Sunday, 5 December 2010

Spanish lessons - by Theo

People often ask, with the full range of possible motivations and insinuations, why we moved to Madrid. (Why!?!) The answer is rather simple: because I wanted to learn Spanish. OK, there's more to it than that, and it wasn't just my decision, but moving to Spain to learn Spanish had been a long-standing ambition of mine that Kate, thankfully, was happy to go along with.

So here we are. In Spain. That's part 1 sorted. Now, part 2 - the actual learning. It was all going pretty well until Jan 2010, with Kate and I going regularly to lessons, but then something happened, I can't quite remember what around January this year. We just stopped. I thought that maybe, given we now had a solid grounding, we would just cruise along, slotting new vocabulary and idioms in to the grammatical framework we had acquired. However, by the end of the summer it was clear that this simply wasn't happening. So, I began to form a plan.

The problem with lessons had been that the ones we'd gone to were always in the morning, at around 10, finishing at 12, a good 45 minutes journey from our flat. Given that I was now working until 9 every night, this made for a long day, a rushed lunch and little time with Kate and Rosie. What would be great would be to be able to have my Spanish lessons at my place of work, immediately before I started work. That way it would be just a case of going into work a little earlier. My boss had no objections to me using a room there, provided one was free. So far so good; now just to work out how to pay for it.

Spanish teachers - like English teachers - are pretty thick on the ground here in Madrid. However, they also charge about the same - €20/hour more or less - so, unless I suddenly won El Gordo (the Spanish lottery) I was going to have to find some fellow students to split the cost with. So off I went on a recruitment drive among my fellow teachers at the two branches of the English Language Academy where I work. I was thrilled to find that at least 14 of my colleagues were interested; now came the headache of timetabling and level testing. Tuesday and Thursday, at my branch, from 1pm until 2.30pm was my ideal time; naturally then, after taking on board everybody else's preferences, the advanced class ended up being on Monday and Wednesday at 12 at the other branch. Oh well.

So, I now had my Spanish classes, at the outrageously cheap rate of €5 per 90 minute class. Bargain. The teacher was a friend we'd met while he had been training to become a teacher - we'd been his guinea pigs as it were. We had a space to hold the classes. All good. However, I also now found that I had, along the way ended up with responsibility for a beginners' group as well. Well, naturally - they didn't speak Spanish, so I had to do the negotiations for them.

We're now heading into our third month of classes, and they're going really well. We've reviewed past tenses, which are often confusing, and prepositions, which are always confusing. Next we'll be tackling the subjunctive. However the content of the classes has been the least of my concerns; it's keeping people at them that's been the problem. As the cost is split between those attending, if some students drop out it makes the class more expensive for those who stay on. This has become a problem, although not in the way I expected...

Among the other teachers who come to the advanced class with me, two have Spanish boyfriends. Another spent his Erasmus year in Granada, while another has been in Spain for over 3 years. If anyone was going to drop out of the classes, I would have expected it to have been one of them - after all they are already pretty good. But instead it's been the beginners that have been dropping like flies - from an original 7, they are now down to 3. I don't understand it - do they not plan to learn Spanish at all?! Perhaps not. Several have complained that they can't afford it, which I again fail to understand - we are all earning the same, yet they'll be paying less rent (living in shared flats) and don't have a wife and child to support. It's not like they'll find classes any cheaper elsewhere. Oh well; si los de mi clases seguen, me da igual.

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