Learning A Language Overseas
Though I travel frequently to Latin America, my Spanish was in need of a quick jump-start. I could get by asking directions and other basic traveler needs, but I wanted to be able to carry on more in-depth conversations with my friends south of the border.
I didnt have much time to devote to language learning, so I jumped on a plane and headed for a two-week Spanish language immersion course in Madrid.
Upon my arrival at the Estudio Internacionale Sampere, a language school that was first opened in 1956, I discovered that language immersion classes arent just the province of the curious alternative traveler anymore. In fact, the majority of my fellow classmates in Madrid were employees of major corporations, from German airline execs to Dutch engineers, along with fifty Swedish Government secretaries.
It made sense: learning another language might be great for travelers, who get more out of their journeys if they can speak to locals, but in the global economy, its imperative that business people learn how to talk to their clients and bosses around the world!
I spent the next two weeks brushing up my Spanish in morning classes, enjoying afternoon outings and weekend excursions and making friends with the people in the neighborhood in which my host family lived. By the time I left, I could not only carry on rather complex conversations with local shopkeepers, but also had a new appreciation for the intricacies of the global economy.
If you are planning an immersion language course this summer, you might want to check out the following helpful hints.
Before you choose a language immersion school, here are a few things to research:
For additional planning hints, see the GoNOMAD MINI GUIDE TO LANGUAGE LEARNING OVERSEAS
It helps to bring a small, culturally appropriate gift for your host family; it is not only courteous, but makes a great icebreaker. Bring a small flashlight for trips to the bathroom and returning home late at night. In many cases, meals are included, but if you are going to miss a meal, let your family know. In general, being a courteous guest will add greatly to your experience.School Days
On my arrival at Sampere, I was given an entrance exam for class placement. This was not a pass or fail test; it was simply to determine my level of study. Because of frequent travel to Latin America, I could read Spanish much better that I speak it. As a result, when I discovered I was way above my head in my first class, the school promptly adjusted my level, offering a better learning experience. If you have any doubts about the level in which you are placed, let the school know.
Do the little assignments that are requested. Nothing slows down the class more than an unprepared student. On the other hand, if there is a point about which you are confused, make it known to your instructor. Chances are other students may also need some more work in the same area. The more give and take between instructor and student, the better an immersion course works.
Have a Good Time
Most of all, become a local by patronizing the businesses near your lodgings. After the first three days, the bartender at the local wine bar began instructing me on the various Spanish wines while other patrons joined in. Your new neighbors and family will become a key ingredient to learning more than a language. You will learn a lifestyle. Isnt that what immersion is all about?
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