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Learning Spanish à la carte: The teachers at the Academia Andaluza possess the seventh sense. They make sure you get the best learning results while enjoying yourself in the process. Learning Spanish at the Academia Andaluza has nothing to do with stress. It is the perfect mix of intense training and lots of fun.

In 2001 I took my first course at the Academia Andaluza in Conil. I didn’t know a word of  Spanish and started out with a lot of respect for the new language. With endless patience, a good sense of humour and great teaching skills, my teacher Foncu showed me the first steps of learning Spanish. You only had to give him this puzzled, clueless look, and he would read your every wish from your eyes.

I remember how proud we were when we were taken on a guided tour around town and were able to more or less follow the explanations of the guide which had been lovingly simplified so we would get it! What a sense of accomplishment when we confidently blared out ‘un cortado, por favor’ at the bar during the morning break or when we clumsily managed to order a couple of tapas!

A few years have passed since then, and  yes, you may say I am a repeater. I have just returned from my fifth course. Although there have been longer periods between courses due to my job obligations, each time I came back I was put in a course level that would launch me a bit further. How you do this, dear teachers of the Academia Andaluza, remains a mystery to me.

On my fourth course y was really lucky. It so happened that I was the only student of my level, and so I had Carmen, the teacher, entirely for myself. At the end of the first week I was completely exhausted, but suddenly it all clicked into place: I couldn’t wait to open my mouth and start talking and communicating with people. Carmen had helped me to gather all the tools. The big surprise came on the following weekend, when on a lonely trip to Grazalema I caught myself listening spellbound to a Spanish radio programme about books on unique and long forgotten musical instruments.

I also had a great time outside the classroom. So many stimulating encounters and new friends! We did short trips all over the South of Andalusia: we went to Gibraltar, where you cross a runway and suddenly find yourself in England (!), then to Seville one day in November, where we stopped at a bar, freezing and exhausted after a sightseeing tour, and a total stranger of a bar keeper wordlessly put three huge brandies on the counter, one for each of us, as soon as we walked in the door.

The one thing I haven’t been able to do despite several attempts is say hello to the whales and dolphins in the Straits of Gibraltar. But you always have to have something to look forward to!

I can’t wait to get back to Conil to the warm welcome from Isabel and her team who make you feel as if you were coming home, to listen to the sound of the sea that can be heard even in the classroom, to do the things you do almost ritually when you have been there a few times. Manolo, the bar keeper from El Punto, will be behind his counter tapping the best beer you can get in Conil, silently but in perfect harmony with his clients. Oh, and I almost forgot, there’s Cape Trafalgar waiting for me with unbeatable sunsets!

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