FROM the Chinatowns to the Little Indias, from Tower Hamlets to the Costa del Sol, survival, circumstance and lifestyle lead to population pockets where cultural customs are transplanted. As a result, foreigners don’t always learn the local language, and sometimes the native population grow to despise it.
Why don’t Punjabis in London learn English? Why don’t Americans in Paris learn French? Similarly, people in Spain have asked, “Why don’t Brits in Marbella learn Spanish?”
As Sol Channel on Andalucia indicates on its website, “One of the major frustrations faced by British expats living in Spain is their inability to communicate with the Spanish.”
Furthermore, the Telegraph in 2012, reporting on the effects of the crisis, also relayed that “Many Britons fail to learn Spanish or to assimilate, so that the community becomes dependent on itself – to its cost.”
In 2011 the Guardian quoted a reporter for a Spanish daily criticising: “British people do not seem to integrate terribly well.”
The solution to this, in part, is of course learning the local language. Fortunately, many expats do make an effort to adapt to the local culture. But let’s face it: truly talking in the local tongue can be tough.
A Spanish company, Diverbo, is helping with this. Its new, game-changing approach to language learning and Spanish immersion is a program called Pueblo Español (translated: “Spanish Village”)
This different language learning method has been turning heads and opening ears and mouths for over a decade. Located in a Medieval village in the heart of Spain (La Alberca, Salamanca), Pueblo Español offers over 100 hours of Spanish interaction in the course of an 8-day week!
Of course, the intensity of learning Spanish is like anything: it depends on what you want to use it for. If you simply want to say “hola” to the shopkeeper, then you don’t need to twist your mind much. But if you need to do business or want to have an in-depth conversation with a Spanish native, then there is a certain amount of sweat and toil you have to put into being able to communicate at an efficient and effective level.
Therefore when asked, “What is the most productive way to learn Spanish?” most people will tell you, “move to a Spanish speaking country, take a Spanish course and the rest will come
naturally.” The only problem is that “naturally” happens best when you are a child. After all, it’s just as easy to learn Spanish, Chinese, Arabic,
or Swahili…. as a child. You simply listen and repeat in conversation… over hours and hours and hours.
Why is it then that this principle is forgotten when learning as an adult?
Unfortunately, learning as an adult is more difficult. The mind is already compartmentalized and
adults tend to want to know “how” the language works, namely the vocabulary, the rules and the grammar…all summarized in nice lists. This
would be very efficient, of course, if only using a language wasn’t so, well, social in nature.
Pueblo Español returns to the method we learn with when we are younger – by maximizing the level of learning and absorption through sheer hours of immersion….of course with plenty of
intrigue and laughs.
Many Spanish courses claim to be “intensive” with only 20-30 hours a week, in group classes with a single teacher. The pace is limited by the rest of the group. Social time commonly consists in clinging to the other students met in class. The missing factor is often the lack of actual contact and practice with a variety of native speakers and range of accents.
Pueblo Español completely breaks away from class limitations and throws you into Spanish… up to your ears! Yes, 8 days at 14-15 hours a day is A LOT of Spanish – it might even scare away some Spanish learners. But there comes a point when you have to go from the baby pool into the deep end.
The good news is that a Pueblo Español immersion week combines as much intensity, comfort and creativity as you can get. No class. No grammar. No books. Only people, stories, questions,
jokes, explanations, interaction, games, roleplays. It’s “natural” intensified.
“Surprisingly you make friends fast and have a support system to help you go slower or faster according to your level,” says program director Sabela Castro
Imagine 15 students grouped together with 15 native Spanish speakers (in a 1-1 ratio). Then add a variety of activities each hour, including one-to-one conversation sessions, phone sessions,
small-group activities, conference calls, presentations, and dash of theatre.
But it doesn’t stop there. The whole nature of the program is to be immersed… from sunup to sundown. This includes speaking Spanish at all moments of social interaction moments including breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as “after hours” and of course during the local excursions. Official free time is limited but gives you even more of the chance to interact with your new Spanish friends.
Former participant, Birgit Delisle reflects “the participants and volunteers have been so friendly, amusing and cheerful.”
Another Pueblo Español participant Christopher Carnrick, who runs his own cooking course in Andalucia, explains his experience: “What I noticed immediately upon returning home was my level of comprehension had soared. People on my street who I could not understand, I now understand 90% of what they say. I no longer hesitate to use the phone. I also enjoyed the venues of the program since we were able to wander the streets and take excursions.”
Pueblo Español is based on its sister program, Pueblo Inglés, which began teaching English in the same way. The success led to the logical sequence in the opposite direction: helping Spanish learners
Yes, you do need a minimum level (advanced beginner or lower intermediate) of Spanish to enter the program. And yes, you can take preparatory classes to nail down and brush up on some concepts. The rest is simply a matter of matching need with the willingness to jump.
Recently Theresa May, the Conservative minister in charge of internal affairs in England commented on the need for immigrants to learn English: ”How can people build relationships with their neighbours if they can’t even speak the same language?”
While English reigns as the global language for business and the language of a large portion of the 5.65 million foreigners (including 940,000 Britons) living in Spain, Spanish is the world’s
second most commonly spoken language by numbers (yes, more than English). And it all started here in Spain.
So, whether you are a hard-working immigrant or on “permanent holiday” the key to feeling comfortable and effective in a foreign land is to learn the local lingo.
If you’re looking to improve your Spanish in an ultra-immersion manner Pueblo Español is sure to help you communicate and integrate at a new level.
Go to: intensivespanishinspain.com or call 913 913 400