The Year of The Spanish Fever. Post 9
The old American studied at a vibrant, urban campus which is part of a network of Spanish language schools throughout Spain and the Western Hemisphere. Its operation in Barcelona is impressive.
The student body is mostly young but there are people of all ages. He was warmly welcomed. The professors appreciated his interest in Spain’s history, culture and economy; they enjoyed directing lectures to older students.
They were sorted by ability, or lack of it, into classes of no more than eight. He was with the same five European women during most of his two months. They met at cafés before class and during breaks.
The professors were geniuses of pantomime who used simple gestures to convey abstract concepts. They turned to the whiteboard to tame the 800-pound gorilla in Spanish — tense changes — by writing verb endings in color. There were no exams, grades or stress. There was never a moment of drudgery.
As they played Battleship one morning the old man’s partner Martina realized he was drowning and came to his rescue. He racked up IOUs with almost everyone in the class — dark-chocolate filled croissants being a currency of exchange.
Instructors begged students not to ‘teach’ one another, fearing they would swap mistakes and mispronunciations. Some students would rattle off convincing phrases that were total gibberish. Noemi would flutter her eyelashes.
Pedro y El Lobo, Nieve Blanco y Los Siete Enanos, and Zorro paid the classroom a visit one day. Running into familiar friends and objects and notions in a foreign language amused everyone.
The classes were conducted totally in Spanish, in theory. The American was the only student who spoke only one language, luckily the one everyone wanted to practice. He was palmed himself off as something of an authority. Vanity at its worst.
Their readings revolved around Hispanic cultures. It hadn’t occurred to the old man that Mother Spain is to Latin America what England is to the U.S.