Last week I took the plunge and signed up for an intensive Spanish language course at Escuela Bellavista. Since I arrived I have been listening to the Michel Thomas Spanish Audiobooks, hoping that this would be enough to get me by. In recent weeks it has become apparent that it is not enough. This is for two reasons. The first is time. Oddly, finding 1 hour a day to take out to listen to an audiobook is very hard. It’s always pushed to the bottom of the list of important things that need to be done and then, when you finally have time, it’s the end of the day and you’re too tired to learn. Secondly, although the audiobooks are really fantastic at teaching grammar, they do not give you the two most important things for learning a new language, practice and decent vocabulary. Oh, and more practice.
So, off I trotted. The intensive classes are 4 hours a day, every week day, from 10am to 1:30pm. No English is spoken during the lessons, and there are a number of after school activities that you can sign up for if you have the time. The course is, as it says on the tin, intensive. On day one I was convinced that I was in the wrong class and asked to be brought down a class. The teachers refused saying I was good enough for the level I was in (basic 1b) and, as the week went on, I started to agree with them. On day 2 I was less confused, day 3 I started to understand a lot, day 4 I understood everything and by day 5 I felt we were going too slowly! My Spanish improved so much during the week that I signed up for a second week. In fact, on Friday when Ian and I went wine tasting, not only was I confident enough to conduct whole conversations in Spanish, I understood an awful lot that the Spanish speaking somellier was telling us (although not enough to translate confidently for Ian!). This week I was promoted to basic 2a, for which I was proud.
If you’re coming to Startup Chile and you want to learn Spanish I suggest that you do so within your first month. For all the progress that I have been making in my Spanish, I have been struggling to get everything that needs to be done for Tiny Ears completed within the remaining time. Intensive language courses are exhausting, and trying to do an 8 hour work day after a 4 hour Spanish class is enough to wreck anyone’s head. Within the first month, while you are still getting your feet under you, is I think the best time for this. Once you settle in to your projects it becomes a lot harder to fit the Spanish classes in, and this week I have been finding it more difficult to concentrate on the classes knowing that there is so much work left to do.
But I am also getting a lot out of being able to speak Spanish. I am making some friends with some of the Spanish students and I am far less stressed when we have to take a taxi, eat in a restaurant, go shopping or basically do anything that involves interaction with non-English speakers. And believe me, not many Chileans speak English so having some handy Spanish skills is a definite plus.
After this week I will stop the Spanish classes, but I shall be attending the engliSH spaniSH meetUP that runs here every Tuesday evening so I keep practicing my newfound Spanish skills.