Posts by Category: Learning Spanish


Posted Monday 22 August 2011 14:43 by Steve in Learning Spanish

Now that I am back in England, and this experience has come to an end, it's time to finish off this blog with one final post.

First of all, for me this trip was definitely the best 'holiday' that I have ever had! Due to the length of the trip, I never really felt like I was on holiday - it felt more like I was living in Toledo, and that the house I was staying in was my home. Also, due to the fact that I could talk to people in Spanish, I felt that I got a much better idea of the local culture, and had the opportunity to experience things that normal tourists would never see.

During this trip there were 2 things that were extremely important, and central to the whole experience: The school itself, and the host family. I am happy to say that for me, both of these were perfect!

The host family was amazing: The house was brilliant and in a great location, and all of the people in the family were really friendly and helpful. It was great to return from class each day and have a delicious (and often enormous) meal waiting for me, and I could never have learnt so much without being able to practice speaking with the family. It was also great for me to spend so much time with Paula. There are no small children in my life in England, and it was nice to spend time with her and see all of the amusing things she would always be doing.

For me the school was also amazing. When I had to fill in the questionnaire on my last day, there was a section for suggestions, but I really couldn't think of any way in which the lessons could have been improved. I have had Spanish group lessons in the past in language schools in the UK, and always found the materials to be poor, and didn't really learn a lot. The materials here were good, and the lessons were fun and interesting, and I think I have greatly improved my Spanish over the past 4 weeks. When I arrived in Spain my host family didn't think I could say anything in Spanish, and to be honest this wasn't far from the truth! I had learnt a lot before I came here, but had never really had a lot of opportunities to practice. After just a few weeks at Aula Toledo I have been able to have lots of interesting conversations with people in Spanish, and have generally been able to understand what people have said to me, and have made myself understood most of the time.

Outside of class, Maite has organised quite a few things for me to do in the evenings, such as watching films in Spanish, going to concerts, going on tours of the city and having intercambios with students who are learning English. This has been great, because I don't think I would have found any of these activities on my own.

For me, the best part of this whole experience has to have been all of the lessons that I had with Cristina, especially in the last 2 weeks when I was the only student in the class. Cristina was an excellent teacher, and we got on really well. She was really easy to talk to, and always showed a great amount of interest in what I had to say. I'm going to miss Cristina a lot!

Cristina y yo
Me and Cristina on the last day of school

Overall this has been a great experience for me, and I didn't want to leave Spain and come back to England! There are a lot of things that I am going to miss about Spain, and I would love to live there one day.


Isabel on Wednesday 24 August 2011 12:30

Bienvenido a Inglaterra!!!

(...and let's go back and live in Spain forever. Yo me apunto!)

The End

Posted Monday 22 August 2011 14:42 by Steve in Learning Spanish

After the last day of school, I came home and ate, and told Charo about my plans for the next day. I told Charo that I would need to get to the train station at about 1:00, and she told me that she could give me a lift to the station. She asked if I had a ticket and I told her that I didn't, so she recommended that I walk down to the train station to buy a ticket, as they could be sold out the next day. I followed her advice and walked down to the train station. It took me about 20 minutes in each direction, and it was very hot, but I enjoyed it as I knew I wouldn't be experiencing that kind of sun again for a long time!

In the evening I went for a walk in the valley, and then stopped at Cafe Zocodover for dinner. When I got there the place was deserted - I was the only customer in the whole bar. This felt really weird because the bar is normally packed! As there was nobody there, I had a chance to have a good chat with Maki for a while, before people eventually started coming in.

The same group of people came in that I had spoken to a few days before, so I chatted to them for a while and had a few beers, and then they left and said goodbye. Before I left I chatted to the owners for a while, and told them that it was my favourite bar because they have 'super-camarera' (super-barmaid). I think this made Maki happy. As I left they all wished me 'buen viaje' (bon voyage) and gave me business cards with their email addresses.

The next day I didn't really do a lot. I ate a light breakfast, packed my things, showered and sent a few emails. Then at 12:30 Charo told me that Miguel was waiting outside to take me to the station. I said goodbye to Charo and told her that I would miss living there, and that her house felt like my home. She gave me a bocadillo (sandwich) for the journey and I met Miguel outside.

When I arrived at the station, I said goodbye to Miguel and Paula, and made Paula give me a kiss on the cheek. I told her I would miss her and she said 'me too', but I don't think it will be long before she fogets that I ever existed!

Thankfully the journey home was uneventful - but it was a long journey. I had to take a train, then a bus, then a plane, and then a car ride home. I landed in England at about 8:30 Spanish time, and my girlfriend picked me up at the airport. At first I didn't feel particularly pleased to be back in England, but when I saw her car pulling up in the car park I was suddenly very excited and pleased to see her again.


Isabel on Wednesday 24 August 2011 12:36

Volvimos los dos a Inglaterra el mismo día! Pero yo volé desde Santiago.

¡Que triste!

