The USAC program at San Sebastian is a lifelong learner’s dream. I am taking an intermediate Spanish grammar class, an intermediate Spanish conversation class, and a surfing class. The two Spanish classes start punctually at 9 a.m. and finish at 1 p.m. The grammar class mostly cover verb conjugations. Specifically, we focus on the future, conditional, preterite, imperfect, present perfect, past perfect and subjunctive verb tenses. There are a total of four students in our class. Talk about a great class size to learn Spanish intensively! My professor is Mari Mar and she is a wonderful teacher. She is always patient with the students, yet she continually challenges us to learn more and learn faster.
The conversation class is a really fun experience because we are able to use what we learn and speak about current topics. Of course, there is a considerable amount of vocabulary to memorize, but it sure does help in conversation. It is always a pain to have to pause the conversation to describe the word you don’t know. In our classes, the most asked question is Como se dice …. ? or How do you say ….?
Maria Sun, our conversation class professor, always makes sure we use the correct pronunciation. Even if we have to say the same word over, and over, and over again. Her reasoning is there are many words in the Spanish language that are similar and if you can’t pronounce it correctly, you may confuse the listener. This happens regularly outside of class and it causes a pain that I can’t describe well, but I will give it a shot. It is like your brain is a computer searching for files that it can’t find. You try to use filler words like well, you know, but and because. Eventually, you give up when you can’t find the word and this is when the pain moves throughout your body. Over time, this feeling goes away when you become more comfortable. The new neural networks become connected and the language feels more hardwired.
My goal coming to Spain was to be conversational by the time I left. I think I surpassed that goal in the first week living with my host family. The first day with my host family was a whirlwind because they had many relatives in town from other parts of Spain. Oh boy, there were some accents that were very difficult for me to understand. The host family speaks some English, but they know my goal and they only communicate to me in Spanish. I absolutely love this and I think every language learner in the USAC program needs to stay with a host family to really get the language down. Our conversations around the dinner table have helped me the most.
Surfing class is another way for me to practice speaking Spanish. I quickly realize that I need to know surfing and ocean vocabulary to speak with the instructors. We surf rom six to nine three nights a week on Playa Zurriola. This is a beautiful beach on the east side of San Sebastian. The instructors are phenomenal teaching everyone how to surf in only a couple of sessions. What an amazing experience!