Our guide to Spanish courses
Jade O'Donoghue

Our guide to Spanish courses

First published date August 23 2013 Amended date August 20 2014

Whether you holiday every year in the Canary Islands, fancy touring South America or just want to try that new tapas restaurant in town but can’t decipher the menu, Spanish is a handy language to learn.

Courses in Spanish run from beginner level, which will sort you out with the basic phrases you’ll need on holiday, right through to advanced lessons which aim to make you fluent. You can learn in a group by taking classroom lessons, much like the ones you did at school, or go for one to one tuition so all the focus is on you.


Learn from those in the know

A lot of Spanish courses are run by native Spanish speakers and so you’ll get the advantage of learning from someone who has the best grasp of the language. Many other teachers will have spent time in a Spanish speaking country, possibly working there, and so they will be fluent and ready to share their knowledge with you.

Spanish classes are all about trying out the words and getting an idea of how the feel on your tongue so you won’t be able to sit in silence. Some teachers even impose a ‘no English’ ban which involves speaking to you only in Spanish so you can really absorb the language. This can be incredibly effective since this is how native speakers often learn.


Career paths

Learning Spanish will open a lot of doors, regardless of the career you wish to pursue as most employers will look favourably upon any applicants who can boast that they’re bilingual. There are some obvious jobs for people who can speak more than one language though, including interpreting, foreign language teaching, and working with worldwide charities.

Speaking Spanish will also offer up employment options abroad. Mexico is one country whose economy is on the rise and where your Spanish knowledge could come in handy. Or, if you’d rather stay closer to home, Spain is a popular destination for many British born workers looking to relocate and seeking some sunshine.


Spanish culture

As part of your studies you might also look at Spanish culture and traditions in order to get a bit of a background to the subject. Sure we’ve all heard of Enrique Iglesias and Shakira, but there is some fantastic Spanish music out there, where the classical guitar is heavily used and flamenco dancing influences the beat. Then there’s the delicious Spanish food. Tapas bars are Spain’s most famous culinary offering where you sample small plates of appetisers typically featuring a mix of different food such as chilli peppers, chorizo and lots of fresh bread.

Spanish cinema is also very popular throughout the world and Mexican director Guillermo del Toro is perhaps the most famous name in the Spanish film world. Watch Pan’s Labyrinth and enjoy a bit of dark fantasy while practicing your verb conjugation. 


Some basic Spanish

Spanish is a romance language with lots of nods to Latin so it’s quite nice on the ear. Get practicing before your first lesson and whip out a few of these phrases to really impress your teacher –

‘¿Hola amigo como estas?’ – Hello, how are you?

‘¿Cómo te llamas?’ – What is your name?

‘Encantado de conocerte’ – Nice to meet you.

‘Me encanta España’ – I love Spain.


View from a student

Mark O’Donoghue has been taking Spanish lessons once a week for the last year and can now (fairly) confidently converse in the language. We asked him a few quick questions to get an insider’s view of studying the subject.

What’s your favourite Spanish phrase and what does it mean?

Tengo hambre. Means I’m hungry – a very important phrase for a bloke in any language.

What’s the hardest thing about learning Spanish?

The subjunctive. It’s a tense that doesn’t exist in English and so using it appropriately does not come naturally. At least that’s been the hardest so far….

What’s the most fun?

Discussing the different ways in which idiomatic phrases translate (or more frequently, how they don’t). It’s roulette as to whether a piece of vernacular in English has a directly translatable Spanish equivalent. Always worth a go though – you know pretty quickly whether it works based on our tutor’s look of blank incomprehension.

Have you used Spanish in any interesting situations since you started studying it?

Managed to negotiate a reduction in a bill on holiday – pressure Spanish when you’re trying to avoid getting ripped off and you’re already in a ‘fragile state’ (from the amount of wine that had been consumed, which while significant, was not nearly as much as claimed on the bill!)

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