Posted Friday 19 August 2011 15:46 by Steve in Learning Spanish

Yesterday afternoon, I met up with Fernando again for another intercambio. This time he picked me up at the city gates, and we drove a short way out of town to a bar to have a few drinks. Fernando is training to be a police officer, so we talked a bit about the police in Spain, and it was quite interesting because he said a few things that were very different from what Elvira had told me.

Fernando told me that he had watched the riots in London on the news, and was surprised that the police just stood there and took abuse from the crowds. He said that would never happen in Spain, and that if you threw something or was abusive to a police officer here they would be a lot more heavy handed. This is the opposite of what Elvira said, but it could be different in Madrid where the media are watching everything due to the protests. We also talked about the difference in the way that suspects are treated in Spain compared to England.

One thing I have heard in England is that it is actually very time consuming to detain a suspect: The officer has to make the arrest, take the suspect back to the police station, and then convince the custody sergeant that the suspect has done something wrong. This causes issues when the police are needed on the streets, because the process is time consuming and they have to hang around at the police station for a while. (Someone please correct me if you know this to be wrong). Fernando told me that in Spain this process is a lot quicker, because the police officer just needs to drop the suspect off at the police station, and someone there will take care of everything.

The other difference between England and Spain that we talked about was health and safety, and the practice of suing people when there is an accident. I have seen on the TV some of the things in the fiestas here, for example in Valencia, where people are walking around with fireworks in their hands. The other thing that I always see on the news is when there are bulls running through the town with people running away, and being knocked over. You could never do any of these things in England because someone would sue the council if they got hurt! I told Fernando that this interferes with a lot of aspects of life in the UK because, for example, children often miss out on opportunities for school trips because there is so much paperwork and rules and regulations, that it is not practical to do a lot of things. I also told him that if the police are heavy handed with a suspect they are likely to be sued.

Today was the last day of school. For our break we went to a nice restaurant in town called, and I had a tostada with jamon and tomato. You may have noticed that I am eating a lot of jamon: I can't really eat this in England, so I am eating as much of the stuff as possible because it is delicious!

At the end of class I filled in a questionnaire about the course, and I had no criticisms to write down whatsoever. I told Maite that the course has been amazing, that the host family has been perfect and Cristina has been a great teacher. Cristina asked me what I needed to do tomorrow, and it was a good job she did because it reminded me that I needed to print out my plane ticket!

After class I walked back with Cristina for the final time and it was really sad (¡que triste!). I told her that I had had a great experience, and that I was sad to be leaving. I said that I didn't necessarily want to stay in Toledo, but I definitely didn't want to return to England! If it were possible I would love to visit more places in Spain, but unfortunately I have to go home and work. I told her that she had been a great teacher, and that I would miss her a lot, and we did the kissing on the cheeks thing and parted.


Mum on Friday 19 August 2011 18:18

I with you, can feel your sadness at leaving. I have felt like that at times in the distant past.

I have so enjoyed sharing this with you and am very proud of you.

It will be very sad saying goodbye to your family. Thank them for me for their hospitality.

I hope you have a good journey home.

The ratties are fine and I will miss them too on their return to you.

Look forward to seeing you soon, love mum xx

Isabel on Wednesday 24 August 2011 12:12

Nunca he comido tanto jamón en mi vida como cuando vine a vivir a Inglaterra! Me gustaba mucho cuando vivía en España, pero no lo comía siempre. Sin embargo, ahora, cada vez que voy a España mis padres tienen jamón en casa para que pueda comerlo. Cuando vengo me compran jamón para que lo traiga. Mis amigos me traen jamón de regalo cuando vienen a visitarme... Y como voy a España bastante a menudo, no paro de comer jamón!

Lots of Speaking Practice

Posted Thursday 18 August 2011 16:18 by Steve in Learning Spanish

Yesterday was pretty much perfect for me - I barely had a minute where I wasn't doing anything. First off I had 6 hours of class instead of the usual 4, and afterwards I walked Cristina back out of town and had a really nice conversation about the things that I'm going to miss most about Toledo.

After class I ate (although I can't remember what, so it can't have been that interesting!) and then had a shower and left the house again. By this time it was about 7:00 and the sun was just starting to cool off. I walked the same walk that I have done a few times, down by the river where it is shaded and there is lots of vegetation.

The walk was uneventful, and afterwards I went to the same bar that I went to last time in the 'juderia' (the Jewish quarter). I had a clara because I was thirsty, and chatted to the barman for about half an hour. I told him how my parents had visited, and that after only 2 days of speaking English I felt that my Spanish had started to deteriorate slightly. The truth is that I was thinking a lot more in Spanish before I saw them, and afterwards I was finding it a bit more difficult. (Today I think my Spanish has improved again and is better than ever, but this makes me worry that I will quickly lose a lot of my Spanish when I return to the UK).

After my drink there, I walked into town and ate at my favourite bar - Cafe Zocodover. I wasn't that hungry so I just had a jamon baguette, and shortly after I had finished eating, a group of Spanish women came in and sat at the bar. The bar maid introduced me to them, and told them that I was a student, and I ended up pulling up a chair next to them and chatting to them for about an hour. It was quite difficult at times, because there were more of them than me and they started to talk quite rapidly, but I understood most of what they said and managed to join in a fair amount.

