Language School....No or Si? Oui or Non?

Old Apr 15th, 2005, 09:52 AM
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Language School....No or Si? Oui or Non?

Need your life-savvy insights.

My family and I are traveling to San Miguel this summer with the goal of taking classes at a language school.

Or, at least, that was our intention.

A bit of background: My greatest regret in life (so far) has been that I never learned languages. In my job, I'm surrounded by many bilingual people...70% of whom learned the language effortlessly as children...the other 30% started in high school (or later) and then through sheer perservance, made their way to fluency. I envy the first group & admire the second group.

My 6 & 8 year-olds are lucky enough to attend a public school where they receive 30 minutes of spanish instruction a day (and from native speakers). My thought was to use this base & then expand it into language schools over the summers.

Okay, 2nd part of background....my family does some things right, some things wrong but we're great at vacations...we use them as a way to reconnect with our children & have very in-depth time with them.

So, the language school means that they'll be gone from 9 to 1 on five of the 10 days we're on vacation. That means getting them up & out of the door & then we don't see them for the morning. (there are no familiy lessons other than 1on1 tutoring). Do I really want to travel to foreign country to *not* see my children. or am I overblowing this whole thing (it's just a few hours)? Could we forgo the school & just hang out with spanish people (though my expeirence isn't good with this...I worked in Eastern Europe for two years & managed not to learn a word of the language even though I was surrounded by it).

what do you all think?
Garvin222 is offline  
Old Apr 15th, 2005, 10:03 AM
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For our family, the 9 AM part would be the deal-killer. We tend to like to hang around late in the mornings, and the 9 AM start time sounds too much like work. I also think 4 hours per day away on vacation might feel like too much with young kids (I'm sure they'd be fine with it, though). What if the entire family had 1 or 2 hours per day of 1-1 tutoring (or actually 1-4)?
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Old Apr 15th, 2005, 10:14 AM
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Are you going to Mexico for this? I know there is a popular town there that has some language classes, san Miguel de Allende, but I'm not sure since you are posting on Europe board.

If it were me -- one thing missing from your post is what your children feel about this. Are they excited and want to spend four hours a day in language school on vacation? Or is this just your idea for them?

I'll be honest, I've done this myself as I like to study languages, combined with travel. However, four hours in a classroom for children that age on summer vacation may be asking a bit much. I don't know -- maybe it will just be fun and they have a great school geared towards very small children and a lot of it will be recreational, games, etc.

In general, I think it's a great idea of all parties want to do this. You seem to have a big agenda planned here, though--that this is the start of a plan you want to do for many summers. Well, that's great if everyone wants to do it. I don't think the idea of not seeing your children for the mornings should be a problem, in fact, I think it well could be a great idea to give people some time apart on vacations. However, the thought seems to upset you, so you have to go with your feelings on that, and perhaps you don't spend a lot of time with them regularly and that's why this is so special for the chance to be together.

There wouldn't be any way to have family lessons, as children need very different teaching than adults -- and any decent school will have adults separated by ability. I would think in many schools, if you were taking classes at the same school, you could very well see each other at some break times, though, during the morning.

To be honest, I think you could enjoy a vacation in some more rural area (a small village), renting a cottage or something, and the kids just meeting the other local kids and playing. They may learn a few words of Spanish that way, but they won't learn a lot, probably. You won't learn any to speak of just hanging out on a short vacation, without classes.

I read an article by a woman who did that with her child in a less-touristed area of Spain (the NW portion of the country), and it sounded really nice. They had rented some villa (or Spanish equivalent of that) and just stayed in this small town for a couple weeks, and it sounded like a good experience for both. I think that child was around 10.
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Old Apr 15th, 2005, 10:19 AM
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I think that taking language lessons would be a great way to spend a family holiday. I wish I'd done this when I was little; as an adult, I've taken several language holidays and had a great time.

You just need to find a way to make this work with your plan to spend quality time with your kids. First, keep in mind that sharing a challenge (one where your kids might have a bit of an edge and could teach you something) will be a great way to bond with them. Second, I expect that the classes for kids of that age will involve a lot of fun activities, and they will have a chance to meet kids from other countries, as well as learning about the culture you're visiting.

Third, it might be that the institution you're considering is too inflexible. You mentioned that it doesn't offer "family lessons", and that classes seem to run for 4 hours each day. There is probably another school in San Miguel that offers a more flexible program - maybe 2-3 hours per day. Or, with a little research, you could probably find a tutor who would come to your accommodation for a few hours each day and teach your family. And that tutor will probably be less expensive than the tutors arranged by the school.

To locate one, you could try: (a) contacting a university, college or teacher-training facility in San Miguel; (b) contacting the Spanish Chamber of Commerce in your hometown (or a large city nearby) and ask if they have any contacts to help you get started; (c) do more research on the web; (d) ask friends or family who have travelled to San Miguel; (e) ask your hotel; and (f) ask Fodorites. I'll bet that a tutor would also be willing to include some "excursions" in your classes - e.g. to a market, to a museum, to a restaurant, etc - so that you could learn vocabulary in context.

