Last day in Granada – this trip
Today is my last full day in Granada! The photo below shows how beautiful yet another corner of this city is with the Sierra Nevadas looking down on it. No wonder the area has been so prized over the millennia. If I suddenly stop talking it’s because my landlord has arrived in the square. We were going to meet at 7.15am tomorrow but he wants to bring it forwards – he has my 150€ bond.
The month has passed very quickly. School, and life here, have been good. The flat was very comfortable. Yes, I’ve moaned about the noise the neighbours have made at different times. Really, in the scheme of things it’s trivial.
If you want to learn Spanish: Don Quijote school in Granada is a very good place. Small enough that it’s personal. A range of staff and, groups at most levels, not all.
At the end of last week I wrote: I’m catching up – finally the 3 past tenses, imperative tense (positive only) and additional vocabulary is coming together. I am doing heaps better at understanding clearly spoken Spanish and am hopeless at speaking it or understanding anyone with an accent, local or foreign. 😥
This past 2 weeks I’ve been in a class with between 8 and 9 others, bigger than advertised but managed so well by such good teachers it’s been great. Now it’s over I can confess I wasn’t keen on going into a class but it’s been better than having all classes one to one and conducted over a shorter time each day. In a class I hear others making the same mistakes as I would and I can then try and avoid them. The mistakes, that is. As the teacher goes around the group you can plan your response and if you are first then you have to be a lot faster! And explanations are better as I think I’ve understood something and someone asks a question I didn’t expect and answer often extends the original answer. And hence, my understanding.
Plus I’m getting things explained that I didn’t understand first time around. Because you have 2 different teachers each morning, gaps are inevitable. Each assumes the other has covered something. For me that, plus being in a class with students miles ahead of me, made my first couple of weeks tough. Yes, I suspect I fluked a higher grade in my test than is my functioning level. Plus, they don’t have classes at all levels in Granada at this time of year. So, it worked for the school but not so well for me being categorised above my pay grade!
In some types of classes that’s what I’d prefer, to be classed on the upper cusp of my capacity. In a language class though you can end up just missing too much. (Rather like a maths class). It’s not just a matter of learning vocabulary. You also have to understand principles of word use, sentence construction and the different functions of some things we take for granted. And use words you’ve met a second ago and everything happens concurrently. For me it’s on all fronts.
Classmates: My relatively new classmates are all decades younger than me and come from Japan, Taiwan, USA, Germany, the UK and Slovenia (wants to live in Australia). They range from people adding yet another language to one who has retired to Spain very young (medical reasons), bought a house and is moving his family here, into a small town. Workwise they range from a masters student (economics), soldier, IT worker, journalist, musician, chemical engineer, arts consultant and I’ve missed someone. So, an interesting group that worked well together.
Most of them see each other out of school, seemingly competing on the amount of beer drunk or the lateness of the hour. Not my scene, I’ve not been asked to join them and frankly, am just as happy only being with them in class. In my first week here I spent some time with a wonderful Dutch woman, closer to my age. Being alone does not bother me.
Next 2 weeks in Madrid: When I go to Madrid next week I’ll be in level B, intermediate. I’ve asked my private lesson teacher, Laura, for ideas on how to progress. I think I need more conversation classes as I talk only to workers in shops and bars, and teachers and so my practise is limited. I don’t have enough Spanish yet to transcend this hurdle. Speaking to me is pretty hard unless you are paid for it because you are a teacher or, you work in a cafe!!!!
Anyhow, Laura says I’m doing well for my level and said I will end up in either level B1 or B2. I am just as happy if it’s B1 as I need depth and breadth before I get a more complex version of the language. I need enough to be self sustaining. To be able to watch Spanish movies and read newspapers nearly totally. Hmm, I’ve just been told I’ll be in B1.2, not B1.1. This means I’ll miss the first week of level B, a week that is mainly revision. Sigh. I have to believe in her judgement and trust I’m ready for it. Quite daunting when I can’t say or understand much of the everyday language.
In my defence, the accent here is quite different. And, they merge their words one into the other. ‘Hasta luego’ is not said like that but more as ‘has lugo’, forshortened and merged sounds.
Being in school is interesting especially as I’m never going to be the top of a language class at this stage. I have some wonderful positive moments when I’m clearly getting and applying a concept and then, the sky falls in again and I have severe self doubts. Have I already lost too many neurones? And then I realise the others have similar problems with learning the language. The extent of my self-doubts are probably an idiosyncratic cross, a bit of my psychopathology and so peculiar to me.
And then, in the very next class I understand a long diatribe in Spanish on the civil war or some historical happening in Spain. And it’s then clear that I’m managing reasonably at my level. And I feel good again. Yes. You guessed it. Five minutes later I’m gazumped in a street conversation that should be manageable. And then I have conversations in Spanish like an extended one yesterday when I was looking for gifts for my teachers, so being in school is very up and down for me but I have no doubts: the challenge is good for me and, more than ever, I want to learn to speak Spanish. It’s hard work, intense and I have to be sharp for hours every day.
I like being immersed in a fascinatingly different and yet similar world that has just a different view of the world. The focus here is on the Spanish world, of course, the countries that speak Spanish and what happens in the Spanish speaking world. News at home rarely mentions Spanish speaking places unless the death toll, or magnitude of fraud or other misfortune, is huge.
Above all I find gaining access to another world and way of thinking exciting. So similar and yet so different. From using the same words, albeit with different meanings, to wondering about the role of history and the terrain on how people think and how their language affects them.
Enough – when my indigestion resolves I’ll mention the food. As I rarely eat food with salt or heaps of oil on it at home, the local food has generally not enhanced my liking of this area much! However, I really love being in Granada but am looking forwards to food in Madrid again. Yes, two weeks of Madrid and then Jane arrives and we go forth….. further afield. Looking forwards to that too.