Spanish "Immersion"..or not so much

Corin_Wright gb United Kingdom

Hey everyone, hope all is well.

I have been in Madrid now for 2 weeks. I go a language school from Monday-Friday from 0900-1300 and I live in a shared flat with people from all-over the world. I find myself frustrated though as I don't feel my Spanish is improving really that much at all, even though I'm actually in the country itself.

I sort of know why this is. In the beginning when I moved in, there was a guy who was just finishing the course at the language school and he could speak Spanish very well and I spoke only Spanish with him, as even if I wanted to speak English with him, he couldn't really speak English. I felt my Spanish improving even in the first two days. I started being able to speak faster and faster without having to think about it because I was talking to this guy pretty much all the time. Then he left and currently in my flat there are four French people (only two of whom can speak a very very little Spanish) a dutch person and a german who can speak only maybe a bit more Spanish than the French people. These days I find myself not speaking Spanish at all in the flat because everyone just wants to speak English to make things easier..this hugely frustrates me to the point where I start to feel like i'm wasting my time here. It annoys me it's gone from speaking Spanish every day with this guy..talking about philosophy, religion and politics with him in Spanish..to just speaking English because no-one else actually can/seems to want to speak Spanish. Of course the lessons at the school are all in Spanish but irrelevant to the fact I feel like i'm in class too low for my level, there is no real complex discussion with which ones level could develop..it's pretty much all just talking about grammar in Spanish. It's now gotten to the point where I feel like I speak so little Spanish every day that my level is getting worse. The only Spanish I have spoken in the last few days (bar at "school" ) has been small chat in shops whilst purchasing.

And so, I was wondering if anyone had any advice they could give me about how to actually try and immerse myself in Spanish language without just having to be stuck in my room all day listening to audio in which case I may aswell have stayed in Scotland.

May 2013
  • Moderator
    ColinJohnstonov gb United Kingdom

    I have not got much advice about this, but as a Scotsman, I figured you might be interested in reading this thread

    http://www.lingq.com/forum/1/19158/?page=2

    Start reading from my second post.

    May 2013
  • Davidjvl us United States

    In situations like the one you are in, it has always been frustrating to me, being a native speaker of English, that English is the dominant international language right now.

    I'm learning French and, on language learning sites like lang-8.com, It seems that French English speakers want to show off to me that they can speak English, and so answer my questions, written in French, in English, just because It says "English" as my native language on my profile. Perhaps this is a peculiarity of French speakers... I've never had (Latin American) Spanish speakers do this to me and my Spanish is much, much worse than my French.

    Everything is even worse when their English is incomprehensible.

    I'm going to be in France for a month this summer for an "immersive" course. I'll probably attempt to do socializing off the college campus, or else I'd bet everyone will just speak English to me...

    May 2013
  • [lovelanguagesII] aw Aruba

    @ Corin:

    I know what you mean. This has happened to me as well and depending on the length and type of your stay you have various options to try and get out of that linguistic "cul de sac" ;-)

    1) I now normally try to contact people even before I go to the country. I do that through one or several of the language exchange platforms on the net. This has always worked out fine. I have met many interesting people whom I already knew a bit before I went to the country.

    2) If you stay for more than just a couple of weeks you can try and join a local club. That could be a sports club (I did some martial arts training in Japan and China for example, some very basic stuff but it helped to meet people), a discussion club or a group of people engaging in social activities in the broader sense of the term (in Latin America I worked with street children and handicapped people for example).

    3) If none of these options is viable for you, you can always go to a tapas bar. Just avoid the crowds of other foreigners. Personally, I have never had problems meeting and chatting up people at such bars. The Spanish usually are quite talkative and for what it's worth in general they seem to prefer to speak Spanish (which doesn't mean they won't make an effort to speak English in case the conversation gets stuck). For guys, football has always been a great topic to start out with.

    4) You don't seem to be happy with the group they put you in at your school, so your level already seems to be advanced. In that situation your flatmates won't be of much help to you, especially not if they lack the kind of motivation that brought you to Spain. Unfortunately, most of these language courses are attended by younger kids whose parents sent them there or by some college students who are just trying to get some credits for their study programme. I have only met very few really motivated people in the classes and this is why I always tried to meet people outside of class.

