Travel in South America is always going to be a little bit difficult when it comes down to language. As an English woman, it’s very easy – almost infuriatingly so – to assume that pretty much everywhere I travel, I’m going to be met with people with at least some basic level of my language. It’s kind of the Catch 22 of having English as your mother tongue; on he one hand, yes, it’s a universal language and billions of people all over the world can piece together at least the basics, making travel very easy. On the other hand, it makes us as English speaking people very, very lazy. Laziness mixed with a dash of self righteousness (“what!? NO ONE here speaks English?!”) and of course arrogance, it doesn’t make for a good global reputation and certainly doesn’t make me feel good about myself while struggling to stutter the most basic of basic things in another language.
So, me y mis amigos decided to undertake a week of Spanish lessons upon our arrival in Peru just over two weeks ago. We did a little bit of research beforehand and decided on Peruwayna, located in the decide,y higher end part of Lima, Miraflores. Classes started at 9am every day from Monday to Friday, and finished at 1pm. At Peruwayna, it’s very much a classroom setting (it is Spanish school after all…). I didn’t mind this at all,but if you’re like my boyfriend where the mere thought of returning to school makes you want to shrivel up and die, then maybe it’s better to find an alternative route to learning Spanish.
With this in mind, Greg (aforementioned boyf) threw the towel in pretty sharply. Day one, in fact. BOO! HISS! My initial opinion was that he should have persevered, but upon closer inspection, I kind of understand his theory behind his rapid quitting. So, his justification? He knows zero Spanish. Literally zero. Hola, si and no, and you’ve pretty much exhausted his vocabulary. “But that’s what Spanish school is for!?” I hear you cry. Well, yes, but when he was out in a group with people that knew significantly more than how to say hi, yes or no, frustration quickly ensued. Dummies were thrown out of the proverbial pram, and he had immediately had enough. Despite the school offering private lessons at the same price for the next day, his feet had already stomped all the way back to the hostel, where they stayed. Nada mas por Greggy.
The rest if us enjoyed our time at school… Though we may have gotten a lot more out of it if we didn’t have a couple of heavy nights and dodgy hamburgers. My classes we’re great, and despite a hazy head, I really enjoyed them! I was in a small group of four, with the loveliest Spanish teacher ev-er. Everything was in Spanish, which really helped boost my confidence and made me realize that I could actually understand a lot more than I originally anticipated, which is great when faced with rapid Spanish in the street.
Some of the vocabulary was lost on me, but it’s all part of the learning experience I guess, and besides, not once did I feel stupid for not getting something, and time was always take to make sure I got it if I had a question. One of the best things for me however, was being able to learn a lot more about peruvianculture than I could have ever got from hanging out in the typical backpacker hostels, and is invaluable in my opinion!
So, verdict? I’d recommend Spanish lessons to anyone traveling in South America without a doubt… But it has to be something that you are really ready to dedicated yourself to for a little while. Like most things, you only get out of it what you put into it, and although I was more successful than my boyfriend in doing this, I still feel like I could have done more. I perhaps got a little frustrated with the whole group learning thang as well as times, as obviously everyone has to wait if one person is struggling with something, but overall? I’d do it again in a second. Big thanks to the awesome people at Peruwayna!