SpainExpatBlog: Back to the Spanish classroom

SpainExpatBlog: Back to the Spanish classroom

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Britt Bohannon heads back to language school to brush up her Spanish, and shares her humourous observations of learning Spanish in Spain.

It's been a year since my last Spanish class, and while I attempted to take classes twice a week while I was working at an office job in Barcelona last year, the attempt lasted little more than a month. The job proved to be too unpredictable as far as hours were concerned, and I could rarely make it to class by the 7:45pm break, let alone the 6:30pm starting time.

So now that I am working mostly from home and can manage my own time again, I am back in the classroom 2 hours a day, four times a week, practicing the subjunctive tense and common phrases I don't use but should. The bad thing about reaching a level of proficiency where you can handle basic communication (as long as it doesn't get too technical) is that you tend to get stuck at that level. I'd like to be able to have a phone conversation where I don't have to process what the person has said until after they hang up.

But I didn't have much money to spend. I've attended five different schools over the course of three and a half years and none of them were cheap. Sure, some schools are cheaper than others, but I don't have the 100+ euros per week that even the cheapest courses charge. Somehow, in my search for discounted Spanish class, I came across a course advertised as "nearly free Spanish lessons" at a well-known language school in Barcelona's centre, International House. (In fact, I likely typed that exact phrase into my preferred search engine, so kudos to the SEO manager, your search terms work).

This is the kind of stellar deal I was looking for: 40 euros for eight hours a week for three weeks. I had to take a verbal test for placement to sign up, with no guarantees the class would be held. But here it is, the end of the second week and I am more than happy with my cheap-o class. It is a teacher-training course, so a new teacher rotates from the back of the classroom every 20 minutes or so. Some of them are good, some of them suck, and honestly, if I were learning some of the things they cover for the very first time, I might be a bit lost. But it's all review for me and if I don't like a particular teacher, I just tune out for 20 minutes until the next one takes the front of the class.

SpainExpatBlog: Back to the Spanish classroom

What's more, not only is one of my best friends in the class, but so are the usual characters that come with a language course in an international city (I professed my love for Japanese students last year). Yes, I am in school again and I love it; I love the cast of characters that my nearly-free class has presented me, which comprises:

  • A stereotypical young German guy who wears socks and sandals to class every day
  • A very polite and correct tiny Japanese woman, who unfortunately is not into fashion though does wear children's shoes because her feet are so tiny.
  • A long term resident British guy who started the class on crutches though won't say what he did to get himself on them.
  • One Russian girl who is totally flummoxed with the social norms here and usually errs on the side of too familiar (i.e.kissing the bank manager on both cheeks after her first 20-minute meeting with him in the bank. FYI, even in Spain, that's probably a little too intimate for someone you just met in a business setting)
  • The student totally in over their head (every class has one). In this case it's a girl from New York who has a lot to say but can't say it and frequently throws English words in to emphasise her hand gestures and disconnected words to get a point across (example from last week: "Ya esta! Whatever!" and from this week: "Por supuesto, duh!"). She is probably my favorite, as she has the class laughing daily.
  • The American that doesn't even attempt a Spanish accent, so speaks and reads Spanish as if they were English words (every class has one of these too, in this case it is my friend).

And finally there is me, the perfectionist, who won't speak if she doesn't know the correct way to say something. Which, of course, isn't a good thing and I should know that making mistakes is just part of learning. Which is why I am back in the classroom, to try to push through some of that.

But at least I can pride myself on a good accent. One big secret to sounding more fluent (perhaps more fluent than you actually are) in any language is to imitate the accent. While my limited vocabulary clearly shows I'm not a native speaker, no one can ever place me as an American.

So let's see if another round in the classroom brings me any closer knowing when to use the preterito perfecto vs. imperfecto indicativo, or to using the subjunctive tense at all. If not, at least I only lost 40 euros and not 35

Read about Britt's previous Spanish lesson endeavours: SpainExpatBlog: Learning Castellano


Reprinted with permission of

Photo credit: cliff1066™

Britt Bohannan is an American currently living in Spain, the fifth foreign country she has called home. She has spent the last four years in Barcelona working as a freelance editorial and technical writer and for local magazines and businesses and runs


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