Day 7, Central America trip, Dec 2012
Day 5, Lake Atitlan, San Pedro village, Guatemala
Today is the first day of my Spanish immersion program here at the lake. Guatemala is one of the many Spanish speaking country south of the U.S. although many Guatemalan are of indigenous or Mayan Indians descendant. For the Ladinos in Guatemala, Spanish would most likely be the primary language. However, those Guatemalan with Mayan heritage may still be speaking their native Mayan dialect such as: K’iche’, Kaqchikel, Mam, Q’eqchi, Tzutujil and etc… Having learn Spanish in primary grade levels as a foreign language also help them understand the process of studying Spanish, hence, they do speak Spanish at a lower pace to tourists comparing to Spanish speaking native tongues of neighboring countries.
Popular among international backpackers as a budget friendly destination, Guatemala is also aligning itself as an ideal country to study Spanish while traveling in the Americas region. If everything are cheaper here then why not studying Spanish too? Knowing some or advanced Spanish in the Americas region south of the U.S. is extremely helpful as it is the common language and English may not be understood in areas outside of tourist attractions.
I have a confession to make!!! I’m terrible at learning new languages, except for a semi-passable command of the English language and some Vietnamese. I studied Spanish for 2 years in high school which I hated it so much because my dad “made me” took it.
Although I passed the class with good grade but I wasn’t loving Spanish because I was a Francophile at the time, and still is. That may explains why I have no retention of the Spanish language prior to my arrival in Guatemala. When I wasn’t traveling and was working very long hours, my friend Mr. T. would occasionally tease me by saying: all work and no play made a dull person.
Now that I’m NOT working and just “wandering” in Central America, then all play and no work made me a little too free of cares in the world and unproductive? Hence the Spanish immersion program and the pricing is irresistible. My original plan for the country of Guatemala was no more than 2 weeks so I planned my Spanish study/immersion program in San Pedro due to its proximity to the hospital where I needed to drop off the donation of medical supplies. There are a ton of Spanish language schools in San Pedro but as a budget traveler, cost won over other factors for me. Casa Rosario is also one of the oldest and accredited Spanish school in San Pedro so that helps with the decision as well.
My Spanish school experience is pretty intense (for me) as it is 4 hours a day (we break for 30 minutes), with private, 1 on 1 instruction. Week # 1, I went to school in the morning from 8 am -12 noon. Comes week # 2, I switched to the afternoon starting from 1:30 pm in as it’s easier to do home work or self study in the morning with plenty of time for morning coffee routine and meal preparation. It’s also an excuse to sleep in and not worried about being late for class. I opted to stay at the school’s dormitory instead of staying with a local family due to my selective diet (I wouldn’t last very long with diet of rice and bean, 3 times a day).
Some other students were doing 6 hours a day, splitting hours in both the morning and afternoon session. I’m entirely fine with the 4 hours a day arrangement at the moment. There’s only so much this little brain of mine can take in and process all of the new information, especially with a new language.
The immersion program is a combination of casual verbal conversations and grammar structures. It can be a bit “confronting” as it is 1 on 1 instruction where the attention is 100% focused on the student. Therefore, the student is forced to fully immerse into the language by speaking Spanish or try to express oneself in the new language.
In week # 1, I spoke absolutely NO Spanish. English is the primary language I use for communication and 99% of the times, listeners just ignored me, because they had no idea what I was talking about and neither myself with their Spanish.
Besides the Spanish immersion program, the school (Casa Rosario) also offers or arrange other cultural or leisure activities included in the tuition fee (Salsa dance class, leather purse making class). Canoe and kayak available for use (free of charge) to students to paddle around the lake.
Plenty of fruit trees in the garden as part of the tranquil landscape and edible purpose too I’m sure.
In keeping with our tropical theme, our bathroom is also a hut constructed with bamboo materials.
If you are in San Pedro, lake Atitlan, Guatemala area, I recommend you consider Spanish language immersion program as part of your travel. You can learn as you travel throughout the America region, one week at a time, depending on your travel plan and budget.
Price at Casa Rosario is very budget friendly comparing to other schools I have came across during my research. It is still a personal preference in finalizing the school of choice. I get a different teacher, for each of the week I studied because of schedule change. Otherwise, I can retain the same teacher for my entire studying period.
Tuition (quoted on 12/20/2012)
- Classes Only—$100 week. (You are responsible for your own housing). Four hours of classes (either morning or afternoon) a day. Classes start Monday and end Friday.
- Live at Casa Rosario dormitory and Classes—$125 week. You live at the school’s dormitory where there is a communal kitchen you can use. The rooms have a comfortable bed, and there may be two students to a room when the school is full.
- Live with a Family and Classes—$175 week. You have your own room in the house of a local Maya family. You will be the only student at the house (unless you request otherwise) so you will learn faster. You will be provided three meals a day Monday through Saturday.