On the road from ‘Spanglish’ to Espanol!


San Pedro, Guatemala on the shores of Lake Atitlan and surrounded by volcanos was, we decided, the perfect setting to get serious about our Spanish. We choose ‘Flor de Maiz’ language school for a number of reasons; it came highly recommended; it is set in a beautiful organic garden away from the distractions of the ‘gringo mile’ and also because the school is involved in various philanthropic projects to enhance the lives of the locals.

We embarked on a 5 day course of one-to-one tuition for 4 hours a day. The teaching method was very fluid and natural and suited us. After 5 days we progressed from ab initio to conversational Spanish and were smiling. We had gone beyond the ‘dos cervezas por favor’ stage to discussing the internal workings of the country and went from reading road signs to reading the national newspaper in Spanish while getting to know some lovely people at the school. The course gave us both renewed enthusiasm to improve our Spanish and set us en route to cracking the language code.

There are a number of indingenous Mayan languages widely spoken in this area and for most of our teachers, Spanish was in fact their second language. T’zutuhil was the main Mayan languages spoken here. During one of my classes, I went to my teacher Demis’ mother’s house (kitchen below) and I chatted to her while he took a 10 minute power nap suffering from a hangover I suspect (!). Afterwards I commented on how easy it was to speak to and understand her which as I later learned, was normal as she only learned Spanish herself since becoming a grandmother 5 years previous to that.

Language learning is one of my passions and I guess you could say it is one of my hobbies. I have wanted to learn Spanish for a number of years now so I  can read the South American authors original works in their language as well as to get to know a people through their own language. It makes a change not to be surrounded by grammar books in a library or classroom like environment and this trip is the perfect opportunity to ‘live the language’ and experience it in full in its living state. A language is not just words, phrases and grammar, it is also a way of thinking and doing and represents a people and their culture. Speaking Spanish could only enrich what is already a magical trip as you become an active participant in the everyday lives of the people and not just another gringo passing through on a bike asking for directions and la cuenta!

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