March 2009 issue

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Course Guide 1
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The heart of Spain

Spain has so much more to offer than its great cuisine, typified by sangria and plates of steaming hot paella. Travel farther inland and you’ll discover rural Spain at its very best. Think castles, medieval ruins and plush green hills.
Nicola Hancox goes on a journey of discovery.

The Spanish are a passionate people. As a nation they enjoy the bravado of a good bullfight, the rigorous step of flamenco not to mention fine wine, good food and pleasant company. Consequently, Spain is a popular destination for language students who wish to live and breathe Spanish.
Made up of 17 autonomous communities – each offering something different in terms of landscape, gastronomy, culture and people – Spain is spectacularly diverse. However, the lesser known regions of Extremadura, Castilla La Mancha, Castilla y León and La Rioja not to mention the community of Madrid – which contains the country’s capital – offer a varied lifestyle students should sample.

The city of Salamanca is situated in the southwest corner of Castilla y León and borders neighbouring Portugal. Ada Calvo, Director of Letra Hispánica in Salamanca, says it’s the kind of place students will want to visit time and time again. Declared a Unesco World Heritage site in 1988, the city itself boasts Romanesque, Gothic, Moorish, Renaissance and Baroque monuments that will certainly appeal to keen historians. “Salamanca possesses a variety of historic buildings unique in the world,” asserts Calvo. “The rock of Villamayor, with its unmistakeable hues, has given origin to the famous expression ‘ciudad dorada’ (golden city),” she continues. She also adds that Plaza Mayor, a grand town square at the very heart of the old city, is buzzing with people and provides the perfect place to meet friends for a cup of coffee.

Visiting students certainly won’t feel out of place when studying in Salamanca. Home to three universities and over 40,000 students, there’s a particularly young vibe to this historic city. Consequently, entertainment is always plentiful, notes Calvo. “The city does not close at night because student activity is always alive! In the early hours of daylight one can continue the ‘movida’ in bars and clubs!”

Just north of Salamanca is the regional capital Valladolid – a cultural haven where theatres, cinemas and museums thrive. According to William B. Ott from ¡Espáñame! – IH Valladolid and Santander, the city has a provincial feel that students may well appreciate. “The city is not as cosmopolitan as other cities. It is very homogeneous in its Castilian language and customs,” he says.

Locals in Valladolid are reputed to have the finest Castilian accents in Spain notes Ott, making the area a good place to pick up on pronunciation. “Because of the purity of the language and the less than daily contact with foreigners, students are frequently met with the situation where they have to make an extra effort with the language to make themselves understood,” he notes.

Boasting over 400 bars and restaurants, students will never be stuck for somewhere to eat or drink. However, a trip to the city wouldn’t be complete without sampling the local delicacy, suckling lamb. Meat features highly on the menu here but should suckling lamb not appeal, students could always try en pepitoria (hen stew with egg yolk sauce) or Tordesillas’ rooster.

Should students get itchy feet, the cities of Madrid and Salamanca are within easy reach notes Ott. “Valladolid is an easy jump off point. In an hour, students can be in Madrid, Burgos, Salamanca, skiing in the mountains, or visiting beautiful historic nearby villages,” he relates. The region of Extremadura is perhaps one of Spain’s more remote provinces and with a sparse population it offers travelling students something a little more sedate. Minus the buzz of the Costas, Extremadura is, according to María Guerrero from the Fun School of Languages in Mérida, largely unspoilt by tourism. “There are not many foreigners living in Extremadura and Mérida, so we are really delighted to have people interested in our culture and in our language,” she enthuses.

Johari Murray from Universidad de Extremadura in Cáceres says the city has been experiencing a cultural boom as it prepares to compete for the European City of Culture 2016. “Though not very big, Cáceres is a very dynamic and lively city with a rich cultural life which has improved since it became a candidate for the European City of Culture,” he says, adding that their social calendar is packed with film festivals, renaissance fairs, gastronomic festivals, theatrical activities and concerts.

Meanwhile, Meike Schwellenbach from Spanish Holiday Courses in Valencia de Alcantara – just outside of Cáceres – notes that the surrounding area provides ample opportunity to indulge in some great leisure pursuits. “Extremadura enjoys a mild climate in the summer as well as winter since it is surrounded by a natural and rich landscape that provides opportunities for enjoying extracurricular activities,” she says. Here, students can participate in a guided trek through the Sierra Fría (Cold Mountain) or go horseback riding in Vega del Madroñal or bird watching through the River Tajo Natural Park.

The community of Madrid is located at the very heart of the Iberian Peninsula and the Meseta Central (or Central Plain). Bounded by Castilla La Mancha in the south and Castilla y León in the north it also contains Spain’s capital city.
Zoe Thurston from Babylon Idiomas relates that it is a beguiling metropolis with plenty of attractions. “Madrid is beautiful city and is possibly the best example of Spanish culture with a number of museums, galleries and monuments,” she comments.

Madrid is also renowned for its many neighbourhoods (or barrios) each with its own personality and Stephen Jenkins from OISE in Madrid asserts that students will relish discovering each one. There’s gay-friendly Chueca, über-trendy Malasaña or ethnically diverse Lavapiés and Jenkins says each offers the perfect chance to practise the local lingo. “Most students find that heading out to an area like Malasaña for some wine and tapas ensures they will rapidly find themselves in conversation with the locals,” he states.
Football is integral to life in Madrid and a visit to the famous Bernabeu stadium is unavoidable. “During the football season many of our students like to try and see a football match and there are plenty of options with Real Madrid playing in both La Liga and the Champions League,” Thurston concludes.