Before you go, you might want to try the language learning system called Rosetta Stone. It's well-suited to all ages, and you can either buy the CDs or subscribe on-line for 1, 3 or 6 months.

Good luck.
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Old Apr 15th, 2005, 10:21 AM
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You both have great insights.

Well, my kids don't seem to have strong opinions about the school...it's actually an art camp that's taught in spanish & has lots of adventures & such...I think my children are still at a pliant age where they'll go along with everything....I know, I better enjoy it while I can....

You're right that I'm a bit torn about leaving them...they're in school all day...then come home at 3 and my husband (who has a flexible job) is with them until 6 when I arrive home....so I really use our fairly frequent vacations to be with my children....our plan this summer was to hire a 20-hour a week spanish-speaking babysitter & have her speak with them only in spanish & that would lead us into our early August journey.

willtravel, I like your idea of maybe a tutor for just an hour or two for the whole family...you're right....9 a.m. is early!

I just often think to myself....if only my parents had exposed my siblings and myself early to languages....(but who knows, maybe we would have resented them for it....it's hard to be a parent!
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Old Apr 15th, 2005, 10:30 AM
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Kate, thanks for those suggestions...it's funny but my kids are already a bit excited that they're going to know more than I do...and I was planning on really playing that up once I arrive there (which won't be hard to do since i seem truly unable to learn other languages...geez, some days I feel like I've barely mastered English....
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Old Apr 15th, 2005, 10:41 AM
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go for it. it sounds like a typical well organized summer activity camp for kids.
will there be any native speaking children or is this for foreigners? this is the IMPORTANT question.
if not, and this is only a spanish lesson type camp, no native speakers, get in touch with city hall in town where you will be/might go/ and sign your kids up for THEIR art/music/play camp for the summer week you are there.

the local church should also have activities for family and children. good way to meet the locals.
if that is what you want to do.
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Old Apr 15th, 2005, 11:01 AM
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lincasanova....the school is a really good one (that's been around since the 1930s) and will be half english-speakers, half native speakers...it really does sound great....I don't know...maybe I'll just sign them up & then sit over in the corner making pinatas or something while they chatter away...
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Old Apr 15th, 2005, 11:06 AM
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i think it is a wonderful idea, experiences they will never forget.
i think they would have more fun there in classes with activities than touring around. you can take advantage and go see things they might find boring while they are occupied.
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Old Apr 15th, 2005, 11:10 AM
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..my kids went to a camp in N.A.which was a french camp NOT a camp to learn French. A terrific way to have fun. My eldest was raised in a multiligual household so he wasnt learning but he did convince 2 of his friends who went to a french school but were from an english household to go with him and they found it fun and their parents found that they really increased the fluidity of their speech (and picked up some "interesting" vocbulary). I think summer language opportunities do exist for families in France. I think there is one near Avignon or Aix. I think summer language camps introduce a child to the language but arent terribly effective unless the campers have such diverse language backgrounds that they use the camp language as the common language or there is a STRICT policy that only the camp language can be used. The camp that my son went to was very effective but a child who was not already fairly fluent would have been lost as this camp was hot designed to teach a language and a number of the counsellers were unilingual. However, it was an extremely effective way of solidifying a language or so my son's friends thought...I know a bit off topic but might be of some use..
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Old Apr 15th, 2005, 11:14 AM
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Garvin,

One thing you might want to consider down the road, if your kids develop an interest for the language is to send them abroad for 2-4 weeks in an immersion program.

I sent my son last year ( he was 15) to a 4 weeks program in Salamanca, Spain. In addition to 4 daily hours of language classes they had weekly excursions to nearby cities, including Madrid. It was a great experience.

This year he'll be going to a different program, also in Spain where he'll stay with a family for approx. 6 weeks. and also attend classes in the morning.

Some of these programs are more flexible and you can do them for as little as a week at a time, but mostly are at least 2 weeks.

Obviously this is just food for thought since your kids are still very young.

Good luck!
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Old Apr 15th, 2005, 08:25 PM
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Garvin222, I think this sounds like a great idea, especially if the kids are doing fun things at the school besides just learning the language. This experience will get them started being interested in learning languages. By the way, do you live in Miami? I do, and it's almost a necessity to speak Spanish here. I don't, and I spend most of my time trying to improve my French (as I love to travel in France) - but I wish I would change and start on Spanish, as I would never lack the chance to use it! If you DO live in Miami, your summer plans including the language school will be VERY useful!
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Old Apr 17th, 2005, 11:31 AM
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Sue, we live nearer Atlanta but it's amazing to me how often spanish is heard...it's going to be very valuable to know!

Many thanks to all who have shared these very intriguing thoughts & theories.
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