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Learning Spanish through a cultural immersion experience

by Patrick Collins from Unispain

If you're shopping for a Spanish language course, the first question you should ask yourself is if you're really serious about making significant progress in your knowledge of the language. If the answer is yes, you shouldn't settle for anything less than an in-country language program. As long as you come into contact with the country culture and its inhabitants, any destination could be a good choice, either a short but intensive Spanish course in Barcelona or a whole-academic-year immersion at any university in Spain.

What makes cultural immersion so effective?

Besides the obvious reasons, there are scientific principles that explain why learning Spanish in a Spanish-speaking environment is so much more effective and long-lasting than simply attending a few classes back home. Without getting into unnecessary detail, suffice it to say that the brain is capable of processing and retaining a huge amount of information automatically, without any type of conscious input at all.

The difference then between a classroom-only Spanish course and an immersive program is that in the former case only theoretical learning takes place; in the latter, classroom lessons are fully assimilated and integrated thanks to crucial support from the external environment, which also provides ample opportunity for practice and familiarization with the language.

This represents real learning; when theoretical knowledge is given the chance to flourish into practical adeptness. When this occurs, one can be said to have learned something through and through, and knowledge is truly retained. In contrast, the mere memorization of theory quickly evaporates from memory if not applied and reinforced through practice. It should be noted, however, that a language is comparable to a muscle in that lack of activity can result in atrophy and regular practice keeps it in good shape.

What are further benefits of taking an in-country Spanish course?

Original Spanish: As the birthplace of Spanish, Spain provides the purest version of Spanish available in the world. It's also the most neutral and universal form of the language, recognized and respected anywhere Spanish is spoken.

Culture and history: Spain's culture and history are some of the most intriguing in the world. The country's vast historical heritage enjoys a strong presence through the many monuments, palaces, and cathedrals of Spain's cities. Cultural life is at once relaxed and dynamic. La marcha (literally 'the march,' referring to Spain's nightlife) is a social staple enjoyed by all; its joyful vibrancy lights up the city streets well into the madrugada (early morning hours).

Weather and natural surroundings: Spain is often narrowly characterized as a 'fun in the sun' destination. While it's true that the country boasts some of Europe's most beautiful beaches, Spain holds much more geographical diversity within its borders than it's usually accredited for. The country's excellent weather and beautiful natural surroundings add a great deal of appeal to the prospect of learning Spanish in Spain.

Travel opportunities: Once you're in Spain, you'll want to fit in as many weekend trips as time or budget allows. Spain is not only geographically diverse but also culturally so, making it a fascinating travel destination. Modern Spain presents a colorful mosaic of cultural-historical legacy; each region has a unique identity and feel, and all of them are intriguing in their own way.

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