Immersive school teaches foreign students Spanish

World Today

Mexico is a popular holiday destination for tourists from around the world, and many visitors use the opportunity to hone their language skills as well.

And as CGTN’s Alasdair Baverstock reports, one school in the south of the country guarantees improvements by placing foreign students among locals who only speak Spanish.

Eric Prause from Germany is spending his summer holidays volunteering on Mexico’s Pacific Coast. Today, he’s helping local oyster divers clear trash from the coral reefs.

But that wasn’t his original intention. He’s here in Oaxaca State on a Spanish-language course.

To graduate, he’s got to do immersive community service that forces him to use his new language skills.

“I’ve improved my Spanish quite a lot. I’ve remembered a lot from my lessons, and it’s really enjoyable because you actually get to interact with the locals, and you find out about their lives and life in Mexico in general,” said Prause.

This is a language course that teaches through social experience.

The founders of this Spanish-language school believe that the best way to learn the foreign language is being forced to speak it. And they’re putting that into practice, by putting their students in volunteer programs that immerse them in the language.

If they want to communicate with the people they’re working alongside, speaking Spanish is the only option.

Victor Campos runs the language school, which tries to get novice speakers into the community as quickly as possible.

“We focus on communication, and getting the students up to a beginner level as fast as possible, to be able to place them with local people,” said Campos. “That’s when they can break through their fears and begin to communicate with very basic Spanish, and with the extra effort, they discover the magic of language.”

And for community programs the students participate in, like this local dog rescue center, the student help is invaluable.

“There are only two of us who work here in the refuge, which makes it very difficult to properly care for all the animals. So, the fact that the volunteers come here makes our jobs far easier,” veterinarian Alejandra Cruz.

When these students finish up in Mexico, they return to their home countries speaking better Spanish. And, they leave behind handiwork that has benefited the local community.