Spanish classes, how much do you actually learn?

Discussion in 'Americas' started by Rollicon, Dec 3, 2017.

  1. Rollicon

    Rollicon n00b

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    My name is Chris and I'm from Canada and I'm traveling with my friend Gary from Australia. We're on a trip through central America from tuscon to Panama and back again. We'll be setting up a proper ride blog soon about our travels but have been doing a bit of research through this page and everyone suggests spending a week taking Spanish lessons. Both of our Spanish is very poor and have been getting by with Google translate but definitely feel we are missing out on a lot by not being able to communicate with the locals when they ask us what we are doing. It's great fun telling the people we can talk to about our adventure and watching there reactions as they translate to there friends. We're in Mazatlan now and just spotted a school and are considering staying and taking some classes. The only thing is we only have just under 2 months left for our trip and have a bunch of must see places to see and a few different friends we're meeting in different countries. Wondering from people that have done these courses before how much can you actually learn in just a week? Would be a considerable chunk out of our trip if we walked away not knowing much more than we already know. But if you can learn a fair bit, enough to communicate broken Spanish, it would add a a lot to our ride and definitly help with our border crossings. Any suggestions, info on past experiences or references to great schools would be awesome!
    Cheers from a newbie inmate!
    #1
  2. Jamie Z

    Jamie Z I'm serious.

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    I did a month-long course in 2003 (plus some college courses). I don't know who told you "spending a week" would be enough, but it's not. You really need several months of full immersion to get a good grasp of the language.

    Truth is, if you have only two months, I'd just continue on doing the best you can. Pretty much everyone down there is experienced with dealing with non-Spanish speakers. Sometimes that means you'll get a worse deal, or you won't understand some things. I don't think a stopping for a week will appreciably benefit the next month and a half of your travel. If you had the time, I'd suggest stopping for a month somewhere to help your language skills.

    My advice: Go do what you want and go where you want to go. Many people who didn't speak Spanish have been there before. You'll be fine.

    Jamie
    #2
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  3. Rollicon

    Rollicon n00b

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    http://advrider.com/index.php?threa...america-ride-planning-and-road-wisdom.141751/
    This is one of the stickies I grabbed that tip from. I didn't think a week would be enough to make a significant difference. I wish I had more time to spend learning the lingo but like you said I don't think I'd pick up enough in a week to help me out compared to the time I could spend seeing and doing more things! I will definitely be putting in a much better effort before I do south america on the next leg of this trip! (Nothing planned yet but probably next winter) I appreciate your input on this matter and welcome anyone else' insight as well. This is my first wing it adventure tour and already the learning curve has been pretty steep. I've spent a fair bit of time backpacking and circumnavigated Cambodia offroad in an organized ride but that's powderpuff stuff compared to what I'm trying to do right now. I'm also a bit concerned about the recent civil unrest in Honduras. Apparently the major roads are now closed and there is a country wide curfew from 6pm to 6am. I have a friend that lives in El Salvador but haven't had a chance to talk to him yet.I'm wondering if there is a fairy I can take from El Salvador to Nicaragua and just completely bypass Honduras?
    #3
  4. kantuckid

    kantuckid Long timer

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    I am a retired educator, well trained to evaluate instruction but not any sort of expert on second languages, at that. I fully concur with Jamie Z's statements. IMO the language instruction can be done in CA or Mexico and be of good quality but time matters much more as does the students particulars. Age matters immensely for language acquisition. I did a Spanish school in Oaxaca, (city) Mexico @ age 68. I was supposed to be immersed in my family stay, which proved otherwise as their two college age sons wore me out with USA this or that and practicing their English on me-the reverse of what I was after! The class was well presented in view of it's length, which was probably logical as a brush up for a person who'd had several years of HS Spanish.
    My oldest son's GF is Colombian and a Spanish only speaker. He is mensa material mind wise and had two years in HS, two more in college and he converses with ease but as they say, love conquers all?:-)
    This discussion reminds me of a US Army typing class I had. They did semester 1 typing book the 1st week and sem. 2 the 2nd week.
    Get on with the road and have fun. CL is full of Rosetta stone stuff on the cheap...:lol2 really...
    Horizons Unlimited might be a source for Honduras info? Or the USA state dept?:hide
    #4
  5. jml141