    5) If you stay for a longer period of time, you might want to try to put an ad in a local paper or - even better - on the Internet where you look for people sharing your hobbies and interests. I did that during my first stay in Japan because I had a similar problem as you have now. After a week I had like a dozen of people I met on a regular basis. With some of these people I did a language exchange, with others I went on weekend excursions, went to the movies etc. Be open and let people know you are eager to share experiences.

    6) You can get a lot of passive input too, of course, by watching TV programmes, listening to radio broadcasts, but all this you could do at home as well. What makes a stay abroad so unique is the people you meet and for that you need to get out of that shared flat as often as possible. Especially in Madrid (for example in the Retiro) I found that the elderly were also quite interested in having a chat on a variety of topics. I have really found older people to be excellent and patient conversation partners.

    The important thing is to stay away from the crowd of students of your language school unless they are as committed as you are. Even walking through the city for a couple of hours, getting yourself a drink and just eavesdropping (I know it is not very polite but an effective learning strategy;-)) will be of much more benefit to you than spending too much time with your flatmates.

    Even though I'm afraid I could not provide you with an answer that actually "solves" your problem, I hope you'll get an idea of how to make the best out of your stay. Most importantly, have fun!

    May 2013
  • [J_4_J] aw Aruba

    @Corin

    Firstly, I wouldn't worry too much about your level after 2 weeks. In my experience it took more like 8 weeks of immersion before I started to see any visible gains in German. (And it was more like 8 months before I reached any kind of comfort zone.)

    Secondly, you need to GET THE HELL OUT OF THAT FLAT.

    I really seriously mean that! I personally knew someone at university who spent a whole academic year in Italy as an Erasmus exchange student; like you she was living in a flat where the common language was English, but at the end of the year she had made so little progress in spoken Italian that she was actually forced by the university to switch to a single hons degree which didn't include any final year Italian.

    Living in an English bubble is very likely going to KILL your efforts to become fluent in Spanish (although you may well be giving these guys some useful contact time in English...)

    If you're serious about Spanish, you need to get out of that flat. You would be better living on your own than being forced to spend most of your time mentally trapped in English.

    May 2013
  • [cazasigiloso] aw Aruba

    @Corin.

    What clubs are you a part of? I actually didn't find Spaniards to be *that* nice and accommodating when I took classes at the Spanish university so all my friends were Latin American. I was part of a church youth group and met a great Mexican friend; (we were kind of like BFF's) thus I spoke Spanish 100% of the time. Can you join a gym or some other activity?

    How about moving to a host family? Is that a possibility? It is annoying when expatriats just speak their native tongue and don't improve their target language but it is their choice.

    Good luck and try to meet native speakers outside the "flat" as you Brits say. :)

    May 2013
  • Moderator
    ColinJohnstonov gb United Kingdom

    @ Corin - How long are you planning to stay in Spain?

    @ Robert - " especially not if they lack the kind of motivation that brought you to Spain. Unfortunately, most of these language courses are attended by younger kids whose parents sent them there or by some college students who are just trying to get some credits for their study programme. I have only met very few really motivated people in the classes and this is why I always tried to meet people outside of class."

    My experience was somewhat different. I went to a language school in Wien for a few months when I first started. Other than an old Russian couple who were on holiday, every single person in my class was unemployed and desperately trying to learn German for the sake of getting a job. They were definitely very motivated. In fact, other than the Russian couple, I was the only person there who actually had a job already.

    May 2013
  • [cazasigiloso] aw Aruba

    Needing to learn a language to make money to survive--I would say that that is the biggest motivator!

    May 2013
  • Moderator
    ColinJohnstonov gb United Kingdom

    So what Corin needs to do is to give all his money to charity so that he needs to learn Spanish to get a job to survive. Unfortunately 55% of young people in Spain are unemployed last I heard, so maybe this isn't such a good idea.

    May 2013
  • [cazasigiloso] aw Aruba

    Those statistics are a little misleading; they include all the people that are studying in college, I believe. Although *some* people that were looking for jobs will be attending more higher-education programs to "wait out" the economic crisis.

