I began learning Spanish when I started working at Cactus in January. Having been to Spain on family holidays and travelled around South America, it felt like the obvious language to learn, as it would be the most beneficial for me and my interest in travelling.
It became apparent how little Spanish I knew on a holiday in Croatia with friends last year. We shared a minibus across the island of Hvar with five Spanish lads, so attempted to communicate with our new ‘amigos’. They felt they needed to apologise for their poor English, which we assured them was very good. As part of our language exchange, we tried to demonstrate our best Spanish. This was embarrassingly limited to cerveza, vino and basic words such as agua and sol. A language course was definitely necessary.
In the first lesson of my Level 1 (beginners) 10-week Spanish course in Brighton, our teacher Carola asked us to write down all the Spanish words that we knew. Between the eight students in the class, our list was quite sparse. Very enthusiastically and interactively, Carola patiently ensured this would change. The two hours flew by and the sense of achievement from what we had learnt by the end of the lesson was incredible. This was the pivotal moment; and 10 months later, now at the end of the Level 3 course, I’m still excited to be learning and improving my knowledge of the language all the time.
As I work with colleagues of various nationalities who can all speak impeccable English, they, along with Carola and my current Spanish teacher Raul, all emphasised how immersing myself in the language and culture was crucial to develop my understanding. I therefore chose to take a 1-week Spanish course in Seville, a city I had never visited but about which I had heard so many wonderful things.
It was immediately apparent when I landed at Seville airport that I would be using the vocabulary I had learnt from the very start. First of all I had to buy a ticket on the bus, and half an hour later I was asking for directions from locals that could not speak English. Here was my big test. Much to my surprise, the lady I asked understood what I was asking and walked down the street with me to my destination, speaking in Spanish along the way. My question made her believe I understood more than I actually did. The fact that I also got the gist of what she was saying gave me a huge boost of confidence.
When I arrived at the school, it became apparent that the staff would speak in Spanish as much as possible to give students total language immersion. If they were not understood they tried to explain with actions, drawings, noises and other words, only using English as a last resort. This is a very effective method and I started to recognise words I was hearing in the classroom, street, restaurants and shops. We were also taught about Andalucía’s cultural heritage, along with the history and importance of areas and buildings around the city. The school provided daily activities including visiting cultural spots in the province, playing sport and watching Spanish films.
Seville is a fantastic location to take a course, providing a linguistic challenge as the locals do not respond in English or Spanglish, as can happen in other towns and cities. It is also a beautiful, old city with lots to see; perfect for language students. I certainly feel more confident with speaking and comprehension and have improved a huge amount since beginning my Level 1 course in January. I am now eagerly looking forward to starting the next level, planning more trips to Spain and eventually mastering the language.
Cactus offers language courses in more than 30 languages, in 60 countries and 500 destinations worldwide. We also run our own language courses in the UK and in the US/Canada, which are the ideal way to learn the basics or brush up on previous language knowledge in advance of a holiday or business trip abroad.