In this article I will discuss in more detail what the Spanish lessons were like that I attended for two weeks while I was travelling through Antigua, Guatemala. I will also explain in what ways I benefited from the lessons and how they helped me move one step further towards my goal to learn the Spanish language. The school I went to was well established. Apart from Spanish lessons the school also gave students the opportunity to participate in group excursions and they also organised accommodation where students could live with a local family for the duration of their studies.
I intend to talk more about the benefits of home-stays in one of my future articles. The first thing that impressed me about the school I went to and which was actually the norm in most of the schools that I looked at, was that all lessons were conducted one-on-one. Each student had a dedicated teacher.
You might think that this would be expensive but you will be surprised at just how affordable it is! Learning more about the local economy will open your eyes as to why this is, but this is another story! (Lessons will always be cheaper if you book them on your travels. Like most things it really isn't necessary to book in advance before you start your travels!) Not all the teachers at the school were proficient in English but my teacher was. This was quite important. Even though all my lessons were conducted in Spanish there were times where I just couldn't understand what was being explained to me.
Sometimes my teacher had to explain things in English! Having the lessons conducted as much as possible in Spanish is also quite important however. The more exposure you get to hearing and trying to understand true Spanish / Latin American dialects the better. It might be more difficult and certainly more frustrating but it will definitely pay off in the long run. So, what were my lessons like? At the beginning my teacher asked me what I had studied before and what I thought my current level of Spanish was. Actually it didn't really matter what I thought too much as my teacher was able to quickly gauge what my level of proficiency was just my talking to me for a while.
My teacher didn't just tell me what he was going to teach me either. He asked me what I wanted to know and what I needed further understanding on. At the end of a discussion that included some basic get to know each other conversations we decided on a general study plan that we would follow over the next couple of weeks.
Of course it depends on the individual as to what exactly you might want to cover, but for me, I/we decided, that going over all of the basics of Spanish grammar would be beneficial. I had already studied most of what we were to discuss already, but my knowledge was full of holes. I needed to have the holes filled and my brain refreshed.
The following is a short summary of what we covered. 1 - Subject personal pronouns (I, he, she, we etc) 2 - The verbs 'ser' and 'estar' (to be) - Used with the 'gerundio' (verbs ending in -ing in English) 3 - Regular and irregular verb formations (present, past and future simple tenses) 4 - All other verb tenses (concentrating on the more usual ones) 5 - Gender - Nouns and Adjectives and word order of. 6 - Direct and indirect object pronouns (me, him, her, it etc) 7 - Pronunciation 8 - Prepositions (to, at, in, on etc), and conjunctions (and, but, or, if etc) 9 - Different types of words - Definitions and how they are used in speech. Studying all of the things listed above a second time was invaluable for me. I was benefiting in a number of different ways.
I was able to validate the things I thought I already knew, I was being corrected on the things I thought I already knew but didn't, I was remembering things I had learnt at some point in the past but had forgotten about, I was remembering things I had read about before but had never actually used and I think more importantly than anything else I felt like I everything for the first time was falling into place. The language seemed to make sense to me! My teacher helped me achieve a far better understanding of Spanish grammar than I had had previously. Another reason why having a personal tutor helped me to do this was that I was able to bombard him with questions about why certain things were the way they were. In a very short space of time I had answers to questions that I had pondered over by myself for a long while.
Even though Spanish grammar is for the most part very logical I realised more than ever that I needed to have an open mind when learning Spanish in general. It is not always a case of translating one word for another from English to Spanish or vice versa. The structure of English and Spanish grammar is often very different. Sometimes you just have to accept this and try not to worry about why the language is structured in the way that it is! My grammar studies were conducted in the mornings, I think for about 4 hours a day with as many breaks as was necessary. Each evening after class I used to write up my notes from that mornings lesson into something that was more legible. Although this might be the last thing you want to do I think it helps because you are re-affirming everything you learnt that day and are writing things down on paper in way that makes sense to you.
For a long time afterwards I used my notes to refer back to! In my next article I intend to talk more about the two weeks I spent in Antigua, Guatemala attending Spanish classes. In particular I will talk about the benefits of conversational lessons.
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