Learning Spanish in Barcelona
"To have another language is to possess a second soul! " Charlemagne
Charlemagne was born in 742 and later became King of the Franks and Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. He also found time to take back Barcelona from the Moors in the year 801. He didn’t invade Barcelona to learn Spanish of course, but he was purportedly somewhat of a linguist. He spoke his own native German and also mastered Latin and some Greek. Quite an achievement considering that he never learned to write. He was certainly right about a second soul. Learning Spanish, or any other language, can enrich your life with new and exciting perspectives from another cultural viewpoint. It can feel like one belongs to two cultures and have two "souls." A more practical aspect of learning Spanish is that it will make your new life in Barcelona so much easier. There are still not many people in Barcelona speak English, so Spanish is a must if you are moving to Barcelona. Here are a few tips for first time Spanish learners
Prices of Spanish schools in Barcelona.
Spanish schools in Barcelona
What are your needs? Why do you want to learn Spanish?
Are you just learning for fun because you want to stay in Spain for few weeks, or because you want to travel in Spanish speaking countries? Do you want to learn to speak, read and write Spanish fluently because you want to live and work in Spain? This is important to the way you approach your Spanish classes. If you only want to pick up some “travel Spanish,” then we would recommend taking a week or two of Spanish classes of a few hours a week, nothing too strenuous. Don't sign up for half day intensive classes. They are designed for students, who want to learn a lot of Spanish in a short period of time. 2 hours a day is more than enough to get a basic knowledge. In addition to Spanish classes you might consider buying a good phrase Spanish book to supplement your classes. Then hit the streets of Barcelona and start talking. You will quickly learn phrases that you can use when travelling, but again I should stress, that a few classes and a phrase book will not mean you are speaking fluent Spanish. Far from it. If you want to learn to speak Spanish fluently, then you must take a more serious approach to your classes and go for intensive classes.
Tips for intensive Spanish classes.
A good tip is to learn the grammar from day one. Many people think they can “pick up” Spanish. Many people think” I don’t need the grammar, I just want to speak Spanish!” That is sort of buying the cart without the horse. A language consists of grammar and vocabulary. Grammar provides a structure for how the vocabulary is used. If you have a long term interest in learning Spanish, then you must learn the basic grammar. Speaking a language without using grammar is like building a house with out a proper foundation. A house of cards. A strong foundation of grammar will ensure that you can keep adding more levels to your building. But without a foundation one day your building will topple. Grammar is boring and hard work. But without knowing the rules of the language you might end up speaking fluent "Spanish" but with the grammar of a child which sounds impressive to the person speaking but not to anyone else. So one of the biggest tips about learning Spanish, if your plan is to live in Barcelona for a long time is to learn the grammar now.
If you are thinking of learning Spanish properly, then you should know a few things and prepare accordingly. First of all you should know that almost all Spanish schools in Barcelona and Spain use the immersion technique, which means that everything in the classroom is in Spanish all the time, even for beginners, even on the first day. There are several reasons for this. One is that the immersion method is more effective once you get used to it. It forces the students to pay more attention, study harder and use their dictionary. The other reason is that many of the Spanish teachers don’t speak much English. And even the ones who do, will not usually speak English in the classroom. A third reason is that the classes are usually full of students from all over the world and some of them would not understand the teaching in English.
So it makes sense to teach Spanish in Spanish in Spain. But if you are totally new to languages this can be a huge challenge. Imagine four hours of intensive Spanish the first day – all in Spanish. And the school books are all in Spanish. No explanations anywhere in English. You might not understand much on your first day and the next day there will 4 more hours with new material being covered. And the first couple of days are usually the easy ones. But you asked for it. Intensive! You want to learn as fast as possible. This fast paced teaching works well for people who know a little Spanish, or similar languages, but if that is not you, then I suggest you prepare well.
What can you do to prepare?
If you are not in Spain yet, you could take a few lessons in your home country. The teacher’s explanations and instructions will probably be in your own language, just like in children’s school. You buy a book in English (or your own language) that explains Spanish grammar and do a little bit of self-study before your start your class. When you are in Barcelona, you might invest in a few extra private lessons with a Spanish teacher, who speaks English and who can explain a few basic things in English, if you are having trouble following the course. The school that you have chosen will be able to help you with this. Don’t worry. You will get there. And once you have understood the basic principles of Spanish grammar you will be fine. Likewise once you have mastered the beginners level of immersion course, then you will probably be usually fine on the higher levels because the grammatical principles do not change, only the content.
