John and I have an odd arrangement when it comes to traveling in Spanish speaking countries. I’m generally pretty shy and don’t like to chat with people, but John thrives on personal interactions. So when we are in a taxi, or chatting with a vendor or random person on the street, John takes the lead and starts speaking Spanish. After a short while, it becomes clear that John doesn’t fully understand what they are saying, and I start to interpret for him. That’s when said taxi driver or vendor discovers that I speak Spanish, and that I understand better than John. After that, they start talking directly to me, which I then translate for John so that he can speak back to them.
Did you follow that? It’s complicated, and not the most effective means of communication.
Since we’ll be living in Spanish speaking countries until December, it seemed like a good idea to adjust this arrangement a bit, both by upping my confidence to think and speak on my feet, and increasing John’s comprehension. To that end, we’ve just spent the week studying Spanish at the San Blas Spanish School here in Cusco. We took classes 4 hours a day for 5 days, a total of 20 hours of intense Spanish classes (and for only around $100 per person.)
John and I were in different groups – he speaks excellent French but has less experience with Spanish. I studied Spanish for two years in middle school, three years in high school, and a semester in college, and I still need quite a bit of work. I guess it has been over 10 years (can that be right – how old am I?) In all fairness I can usually read, write and listen well, it’s just the speaking that I’m not good at. Which is, of course, the main thing you need when traveling.
Another big benefit of group classes is getting to meet and hang out with other students, most of whom are from Germany and Belgium, oddly enough. Last night our school held a game night at a local bar, and today we took a field trip to the zoo – which was really an animal rehabilitation center with really cool animals like condors, coati, and pumas.
Classes generally took up most of our day, so we still haven’t done too much exploring yet, but I think they were worth it. At the end of the week, I feel a bit more confident in my speaking, and I think John has learned more reading and spelling (two things he never learned from audio tapes he studied with in the past.) I suppose the real test will come in the next few weeks when we try to communicate. Vamos a ver!