If you answer the question with anything other than your name it is safe to say you know very little Spanish. This was the question posed to Pinion in her interview on our first day at Spanish school. She did not say “Sheila”. I’m not sure if the conversation went much further, my own interview went equally well. The guy just frowned and said beginner after my failed attempts at answering his questions.
Pinion is keen. We spent the first 2 days unable to access the wifi after entering the Spanish word for password into our phones repetitively:
After that initial humiliation it was straight into the lessons. Luckily for us we were to be taught by 2 super friendly teachers who didn’t make us feel bad for being quite so useless. We spent the week getting to grips with the basics and learning some interesting phrases, such as how to describe a person’s hair colour. The course was taught entirely in Spanish, making it accessible to everyone and this resulted in a nice mix of nationalities in the school. In the beginners class, we were joined by a young Dutch girl whose language skills quickly put us to shame but we all struggled with the new Spanish.
Our course was not a crash course in Spanish but was instead intended to build the basics up before we undertook further study. We therefore learned some things that are a bit useless, I can describe your eye, hair and skin colour but struggle to know the time of day. The teachers recognised our eagerness to learn the basics to survive and were able to slightly adjust the course but they mainly stayed focused on the text book.
Jenny our teacher:
One of the highlights of the school was that it offered activities in the afternoon, once classes were finished. We went on the tour of Barrio Brazil where we went to lunch, got slightly tipsy on pisco sours and understood very little of what the teacher was telling us other than when she talked about wines. We figured we would get by in Chile with this wine knowledge and the ability to order food.
Alvaro our teacher:
The other tour we went on was to the Concha y Toro vineyard. I think it is one of the largest vineyards in Chile, it is also considered by Chileans as pretty crap wine that is on the whole exported to us ignorant wine drinkers in Europe. They didn’t quite say that on the tour, although it was once again solely in Spanish so if they had said that we wouldn’t have a clue. Still we had a great time, eating on their many varieties of grape, slurping the wine and enjoying the weird but not scary diablo range (including a film with a lot of Spanish).
The cost of 20 lessons (45 minutes each) was $180 each, it has taught us enough survival Spanish for South America. We can book bus tickets, order our dinner politely and describe everyone’s hair colour. You could probably do this at home before you arrive in South America but we found the course was a great way to meet a range of people and it eased us into city living in Santiago. We would definitely recommend Escuela Bellavista, the teachers were super friendly and the activities are a sure way to improve your Spanish or at least fuel with enough alcohol that you think you’re fluent.