Banana Spanish School was our third, and last school of our Spanish studies between Peru and Ecuador. Even though I liked Banana Spanish School, I was disappointed with my second week and I have to admit that despite loving the owners/teachers of the school. Our second set of lessons at Sundown Inn (outside of Canoa) were a complete disappointment. That being said, my favorite school was San Blas Spanish School in Cusco, Peru. However, we ended on a super positive note, joining in a cooking class (it was basically a well delegated preparation of one meal for all of us to eat together) where we learned how to make ceviche (with boiled chicken instead of fish).
Our classes at Banana Spanish School were one on one, which reaffirmed my preference of small group classes. I also realized that I need more structure in my lessons. For example, I like following a book because I feel like it allows me to monitor my progress better than learning willy nilly grammar lessons and random lists of vocabulary. Another thing: I need homework. If I don’t have homework, I’m less likely to study after class. Even if it’s just one worksheet, it’s better than nothing. It will force me to practice later and tap into that section of my brain that will otherwise be turned off until class the following morning.
I wish I would have given this some thought. For some reason I naively thought that learning Spanish in South America would be similar to when I studied French in France… or Italian in Italy… or even the few classes of Czech in the Czech Republic. All of these other language classes offered books to follow and there were specific lists of vocabulary that were to be practiced with the given speaking practice assignments and then homework. It was all very similar to how I taught English in Korea. But for some reason, learning Spanish in South America- especially when it was one-on-one was quite different. I’m glad I spent a month learning a new language, but I couldn’t help compare my previous experiences and I felt I got more out of the more structured settings. So, if you’re planning on studying Spanish in South America… perhaps give more thought than I did to the different teaching styles and one-on-one vs. classes and even ask about the structure and homework and general teaching style before you sign up!
I loved my first teacher’s style, and I loved my second teacher’s patience and ability to help me carry on a conversation in Español… but for our second week at Banana Spanish School, my lessons were held in a communal area that was well traveled by other students, and often interrupted by a ringing phone or doorbell. I was so distracted to the point I felt like my progress halted. It pains me to admit this, because I truly liked the instructors, but I would simply recommend only taking lessons here if you make sure you can have lessons in a private room. And (even more painful for me to suggest, yet with the best intentions) request a teacher who is not one of the owners of the school. Because when it comes down to it, a teacher cannot be answering phones, the door, discussing class times with a future student, or even monitoring and grading another (future) student’s test simultaneous to trying to teach me Spanish!