    jml141 Been here awhile

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    I've used duolingo online. It helps to build a vocabulary, but lacks when it comes to conversing with someone. I would think that in your situation, it might not be an issue since you are immersed in a spanish speaking region. ONe thing I would suggest is to do the "English learning Spanish" as well as "Spanish learning English." With the former, they give you mostly Spanish phrases and ask you to translate. I find it helps me to learn better with English phrases trying to translate, since that is what I will be doing. You can spend as much time as you want on there and it's free.
    #5
  6. flei

    flei cycletherapist

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    To a large extent how much you might learn in a week depends on both your propensity for learning languages and the quality of instruction you receive. I found when i was younger it was much easier for me to learn a new language; at 60 it's not easy! My teen daughter and I attended the same Spanish school in Guatemala for a week; she learned a lot, me very little.

    I sometimes like to travel to places where I know I am not going to try to learn the language (e.g., SE Asia; i don't have enough years left to learn Lao, Vietnamese or Khmer!), so i have had to become comfortable knowing only a few words and getting by with just a friendly, open demeanor. While I at times do miss being able to have in-depth convos with the locals, generally that approach has worked out just fine.
    #6
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  7. Kiko

    Kiko Long timer

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    Spanish classes are only as good as the ability of the teacher. You will not know the expertise of your teacher until after you have signed up so that is a crap shoot. I have had 4 Spanish teachers and only one was good. So do the math.

    I suggest that you keep your sentences short and to the point. You are much less likely to confuse the listener. You get the most mileage out of any conversation with only two phrases "Gracias" and "Por favor".
    #7
  8. stormdog

    stormdog Been here awhile

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    Talk your friend into taking the class by himself, then you take off on a one week ride.
    When you get back together compare who’s Spanish improved the most, and then get back to us.
    #8
  9. Friz Freleng

    Friz Freleng Religious zealot

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    I just discovered that Siri on my new iPhone will translate on the fly. Pretty cool.

    Without having to rely on technology, the only two Spanish phrases you absolutely need to know are:

    Otra cerveza por favor

    Lo juro, esa no es mi munición
    #9
  10. Sjoerd Bakker

    Sjoerd Bakker Long timer

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    +1 , one week course will not be enough time. You will certainly not get into deep socio-political discussions to resolve the national problems and end world hunger.
    Rollicon, did this Mexico trip just jump up as a spur of the moment decision ,and then you discovered they spoke Spanish there ?:lol3
    Being from Canada you must have taken some French in school, so crack open the memory banks on that and you will have at least the beginnings of a key to tie into the similarities with Spanish sentence construction . A lot of words will be somewhat similar, even similar to some English . Combine from those two and you should be able to get the message. grab whatever tools you can , be it phrase books , smart phone app , whatever but internalize the phrases, practice , practice ,practice , then apply them as often as you can . You cant learn the language by keeping quiet.
    Before next voyage into the Spanish speaking world ,when back in Canada , look for some interest courses in Conversational Spanish offered perhaps by a library or community college . Such may be offered for 9 or 10 weeks ,two classes per week and give you a lot of help.
    Read aloud every road sign, advertising board ,every label that you encounter and figure out what it is saying .
    Open your ears and LISTEN to what they are saying to you in Spanish Then YOU talk to yourself inside your helmet and pronounce, mimic exactly , as best as you can all those words you hear and read ,practice. .If you pay attention I am sure you will be making a lot of discoveries .
    Don't be bashful , babble away with as much effort as you can muster. Show interest and if you half get what was said don't be too shy to ask if the speaker if could repeat what he said, and thank them for it . ; " repeat that, please = repita, por favor " Muchas gracias.
    un poco mas despacio por favor =a little bit slower please " Muchas gracias
    #10
  11. High Country Herb

    High Country Herb Adventure Connoiseur

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    I think a week would be wasted though you would learn a little. I think you could learn as much while you continue to travel.

