After my four weeks at Sol Latino Spanish school in Guatemala, I realised I could have really done with another four months. My Spanish improved no end but to get really really really good, I need to practice so much more. And I want to be really really really good.
Spanish school Guatemala – the pros and cons list
There were some good and bad things about a full Spanish school in Guatemala. Here’s my main ups and downs.
1) Doing one on one lessons, five hours a day = learning a lot very quickly
At school you maybe study a subject for 2-3 hours a week. And you’re probably only properly listening for about 2/3s of this time. In a Spanish immersion course, you have to be on the ball all the time. And who knew? When you study 10x as much you learn 10x quicker.
2) Learning about a whole new culture
A lot of speaking practice was based on the differences between Guatemala and England. By doing this, you learn so much about a culture that you wouldn’t otherwise. Did you know Guatemalans eat fish on Christmas Day? For more fun facts, sign up to a Spanish immersion course.
3) Frequenting a lot of the local hang outs
Because sitting inside a classroom for 5 hours in a row is pretty tough, you can often go on walks, trips or just to get a smoothie. I went to the Xela natural history museum (a terrifying experience consisting of taxidermied 8 legged goats which I do not wish to repeat), to the cities’ biggest market and frequented the smoothie bar/ chocolate cafe. Somehow it’s easier to learn verb tables while drinking chocolate cappuccinos…
4) Making amazing friends
If you want to just chat, you can- it’s all conversation at the end of the day. If you want to play scrabble, that’s an option too. Your teacher wants you to learn, but he/she is really interested in your life and the country you’re from as well. You can choose the pace you want to work at, and if the most helpful/ enjoyable is waffling on about the different prices of cheese in England, Guatemala, the USA and France, then that’s fine.
5) Learning from a desk on a balcony with a backdrop of a volcano
You can’t do that in Britain.
1) It’s difficult
5 hours a day speaking a language you’re not very good at isn’t easy. Sometimes it’s so frustrating that you just want to put your head in your verb tables and cry. Your brain feels like it is being fried 24/7 and you get so annoyed when, even after going over it countless times, you still get ser and estar mixed up in week four.
2) Learning all the grammar in another language is really tricky
Grammar is no fun when you’re not learning it in your native language. It’s even harder to try and grasp all the weird and wacky uses of por and para when they’re just explained to you in Spanish. Part of the task of understanding the use is first understanding the explanation- which they don’t deliberately try and make easy.
3) it involves a lot of sacrifice
Not only do you have to have a few months (I learnt from experience that one is no way enough, I needed at least three to be at a confident level in my Spanish) free and be prepared to upheave your whole life to a city far far away, but if you want to do it properly you have to prioritise studying over a lot while you’re there. I didn’t make studying the only thing I did there, but it did take up a lot of my time. It’s no holiday: it’s tough being in a city where nobody understands you. But if you put a certain amount of effort into it, it is worth it.
All in all, immersion courses are a really great way to learn the language of a country at a fast pace. I definitely recommend Spanish school in Guatemala, as long as the student is aware of how tough it is. My top tip would be to brush up on grammar prior to taking the course/ in free time during taking it, so valuable time is not wasted going over grammar rules in class. The best way to learn a language is just to chat, which makes immersion courses great fun, whatever language they are in!