Too often Spanish courses in Spain are associated with formal classes at established universities and Spanish language institutions. However, many adult students of Spanish work as well as study, and have limited holiday time to do both. This means that they often seek to combine a Spanish course in Spain with a holiday in the country as well, taking the opportunity to explore further afield, to sample the local gastronomy and soak in the local Spanish culture. (Reasons for which many people are learning Spanish in the first place!).
Although adult Spanish students may find that a Spanish language ‘holiday’ as opposed to a Spanish language ‘course’ is more appealing, understandably, questions arise as to whether the fun ‘holiday’ element of sight-seeing, restaurant meals, walks and excursions etc. detract from the more academic focus of more traditional Spanish courses in Spain? It is a common question and, as we are brought up to believe that we can’t have our cake AND eat it, a very understandable one too. However, many language theorists seem to support the fact that enjoying oneself, finding affinity with other people and an emotional investment in learning a foreign language are all beneficial to the learning process. Holidaying and ‘having fun’ may actually not be detrimental at all. Far to the contrary.
Theories applied to our Spanish courses in Spain
Here are a few thoughts from some of the top theorists in Second language acquisition theory.
Many people have acquired a second language while they were focused on something else, while they were gaining interesting or needed information, or interacting with people they liked to be with.
An essential feature of learning is that it awakens a variety of internal development processes that are able to operate only when (the child) is in the action of interacting with people in his environment and in cooperation with his peers. Therefore, in language learning, the authenticity of the environment and the affinity between its participants are essential elements to make the learner feel a part of this environment.
Human beings also learn through the para-consciousness – or semi-awareness – so both the conscious and para-conscious need to be engaged to optimise language learning. This means tapping the strengths of both the left and right brains i.e. bringing sight, sound, touch, smell, mental imagery, positive emotion etc. into the learning process. This can be done through the use of music, visual cues, sounds, body language, movement, role playing, rhythm and relaxation etc. Learning is quicker, easier, and less stressful in an environment filled with pleasant, positive emotions. It appears that enjoying oneself, socialising, moving, and stimulating a range of senses and emotions are considered to benefit the learning of a second language and that yes, one can have one’s cake (or Manchego cheese) and eat it and most probably wash it down with a glass of tinto too! The natural environment offers so many stimulating topics of conversation so that with the support of a Spanish language teacher and the skills of a group facilitator every experience can be turned into a language teaching moment. There are moments when Spanish language holidays in Spain are no less than Spanish courses in Spain in disguise!