The best advice I can give to people intending to travel South America is LEARN SPANISH! We did with San Blas Spanish School in Cusco, Peru.
Why Learn Spanish for South America?
Before we booked our trip to Peru, we were warned that some level of survival Spanish would be required so we signed up for a few lessons at a local community centre. Unfortunately the tutor was a nice lady but a useless teacher. Miss Orrock (aka Gemma, Two Scots Abroad) found her methods very frustrating and I’ve been out of education so long I just find everyone’s teaching methods frustrating!
Learn Spanish Apps
We both spent a bit of time persevering with the DuoLingo iPhone app before hitting the jackpot with the Johnny Spanish podcast. This gave us a half decent grasp of the basics….or so we thought!
Once we arrived in Peru we found that our Spanish was worse than miserable!
The lowlight came when we went on the Colca Canyon trek. We were lucky enough to be with a great bunch of people from around Europe who were all multilingual, impressively switching from German to French to English to Dutch to Spanish….and there was us Two Scots barely able to speak English never mind Spanish.
One of our Peru Hop pals, Hester, had recommended doing a Spanish school / homestay and that trek with the multitalented Europeans highlighted exactly why it was necessary.
We’d had a few schools recommended to us in Sucre, Bolivia where it’s considerably cheaper than Cusco, Peru but the weather is also nicer so I decided we’d be better off studying indoors, in rainy Cusco because I’m too easily distracted by sunshine!
San Blas Spanish School
We did a bit of research and found that San Blas Spanish School had good reviews. Gemma contacted them and got good vibes from Manfred so we agreed to do five classes plus a five night homestay with a non-English speaking family.
The school is situated in a very cool area of Cusco (San Blas) which we were already familiar with so it seemed like a perfect fit.
We were instructed to be at school 2pm on the Tuesday to meet our homestay then our first class would be on the Wednesday at 08:30. After a successful ten-hour sleep in preparation for our first day at school we were up at 06:00 for breakfast before our wee chaperon / honorary gran, Doris, walked us 15 minutes along the road for our first class.
César, The King of Tutors
There we met our tutor for the next five days, César, a Peruvian in his mid 20s and luckily Miss Orrock seemed to take to his teaching style straight away. He just got stuck right into us so I was delighted to get a free coffee in me during the 10:30 break! My head was spinning after my first couple of hours in school for fifteen years!
I was even happier when César told us the day was ‘terminado’ at 13:00… until I heard the word ‘tarea’ aye, you guessed it, homework!
This became a daily ritual and in all honesty I was glad of the homework. We had no WiFi at Casa de Doris, I’m very easily distracted, so the set up was perfect. It was also quite fun helping Gemma for the first few days until she overtook my abilities, then I resented the tarea (jokes)!
5 Day San Blas Spanish Programme
Over the next five days, César crammed our heads with as much Spanish as humanly possible. I swear I think I pulled a muscle in my brain.
Por ejemplo... (For example...)
Day one / two – what, where, when, why and how / masculine and feminine words / alphabet and numbers
Day three – adjectives to begin forming sentences / yo, tu, nosotros, elle, ustedes etc
Day four – verbs and sentences / paragraph challenges on various subjects including Peruvian issues like child labour
Day five – conversation in morning (working on our horrible accents) and rounding up grammar in the final afternoon
César gave us various tasks of writing about ourselves, (the swot, Gemma, went through three notebooks).
On the final day he said he was pleased with our progress.
We can understand (mostly) what’s going on when people speak to us. Answering takes time but that will come with being submersed in South American Spanish for the next two months.
All in all, if you find yourself in Cusco and would like to begin learning or brush up on your Spanish, we’d both highly recommend spending time with San Blas Spanish School.
Prices are as follows:
- Group lessons – 1 week of 20 hours (4 hours every day) with max 6 students = S/. 290 (£61.26) or S/. 14.5 per hour
- Individual lessons – 1 week of 20 hours (4 hours every day) = S/. 580 (£122.55) or S/. 29 per hour
- *Low season discounts are available, just ask!
- Address: Carmen Bajo 224, San Blas, Cuzco, Cusco, Peru
- Phone: +51 84 247898
Gemma’s attempt to ask a hostel in Cusco for extra nights. I think it’s called ‘Spanglish’..
Many thanks to San Blas Spanish School for putting us Two Scots to work (with a 30% discount). As always, our honest opinions.
- PS – we survived another homestay at Taquile Island!
Over to you, any questions? Have you been back to school?