Saturday, August 25, 2012

Studying Spanish in Cuba

The University of Havana, Cuba 

It is so interesting to meet people who migrated to the U.S., and how they get so indignant when Americans try to learn and speak to them in their native language. I found this to be true among many Spanish-speakers. Evidently, the best way to learn and practice a new language is to visit the country where that language is spoken. Being that I'm in love with the Spanish language along with salsa and Afro-Cuban music, Cuba was a logical place to not only develop my salsa dancing skills, but to develop my Spanish as well. This was my first experience, and certainly not the last, at being totally immersed in the Spanish-language, not having to worry about smart-asses answering me in English.

Everyone on campus and in the community was friendly and welcoming, especially when I told them that I was from the USA. To me, this was an indication that there is no animosity among ordinary, everyday Cuban people towards Americans.

My trip was sponsored by Global Exchange, Inc., based in San Francisco, CA, which had a partnership with the University of Havana where I spent four hours in the mornings in the classroom with non-English speaking instructors. After school, I got to hang out with non English-speaking tutors where we would simply chat in a restaurant, a coffee shop, or on the waterfront, and get one-on-one feedback on my progress. Finally, I got to live with a non-English speaking family, so there was no way that I could fall back on my English when I get stuck in translation. I was forced to simply work it out in the moment. As a result, my Spanish improved to the level where after my return to the US, I was interviewed for a new job in both English and Spanish, and passed with flying colors.

Although, I had quite a few classmates from the US, Great Britain, France, Germany, and Japan., I spent as little time as possible with any of them. As a result, most of my learning took place in the community where I made friends, went out on dates, shopped, and attended cultural events. Like anything in life, the real learning takes place in the real world; not in the classroom!

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