    But it is still darn high. Maybe if he meets somebody that he really likes or discovers a love for García Lorca poems, he will have similar motivation to know a lot of Spanish? Regardless, I think the threat of not having any money and being destitute is more of a motivation!

    May 2013
  • Corin_Wright gb United Kingdom

    I should be staying here until August or there roundabouts... I am actually currently trying to join a gym to, and there is a football meet up page for people who live in Madrid and want to play football.

    May 2013
  • Davidjvl us United States

    Definetly join the gym. I learned a lot of Spanish when I started going to the gym, and I didnt even join one outside of the US!

    May 2013
  • [cazasigiloso] aw Aruba

    @djvlbass You learned Spanish at a gym? What gym did you go to?! That's funny.

    @Corin: you can't get a home stay? I think those are best...and if there are a lot of family members they can introduce you to friends, then you get even more native speakers to talk to.

    May 2013
  • [J_4_J] aw Aruba

    @cazasigiloso

    You're right - staying with a family is best (provided that one gets along with them, of course.) Failing that, living alone would actually be much better than living in an English bubble, IMO.

    I find the whole thing pretty sad: why would someone go all the way to Spain just in order to give free 7/7 English immersion to guys from France and Holland!?

    May 2013
  • [lovelanguagesII] aw Aruba

    @ cazasigiloso: (...) I actually didn't find Spaniards to be *that* nice and accommodating when I took classes at the Spanish university so all my friends were Latin American. (...)

    I guess you find all types of people no matter where you go to. Cultural differences probably play a role too, but personally I have always found Spaniards to be very nice and helpful. They sometimes can come across as a bit "direct" but all in all I had a great time in Spain every time I went there. The only people I found a bit harsh from time to time was the service staff in restaurants but other than that I met lots of nice people.

    (...) You learned Spanish at a gym? What gym did you go to?! That's funny. (...)

    You actually suggested he join a gym in your previous post ;-)

    Besides, I'm sure you can make friends at a gym and go out for a drink etc.

    @ Colin: (...) My experience was somewhat different. I went to a language school in Wien for a few months when I first started. Other than an old Russian couple who were on holiday, every single person in my class was unemployed and desperately trying to learn German for the sake of getting a job. They were definitely very motivated. (...)

    That is a totally different situation, I think. The kind of courses that Corin attends probably mostly caters to students or holiday-makers. I guess the participants in your course (except for the Russian couple) were people from other EU countries (or asylum seekers with a working permit) trying to settle in Austria for economic reasons. These people certainly are highly motivated and if Corin were to share an apartment (flat) with people like them I'm sure he'd have ample opportunities to practise Spanish. So, yes, I think your situation was really different.

    @ Jay: (...) You're right - staying with a family is best (provided that one gets along with them, of course.) Failing that, living alone would actually be much better than living in an English bubble, IMO. (...)

    I guess we all have had different experiences in this respect. To be honest, I think the benefits you supposedly get by staying with a host family are greatly overestimated unless you find a very open-minded family. Most of the families working with language schools take in young people for a few weeks. My experience in England and Russia for example has been that these are families who badly needed the little money they received for this kind of service. Nothing wrong with that as long as you are also ready to actually help the student with his language learning. This, however, is not really part of their "job" and they mostly make that quite clear in the documents you receive from the school as well. My personal experience with host families was mixed. Whenever I stayed for up to 4 weeks it was mediocre at best. The only time it really worked out great was when I stayed in Ecuador for 6 months. This may also have had to do with the fact that I worked with an NGO that was run by a member of the family.

    For me, the best option now is a shared apartment with local singles or staying on my own in a place to which I can invite friends whenever I want. You are far less likely to get involved into any domestic quarrels, singles tend to have a large number of friends and they seem to have more spare time on their hands than parents (which is quite understandable). All this is based on my own personal experience, of course, and Corin will have to find his own way to get out of that deadlock he is in right now.

    I'm sure he'll be able to find a viable solution.

    May 2013
  • [cazasigiloso] aw Aruba

    No, the American guy was saying that he spoke Spanish at a gym in the United States, not in Spain. He probably lives in a border state, but even then Spanish isn't that widespread unless you are in a border CITY like McAllen, Texas.

