Stephen Brown's Blog

School Begins...

Posted Monday 25 July 2011 17:09 by Steve in Learning Spanish

Today was the first day of school. I slept like a log last night, but I didn't really have much of an appetite in the morning. I had a coffee and a couple of (very small) bits of toast and went to find the school.

I left plenty of time in case I couldn't find it, but it was much easier this time. As I got there very early I wandered around a bit beforehand, and went in about 5 minutes early.

Class was actually really good - the profesora who took our class was really good (and pretty!) and there was only one other student in the class which was great. The other student is called Ahmed and is from Lebanon. He is leaving in a week so I don't know who will be in my class then!

After class I came home to eat. Eating is the most difficult part at the moment because the meal times are very different. In the morning we have breakfast at 9:00. I wasn't really hungry at all but that's just as well because breakfast is light! Just a few small bits of bread and some coffee and juice.

Half way through class (at 12:00) we have a break and everyone went to a bar. Some people ate their second breakfast but I had no appetite and just had a coffee.

Class ended at 2:30 so it was about 3:00 by the time I had lunch and it was very heavy - I am so full now! We had a rich chicken soup with noodles to start, then some meat and fish and bread, then some custard things for desert (called 'natillas'). I keep having to say "solo un poquito" - just a little bit. I laid down for half an hour after lunch to let my stomach digest the food.

Everyone is meeting up at the school at 5:00 for something so I am going to go and see what they're up to. They said something about dinner, but Spanish people normally eat around 9:00pm so I doubt they will go straight away. If they do I think I will have to leave because I don't think I will be ready to eat anything for about a month!

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The Journey to Toledo

Posted Sunday 24 July 2011 23:03 by Steve in Learning Spanish

Before my trip I was very nervous about the whole thing. The journey seemed like it would be stressful, because I had to take a plane to Madrid, then a bus, and then a train. Also I have never really been in a situation where I was the only English speaker and doing this on my own made me very nervous.

I was also sad to be leaving my girlfriend for a month - the longest we have ever been apart since we met was 2 weeks before this.

In the end the journey went very smoothly. My flight was on time, and after asking a taxi driver for directions I managed to find the bus stop easily. It was quite hot outside as Madrid is very hot and it was just after noon. After about 10 minutes the bus came. The bus ride through Madrid was actually the highlight of the journey. I have never seen Madrid before, and the bus went past a huge palace and some other monuments.

After about 40 minutes I ended up at the Renfe Atocha train interchange. This was probably the most confusing railway station I have ever been to. All of the station is underground, and it is huge. It took me a while to find the ticket office, and I bought a boarding pass. I then had to go through security where they scanned my luggage, like in the airport. The train ride itself was not very interesting - the scenery was just scrub land the whole way. The train seemed bigger and a lot quieter than trains in the UK.

When I finally arrived at the station, a man and woman were waiting with a little girl, with a piece of paper with my name on it. I was really nervous by this point, and after I introduced myself I realised how little Spanish I knew! I think they thought I didn't know any Spanish at all!

My first impressions upon arriving were that Toledo was a very pretty city - even the train station was impressive. When we drove out of the train station I could see the old town at the top of a hill with the city walls and some impressive buildings. Charo (the mother of the family) pointed out some of the buildings on the way.

When we arrived at the house I ate some Russian salad and they showed me to my room.

After I had unpacked my stuff I came down and got some crazy directions to the language school from Charo. She didn't really know the way, but she had a (bad) map of the city in the phone book. She wrote the names of all of the streets where I had to go and I went out to find it. It took me a long time to find the school because Toledo is a very confusing city, and the route was not very efficient. On the way I came across the tourist information centre and they gave me a free map. Once I found the school I drew the route back and it was a much better route.

That evening I ate a little, and sat downstairs with the family. I was very tired and found it very difficult to speak. Charo's brother came around with his wife and I chatted to them for a while and ate watermelon. It is nice to meet new people because you can say the same things again! After a few minutes they talked amongst themselves, and eventually I left and went to bed early. I was so tired!

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Posted Sunday 24 July 2011 19:00 by Steve in Learning Spanish

After sending the same email to multiple people a few times this week, I have decided to make a blog instead! At the moment, this blog will be about my experiences in Toledo, but in the future I may add other content here.

I have been trying to learn Spanish for the past couple of years on and off, partly because my Dad lives in Spain and I visit often, but mainly because I love Spain and the Spanish language and hope to visit the country a lot in the future.

I took Spanish group lessons back in England a long time ago, which gave me a very basic introduction to the language. After about 10 weeks of lessons I knew the very basics of Spanish grammar but couldn't really say anything worthwhile. Much more recently I have had Spanish lessons at my house in Cambridge, but unfortunately my teacher moved to London so I haven't studied here for a while.

Although I have learnt a lot of stuff in England, I have not had much of an opportunity to practice. I think it is impossible to learn a language properly without practising it, and I have also always wanted to experience life living in another country, so I decided the only way to make some more progress was to go on a long "full immersion" Spanish course in Spain!

In order to come here, I had to find a new job, and negotiate a long gap between ending my current job and starting my new one. I have somehow managed to end up with 6 weeks in between jobs, and have decided to come to Spain for 4 weeks.

I looked into a lot of Spanish schools on the internet. I would have loved to study in Andalucia, but their accent is strong and not standard so I crossed all of the schools in southern Spain off of my list. Galicia, Catalunya and the Basque country all have regional languages so I crossed those off of my list too. I avoided Salamanca because there are too many students there (or so I've heard), which left a few places in central Spain to choose from. In the end I went for a school called Aula Toledo, in the city of Toledo, because although it was one of the most expensive of the remaining schools, it had excellent reviews from previous students, and the city was supposed to be very interesting and beautiful. Also the accent in Toledo is very standard and clear.

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