    A lady here at work wanted to learn Spanish because it was her ancestral language. Rather than take a class, she went and stayed with a family for a month and spoke no English during that time. It's called "full immersion", and apparently there is a network set up for people who want to do it.

    My point is, as you travel you are basically "fully immersed". Rather than using hand signals to get what you need each time, make an effort to figure out what the word is for each need, and try to remember it. Of course you'll forget a lot, but soon you'll be using some of those terms and it will make things easier.

    You might also watch a YouTube video on how to say some basics:

    "Where can I find lodging?"
    "What restaurant do you recommend?"
    "Where can I find fuel?"
    #11
  12. lnewqban

    lnewqban Ninjetter

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    Classes will teach you proper Spanish, which is much more difficult than English.
    Skip those and be exposed to conversations of Spanish speakers, even if you don't understand anything (TV and radio if available).
    That will make you familiar with sounds and the speed of conversation, which is much faster in Spanish.

    Learn the word and sound of important verbs in the three times, as well as numbers and monetary terms.
    Memorize sentences about your type of trip and your ride, so you can satisfy curious local minds.
    Learn some terms related to border crossing and dealing with police officers, traffic tickets and crime.

    Don't try to conjugate subject and verb, they will understand you, nobody expects you to do it or to even pronounce the words properly.

    Expect many locals to speak and read at least basic English, since it is taught in most Latin America schools.
    #12
  13. AndyT

    AndyT Been here awhile

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    I find the most useful things to know for a traveler are a basic understanding of pronunciation, the numbers, and the nouns for commonly used or purchased items. If you go into a grocery store and know the word for apple, for example, someone will figure out that you want to buy an apple, even if you can't speak in a proper sentence. Numbers are important so you can buy things without just handing over some money and expecting the right change. I also find that it helps to write things down, if you accent is such that it can't be understood, or if you can't understand the other person. I am a visual learner, and find that I could learn a lot by reading signs whlie riding and practicing what they say in my head. At least you will learn what a hardware store, grocery store, convenience store, etc., are called. Reading local newspapers helps me too, with a English Spanish dictionary handy.

    Having said all that, I would try to make time to take a week of lessons at some place that it would be nice to take a break at anyway. A few that come to mind are Oaxaca or San Cristobal de las Casas Mexico, or Antigua, or one of the towns on Lake Atitlan Guatemala. You might be ready for some time off the bikes by then anyway. I have studied at Escuela Cooperativa and San Pedro Spanish school in San Pedro la Laguna Guatemala and would recommend either of them. In general , lessons are cheaper in GT than in MX .

    But it really comes down to what you want from your trip. If it is likely a one time thing, then it is probably not worth the effort to try and develop any real language skills. If you think you would be coming back, you might as well start learning now. As you may know, lots of Canadians spend the winter months in Latin America somewhere.
    #13
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  14. GregDavidL

    GregDavidL Adventurer

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    Short backstory. I am married (for the time being) to a former Mexican national and she has been in the US for about 16 years. I also have no "ear" for languages. In my travels in Mexico with her and her family, I have found that, just as in the US, there are a lot of different accents, vocabulary and slang words. Her and her family and friends are, for the most part, college educated. They talk differently than those I meet on the street. I can speak a little Spanish and understand a lot more. I find just being comfortable with the customs and manners expected goes a long ways. For the most part everyone I meet is friendly and wants me to converse in English with their kids. Learning English in school is a big deal down there. Just relax and be friendly and you'll be OK. There always seems to be someone around who can speak some English. Also, as my vacation progresses I find that it gets easier since you are immersed (and kind of have no choice). LOL
    #14
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  15. shu

    shu ...

