Learning Spanish in Cuba
Replies: 25 - Last Post: Oct 17, 2013 12:05 PM Last Post By: solaie
Feb 12, 2011 9:13 PM
Learning Spanish in CubaJust got back to Canada from 2 weeks in Cuba and would love to return, this time to learn Spanish - I don't have much Spanish. I know I can go to the Universities of Havana and Cienfuegos. Recommendations? and the option of just chatting to people in the street is good, but I need more structure. I'm also 58 years old, so not into the drinking scene. Just want to learn Spanish. Thanks.
Feb 12, 2011 10:58 PM
1If you are sincere about learning Spanish - and sincere about Cuba, then its all to the good.
If it was me, private instruction would be the way to go.. you can get your own private University professor easy when you settle in.
I like Cienfuegos, it's casual, affordable, and the some of the best fresh seafood I have had in Cuba..
If you get bored with it, you could always head back to Havan for a little bustle.
All is possible in Cuba, but for me sitting in a Cuba classroom if you don't have too... naah, I would do a private thing 90 days at a time for a Canuck..
Feb 12, 2011 11:00 PM
2"I'm also 58 years old, so not into the drinking scene. \"
What's 58 to do with not being into the drinking scene? LOL.
As for your query have a read of Leyton's blog a few posts below which summarises his current experiences with learning spanish at a university in Santiago.
Feb 13, 2011 4:14 AM
3If you are planning to stay longterm then you can probably attend a course in one of the universites, another retired guy called leytono on this forum is retired as well(afaik) and studying spanish in santiago de cuba.
But if you only going for a week weeks at a time its probably better to attend a course in canada, remember that the street spanish in cuba is far from real spanish!
Feb 13, 2011 10:17 AM
4I agree with trav- take the class where you live, study the grammar and learn the vocabulary, and then USE it in Cuba! I took Spanish at a local college- any experience with those Rosetta Stone things?
Feb 13, 2011 3:05 PM
5I think that it depends on the amount of time that you want to study for. For a few weeks, go the private teacher route; you can easily find affordable, and professional Spanish teachers in Cuba. Just hop on a plane and ask around when you get there. This is what I have done on a few 3-4 month trips.
The University route could be recommended, if you are seeking an extended stay, say a couple of months of more. It could be worth going the University route, ive heard good reports about those Spanish programs, plus you´ll have temporary residency, which comes with the benefits that entails. The real problem I have had with the University courses, and its just my opinion, but I think they are overly strict, its like 8am everymorning, and 80% attendance is required to stay on the course. I dont know, 8am every morning, isnt my idea of fun in Cuba. But im 25, and like to party too much, so this factor may not bother you at all. I would still recommend the private teacher route, its one to one rather than a group, more attention on the student, plus he or she will be flexible (unlike the university), so you can change classes about etc, if you want to take a trip or so. Good luck.
Feb 13, 2011 7:16 PM
6I am completely in agreement with Fab, #2, and for a variety of reasons.
1. I have tried them all, University classes, CD programs, personal instruction. The latter was the best but only if you had something to build on (a "Primer Coat") and if the instruction was somewhat "immersive", e.g. staying at a casa where some of the family spoke some English and required you to use Spanish to converse with them.
2. The best "primer coat" I found after years of struggle was a simple little program called Speed Spanish. I'm not even sure it's available anymore because its author was bought out by Rosetta stone, I think. Rosetta stone, and all its cousins, btw and imho, sucks the big one. I would be happy to send anyone the 3 levels of Speed Spanish I have since I don't think it's currently commercially available.
3. If you are in a strange and exotic country with sites to see which you have never seen and people quite different than any you have known, why would you choose to trap yourself within the four walls of a sterile classroom. That's not a vacation and it's also a learning experience sans joy and therefore, probably not productive.
4. Cubañol is NOT Español. They are, in my mind, only slightly less unique than Español and Portuguese. If you want to learn how to get by in Cuba, then the classical Español you are likely to learn in a classroom environment is not going to serve you well en la calle. There should even be a separate class in "gestures", non-vocal gesticulations Cubans use constantly, everyday and as a natural extension of their spoken communication. They don't even know how unique it is until you point it out to them, but you are not truly communicating with a Cubano unless you are also aware of them.
Feb 13, 2011 9:17 PM
7Like OP, I am also a Canadian 'mature traveller' :>) and got hooked on Cuba, esp Cienfuegos, through my initial efforts to learn Spanish.
