Learning Spanish in Spain? ¡Espera!
Learning Spanish in Spain? ¡Espera!
Spanish, the language of love.
Romantic. Mysterious. And Difficult.
And to master this language you’ve decided to book your place on a trip to Spain to learn Spanish. Great!
We have lots of experience helping people who come to Spain for language classes, so we’ve put together a guide on how to get the best from your experience in Spain, and how to prepare your language learning experience.
España. Más que un país
Spain is a country nearly twice the size of the UK, with 17 autonomous regions and seven prominent spoken languages. Bable, Gallegan, Euskera, Catalan, Valencian, Aranés, Castellano (there are more, but these are the seven most common).
And aside from the languages, Spain also has a rainbow of dialects and accents which depending on your motives, can make or break where you want to study.
So where’s best?
The best places to learn Spanish
Most people want to learn the neutral dialect or “posh” Spanish. The best region for clear and well-spoken Spanish is North-west of Madrid in the region of Castilla y Leon. The cities of Burgos, Zamora, and Salamanca are famous for having very good Spanish accents. They are nice to listen to, and for beginners, it is easier to understand.
Madrileñan (people from Madrid) speakers have a definite accent, but it’s actually quite easy to understand if a little faster spoken.
Conversely, if you are looking for a challenge, the south of Spain in Andalusia and Murcia have much stronger accents. They are famous for dropping their esses, in fact, they drop quite a lot of letters, making for a fast accent that is hard for learners of Spanish. If you can nail Spanish here though, you’ll find the rest of Spain is far easier to understand.
The South of Spain also has an incredibly vibrant culture, so although you may find learning Spanish difficult, you are sure to find a welcoming culture, spectacular food and great music and dancing. It’s also generally cheaper in the south for food and accommodation which could factor into your decision.
Catalunya, specifically Barcelona, is the 3rd biggest area for tourism in Europe. It’s one of the top choices for Spanish learners. But the first language of the region is not Castilian, it’s Catalan. The two languages are vastly different, with different grammatical structures, vocabulary and phonetics. Many people choose to learn Catalan (it’s a beautiful sounding language), but the majority who come to learn Castilian find that people respond to their questions in Catalan. Bear this in mind.
Ciudad or Pueblo?
Choosing between remote towns or big cities is probably going to have the biggest factor on how quickly you pick up the language.
Cities: Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Seville, Bilbao.
Moving to a city for a language holiday has its pros and cons. Firstly, you will find more academies and there is more accommodation, things to do, sights to see.
That said, there are also a lot of foreigners and it can be easy to settle in with a group of English speakers. This is fine, you will learn Spanish in the academy during the day, but you might miss out on the real-life situations that are great for picking up the language more quickly.
Big cities also have lots of language exchanges. They are usually held in pubs around the city and it’s a great way to meet locals who are interested in learning English. They’re free, and they’re a great way to learn more Spanish.
Smaller towns: Salamanca, Burgos, Zamora
Smaller towns are great for learning Spanish. they are quieter and people are interested in meeting foreigners. There are fewer foreigners in towns than in the bigger cities so you will invariably attract attention from the locals.
Unlike big cities such as Barcelona, smaller towns hold on to strong traditions which have an exotic feel for foreigners and expats.
Coming to a smaller place has a certain allure as you get to know the place, you start to feel like you’ve found a hidden treasure that tourists don’t know about, and that gives you a greater respect for a place and its people. And the tapas are always amazing!
Out in the sticks
If you want the full experience of Spain, learn the hard way. Small villages have academies that bring people in to learn Spanish. You will likely be with one or two other learners and live with a local family. As a rewarding, life-changing experience, this will not disappoint. You will see parts of Spain that people simply don’t know about and fiestas and traditions that you never expected. And your Spanish will have every chance to improve as there is simply no other choice than to learn!
Once you’ve chosen a place to go. Get in touch with an academy or with the Escuela Oficial de Idiomas. They usually have courses with accommodation, and they will be able to take some of the headaches of accommodation and courses. If you have any questions you can also call us and we’ll help you out with any doubts.
A dictionary is always useful, not a phone. With a paper dictionary, you will be able to scribble notes, and they don’t rely on the internet.
Travel light. There’s always the chance that you have to move from one place to the other, so keep things simple, one suitcase is best.
If you want to add to your learning outside the academy try this book to help with grammatical structure, it really helps to have an idea of how the language works.
Most of all. Live the experience to the full. It can be daunting to wake up knowing you have to speak Spanish all day every day, but as you do and become more comfortable building sentences, you’ll find out new and amazing things about the language and even about yourself!
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