Have you ever wondered how it is that some people are just so damn good at languages? The truth is it doesn’t have to be as difficult as you think to get by in French, Spanish, Italian, German or even Cantonese. The secret is simple – forget your schoolroom basics, up sticks and go and spend some time in a country where it is spoken and you’ll be rabbiting away in no time.
Of course just hopping on a plane and straight into a luxury hotel isn’t likely to give you quite the level of exposure you need to get you communicating in a foreign language. Enrolling in a language school for a week or two, a month or even longer, on the other hand, can be just the ticket and doesn’t have to be expensive. Ok, so you will need to pay for your tuition, but you don’t need to lay out for expensive accommodation. Total immersion is the way forward, and by lodging with a local family you can make your budget stretch further and accelerate your language learning to boot.
Spanish is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, and what better place to brush up on yours than by heading to the seat of the Spanish language itself – the historic university town of Salamanca. Located in the northwest of Spain, Salamanca is a UNESCO World Heritage city in the heart of Castile y Leon. Its university is the oldest in Spain and the third oldest in the West – it was also the very first to be granted the status, by Pope Alexander IV, to award degrees. This is the true heart of “Old Spain” and is widely acknowledged to be the home of the Spanish language.
For those with an existing level of Spanish, the prestigious university offers opportunities for exchange programmes, undergraduate degrees and postgraduate study, while there are myriad language schools throughout the attractive castle-topped city offering courses for complete beginners right through to advanced or business speakers. Courses can usually be tailored to suit your availability, level and the length of your stay. Many students find that a course offering half-day study is ideal, providing plenty of formal learning opportunity as well as time to explore the city and spend time with new friends.
All reputable language schools have strong links with local families and will arrange accommodation on your behalf before you travel. This means that when you return at the end of the day, your learning continues as you sit down to a hearty home-cooked meal with your friendly host family. What better way to learn than having a relaxed chat over your evening paella with a glass of Rioja in hand. Host families are carefully vetted by the language schools and are usually familiar with the ways and needs of foreign visitors. Expect them to be interested in you and your culture and for them to be keen to share theirs with you in return. With a little effort you’ll be speaking Spanish in no time and ready to the rest of this glorious country, safe in the knowledge that you can do plenty more than just order a jug of Sangria.