Don’t underestimate the work involved
Many people who come to Spain to live do not learn Spanish because they “want” to but because they “need” to. So they look for the easy way. The fast and painless way. TIt does not exist. If you are learning Spanish because you need to then it will probably never be much fun, but my advice is to learn as much Spanish as you can at the beginning of your stay in Spain. Once you are settled in, working full-time and have an active social life, then you will have less time and inclination to take intensive Spanish courses. If your time and budget can manage it take 1 to 3 months of intensive classes when you arrive. You might never be able to do that again in your life. But do not underestimate the effort needed, or overestimate the results of 4-8 weeks of Spanish classes. Many people assume they will learn to speak fluent Spanish in 1 or 2 months. In 1-2 months you can learn a lot, especially if you put in the work and show up every day. But to speak more fluent Spanish? A year at least. Here are some tips will enable you to maximise attendance and results of your Spanish classes. If you follow them, then the results could be dramatic and you will be well on your way to speaking fluent Spanish after an intensive study course.
Study hard and show up
Show up for all lessons. Even if you are tired one day, show up anyway. Don’t start a bad habit of missing classes. Make it a goal to attend all the classes.
Do the homework
A good rule of thumb is to put in half the time at home that you are at the Spanish school. So 4 hours a day in school = 2 hours Spanish study at home.
Compete with yourself not with others.
It’s a class, not a contest. If you are having trouble then repeat a level or drop down a level. There is no shame in that. There are no medals for finishing a Spanish course at a high level without understanding a word. Better to take beginners level three times and understand it than zoom through three levels and understand nothing.
Clear your calendar.
It is very easy to be distracted from studying Spanish by all kinds of things. Like hitting the nightlife of Barcelona with your new friends in your Spanish class, or enjoying the beaches of Barcelona. There are many things to do that are more fun than studying Spanish. The temptation to do all these things is huge, but try and resist it. It will steal time and energy from your Spanish studies and steal money from your pocket, that could be spent on more Spanish lessons. If you plan to live in Spain, then your will have months and years to party and visit beaches etc. Don’t waste your study time and your course fees by mixing business with pleasure in the beginning. Try and think of the Spanish course as a job. Work at your Spanish from Monday to Friday and keep the party times at the weekend.
Postpone visits from friends.
If you are serious about learning Spanish, then ask your friends, who want to come and visit you in Barcelona, to wait until your have finished your Spanish course. Having friends come visit is great fun, but usually involves days of non-stop partying. Serious fun. But seriously bad for Spanish studies. You can easily fall behind and have to repeat levels, which is basically just wasting money. Why not ask your friends to come to Barcelona, when you have finished your Spanish courses. They will probably understand that you are working to learn Spanish.
Don't leave town
If you are only in Spain for 1 month or two, then you might have planned to take a lot of trips to other parts of Spain. There are a million fantastic trips in Spain, that you can fill your weekends with. And hey.. why not take a few Fridays off to make long weekends. Great idea. Not! Do that a few times and you will soon lag behind in your intensive course. If you plan to travel a lot, then I recommend that you only take a semi-intensive Spanish course, for example 2 hours a day. The high-intensive 4 hours a day courses do not leave much time for travel and days off.
How to find a Spanish school in Barcelona?
Visit a few Spanish schools to check them out in person. Ask to see the classrooms and facilities. Are they airy, nice, well-lit with good tables and chairs. Check for air-conditioning and heating. It’s difficult to concentrate if you are freezing or melting. Ask about the study books and syllabus. Teacher qualifications? How many students in each class? And so on. Some Spanish schools in Barcelona offer a wide range of social activities and excursions, which is great if you are want to meet people and have a good time outside the school with other students. Other schools just focus on teaching Spanish and allow students to organise their own social life. Facilities can vary a lot too. Some Spanish schools have good internet facilities, libraries, etc and others do not. Barcelonayellow can recommend Linguaschools Barcelona and Olé Languages.
Spanish conversation skills
Many Spanish schools in Barcelona tend to focus on the grammar and vocabulary before conversation classes. In the beginning that is quite logical. You simply do not know enough words in Spanish to have a real conversation. Usually after 4 weeks of intensive Spanish you will be able to start focusing on strengthening your conversation skills. But you might be speaking a lot English with your classmates and flatmates. So how to find some friendly locals to chat to and other ways of practising your Spanish.? Here are some tips
Find Spanish "intercambios"
An “intercambio” is means “exchange.” You are exchanging your language for Spanish with a Spanish person, who wants to practise English or German or another language by talking to you. In return you get to practise your Spanish on them. There is no cost involved except time. It’s usually good fun and a great way of meeting locals. intercambio evenings are organized by various bars and you can find intercambio partners online.
"Intercambios" in Barcelona
TV and movies
Rent DVD’s and watch them in Spanish with English subtitles, in English with Spanish subtitles etc. Same with Spanish television. The movies are always in Spanish, but if you have text-TV you turn on the subtitles in Spanish (usually 888), which make is easier and more enjoyable to follow the dialogue and it is a great way to improve Spanish conversation.
Websites Spanish TV channels
That’s all for now. Buena suerte! Please BarcelonaYellow if you have comments or suggestions.
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