Monday, February 16, 2009

Spanish School in San Pedro

Ahhhh - I have this week off from Spanish school!

Yep, I started Spanish school again! Two weeks ago I unclogged my brain, cleaned out my ears, and started stuffing my head with more Spanish. (Hmmm - I could probably translate that somewhat complicated sentence into Spanish now.)

Epifanía is in San Pedro (Montes de Oca, part of San José), just a few blocks from our apartment - talk about convenient! I compared their approach, location, and cost with COSI, then went to talk to the folks at Epifanía. They showed they were willing and able to work with my schedule, let me sit in on a class, and *then* offered a deeeeep discount - I signed up!

They tested me both with a written exam and verbally (basically, the teacher evaluated me while I was in the class). After the first class, they shuffled me into another (I needed more confidence in speaking, and more practice overall).

Their approach works great for me! Comparing it to my previous experiences, I think it is the best so far. The classes go all morning, from 8:30 till 12:15. The first half is focused on grammar lessons, and the second half is conversation.

I need some structure - Epifanía offers more than I had at Montaña Linda, and just a bit less than at Intercultura. I definitely benefit from having other students in my class (who knew?) - I find that they make different mistakes and have different questions than I think of asking. You get used to hearing other students answering questions with complete sentences, practicing their new Spanish concepts - it is an additional push to your brain - "oh yeah, this is a different situation - take advantage of it!" Plus, conversation is much livelier! It is downright difficult to think of a topic, think of what to say about it, *then* say it in Spanish - in the *tense* that you want to practice! So far, the classes haven't been too big either - my usual class size is 4 or 5 students. They change the teachers often, so you also practice hearing different people, and learning in slightly different ways. But the teachers obviously have the same approach and plan, so it is not disjointed.

Basically, the only drawbacks are those that won't apply to everyone.
  • I like to have a plan - I like to know what the subjects will be for the duration, so I can study up on the topics that my class has had, but I hadn't. Well, there *is* a plan, but I don't know what it is. So I'm going with the flow. My first few days were a bit rocky, but I spent one night burning the midnight oil, looking through my grammar and verb books, making "cheat sheets" and refreshing my memory. Then I just plunged in.
  • My main problem is that I have a hearing and short-term memory problem. It turns out these two symptoms are correlated (I'll post about this soon), and together they make it *very* difficult to learn a new language. So, I've had to explain to each teacher that I can't hear well over background noise (Costa Rica is *full* of background noise!). They have been lovely about it - they just tell me to say "repite, por favor." By the end of the first week, I was getting used to focusing on their voices, and it got easier.
A new light went on the other day about school! When you do homework in school, you get used to making sure it is correct - it affects your grade, after all. Well, *now* "homework" has an entirely different purpose! This is when you *want* to make your mistakes - you get the chance to *take* chances, and then get corrected. It is an interesting mental hump to get over.

So - this week, the week that Costa Rican students start their school year, I have off from school :-D. I feel evil! For one tiny moment, I felt like gloating (really, it *was* short)! Then I set myself some homework - ugh! I go back for two more weeks of school after this week. The main reason for taking a week was to let the lessons gel. The reason for taking this particular week is that we have our immigration appointment, and we also have to renew our driver's licenses. So, I can't dedicate the entire week to practicing and reviewing my Spanish lessons. (that's my excuse, and I'm stickin' to it!)

My homework for this week includes:
  • capture lessons from 1st 2 weeks (done - next time, I'll do this as I go)
  • write essays using different tenses and forms (2 each day)
  • review flash cards; write simple sentences for at least 6 words each day
  • add flash cards for top 10 verbs (conjugated)
  • read a Spanish book aloud (1 chapter each day)
  • review Spanish grammar books
  • practice with Spanish-speakers (did some at the feria and laundry)
So far, I haven't done too well. But weekends don't count, right? Stop blogging, Julie, and hit the books!

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