February 20, 2013 by cmcguigan91
After a week of exploring Spain and getting to know others in my API group, I was forced to face reality and take a 3 hour long placement test for my classes at the CLM (Centro de Lenguas Modernas). I placed into level 5 (high intermediate)- the level I needed to take classes in Spanish! I had entire week to get settled into my new home and city before I was forced to face the reality of 8:30am classes, studying, and homework.
This semester started off with a struggle choosing courses- por supuesto. I was signed up for five classes at the CLM, but after the first Tuesday of sitting through six straight hours of class (without a single descanso), I ran to the API building to switch up my schedule and drop a course. Now, I am taking four classes which is the perfect amount of work for my semester in Spain!
Lunes y Miércoles (Mondays and Wednesdays)
8:30- 10:00 Civilización y cultura españolas
Spanish civilization and culture- it’s exactly what it sounds like! In this class we discuss things having to do with Spanish life. Some of the things we’ll be learning about are history, geography, demographics, tourism, government, and food! The profesora, Pilar, is so sweet and helpful! Right now we’re talking about cultural differences in Spain and I’m working with a group on a 30 minute presentation on some of the comunidades autónomas of Spain.
15:30-17:00 Producción oral y escrita
This is one of the two required classes I am taking. In it we work on our Spanish speaking and writing abilities. We do activities and worksheets to learn and practice our skills. In this class basically everything I’ve learned about Spanish has been thrown out the window. Some of the words, saying, and grammar rules I know are very Americano- and I’m learning the more español way to say things. For example, no one here says baño (bathroom)- instead they use aseos or servicios.
Martes y Jueves (Tuesdays and Thursdays)
8:30- 10:00 Literatura Española (hasta S. XVIII)
Spanish Literature since the 18th century is probably my least favorite course. We’re reading and analyzing old literature. Right now we’re looking at work from the medieval ages and talking about how the phonetics have changed. It’s hard to analyze phonetics when you’re not even fluent in the language! We’ll be reading a lot of poesía and of course don Quijote.
10:00-11:30 Nociones de gramática española
Grammar is the other course I am required to take. This is another class where everything I thought I knew is erróneo. I thought I had the preterito indefinido and preterito imperfecto tenses down pat since I’ve learned them practically every year since I started studying spanish but nope! Back to square one. I’m learning a lot though, and what we are doing is useful.
Since I’m only taking 4 classes I decided to volunteer at a school twice a week. The teacher that I work with, Mercedes, is the English teacher. She’s great!
On Monday morning I am in a high level classroom. The entire class is taught in English, except when someone needs to clarify with Spanish. This week they were finishing up a unit on dreams and nightmares. It was a fun lesson to observe and the kids speak English well! In the future I’ll be taking groups of students aside each weak and lead a discussion section so they can work on their English fluency.
On Wednesday morning I am in a low level classroom, which is such a contrast from the other. This class is taught mostly in Spanish, so it’s good for me to listen to. Mercedes spends a lot of time in this class talking to the misbehaving students. This class is interesting to observe because I was in their place a few years ago, but I was trying to learn Spanish! Today they were doing practice exercises on possessive pronouns. They had to read the sentence and fill in the blanks in English and then translate it to Spanish. I was doing the same thing in my head, but for me the English was easy and the Spanish was hard! In the future I will be helping a few of the more advanced students in this level practice their fluency.
I’m doing everything I can to improve my Spanish! Having my classes all in Spanish is a huge part of this learning experience. Some days I can follow a lecture sin problema, and other days it’s much harder. Classes in another language require complete concentration, so if I let my mind wander for even a second I could be lost for the rest of the class. I think one of the most disappointing things is that there are no Spaniards in any of my classes, or even on my campus. Since there are so many Americans everywhere, it’s hard to meet Spaniards. I’ve attended Intercambios and have been trying to speak Spanish with my friends- which is hard! I’m going to continue doing everything I can to make the most out of this experience.