Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Purists may argue that the Castilian accent as spoken in the Spanish cities of Salamanca and Madrid is the true mother tongue; they claim that Iberian Spanish is to Mexican Spanish what BBC English is to standard American English. To that I say beauty lies within the ear of the listener, and this listener prefers the musical flow of Mexican Spanish to the ' "th"-heavy' accent of Spain.
So, where in Mexico should one go to learn Spanish? I suggest the city of Merida, capital of the state of Yucatan. And the school I recommend is The Spanish Institute of Merida. (you will find the link to the school is at the end of this post.)
Merida is a colonial city, perhaps the oldest in the Americas, and is considered the safest city in Mexico -- a point the U.S. State Department failed to mention in their April, 2010 warning against travel to Mexico. The Spanish in Merida is considered pure and lacks the heavy regional accents found in other Mexican locales.
My husband, Kurt, and I recently attended simerida for two weeks of one-on-one instruction. I can not say enough good things about the experience. Here's a quick overview of a typical day:
1. Wake up in my private, air-conditioned room with its en-suite bathroom. Eat a hearty, Mexican-Caribbean breakfast prepared by the mother of my host family. Chat in Spanish with my host mother.
2. Walk to the bus stop to meet Kurt and take the fifteen-minute ride to the school. (We chose to stay with different families.)
3. Enjoy four hours of one-on-one language study with mi maestra (my teacher). Sometimes we'd walk to a nearby cafe to practice conversation skills over a cup of coffee. By the second day of classes, my teacher had my learning style figured out -- I'm a visual learner and she accurately pinpointed my strengths and weaknesses. And in one sentence she described the bedeviling Subjunctive Mode in a way that cleared a lifetime of cobwebs from my head -- I now crave every chance I get to practice the subjunctive. (In a nutshell, a subjunctive verb is used when doubt or uncertainty exisits within a sentence. Since the subjunctive is rarely used in English, its common use in Spanish poses a learning challenge.)
4. Break for lunch with our fellow students and "headmaster" for lack of a better word; the conversation was maintained in Spanish and the topics fascinating. Most meals were taken at Don Pepe's, an authentic Yucatecan restaurant located within the actual home of Don Pepe. As I chowed down, I could see within a roped-off area Don Pepe's living room, complete with sofa and TV.
5. A two-hour, one-on-one conversation with my guia, or guide, whose job was to correct my spoken Spanish as we visited museums and any other places of interest within walking distance of the school.
6. A return trip on the city bus and a refreshing swim before more fun and enlightening conversations in Spanish with members of our host families.
spanish institute of merida