    May 2013
  • [lovelanguagesII] aw Aruba

    @ cazasigiloso: (...) No, the American guy was saying that he spoke Spanish at a gym in the United States, not in Spain. (...)

    I see, I stand corrected then ;-)

    May 2013
  • [J_4_J] aw Aruba

    @Robert: "...I guess we all have had different experiences in this respect. To be honest, I think the benefits you supposedly get by staying with a host family are greatly overestimated unless you find a very open-minded family..."

    Well, I did say that one would have to get along with the family ;-)

    But you know, Robert, I think this situation that Corin is in is more dangerous (from a language-learning point of view) than many people dream. I mentioned in my earlier post that I personally know of someone who managed to spend a whole academic year in Italy without making any significant breakthrough in the language! Sadly this is far from unique. Tutors preparing exchange students always warn them that they will make little progress if they spend most of the time speaking English. But (from what I hear) they know that there will always be one or two students out of every 'batch' who will ignore the warnings. It comes as a sad shock to these guys to get back to their home university a year later and find that most of their fellow exchange students are now fluent in French, Spanish, or whatever, while they are still right where they started.

    Sad, but that's just the way it is.

    May 2013
  • [lovelanguagesII] aw Aruba

    @ Jay: (...) But you know, Robert, I think this situation that Corin is in is more dangerous .... (...)

    I totally agree with you. And, as for host families, it can be a great experience and it can turn out to be a nightmare. It is just like with so many other things in life. Besides, I guess it also depends on your own personal preferences. I now simply prefer to have my own bathroom etc. I also like the freedom I have when renting my own apartment and inviting over whoever I want to share my time with - no curfew, no asking for permission etc.

    Maybe that has to do with my age. As a teenager I actually preferred staying with a family because it was some sort of a "safe haven". But now I definitely prefer having my own place or sharing an apartment with people who are more or less my age (even though I had some great experiences with younger people as well; at the end of the day it is all a matter of whether people are eager to learn or not).

    I have met quite a few people who have spent part of their studies at foreign universities and sometimes did not even reach the level of a dedicated learner who never set foot abroad. If you spend most of your time with people speaking your native tongue, your progress will be minimal (you might still benefit from some passive intake of the language spoken around you).

    If you want to learn, you need to be serious about it and this involves taking some steps which might not be that popular or pleasant at the beginning. It might be hard at first to step out of your comfort zone and jump into a completely non-English (or non-German etc.) environment but it may be your only chance to really benefit from your stay abroad. I have only spent about 6 months in English speaking countries over the past 20 years (including holidays etc.) and I don't think my English is any worse than that of some of my former fellow students who actually were lucky enough to spend a year or two studying at a university in a country where their target language is spoken (when I was a student, Austria was not yet a member of the EU and it was very hard to get a scholarship and my parents could have never afforded to send me abroad for such a long time).

    Corin is in a great position to make a lot of progress, he just needs to get out of that "English only" environment.

    May 2013
  • Moderator
    ColinJohnstonov gb United Kingdom

    @ Robert " guess the participants in your course (except for the Russian couple) were people from other EU countries (or asylum seekers with a working permit) trying to settle in Austria for economic reasons."

    Actually all but one other was in Austria because their husband/wife had a job here.

    May 2013
  • Davidjvl us United States

    In Europe can refugees and guest workers actually afford these language classes? Our immigrants are pretty much on their own in that respect. Well, even illegal-immigrant children do have the right to attend k-12 schools, and they do learn English, but adults are pretty much on their own.

    May 2013
  • [J_4_J] aw Aruba

    @Robert: "...I don't think my English is any worse than that of some of my former fellow students who actually were lucky enough to spend a year or two studying at a university in a country where their target language is spoken..."

    Your level is, without any doubt, better than that of most of these individuals! :-)

    @Robert: "...when I was a student, Austria was not yet a member of the EU and it was very hard to get a scholarship and my parents could have never afforded to send me abroad for such a long time..."

    You're right - the Erasmus scheme is a wonderful opportunity. (It is the only good thing about the EU which I can think of, to be honest.)

    But this makes it all the more incredible that there are some students each year who just completely throw away this opportunity. It is such a sad waste.