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    Learning a language takes years, but you do it a day at a time. If you have the interest, study for a week, then go home and figure out a way to continue your learning.
    You might actually find that the interactions you have in the school are more interesting, and more memorable, than riding to one more city and staying in one more hotel and going out to one more bar.


    Buen viaje!..........shu
    #15
  16. Rollicon

    Rollicon n00b

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    Wow! Thanks for all the replies! Having a bit of knowledge of french is definitely helping a lot especially with numbers. I count out loud when I'm making change for tolls and can understand what they are asking me for money. I use Google translate on my phone which can translate through speach back and forth automatically but have found that it translates spoken English a lot better than it does Spanish. Even when I ask them politely to speak slower to the phone it generally comes up completely wrong. Lol. Even when i use the app i try to speak the words myself first before letting the phone do all the work for me. I'm getting by decently but would be awesome to be able to just have a conversation with the local people. I'l definitely be looking into taking lessons when I get back to Canada as this most definitely will not be my last ride! I'm pretty bad at retaining the knowledge as I learn a new thing I forget some of the stuff I just learnt. Spent a couple months in the Philippines and was starting to pick up a bit of togalo then went for a ride around Cambodia and was using tagalo when trying to converse in khmer. Went back to the Philippines after that and played that game again but backwards! Lol. By the time I got to Thailand I was using 4 different languages and had people looking at me like I had a Dick growing out of my forehead! Lol Plan on doing south America next starting from my buddies place in Ecuador. Wanted to just keep heading south this time but Gary is limited on the amount of time he can get of work and wasn't sure about how to get around the Darien gap. Figured if I have to ship my bike around it I may as well just ship the thing straight to my buddies place in Ecuador next ride.
    Gracias muchachos!
    #16
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  17. DirtRich

    DirtRich Adventurer

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    So this is mostly for those planning a trip, not so much help for Rollicon-

    In preparation for my trip I've been taking classes online via Skype once per week for about 11 months. In my past Mex adventures I've relied on a couple of days and a couple of beers in country to get comfortable with patching words together, it worked to a limited extent. For this trip and the fact that I'll be solo I needed to get a bit more serious. When we started the classes he was in the Bay Area but has since moved back to Santiago. He's a Chileno. Very serendipitous as I'm flying into Santiago and we'll have a few days to see the city and bone up even more. So far I've found it to be extremely helpful and think it will be a tremendous addition to my trip. If any ones interested I'll see if he wants more clients and I can go into more detail on what we do and what it costs. I think it's a great value.
    #17
  18. Rollicon

    Rollicon n00b

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    Yes keep me in the loop. I' definitely be interested in something like that when I get back to Canada
    #18
  19. DirtRich

    DirtRich Adventurer

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    Well we mostly focus on verb conjugation, present, past and future tenses, with the added twist of who's the subject me (yo) you (tu) he/she/formal you (el ella uds) we (nosotros) them plural (ellos/ellas/ uds) as well as in the command/request tenses in both singular and plural. Once you get this down you just plug the words into the proper context and voila, yo hablo espanol! Lots of variables but it's starting to take, if only I did this 30 years ago or more when my brain was more agile... He's also provided study guides of common questions and phrases.

    I've probably learned more doing this than I did in high school. It's $40 per one hour session which to me is a great deal. I don't have to drive, park or stress about getting there on time etc. Our next lesson is Wednesday and I'll ask him if he's game for more students.
    #19
  20. jimmex

    jimmex Guero con moto

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    I'd just study specific useful words, conjugations, and phrases and keep the show on the road. Since its obvious what you're doing and what you might need, you shouldn't have much difficulty actually communicating and after all, most folks down there speak more English than you'll ever learn in a week of school. It takes years of study and work to grasp the basics of a foreign language and you don't have that much time. Just keep riding and enjoying the wonderful people and culture of Latin America. Who knows, you might end up with a brown eyed dictionary. :sweeti
    #20
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