Barcelona Hotels Articles

July 14, 2010

Learning Spanish – Crash and Burn or Fly and Learn!

What are your needs? Why do you want to learn Spanish?

Why do you want to learn Spanish? For fun or for real? Do you just want to learn the basics of the language just for fun? Or do you want to learn to speak, read and write Spanish fluently so that you can live and work in a Spanish speaking country? This is important to the way you approach your Spanish classes and to which classes you choose.

The “just for fun” students

If it’s just for fun – what I call “travel Spanish,” then I would not recommend intensive classes at all. The intensive classes are designed for people, who want to learn a great deal in a very short period of time. These classes are far from fun. Try instead and find a Spanish course that is six to ten hours a week. And start by enrolling for a couple of weeks. That should be enough to get a feel for the Spanish language and learn the basic grammar.

Then when you have done your homework, I would arm myself with a good tourist phrase book and a wide smile and head out into the streets of Barcelona. You will quickly learn a few basics, that you can use for travelling and meeting people, and have a fun time.

The “serious” students

If your goal is to learn to speak Spanish more fluently, usually because you want to live and work in Spain or another Spanish speaking country, then you must take a far more serious approach to your Spanish classes. Here are some tips for getting the most of intensive Spanish classes, so that you will flourish and learn and not crash and burn.

Don’t look for the easy route!

Many people, who come to Spain to live and work, do not really learn Spanish because they “want” to. They learn because they “need” to. So naturally they look for an easy way to learn. A fast way. A painless way. Sorry to disappoint you. There is no easy way. In other words – No pain no Spain. (Ouch… bad pun, but I could not resist it! :-) Here are a few tips for the “serious” Spanish students.

Do it now!

If you are learning Spanish because you need to, then it will never be much fun, so my advice is to get the hard part over with and learn as much Spanish as you can at the beginning of your stay in Spain. Once you are settled in, working full-time and have an active social life, then you will not have time or inclination to take many intensive Spanish courses. Most Spanish schools in Barcelona offer 4 hours a day intensive courses either in the morning or afternoon. Just sign up for 4 or 8 weeks.

Be prepared for hard work.

Do not underestimate the effort needed. The pace is gruelling and you will need to show up every day to keep up. Almost all Spanish schools in Barcelona and Spain use the immersion technique, which means that everything in the classroom is in Spanish, all the time, even for beginners, even on the first day! There are not even explanations in English in the text books. This means lots of concentration and home study every day!

Don’t overlook the grammar.

Speaking a language without using grammar is like building a house without a foundation. A strong foundation of grammar will ensure, that you can keep adding more levels to your “Spanish” building. But a bad foundation makes a house of cards and one day your building will topple. Grammar is kind of boring and hard work. But a “I don’t need grammar” attitude is a short term, lazy solution. Grammar is half the language and you will end up speaking “half” Spanish, if you don’t learn it from the first day.

Prepare for your Spanish course.

Unless you have some knowledge of language similar to Spanish, (Portuguese, Italian, French) or have a good knowledge of your own language and its grammar then I would recommend preparing a little for an intensive Spanish course in Spain.

You could consider having a few Spanish lessons in your home country. The teacher’s explanations and instructions will probably be in your own language, just like in primary school. I would also recommend that you buy a Spanish study book in English (or your own language) that explains Spanish grammar and do a little bit of self-study before your start your class.

When you start your Spanish course in Barcelona, you might invest in a few extra private lessons with a Spanish teacher, who speaks English and who can explain a few basic things in English, if you are having trouble following the course. The Spanish school in Barcelona, that you have chosen should be able to help you with this.

Daily study tips for better results .

Show up for all classes! Make it your goal.

Do your homework. Every day. An effective rule is half the time at home as you spend at the Spanish school.

Compete with yourself, not with your classmates. If you are in trouble or falling behind in your Spanish classes then talk to your teacher.

Clear your head and calendar. Barcelona is a party town and your friends from back home will undoubtedly announce their arrival for fun filled party weekends. Try and postpone most parties until you have finished your Spanish course. There just isn’t time for it if you want to keep up.

Buy the books if possible so that you can make your own notes in them and keep them for future reference.

Buy a good dictionary, but not too big and heavy. A small, but good quality pocket dictionary is better investment, because you will be carrying it a lot!

Be realistic and you won’t be disappointed.

It will feel as if you are hardly learning anything in the beginning weeks no matter how hard you study. This is because Spanish is usually spoken at light speed and your untrained ear for the language and weak conversation skills are just not up to the challenge. Don’t worry. It will come.

But don’t overestimate the results of a few weeks of intensive Spanish classes either. Many people assume they will be able to speak fluent Spanish a matter of weeks. They usually book a 4 week Spanish course. Sorry to burst that bubble too. In 1 month you can really learn a lot, especially if you put in the work and show up every day. At the end of that period you will be able to have short conversations and understand a lot. But to speak really fluent Spanish? 6 months to a year is more realistic, and 2 months is the minimum for a really good start!


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