How We Teach Spanish at Conversa
Conversa's Spanish training methodology relies on the philosophy that regardless of your age or proficiency level in spoken Spanish, you can make dramatic progress if provided with the following:
1. An experienced instructional staff
2. A highly practical and personalized approach to teaching Spanish
3. A comfortable and well-equipped learning environment
We call our methodology for teaching Spanish Constant Contact. The idea is to put you in contact with Spanish right from the start, and to keep you in touch with the language at all times, morning, noon and night.
Before you begin your program at Conversa, we like to get a good sense of your language level. To do this, we ask you to take an online Spanish grammar quiz. The quiz will ask you to estimate your level, and will then adjust the level of difficulty depending on your results. This way we avoid asking you to try to answer questions that are well below or well above your existing level. It also allows us to get a good sense of where your strengths and weaknesses lie.
In addition to your grammar quiz results, on your first day in the program, we'll conduct an oral proficiency interview. The results from the interview are used jointly with the information we obtained from your quiz to place you into a class with other students at your level. We will never place more than four students in a class.
What happens in class
Based on your level, we determine where you fall within our grammatical sequence. This determines the objectives you'll be working towards each week. On Monday morning, your instructor will share these objectives with you, and you'll work towards achieving them throughout the next five days.
The classroom environment is casual and dynamic. You're not going to be asked to read or write a lot. Instead, we teach Spanish through continuous interaction with the language. As you cover new ground with your instructor, you'll be drilling these new concepts in real-time. Don't expect a lecture - this is a vibrant and highly interactive activity.
Homework assignments are vital. While you'll be fully immersed in Spanish, it's important that you practice what you learned throughout the day. Daily assignments will help to drill some of those concepts home. However, it's not meant to keep you sitting in front of a desk all night hammering out exercises. Quite often the homework assignments involve interviewing people or interacting with them with specific objectives in mind.
Spanish Grammar Workshops
In addition to the time you spend in class and the activities you participate in throughout the week, we offer grammar workshops on Monday and Wednesday afternoons. These are the only activities where English is used in the classroom setting.
During these workshops, we focus on verb tenses by identifying patterns. During these sessions, director Dave Kaufman shares his insight, tricks and over 50 years of experience teaching Spanish as a second language.
Further supporting the Spanish immersion experience, we've set up a number of "spaces" throughout the campus where teachers and students spend time practicing the language concepts covered in class. The goal is to provide a real-world scenario where students are put to the test while the teacher observes and gathers valuable information to take back to the classroom.
While we're always thinking of new spaces and places to practice the language throughout the school, we currently have the following "mock spaces" in operation:
Restaurante La Campana: our restaurant.
Banconversa: the local bank.
Pulpería doña Anita: a small town convenience store named after the director's wife.
La Enfermería: the mock campus infirmary.
Las Bolas de Oro: a seedy pawn shop.
Agencia de viajes: a folksy, open air travel agency.
Hotel El Nido del Pizote: a boutique hotel check-in counter.
Language and cultural activities around campus
Keeping true to the Constant Contact approach, we've incorporated a number of activities into the daily routine. Regardless of whether you're an absolute beginner or at an advanced level, we incorporate several activities into the week to make sure you're constantly motivated and engaged. All of these activities take place in Spanish. Some of the activities you may find yourself participating in are:
Mini-feria: staff and students convene for a snack and refreshments in a small town fair setting.
Café y Conversa: Learn how to brew a traditional cup of Costa Rican coffee.
Charla de árboles nativos: Go on a short walk around campus and learn about the different species of plants and trees that surround us.
Agua dulce: Learn how to make a popular Costa Rican refreshment - agua dulce, made with cane sugar and ginger.
Taller de hidroponía: Visit our hydroponics garden and learn about how we make super-fresh salads possible.
Intensive versus Super-Intensive
When participating in our Spanish Immersion Program, you can choose from the Intensive Program (4 hours/day, Monday through Friday) or Super-Intensive Spanish Program (5.5 hours per day, Monday through Thursday and 4 hours on Friday). You can also choose to complement either program with additional hours of private instruction, but most students are pretty much maxed-out at 5.5 hours per day.
Here's what our daily schedule looks like:
|7:00 a.m.||Breakfast for on-campus students|
|8:00 a.m.||Shuttle to campus for off-campus students|
|8:30 - 9:30 a.m.||Spanish class|
|9:30 - 9:40 a.m.||Mini-break|
|9:40 - 10:40 a.m.||Spanish class|
|10:40 - 11:00 a.m.||Coffee break|
|11:00 - 12:00 p.m.||Spanish class|
|12:00 - 12:10 p.m.||Mini-break|
|12:10 - 1:10 p.m.||Spanish class|
|1:10 - 2:00 p.m.||Lunch|
|2:00 p.m.||Shuttle to Santa Ana for off-campus students|
|2:00 - 3:30 p.m.|| Spanish class for Super-Intensive students
Optional Monday/Wednesday lectures for
beginners and low intermediates
|3:30 p.m.||Shuttle to Santa Ana for off-campus students|
|3:00 - 5:30 p.m.|| Optional activities - weekly Latin dance class,
yoga class, bi-weekly cooking class
|6:00 p.m.||Dinner for on-campus students|
Every week we offer a number of optional activities on campus once the Spanish classes have run their course. On Tuesdays we offer Yoga, on Wednesdays, Latin Dance class, and every other Thursday we hold a cooking class. In addition to these activities, we're also able to assist you in setting up volunteering opportunities. Over the years we've established a healthy relationship with our community and we're always looking for ways to assist our students in engaging with the community.