    May 2013
  • [lovelanguagesII] aw Aruba

    @ at djvlbass (...)

    In Europe can refugees and guest workers actually afford these language classes? (...)

    It all depends on their legal status. Refugees are sometimes offered language courses for free or the courses are paid for by NGOs, such as Caritas or Zebra, but I doubt that was the kind of course Colin attended. Sometimes our Labour Office ("Arbeitsamt") pays for the language courses if the person in question is an EU citizen or the spouse of a foreign national who has a permanent residence and working permit here in Austria and is looking for a job. There are other organisations that offer low-cost or free courses, most of them are run as NGOs.

    If, as Colin said, the participants in that course were practically all spouses of another national who already had a job in Austria, it is very likely that they were allowed to come here as part of the so-called "Familiennachzug" (family reunion regulations according to which immediate members of a family are granted a residence and/or working permit) or they were indeed nationals of another EU country and as such basically equipped with the same rights as Austrians.

    No matter what their background was, it was definitely a very wise decision to try and learn the language of the country they reside in.

    @ Jay: Thanks for your nice words.

    (...) You're right - the Erasmus scheme is a wonderful opportunity. (It is the only good thing about the EU which I can think of, to be honest.) (...)

    I think there is more good stuff to say about the EU but there undoubtedly are also a lot of problems.

    (..) But this makes it all the more incredible that there are some students each year who just completely throw away this opportunity. It is such a sad waste. (...)

    I totally agree with you.

    May 2013
  • Moderator
    ColinJohnstonov gb United Kingdom

    @ Corin - I guess one important thing here is your own personality. Are you the kind of person who likes and is good at meeting new people? I myself could never go to a bar alone and expect to meet and chat with people and I do not like doing activities that involve meeting people, but I have known people who are great at this kind of thing.

    I remember inviting some American guy who was travelling around Scotland to stay with me for a few days in North Berwick (my family has a flat there) when I was staying there for a week to get some work done. The day he arrived, I was hard at work and he decided to go out and wonder aimlessly around the town. An hour later, I got a call from him asking if I wanted to go with him and some guys to Edinburgh for some drinks (we ended up in some piss soaked hole on Grassmarket, but that's a story for another day). Such a person would have no problem meeting people to chat to.

    May 2013
  • Davidjvl us United States

    @Robert

    That's really interesting. I guess I'm going to try to meet a nice Austrian girl, get married, then learn German =0

    I'm definetly going to read up more on the NGO route. I'm thinking about doing a degree in education, focussing on ESL. I had already been considering that the non-profit sector might be the place in which to think of working, here in the US.

    @Colin

    I'm usually a pretty reserved guy, but (usally at bars) I for some reason, always get along with Scottish people. I think we two peoples, US and Scottish, have something that clicks? I'm not even one of those "my great grandfather's uncle was Scottish" types.

    May 2013
  • Moderator
    ColinJohnstonov gb United Kingdom

    "I guess I'm going to try to meet a nice Austrian girl, get married, then learn German"

    That's exactly my plan!

    May 2013
  • [lovelanguagesII] aw Aruba

    @ djvlbass (...) had already been considering that the non-profit sector might be the place in which to think of working, here in the US. (...)

    Definitely a great line of work but be prepared to be completely underpaid and not always appreciated for what you do. The NGOs I mentioned above regularly come under heavy attack from right-wing organisations for what they do. You find that in any country you go to, I guess. Helping foreigners, refugees and the like, usually draws some opposition form nationalists etc.

    Besides, as we say in German "Undank ist der Welten Lohn" (you can also say "Undank ist der Welt Lohn"). It means something like "no good deed goes unpunished" or "the world pays with ingratitude". Most people I know and who work in the non-profit sector are in it because they are idealists and I guess that is what you need to be to survive. But they all love their jobs and wouldn't want to work anywhere else. So, go for it if you feel you are that kind of person.

