Taking a week at International House can be fun!
22.12.2014 - 26.12.2014
Within a few days of arriving, I developed a strong desire to do a better job of speaking to the locals. TV is in Spanish or English with subtitles and there is a little learning going on here, but some research uncovered several places where actual Spanish lessons could be had.
Fortunately for me, the International House was literally two blocks away and had a beginners class starting the following Monday. Each day from 9:00 am to 1:30 pm I put my schoolgirl pack together and joined other adults who were beginning the journey to speak better Spanish.
The school is in a building with lots of rooms and outside hallways. Perhaps it may have been a small hotel once. Each classroom is a small room with those desks that have built in desk shelves (...there was one for lefties! yeah!) and chalk boards. They are equipped with air conditioners that would take the temperature from hot sweaty sleepy to cold frigid alert temperatures.
I am joined by:
- A couple from Korea who worked for a mining company who was there beginning four months of intensive language training before continuing on to tour mines in South America for the remainder of the year.
- A nurse from an Eastern Block country who was spending her vacation time adding Spanish to her repertoire of excellent English, plus a variety of Cyrillic based languages.
- A receptionist from the states who thinks Spanish will help her get a better job
The class time starts with an instructor who will not speak english. I discover that my classmates all have fairly extensive vocabularies. Within 10 minutes I am in a panic. Did I just drop a load of cash so I could be totally drowned for a week? What am I doing here? I don't know anything that is going on! Freak out alarm!
I had been taking Brazilian Portuguese through Rosetta Stone and thought it was close to Spanish. It is - on paper. But here I was trying to do it in real life! My ear was totally untrained, but slowly as the hours passed I was able to participate and even felt like I was learning something.
The best part was the social activities each afternoon - where Fernando could join us. City Tour, cooking lessons, salsa dance and then on Friday, margarita party. All conducted in Spanish with other students at other levels of learning who would attempt to converse and still have a good time. English became the default when searching for words. This was amazing considering the many countries that the students were from.
I think a light went on when I found myself having a hard time speaking in English. I found my tongue was twisting in a different way. My pronunciation was distinctively different and I looked a English writing with suspicion. (We really do have weird spelling.)
By the end of the week we were speaking in full sentences, playing games and conjugating a lot of basic verbs and even reviewing irregular ones.
What a great experience!
My classmates have gone on to attend 4 weeks, 6 weeks and longer. In some ways, I wish I has committed to more time, and yet I simply had other things to do. Emily and Paul paid us a surprise visit for Christmas and I'd rather spend the time with them.
This experience taught me that I am not too old to learn and that I can apply myself to the goals I have of learning Portuguese in a functional way. I also know that it is important to surround yourself with others who speak the language in order to fully embrace it.