Spain is wonderfully diverse; not only do its foods and fiestas change tantalisingly from one region to the next but so too do its accents! So where best should you look for Spanish courses in Spain? The ´Costas’ can be struck off the list pretty quickly. They are so full of British tourists that most locals (if found) already speak English (and often much prefer an efficient transaction in English to an agonising wait as you fumble through Spanish dictionaries and bumble your way through the irregular verbs).
Madrid and Barcelona
As far as the language is concerned, good Castilian Spanish can be learned in Madrid and central Spain, but hot sweaty summers and the dust and dirt of city life make it a far less attractive venue during the main holiday season. The same can apply to Barcelona too, with the additional complication that the majority of people in Catalonia prefer to speak Catalan and, as the two languages are so similar, it is not always easy to discern which is which. Similar things happen in Galicia with Gallego.
On thinking of a trip to Spain our first images are often of Andalusia; long lazy lunches, flamenco and sangria. However, not far down the list comes an awareness of the Andalusian accent with its hissed j and heavily lisped z and c which are such foreign sounds to the English ear. Here, paring up the written word learned at night school in the UK with its spoken counterpart in Malaga can be neigh-on impossible, and can make conversation difficult to say the least.
The Basque Country
Logically, therefore, if one wants to find Spanish courses in Spain and learn clear Castilian Spanish one should turn to the pretty towns and villages of the Basques! The Basques with this indecipherable jumble of x´s and z’s (a shock of consonants which look more like a Scrabble Players nightmare)? Yes, the Basques! Few people realise that the Basques are bi-lingual (that is if they even speak Basque at all). Here, the Basque language changes from village to village and local accents remain confined to the Basque language rather than the Spanish. During the times of Franco, the Basques were forbidden to speak Basque, and anyone caught speaking it was punished. The centralist regime imposed its centralist Spanish on everyone; hence the language spoken today is a very clear Castilian Spanish. There is a slight accent; a slower, heavier lilt to the words (not bad for language learners) but also, thanks to their native consonant-rich Basque language, they have a tendency to pronounce the Spanish consonants far more crisply. This is an absolute delight for the UK night school goers and anyone else looking to make connections between written Spanish and the spoken word.
Here, in the north of Spain, people are not used to the same degree of tourism as the south and I find most people open and friendly with a genuine curiosity in finding out who you are, where you are from and why you are here. The weather is still far better than the UK and you can often find fascinating cultural events which have been witnessed by very few outsiders.
Learning Spanish in the Pyrenees: new.pyreneanexperience.com