Learning Spanish Traveling versus in a Classroom
I have an advanced certificate to teach English and French, and if I had the power, I’d reward myself the same certificate in Spanish as well. I learned French in the classroom, so I know how academia functions when it comes to language acquisition, but I learned Spanish traveling, so I can compare the methods and decide which is better.
Academia vs. Non-Traditional Language Learning
I will not say that classrooms are worthless. If you’ve ever heard someone say that learning a language in a classroom is a waste of time, it is because that person has probably built up a wall of resistence to the very idea of “classroom”. A classroom is a good thing, because it puts you–hopefully–with an expert in the language, which is better than any textbook or website you can fathom.
Academia might sound boring, but usually all the information you might hope to have in order to acquire the language will be at your fingertips. Language learning theory has changed over the years from traditional grammarian ideas of teacher-knows-all and study-writing-like-you’re-dying, to more liberal communicative learning methods that use class time for student to student interaction.
So, if you think ‘classroom’ and see books and a teacher talking at you, think again. Otherwise, get out of that class because it’s not a language class. Language classes will mix grammar teaching with use of the language–students should be speaking more than the teacher.
Non-traditional language learning, which basically refers to anything that is not in a classroom, is an equally suitable way to learn a language. The key to understanding language is to recognize that it is used for communication. When you have accepted this, then you will have accepted that you’ll only learn if you use the language, no matter your level. Use it, and open yourself to mistakes, and you will assimilate it over time.
Traveling to Learn Spanish
You might consider traveling to learn a language. In fact, you’ll probably want to travel eventually to a country where that language is spoken in order to immerse yourself. However, Spanish in particular is one of the best languages in the world to combine travel and learning. Spanish-speaking countries in Latin America make up a great portion of land in the Americas. There are many countries with Spanish as the official language, which makes learning the language a geographically diverse experience. It is also a linguistically diverse experience, as the Spanish of Mexico, for example, is nothing like the Spanish of Argentina.
Hitchhiking as the Best Method
If you thought I was going to suggest any other way, you were wrong. Remember, I am hitchhiking around the world. Hitchhhiking has plenty of pros, but one of the best unspoken benefits is its ability to help in your language formation. I learned Spanish hitchhiking around Mexico. At the start of it, I spoke none. I might’ve been able to say “hola”, or “cerveza”. But aside from that, nothing.
Hitchhiking is helpful not only because you will communicate with someone in the language, but because it forces you to communicate with someone in the language. In Mexico, there was no option. I was getting picked up by people who only spoke Spanish. Necessity is the mother of human invention, and I had to invent a device of acquisition in my mind in order to pick up Spanish quickly and use it on spot.
Sometimes you’ll find yourself for many hours with a ride, which for language learning is both tiring and ideal. Lonely students often retire from classes to their homes and apartments, and don’t reuse the language until some future date. A hitchhiker is having to constantly employ the language in order to survive.
If hitchhiking is not doing it for you, perhaps because you can’t motivate yourself enough to teach yourself the bit of grammar you’ll need to complete your learning, then there’s another way you can continue learning Spanish traveling.
All over Latin America you will find Spanish schools geared towards the tourist. If you like surrounding yourself with foreign people, perhaps some from your home country, then Spanish school is your option.
It seems that every country boasts a city or town known for its Spanish schools. All you have to do is start to ask around. In Mexico it was San Cristobal de las Casas. In Guatemala is was Xela, in Ecuador Cuenca. No matter where you go, there’s going to be a school to help you kick-start your Spanish.