They started talking to me because there was someone from Andalucia (in the south) on the TV, and they were asking me if I could understand their accent. I told them that I couldn't understand it, but not because of the accent - it was because the TV wasn't loud enough and there was too much going on in the bar for me to be able to listen properly. We ended up talking about the different accents people have in Spanish, and the different phrases people use in other parts of the country. After they left I chatted to the barmaid for a while, but then a load of customers came in and she had work to do.

I also had some good pinchos in the bar, and at one point they were coming out faster than the drinks were! I had crisps, olives, pickled fish, cheese and black pudding. I had ordered half a baguette, 4 small beers and a coffee, and it all came to less than £10 which I thought wasn't bad.

When I got back to the house I talked to Charo for a while, and she told me that she thinks I speak very well now. She also told me that her father is in hospital with heart problems. I think it is quite serious.

All in all, I had quite a good day, because I didn't have much time with nothing to do, and I had a lot of opportunities to practice speaking.


Mum on Thursday 18 August 2011 17:25

You seem to be confident, talking to people even if you dont know them. I dont think you will lose your Spanish when you come home, just the ability to think in Spanish. I think as soon as you are around someone Spanish speaking or back in Spain, you will soon get back into it again.

You are not going to suddenly forget all that you have learned.

It shows how much you have improved that Charo thinks you speak very well now. I think you have really well. xx

Good Food and Drink

Posted Tuesday 16 August 2011 22:12 by Steve in Learning Spanish

I wasn't originally going to post anything today, because nothing much has really happened. Last night there was a concert in the street outside my house, but I didn't go to it because I could hear it from inside the house and it was the same group as the previous night. School was pretty average today - I didn't do so well because I was tired from being kept up half the night by the concert. The only things that have been worth mentioning the past few days have been to do with eating and drinking!

Yesterday, for dinner, I went to my favourite bar in Toledo: Cafe Zocodover. This is a tiny little place on the high street, between the cathedral and the main square (Zocodover). I started going here because I only wanted a sandwich, and on the menu outside it advertises bocadillos (baguettes). This has turned out to be my favourite bar for the following reasons:

  • It serves my favourite Spanish beer: Mahou. Too many bars here serve Cruz Campo which I hate!
  • I like the food, and can find something small and cheap if I'm not hungry.
  • It's only €1,50 for a caña (small beer).
  • It's small and I can sit at the bar. I find that when I am eating on my own, it's best to sit outside or at the bar. Sitting inside at a table is not much fun.
  • It's always got quite a few people in it.
  • The pinchos (free little bits of food) are awesome.
  • The staff are friendly.
For those of you that don't know, it is quite common for bars in Spain to give you small portions of food (pinchos) for free when you are drinking. One of the things I like about this bar is that the pinchos are amazing! So far I have had: Crisps; Olives; Popcorn; Mashed potato on toast (seriously); A tiny toasted fried egg and jamon sandwich; Chorizo omelete on toast; Cake; Potato salad with an insane amount of garlic. This is pretty cool because the beer is cheap, and she normally gives me a pincho for each beer that I order.

Normally I don't really get a chance to speak to the woman behind the bar here because she is always insanely busy, but every time I came in after the first time she gave me a big smile and was obviously very pleased that I had come back. Yesterday there were less people so we chatted a bit at the end, and she complemented me on my Spanish which is always nice. Today when I went in I asked her what her name was, and it sounded like she said 'Marky', but I'm not 100% sure because this is not really possible in Spanish, but she is Japanese so you never know! I guess I'll find out for sure tomorrow...

The other place that I went to today was 'Restaurante Alex'. I have eaten in this place numerous times before, and I have always liked it here, especially because the waiter, Roberto, is friendly and helps me with my Spanish. Today I ordered 'perdiz' which is partridge, and it was definitely the best thing I have eaten in any restaurant since I have been here. The meat was really rich, and it was served with wedges, mushrooms, peppers and asparagus. It was lovely to have a few vegetables on my plate for a change! When I left I told Roberto that I was leaving in a few days, and that I didn't think I would return there. We shook hands and he wished me luck for the future.

EDIT: The barmaid's name (in Cafe Zocodover) is spelt 'Maki', or more precisely:



Mum on Tuesday 16 August 2011 23:23

I think you will probably find every where you go this week you will be thinking that this may be for the last time. This will be a week of whistfull feelings all a bit bitter sweet.

I cant believe its your last week already and know you will be feeling that even more so.

Its been amazing being able to share this experiance with you through your blog. I am so glad you decided to do that. Its given me and Nan a chance to join you in your experiances. Loved it all xx

Isabel on Wednesday 24 August 2011 11:50

Yes you're right! Cruzcampo is crap!!! However, the best beer in Spain is not Mahou but Estrella Galicia :D

Can you believe I used to have a Spanish friend in Cambridge who lived there for FIVE years and never had anything but pints of Coke in the pubs because, according to him, "if it is not Cruzcampo, it is not beer at all"? Poor innocent...