On my first trip I booked structured private lessons 2 hours each day. These were scheduled varying to fit our mutual convenience. For the balance of my casa-based stay, except when doing the odd bit of homework, I just immersed and met people, trying to find non-touristy ways to do that. It was a great combination for me. I shared the experience with a traveling companion of similar fluency and interests, which made it more fun. I have also done solo lessons with the same professor.
These classes wouldn't really eb getting me very far if I didn't put in time in Canada. I do fairly intense but short daily study 1-2 months before each trip, but it's mostly a self-taught effort. In those periods at home I work through a lesson book I learned about on Thorntree, and practice very occasionally with computer/CD's and occasional conversations.
In Cienfuegos my study is under-the-table with a university professor who teaches several languages to both local and foreign clientele. The quality of instruction is excellent, the setting is pleasant and the atmosphere is very different than in a classroom or or a tourism site. This is not street Spanish, the teaching technique is structured and correct, primarily but not exclusively Cuban Spanish. Because the classes are private, I have enjoyed the chance to talk with an interesting Cuban about subjects that would not be possible in a class setting.
The classes are excellent, but if I wasn't working at home to build vocabulary and practice stuff like verb forms, they wouldn't be helping much. I am sure this professor is not the cheapest deal you could get, but I am very happy with the quality-value I get. If you are interested in more detail, feel free to PM me.
Feb 14, 2011 6:06 AM
8Interesting topic. I too am Canadian. I had the same desire to learn spanish, and I attended a night class at Georgian College in Barrie Ontario, I ended up taking about six of them or so. It was a good move, because we learned the proper sentence structure and we memorized the irregular pretorite verbs, which you simply need to know. Then we started with different tenses, and built a vocabulary word by word. You get to a point when yo ugo to Cuba, that you simply ask them to talk slowly, and communication becomes a reality. Then, bit by bit, your comprehension gets better, your vocabulary grows, and your effectiveness and confidence swell. I am now basically bilingual. That is to say, by taking the proper corses at the getgo, I can read, write and speak. I am not 100% builingual, but I can carry on a conversation with anyone in spanish, and make myself heard, and understand the responses on the first, second or third attempt sometimes. The couses I took at Georgian were university courses from Laurier.
Spanish is a beautiful, fluid, romantic expressive language. I don't understand why french is such a focus here, when most of the Americas from the USA to the tip of south America, all speak Spanish. Spanish is the language of America for sure, based on numbers.
When travelling, being able to speak to anyone opens a lot of doors. Ofen the ones who speak english the best in Cuba, may well be the ones with a hidden agenda. Speaking spanish helps sort people out.
Feb 14, 2011 1:11 PM
9I've been using Rosetta Stone for over a year and I'm just about finished all 3 levels but my abilities are still very limited. Pelo is correct in the sense that you won't be fluent or conversational by the end as I was greatly humbled last May in Cuba after finishing level 2. I also work with 4 latinos and I still can't understand them when they talk together, I just hear a word hear and there that I know. But I do believe that RS is good as a primer which is why I took it. It just doesn't explain grammar and conjucated verbs to you, it only shows you with pictures. Once I'm finished, I'm signing up for proper lessons.
OP, I'm not sure where in Canada you're from but I've heard from many people that the Spanish Centre in Toronto holds top notch courses. My Chilean friend's wife enrolled in it and now Spanish is the only way they communicate. He also got her to watch CNN Español videos all the time and said that really helped her. But of course any type of education is useless unless it's accompanied by immersion. There are also meetup groups for people to get together and practice.
Feb 14, 2011 8:34 PM
Feb 15, 2011 6:33 AM
Feb 17, 2011 8:48 PM
Feb 18, 2011 5:11 AM
13To get an idea on what you're in for when you say you want to learn Spanish, keep in mind that the conjugated verbs are INSANE. For instance, there are only 4 different ways to say "eat" in English, depending on how it is meant. Now check out the Spanish conjugation of "comer" (eat in Spanish): http://www.123teachme.com/spanish_verb_conjugation/comer
That's for ALL the verbs.
Feb 18, 2011 7:09 AM
14I took a college Spanish class some years ago and the work book is called Manual de Gramatica by Dozier and Iguina. This is a comprehensive (exhaustive) grammar book and a big help when traveling in Cuba. Because Spanish has so many verb tenses and irregular verbs, you can actually look up what you mean to say rather than (if you are like me) what you can remember. I look stuff up after my discussions to see what I should have said. For my particular brain this helps....... llegara pronto!
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