Agent viewpoint

“Central Spain is chosen by students who pay special attention to the quality of the language environment, a region where Castellano is clearly official – as opposed to Catalonian – and where the accent corresponds to the standards of what’s official – as opposed to the Andalucia accent. Culturally speaking, the historical patrimony also highlights the heart of the official Spanish language and its expansion, suiting the students interested in this dimension of the Castellano. To compensate for the lack of beaches I guess students look for less massively visited places, central Spain being a bit out off the beaten track as opposed to the coastal regions. Students say Madrid is the place to party in an authentically Spanish way.”
Krister A. Weidenhielm, ESL, Switzerland        

“Most of our clients go to Central Spain and Andalucia. Madrid is popular due to lots of sightseeing opportunities and masterpieces located in the city. There are lots of places to visit like museums. Madrid is a beautiful city and our students love the capital. Salamanca is a well known university city and has lots of history. I have to say that Spanish people are so nice and friendly.”
Victoria Beyker, Kanzler Language Centre, Russia

“Some say that the Spanish spoken in Madrid and Castilla y León is the clearest to understand with the most neutral accent, so this is a big draw for language learners. Salamanca is Spain’s version of Oxford as it is home to their oldest university. The people who choose to learn here tend to be more serious about studying and improving their Spanish. These areas of Spain, apart from Madrid, are also less travelled compared to the Costas, which can be an attraction for many. This area of Spain has a wonderful Spanish ambience, the people are very friendly and it’s not overrun with tourists. The central area attracts people with a broader interest in the history, rather than those who go to Andalucia to see Moorish architecture, links with northern Africa.”
Michelle Curtis, Cactus Language, UK

Contact any advertiser in the this issue now

The following language schools, associations and accommodation providers advertised in the latest edition of Language Travel Magazine. If you would like more information on any of these advertisers, tick the relevant boxes, fill out your details and send.





Sara's New York Homestay LLC  

Feltom Malta  
International House World Organisation 
Languages Canada / Langues Canada 
Quality English 


Your World on Monday

Malta Tourism Authority

Alphe Conferences  
International House World Organisation  
Languages Canada / Langues Canada  
Quality English  

Ecela - Latin Immersion  

Ceran Lingua International (Belgium, France, Spain, UK)

Idiomas To Go  

Applied Linguistics Centre Ltd.  
Camber College  
Camosun College  
College de Jonquiere / AQEF  
College Platon  
English School of Canada  
Eurocentres, Vancouver  
Global Village 
(Australia, Canada,
iTTTi Vancouver  
Language Studies Canada  
MacEwan English Language Institute  
Mount Royal College  
National School of  Languages  
Richmond School District #38  
Saint Mary's University  
University of Regina  
University of Toronto  
University of Victoria  
Vancouver English Centre  

Tandem Santiago  

Alltere Education Group  
IH Xi'an  
iMandarin Language Training Institute  
Mandarin House  

Spanish World Institute  

Yanapuma Spanish School  

IH Cairo  

Ardmore Language Schools  
Bell International (Malta, UK)
Bloomsbury International  
Camp Beaumont  
Concorde International Language Home Tuition  
(Argentina, Australia, Canada, England, France, Germany, Greece, Hawaii, Ireland, Italy, Malta, New Zealand, Russia, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, USA)
Dudley College of Technology  
English Studio  
International House World Organisation  
Kaplan Aspect  
(Australia, Canada, Ireland, Malta, New Zealand, South Africa, UK, USA)
LAL Language and Leisure  
(Canada, Cyprus, Ireland, England, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, USA)
Malvern House College London  
Millfield School  
Regent's College  
St Giles Colleges (Canada, UK, USA)
Study Group  
(Australia, Canada, England, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, USA)
Twin Group  (Ireland, UK)
University of Manchester  
Wimbledon School of English  

Alliance Française Paris Ile de France  

International House Berlin - Prolog  

Dilit - International House  
John Cabot University  

Kai Japanese Language School  
Tamagawa International Language School  

Clubclass Residential Language School  
EC English Language Centre (England, Malta, South Africa, USA)
Iels - Institute of English Language Studies  
inlingua Malta  

EAC Language Centres and Activity Camps  (England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales)
University of Edinburgh  
University of Stirling  

EC Cape Town  
Eurocentres Cape Town  
Good Hope Studies  
inlingua Language Training Centre Cape Town  
Interlink School of Languages  
International House Cape Town  
LAL Cape Town  
Shane Global Language Centres - Cape Town  

Esade - Executive Language Centre  
Malaga ¡Si!  
International House San Sebastian - Lacunza  
Malaca Instituto - Club Hispanico SL  

EF Language Colleges Ltd (Australia, Canada, China, Ecuador, England, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Malta, New Zealand, Russia, Scotland, Spain, USA)
Eurocentres International (Australia, Canada, England, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, Spain, USA)

ELS Language Centers  
Global Immersions Inc  
inlingua DC  
Johnson & Wales University  
Rennert Bilingual  
University of California Riverside  
University of California San Diego  
University of South Florida  
Zoni Language Centers  (Canada, USA)

CELA (Centro de Lingüistica Aplicada)  



London Metropolitan University  
Queen Ethelburga's College  
University of Essex - International Academy  
Writtle College  

Study Group  

University of Glasgow  

St. Timothy's School