    @ Colin and @ djvlbass: You are not seriously looking for a nice Austrian girl to have an excuse to learn German, are you guys? ;-) ;-)

    It might actually be wiser to start with the learning part since most teachers are female here and some are really very nice too. But, what he heck, whatever gets you guys speaking :-)

    Colin: Don't tell me you are here in Austria all on your own? I thought you had come with the whole package - wife, kids etc. So much for preconceptions ;-)

    May 2013
  • Corin_Wright gb United Kingdom

    @Colin I know exactly the sort you mean, those who can just go out there and talk to other human beings :-P

    Talking to complete strangers is maybe on the fringes of my comfort zone but I have certainly gotten more used to it having worked the tills for 7 months and now having to meet strangers in spain so I can do it if I have to, which I'm now starting to realize I may. since posintg my original post, on days where I have been speaking or chatting to other people in Spanish to a minimum, I have tried to counter it by doing a lot of work here on lingq or in other ways. I DO feel like I have already improved but like it has been said I really don't want to waste this opportunity. I guess what I should do is just anything at all to try and meet new people who will only speak Spanish to me? football teams, other sports, gym, meet up groups, language exchanges.. right? and when I can't do this just to maybe try and immerse my self in the language as much as possible, by reading..watching tv..listening and so on?? what do you guys think??? I've still got more than three months here..but Obviously it may be good I've spotted this situation earlier rather than later.

    May 2013
  • Davidjvl us United States

    @Corin

    I'd imagine having an accent helps, a bit, in approaching strangers, no? It's not just that you're some weird local guy wandering up to a group of people - You're an exotic foreigner.

    I have no experience in this regard, yet, but I'm hoping that having an accent will help me when I am wandering around Nancy in a couple months from now, not knowing a soul in the entire city. I'd be really interested to hear your experience on this, so far.

    @Robert

    Ha, yeah, its indeed kind of a worry in those aspects. I live in a pretty nationalistic part of the nation. We have seen an influx of African refugees over the last few years, in addition to Hispanic immigration, and its a really interesting dynamic. As far as money, I don't (think I) care. Then again, I'm still in the overlly idealistic phase that I think everyone goes through in their early twenties.

    ps. You stopped using "ad" and started using "@." Did we turn you into a plebian ;0 ?

    May 2013
  • Moderator
    ColinJohnstonov gb United Kingdom

    @ Robert (if this is the real Robert!) - "Colin: Don't tell me you are here in Austria all on your own? I thought you had come with the whole package - wife, kids etc. So much for preconceptions ;-)"

    I have no idea why you thought that. I came here on my own. Anyway, I don't want to give the impression that I want to meet a lovely Austrian woman so that I can learn German. In fact, it's the other way around. :D

    May 2013
  • [J_4_J] aw Aruba

    Nothing wrong with actively seeking Teutonic females, Colin.

    Now in my younger days... (But no...this is a family show...! :-D)

    May 2013
  • Moderator
    ColinJohnstonov gb United Kingdom

    @ Robert - "If, as Colin said, the participants in that course were practically all spouses of another national who already had a job in Austria, it is very likely that they were allowed to come here as part of the so-called "Familiennachzug" (family reunion regulations according to which immediate members of a family are granted a residence and/or working permit) or they were indeed nationals of another EU country and as such basically equipped with the same rights as Austrians. "

    A few of the participants of my course were from within the EU, two were from Africa, and the rest were Russian.

    May 2013
  • [lovelanguagesII] aw Aruba

    @ djvlbass (...) ps. You stopped using "ad" and started using "@." Did we turn you into a plebian ;0 ? (...)

    When I write in German, I only use "ad". But I guess in English the @ sign is the only correct sign to use in this context. I felt kind of lonely being the only one using "ad" here ;-)

    @ Colin: (...) I have no idea why you thought that. I came here on my own. (...)

    I think this has to do with your vid I saw on youtube. I somehow assumed this was a video you shot in Austria and there was a female voice in the background. Besides, the floor in the apartment looked like parquet flooring to me and I hardly ever saw that kind of flooring in an apartment in the US or in the UK. I obviously jumped from one false assumption to another. I hope you'll forgive me ;-)

    May 2013
  • Moderator
    ColinJohnstonov gb United Kingdom

    Ah, the kittens. This video was from the day I stayed at my mothers house in London before going to China two years ago. She had just got these 3 week old kittens. Unfortunately the next time I was staying in London a few months later, the cute black one got flattened under the wheel of a car.

