Each Autumn our consulting and blogging takes a little siesta, so Alan and I take full advantage of this time to work on projects and improve our Spanish. This time we tried experiential learning Spanish mixed with some traditional classroom time. Yep, we are taking the slow road to fluency, but at least we are still on that road! To top it all off, we know we are better than we were last year!
We found some experiential learning options available in our area and decided to give some focused session and experiential learning a try. We have two different types of workshops or learning to cover in this post. Our first workshop was only focused on pronunciation!
Spanish Pronunciation Workshop
First of all, Alan and I both kicked off our Spanish learning season with a 3-day workshop on Spanish pronunciation, offered by Centro de Idiomas El Mar. This was a focused session just on pronunciation!
It was great to have the option to try new things and learn in different ways. I have the worst time pronouncing the letter “R”, so this workshop was very helpful! We found it great fun to fine tune our Spanish pronunciation, but it also made me realize how lazy I’ve been with my pronunciation! It was wonderful to intensively focus on one aspect of the language and really bring it to light. Now to keep up with it!
A brief video summarizing our 3-day Spanish pronunciation workshop
What’s the second workshop?
Secondly, following the pronunciation workshop, Alan decided to continue with regular twice weekly group classes. I decided to try new things and see if I could study online as well. I also signed up to take a specialized workshop, which was a combination of traditional classroom time and some experiential learning.
I know you are probably thinking, what kind of phrase are you making up now Heidi? Well, I am not sure if this is the appropriate term to use, but it is the only one that comes to mind. Experiential learning is a philosophy of education that describes the process that occurs between the teacher and student that infuses a direct experience with the learning environment and content. In very basic terms, learning by experience.
Reference chart by Kolb
1. Concrete Experience – (a new experience or situation is encountered, or a reinterpretation of existing experience).
2. Reflective Observation of the New Experience – (of particular importance are any inconsistencies between experience and understanding).
3. Abstract Conceptualization (reflection gives rise to a new idea, or a modification of an existing abstract concept The person has learned from their experience).
4. Active Experimentation (the learner applies their idea(s) to the world around them to see what happens).
Experiential Education – Spanish Civil War
Okay so back to my experiential learning. I attended a 3-day workshop on the Spanish Civil War. If you know me at all, you know I’m not into politics much. I’ve also never been a huge fan of history, except when it pertains to travel. I am a very visual learner, so when you combine a bit of history with a place for me to see, I am fascinated! Well, that’s exactly what I got, right here in La Herradura, Maro, and Acebuchal.
Centro de Idiomas El Mar was offering a workshop about the Spanish Civil War. It was an intermediate level of Spanish required, as it was all presented in Spanish. There was to be a little bit of classroom time to set the stage, but the majority of the course was outside hiking in the Andalucian hills and beaches. The locations were exactly where parts of the civil war took place. So it was time to take a step back in time and beef up my Spanish listening skills.
It’s about the experience!
I’m not going to make this post about what I learned regarding the civil war, as you will just need to take the workshop to do that. There are so many books, videos and pieces of documentation available for you all to research on your own. I will however provide a couple of links throughout the post to help provide a deeper understanding for you.
With more than 11 hours of instruction, I couldn’t possibly summarize the content here. What I can share with you is how hearing about what went on and knowing it all happened on the exact road I was standing on really brought it all to life.
Moments in Maro
Walking across the old Roman Bridge in Maro. Knowing this was the exact path of the La Desbandá (The massacre of the road from Malaga to Almeria,1937).
The extra touches
While out on our excursions, our instructor also took the time to point out native plants, a local farmer to buy fresh produce and eggs, old ruins and what they once were, as well as other bits of history. We received far more than a workshop about the civil war, it was a learning experience about the local culture, history and the civil war!
Here some classmates are tasting the fruits and products we discovered along the road, some little grapes. We also found carob, rosemary, thyme, loads of fruits, berries, and flowers too!
Teaching with Passion
I can honestly say, I don’t think I’ve ever had a teacher with as much passion as Carlos. Everything he presented was with enthusiasm, emotion and his storytelling just drew you in. It just wasn’t possible to drift away or day-dream, he had you right there and made sure he navigated our minds and hearts to capture the moment.
I remember we were walking on the trail up in the hills on the way to Acebuchal (the lost village) and we all stopped. Carols had us be still for a moment and just take in everything we could see, smell hear and envision what it would have been like back in the times of war. What would it be like carrying a child on your back, not wearing any shoes and running for your life to a place you hoped would be safe. It really puts it all into perspective and gives you a brush with what would have been experienced.
Remnants of days past
Along the trail in the hills, between the Malaga coast and the city of Granada. This exact path was one of the main trail used and we found the ruins of a place where people would make trades, somewhat of a shop. It was great to go inside and imagine what it would have been like.
The Lost Village – El Acebuchal
Probably the most impactful moment was the story of “The Lost Village”, El Acebuchal. It’s located in the Sierras of Tejeda, Almijara and Alhama Natural Park, just above Frigiliana.
Shortly after the Spanish Civil war, the authorities were concerned that some isolated rebels were being sheltered in the village and assisted generally in their cause. The authorities basically shut the village down in 1948, and dispersed the occupants. no one returned to the village and it fell into disrepair.
You can also read a little bit more about the history of the village here.
Return of the Village
This village remained abandoned for 50 years, until a former resident decided to return in 1998 and slowly bring it back to life. It is now a wonderful haven for hikers and day trippers to stop for a meal and take in the views.
Click here to read about our time riding quads in the Spanish hills to the lost village.
To sum it all up
In summary, after we completed the entire workshop, I was very proud of myself. With more than 11 hours of Spanish instruction and conversation, about an unfamiliar topic, I understood the majority of it! Of course there were words I didn’t know, but I just wrote them down and looked them up later. At times, our instructor would stop and state a critical piece of information in English, just to be sure we understood the intensity of what was being said.
Overall, this entire course really touched my heart. Though I may not remember exact dates and times of things, I will remember the locations and stories. The stories of the Spanish civil war and how it impacted those living in Andalucia and right here in our area. My fellow classmates were also very impressed and enjoyed the course as well. This type of learning not only feeds your brain, but it makes use of all your senses and taps into your emotions. I can’t wait for our next set of visitors to come, so I can share some of the moments and locations with them.
Most importantly, this is my kind of learning! Yes, I should focus on the grammar too, but I bet this one sticks in my mind longer.
Other experiential learning examples?
As far as I know, the school I went through is the only one around providing courses like these. They offer different options throughout the year or they will gladly create a custom workshop for you and your friends. You just need to let them know what you are looking for and they will tell you what can be done and when. You may also contact them to see which workshops they have on their future agenda.
Spanish Language School in La Herradura
Centro de Idiomas El Mar
Click here to view their website and contact information.
Please let them know that you read about them on Wagoners Abroad! We love to let the locals know that we helped send people their way.
Photo Gallery from our Spanish Civil War Workshop
Spanish Civil War References
Here are a couple of videos to watch for reference. Yes, they are in Spanish, but I am sure you can find some information in English too.
- Video 52 min RTVE Recovered Memory – The Highway of Death (Malaga 1937).
- Video 25 min (directly in the Costa Tropical area) ¡Hasta pronto, hermanos! Las Brigadas Internacionales en La Desbandá.
So, why don’t you Pin me for later!
What kind of learner are you? Do you prefer to have a lecture, learn from experience or watch a movie? Tell us about it.