Madrid’s Plaza Mayor. Photo by Marc
Learning a language is difficult at the best of times, but the difficulties start way before the learning process begins. First of all, you need to decide how you want to learn it which, with so many options, is no mean feat. Do you self-teach with the help of textbooks and audiotapes? Do you join an intensive class, an evening class, or get a tutor?
Do you want to learn in the native speaking country or from the comfort of your own home?
No matter what language you are learning, the questions are the same. I recently had the chance to try experience both approaches while learning Spanish.
Time frame and budget obviously have a huge part to play in this but, with so many language learning opportunities abroad, many Spanish learners are heading to Spain and Latin America to immerse themselves first hand in the language and the culture that surrounds it.
So, what are the differences between learning a language in its native country and learning it from home?
Learning a Language in its Native Speaking Country
Last year I landed for a month-long stay in Madrid without knowing a single word of Spanish (bar the obvious ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’, and ‘guapa’). I had two weeks of morning lessons planned but found that the most successful environments for learning Spanish in Spain were shops, restaurants, and out on the street amongst the locals. Madrid is notorious for being particularly harsh to English speakers so, on one level, it was necessary for me to practice at every conceivable opportunity in order to get myself heard. Plus, it’s difficult not to pick up any of the language when you are surrounded by it all day, every day.