    May 2013
  • Davidjvl us United States

    "The cute black one got flattened under the wheel of a car."

    Now I never want to see your video. It'd be sad now, knowing the fate of the cat.

    May 2013
  • [cazasigiloso] aw Aruba

    @Corin

    "I guess what I should do is just anything at all to try and meet new people who will only speak Spanish to me? football teams, other sports, gym, meet up groups, language exchanges.. right? and when I can't do this just to maybe try and immerse my self in the language as much as possible, by reading..watching tv..listening and so on?? what do you guys think??? I've still got more than three months here..but Obviously it may be good I've spotted this situation earlier rather than later. "

    Do you take classes with English natives or Spaniards? If you have native speakers in your classes, maybe you could study with them? I'm sure you've thought of this if you had the chance.

    All my friends were from the church youth group...so is that an option? Joining a team sounds good....

    May 2013
  • Corin_Wright gb United Kingdom

    Well, my class mates, other than the teacher, are all not from Spain would you believe? :P

    May 2013
  • Moderator
    ColinJohnstonov gb United Kingdom

    I noticed something similar in my German class in Vienna. There were no native speakers! Peculiar.

    May 2013
  • Davidjvl us United States

    I read somewhere that in those speed-dating events they hire two really attractive people to attend; one male, one female. They should do the same with language classes: hire two native speakers for each class. Preferably very attractive.

    May 2013
  • TintoDeVerano us United States

    For the benefit of those following this thread, I spent two months in Salamanca and had the feeling that I was not making much progress, but to those in my local Spanish meetup group (upon my return), the difference in my capability was like a night and day comparison. How did I do this? I had two language exchange partners, I lived in an apartment with a señora who spoke not one word of English, and since I was twice the age of the other students, I was not invited to their gatherings. When I wasn't working on assignments or talking with my language exchange partners, I wandered the streets and tried to make small talk with any shop owner.

    To anyone who is planning on an immersion program, and I assume you are college-age, you will have to make a decision: meet and have fun with interesting people from all over the world close to your age who all speak English, the official language of all affluent enough to travel to learn another (a third in most cases!) language, OR, learn that other language. If you're young, this can be more difficult than you suspect.

    I am going back to Salamanca for an extended period, and I will look for even more language exchange partners and during a month with la señora, I will find a room with españoles for the rest of my stay. I do not expect this to be easy, but I know my Spanish will improve substantially.

    Good luck.

    August 2013
  • Moderator
    steve ca Canada

    I was once in Salamanca for three days with my wife. Except for brief encounters in restaurants and stores, it was difficult to find people to talk with. However I found a bookstore and I was able to engage the bookstore owner in lengthy conversations, and he always welcomed me back.

    The difficulty of engaging with the locals is another reason why we should prepare ourselves before we go to the country where the language is spoken. In most cases the idea that you can simply arrive, with little knowledge of the language and talk your way to fluency will prove to be an illusion.

    August 2013
  • creimann us United States

    The easiest plan of all: meet the neighbors. They're right there, all around you.

    Bookstores are good, I agree with Steve.

    August 2013
  • Davidjvl us United States

    @Tinto

    I had a very similar experience in France. I attended a month long course this summer, and I found that most of the other students were young, relatively affluent, and also relatively uninterested in speaking any other language than English. Different from you, I was about the same age as them. I had to find a balance between socialising in English so as to not seem anti-social, and finding real conversation opportunities in French. I basically just went to all the organized events/parties, and spoke English when spoken to. Otherwise I did my own thing in town, and had some amazing chats with people. Bookstores were great! I even had some good, fairly long chats at bus stops when people were leaving town at the end of a day of work. I found a bar where no one spoke English, and I passed a few great nights in French there. French café culture is great; I could just read as long as I wanted, and I was able to strike up quite a few conversations there.

    Would you do another course? I don't think I would. Next time I'll save the money and spend it on a month of rent and food incountry, much as it sounds like you are planning to do..

    August 2013
  • wcl gb United Kingdom

    @all of you

    Get in taxis. The only problem is when you want peace and quiet ;)

    August 2013
  • creimann us United States

    I was going to suggest taxis, but €€€€€!

    August 2013