Me encanta español, ¿y tú? If you’d read me that sentence a few months ago, I would have stared blankly. However, by the end of my first couple of Linguae Mundi classes I could reply to it in Spanish with all sorts of fancy things like verbs and adjectives.
I was a complete beginner who had barely touched other languages since high school. Take me to a foreign country and I’m the one pointing at things on the menu and speaking very slowly in English.
But who wouldn’t want to flirt fluently in a foreign country? So I pushed back my nerves and signed up for the most beginner course I could find in Spanish.
What made me choose? To be honest, I searched for the most populous country I could find, whose language didn’t look absurdly hard, and one that I thought I would probably visit pretty quickly.
You’ve probably got better reasons for choosing a language than me, but since Linguae Mundi offer thirty different options, from Dutch, to Japanese and Sign Language, there’s probably one for you.
Physical classes are taught in Coventry to students, staff and the public but they also run online classes for students at CU London and CU Scarborough so there are opportunities for everyone. So fast forward a couple of weeks to the day of my first class, Wednesday at 6:00pm. Like every student, I’m wandering around trying to find a building with an obscure name (there are lots of these).
My first thought is that there are a lot of people here. A whole bunch of different people piled into a seminar room with a friendly tutor marshalling them around. That first lesson was a whirlwind, because everyone was getting settled into a new experience. We dived right into the course, learning some key phrases and vocabulary as well as getting a sense of what we’d be learning for the next twelve weeks.
The best thing about Linguae Mundi is the way the course is taught. You might think that after a long day of classes or work, the last thing you’d want to be doing is settling in for another two hours of study.
However, it became one of the highlights of the week and the fastest two hours of my Wednesday. The variety of teaching materials is brilliant, with interactive activities, group work, written, oral, puzzles, challenges, quizzes and even games.
My wonderful tutor Aida, who has now left the programme, but has no doubt been replaced with equally brilliant tutors, also made the programme. She engaged us with her warmth and personality and we all bonded as a group as we muddled through the tough business of wrapping our heads round foreign words.
Another highlight were the people I got to share the experience with. The class had a huge range of nationalities, ages and interests. Having members of the public in there also added a happy spirit of togetherness. Everyone was choosing to be there. We laughed, laughed till we cried.
It wasn’t always easy. About three or four weeks in, I hit a wall and found the language barrier I was trying to overcome a bit too overwhelming.
Was this worth the effort? They had started shuffling a few groups around to help people find the right classmates for their ability level. There was an opportunity for me to move to a class with a slightly easier and more relaxed vibe. Either I’m stubborn or ambitious, because I didn’t take that chance.
Instead, I got stuck in, recapped the previous lessons and kept going. I’m glad I did because my spirits picked up again and I began to digest the huge amount of information that you get in one of these sessions.
It is a really satisfying feeling, when the language starts to just click and you get more confident. For me, that was food week. I volunteered to pitch the restaurant that my group had created and conveyed the menu in basic Spanish to the class. For someone quite shy, this was a triumph.
As the weeks passed quickly, the end of the course drew closer. We were given the opportunity to study a qualification using the skills we learnt on the qualification, which is particularly useful for students looking to study or work abroad. I chose not to but I would still recommend it as well worth doing.
We rounded off one of the remaining classes with a fun quiz about Spanish customs, which brought us all even closer. Our tutor was even kind enough to bring in some Jamón ibérico from her trip home for us to sample in our final lesson.
We left with farewells and happy memories, as well as a good foundation of basic Spanish. Plenty of people carried on with the course, which you can do across seven different levels right up to advanced.
To prove that I had learnt something, I visited Tenerife quickly to test my new skills. Whilst there was still plenty of pointing, and sometimes it’s easier to speak in English, I used my new language skills lots of the time. In one authentic local tapas spot, they even had me confused for a fluent speaker. That night, my bit of effort to speak the language definitely earned me a free drink or two.
Given my experience, I’d love to go back to Linguae Mundi for a post-beginners course. Come join me for twelve weeks.