Having put my languages on the back burner since having kids, I thought it was time to brush up my Spanish – and, at the same time, hopefully inspire my little ones. An evening course was the perfect way to do just that…
As a busy working mum, fitting a language course into what was already a frenzied week was slightly optimistic. But sometimes you need to stick your head out…this was something I wanted to do, and surely the kids could cope without me at bedtime once a week. So it was that I ran out the door, notebook in hand, one rainy Wednesday evening to my first Spanish Intermediate 3 class.
Any doubts as to whether I should be doing a course were put to rest as soon as I walked through the door. Straight into Spanish, smiles all around, and a teacher who I warmed to immediately – a fun, bubbly Spanish señorita who seemed as mad about languages as I am. There were only five of us in the class – three of whom had progressed from previous courses – which was the perfect number to encourage class interaction and allow us individual attention from our teacher, Emma.
The next two hours flew by as we played language games to get to know each other, one of my questions focusing on why my classmates wanted to learn Spanish – a topic that always fascinates me. One girl, for love – of course. Think Spanish boyfriend, in-laws, future bilingual kids, etc. Another dreamed of moving to Spain. Nice. As for me? I just want to get back the Spanish I learnt years ago and which has laid dormant in my head for more years than I wish to calculate. I also want to inspire my kids, to have them grow up thinking languages are cool. I got home that night to find my poor husband frazzled after a chaotic bedtime. But as the little ones bundled into our bed at 6.30 the next morning, asking me to teach them phrases in Spanish (we got as far as “Hola! Me llamo Oliver” and important toy names such as “elefante” and “peluche”), I realised that perhaps this could be a great thing for all of us.
The weeks proceed with us learning exactly what we had requested in our initial course questionnaires: to learn common Spanish expressions, to understand the real Spanish you hear in the streets, and to gain general confidence in speaking. Lessons cover a variety of exercises to ensure we are improving all language skills: listening to role plays, singing popular songs, reading articles from newspapers and media, writing short texts, discussing topical issues in Spain and the world, and so on.
Emma is quick to pick up on any mistakes and ensure that we all understand, in a fun and inclusive way. Intuitive, smiling and radiating enthusiasm, it’s impossible not to get caught up in her passion for teaching, and I think of the lucky school students who she teaches in her day job for having such a natural ‘profesora’. When I was at school it was rare to have a native language teacher, and I can’t think of better GCSE motivation than having someone like Emma at the front of the classroom.
As for us, back learning as adults, we progress quickly too. New vocabulary and phrases are always listed on the whiteboard and topics lead off onto fun and random tangents such as “We just found out the word for blueberry…let’s name 10 other fruits as quick as we can!”. We’re kept on our toes for the whole lesson and the classes fly by, week after week. For me, personally, it never matters how tired I might have felt beforehand…I always leave feeling exhilarated, with a spring in my step. I get home to find that bedtimes have become calm and tear-free, but can’t sleep because I’m excited by all this new Spanish in my head.
We round off our final lesson listening to Spanish music and playing a Spanish word game, a glass of tinto de verano in hand (never mind that it’s November) and garlicky olives, chorizo and jamón serrano on the table before us. After all, it’s as much about soaking up the culture as it is about learning verb tables, right?
I feel sad that my brief window of Spanish each week has come to a close but, with the renewed confidence and motivation it has given me, I know this is just the beginning of my renewed love affair with Spanish. Phoning home to check on the kids and hearing a small voice say “Hola mama!” the other end tells me that it’s all worth it.
Sarah took a 10-week evening Spanish course in Brighton at Intermediate 3 level, with teacher Emma Punchard. Cactus offers more evening and part-time language courses in Brighton, London and other UK locations.