- Learn the basics before your first class. There are loads of free apps and podcasts such as; Duo Lingo and Discover Spanish that can teach you basic words that will make you feel a lot more comfortable and confident on your first day of classes.
- Practice, practice, practice. If you are travelling with someone else set aside an hour a day where you only speak Spanish to each other, the only way to get better is to practice!
- Many language schools, including AIL offer courses that run for 5 hours a day or courses that run for 8 hours a day. We highly recommend only doing classes for half a day. This way, you still get an opportunity to explore the city, do an activity or just go home and rest after a big day of learning.