How is your Spanish these days? The answer for most of us is “not as good as I would like it to be.” Why is that? Well, most of us would say “I just don’t have the time.” There is a solution! Head to the beautiful Andalucian city of Ronda and take an intensive course with Entrelenguas. Their teachers are amazing and seem to be able to hone in on exactly what you need to improve. They will have you speaking with renewed fluency – regardless of your starting level – in no time at all. Be warned though, it is hard work and you will feel very tired, but the rewards are well worth the effort. Their prices are pretty good too, and you can even opt to live with a Spanish family for extra speaking practice once you’ve done your homework! Please note, I have not been paid to write this blog; nor did I receive a discount or any favours. I am writing it because my experience at Entrelenguas was simply too good not to write about. I found out about this incredible place thank to Alan at Wagoners Abroad, a fellow blogger in Spain, who had taken a week of intensive classes last year.
The school is located in the San Francisco barrio which, despite two previous visits to the city, remained firmly below my radar. What a treat I had missed in the past. This part of Ronda is beautiful with plenty of great, cheap bars and restaurants. You’ll be rubbing shoulders with more locals than tourists if you venture downhill from the town hall to this amazing district of what is already an incredible city. It’s also the area where Entrelenguas try to place you into a homestay. I had a 10 minute walk along the cobbled streets to my classes every morning, and that is from one of the more distant houses. Trish only had to stroll a few hundred metres across the square and through the old city gates.
We arrived in Ronda in the late afternoon and wondered if Google Maps was having an off-day as we drove along narrow cobbled streets looking for our homestays. The houses we stayed in were beautiful and our landladies were unbelievably friendly. We had chosen to stay in different places because otherwise we knew we would end up speaking far too much English outside of the classes and activities. We were made to feel very welcome and we each met the other’s host. Then we went our separate ways to enjoy a home cooked meal and to get into the swing of speaking Spanish all the time.
Those who know me well know that I don’t like early mornings! Mind you, many people wouldn’t consider an 0730 alarm call particularly early so I shouldn’t complain!! Breakfast was a mountain of fresh fruit, including sweet yellow plums from the garden, and more bread than I usually eat in a week, but it was freshly baked and delicious. Then it was time to go back to school.
As teachers we understand the difficulty of placing students at exactly the right level. Unless you are having individual classes, it is almost impossible. Trish was in a group of 7 with fellow B1 Intermediate students. Although it was slightly below where she needed to be, the confidence gained from having a bit more knowledge than your fellow students has resulted in an amazing increase in her fluency. As for me, I really wanted a B2 Upper Intermediate class and I was initially daunted to be placed in a C1 Advanced class. I needn’t have worried though as the teachers made sure that everything was ok as the course progressed, and sometime pushing yourself that little bit further brings about surprising progress.
Four hours of intensive classes is a lot, and leaves you in need of a siesta. Two of those hours concentrated more on speaking, and the other two on grammatical matters. This balance was perfect. The school is such a comfortable place to learn whether your class is in one of the small rooms or out in the open air in the garden. Our fellow classmates were also feeling the strain of being back in the classroom for such a long period of time, so we all said our goodbyes at the end of day one.
Back at our houses we rested and did our homework before settling down to an amazing Spanish lunch. The variety of meals over the week was great, and the quality of food served up by our hosts was outstanding. They were so helpful with our conversational skills too, and watching the news in Spanish ensured there was always something different to talk about. After a much needed siesta, Trish and I met up for a drink and some tapas. An hour or so of speaking English can come as a welcome relief to a tired brain!
I was sooooooooo tired in the morning. Clearly the intensity of day 1 plus the amount of homework had taken its toll. My brain wouldn’t function properly. This is quite normal on an intensive course though, and most people were feeling the same way. The class progressed well and I felt I was finally getting to know my classmates a little better.
In the evening the school had organised a film night. La Isla Minima was a challenging film both linguistically and emotionally. Without the Spanish subtitles I would have been lost at times, but I’m pleased I tried and it has given me the confidence to try to watch more Spanish films in the future. On an emotional level it was not a pleasant film. Something lighter and more entertaining might have been nicer, but there was plenty to talk about regarding the film so we all had a good discussion in Spanish afterwards.
The course seemed to flow much better by Wednesday as everyone was into the swing of how the classes were being conducted. It felt like a very good day for learning and my confidence was on a high as I returned “home” for lunch.
The evening activity was a cata de vino F. Schatz Bodega, a tour of a local vineyard followed by wine tasting and tapas. The is located a few miles outside of Ronda. It is not only organic, but also fully biodynamic. The history of the bodega is fascinating and deserves a blog entry of its own, so I will get one written soon rather than duplicate the content here. For some a 90 minute tour in Spanish was a bit too much. Yes, it was rather lengthy, but it was great to listen to and understand so much. The location is stunning and the wines produced are very different to the more mass produced varieties Spain is rightly famous for. They may not have been to everyone’s taste but we all agreed that it had been a great evening out.
Day 4 is always a bit strange. It’s the last day that teachers can give homework on a one week intensive course, and so the afternoon was busy with that! It’s also the first day when you really feel that you know your classmates, which is great but you also know that the following day you will be saying goodbye to them! The class seemed so much easier. Clearly we had all learned so much and adapted to the level by then. We even did some writing of formal letters, and there were not too many corrections the next morning!
That evening the two intensive courses met up with Mar, Javier and Alex who run Entrelenguas. They took us to a tapas bar which we may otherwise not have found. El Lechuguita is very popular with the locals and at just €0.80 for a tapas, who can blame them. It gets very busy though, so get there just as it opens at 20:15 if you want to get a table! Eating in the street with new-found friends is a great experience, and don’t be put off trying something new. Even pringá tastes so much better than it sounds from its Wikipedia description!
We finished the evening at Las Martirio where we were treated to some late night live flamenco singing. It was a memorable performance and in such an intimate venue. They only do this on Thursday nights so make sure you plan accordingly.
That was supposed to be it. The night got a little later still as we found a free open air concert alongside the old city walls. Our timing was good as there were musical events going on all week, but to just stumble across this was perfect!
So sad! Friday may be the final day of the course, but there’s no let up with the classes. We worked hard until the very end. Then it was time to say adios to everyone, including Pongo, the school’s dalmation dog who struts around like he owns the place. Actually, he probably does, and he had been great company throughout the week. Everyone was full of praise for the progress they had made, and many of us will probably return for a further boost at some stage in the future.
It wasn’t quite goodbye. That evening we went to the Bull Ring to see a shortened opera as part of the music festival. Dido & Aeneas was excellent, but despite being performed in English it was hard to follow! Before, during and after the event we kept bumping into friends we had made over the week. It was a lovely way to finish off.
On the Saturday morning it was time to say goodbye to our host families. This was particularly sad because we had become such good friends in a very short space of time. One thing’s for sure, whenever we return to Ronda, we’ll call in on Ana and Reyes for sure. They don’t get rid of us that easily!!
So, there you go, a brief summary of life as a student on a week of intensive Spanish study. Don’t be afraid that your level is too low. They run courses for all levels. why not give it a go, and tell them Russ and Trish at anythingbutpaella sent you!