In my last article I wrote about the elements of Spanish grammar that my personal tutor and I went over during the Spanish lessons I took whilst in Antigua, Guatemala. In this article I want to talk about the conversational lessons that I attended at the same school. During my two weeks at the school I spent Monday to Friday from 9.00am to 12.00pm studying Spanish grammar on a one to one basis with my tutor. The afternoons were devoted to different kinds of conversational lessons.
These included talking in Spanish with various different tutors on a one to one basis, participating in group conversations and playing different types of word games. Conversational lessons benefit the student in a number of different ways. In my case having conversational lessons each afternoon gave me the opportunity to put into practice the Spanish grammar that I had learnt during that morning. It is always a good thing to try and practice any new Spanish you have learnt, straight away while it is still fresh in your head. You might want to think about constructing certain types of typical sentences that help you remember different aspects of Spanish grammar better. Speaking, listening and becoming accustomed to spoken Spanish is an essential part of the learning process and of course, having a conversation with someone allows you to do all of these things at the same time.
When you first start to have conversations with people in Spanish you will probably find the whole experience quite gruelling, especially if your vocabulary is limited! This is completely normal. Don't forget that you are used to speaking in your first language every single day without even thinking about it and to suddenly change this habitual action is no easy task! The thing is that you have to keep practicing. It is like anything, the more you practice the better you become. One of the great benefits of having conversational lessons is that you can take as long as is required to have the actual conversation, plus, your teacher can make sure you are speaking correctly. In real life situations this is often very difficult if not impossible to achieve.
Often people will not have the patience to wait while you try to get your words out or not bother to correct you if you say something that isn't quite grammatically correct. The types of conversations that you can have in order to practice your Spanish are endless, which means you can practice using all aspects of Spanish grammar and a full range of vocabulary. To practice different verb tenses for example you can talk about things in the present, past and future or you could practice describing what certain objects look like if you just want to focus on specific vocabulary.
You can talk about yourself, you can talk about events in your life, you can practice describing things, asking and responding to different types of questions, you can talk about different experiences you have had, about things you would like to do, about the things you do and don't like. The list really is endless! When I was attending conversational classes in Guatemala I did however, sometimes get a little board and frustrated. I think this was mainly because I couldn't speak quickly enough, didn't know enough vocabulary and always had to think about what I was going to say before saying it. Also I was having the same types of conversations over and over again and couldn't really talk about anything in great detail. In order to prevent or lessen these types of annoyances the school provided group conversational lessons and encouraged the students to play different types of word games such as 'hang man' or 'what am I'.
There is no point in doing any kind of study if you are not enjoying it or if you start becoming board. Varying the different types of learning activities is a good way of preventing this from happening. Playing word games are also a good way of breaking up your study routine but in a way that still allows you to practice your Spanish. Group conversations can help build your speaking confidence and listening to other students speaking Spanish can be quite reassuring. You realise that other people are in the same boat as you and you can also use the experience to test whether you think someone has said something correctly or not.
Making the learning experience an enjoyable one is important and to help achieve this the school I went to in Guatemala arranged different group activities after lessons. Some of these included visiting a local coffee plantation, going on a bike ride and going out for a meal. Getting involved in social activities is not only fun but it also allows you to practice your Spanish in less formal and natural environments. In my next article I intend to write about 'home stays'.
When I was studying at a school in Antigua, Guatemala the school arranged for me to live with a local family for two weeks. I will discuss in what ways this type of culture immersion helped me to learn more Spanish and practice the Spanish I already knew.
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