I had my first Spanish class this week! As I put my books and pens in my bag, I realised that I was feeling ridiculously excited! For the first time in about two years, I was putting time and money to one side to do something regularly just for me – and it felt fantastic! The class was lovely – a nice small group, coffee on tap and a glorious 90 minutes to enjoy ourselves!
As the lesson progressed, I realised that over and above the Spanish vocabulary that I was learning, my mind was ticking overtime, trying to make sense of the grammar and the pronunciation. That was where the teacher really came in handy! “Are all nouns that end in ‘a’ feminine?” I asked. “Unfortunately not!” he answered, and went on to explain that nearly all of them did, but … (For a complete answer go tohttp://spanish.about.com/cs/grammar/a/genderreversal.htm ). Throughout the lesson, he included little snippets of pronunciation, anecdotes about mistakes people make and generally kept us engaged and entertained so that the time flew by!
But I think that the main benefit for me was how we all related to each other. We laughed. We felt sorry for each other when we made mistakes (it’s so much easier to hear other peoples’ mistakes …). We felt happy for each other when we got it right. We came up with learning strategies together to remember vocabulary (cerca = near/close- we came up with the English expression ‘the church was built circa 1821’. And we had lots and lots of laughs.
Giddy with success, I left the lesson and called up a Spanish friend and greeted her with my new expressions! After a few minutes she went off to look for her diary and her mum got on the phone. I understood ‘¡Holá! Soy la madre de Francesca’ (I’m Francesca’s Mum!) and replied ‘Encantada’ (Pleased to meet you!) but then she started chatting merrily away at top speed. No entiendo! Inglesa, Inglesa! I screeched. But she just kept on going until my friend came back and rescued me. It was a bizarre feeling to be in a situation that I had initiated and yet couldn’t deal with. That’ll teach me to show off!
We can’t all manage to get to a class regularly, but you don’t need to go it alone! There are other options. Get together with a couple of friends, use a CD and book or follow an online tutorial like the outstanding – free – BBC productions BBC http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages. You can also join a virtual class or book a tutor on a less frequent basis to ‘top up’ what you do at home. I suppose that another solution would be to call up a random Spanish friend and ask if you can speak to their mother …