I am a student learning Spanish with CDM Spanish School. They are located in Antigua, Guatemala, but I study with them via Skype. I want to become fluent in Spanish and my motto is “I will learn Spanish or I will die trying”. I enjoy jokes and know many jokes in English. To practice Spanish, I translate jokes to Spanish. This is fun and helps me in many ways. I am improving my vocabulary, learning sentence structure, improving my ability to conjugate verbs and to decide correctly which tense or mood is appropriate. Perhaps not in every joke, but writing will exercise every facet of grammar. My theory is that if I can learn to write better, I will learn how to speak better, and the more I write in Spanish, the more I will think in Spanish. The key is to write, making your own sentences. You know how to say things in English. How can you convey the same idea in Spanish? I have translated over 140 jokes and probably will have translated many more before I learn Spanish or die trying.
I’m greeted by a nice chap by the name of Erick. CDM is his baby and he’s got a staff of around 6 teachers working every day. He offers Spanish and English classes, both at the school, and via Skype video chat for when you go home. This is a small school in comparison to some of the others in Antigua but it’s definitely not without its charms, like most buildings in Antigua, there are various rooms set around a central courtyard/garden. Teachers and students sit at small wooden tables, arranged around the courtyard, all working away, trying to get their verbos irregulares down pat.
I’m Introduced to my new teacher I’ll be studying with for the next week, her name is Janet and she’s a little Guatemalteca who’s friendly and welcoming. We start chatting and before long I realize that she’s already started teaching me Spanish, at this stage I speak very little – Hola, adios. I’m not sure what to expect from these classes. Part of me thought it was going to be like school was, where I was the kid in the back of the class, farting and blaming it on the special ed kid.
But it’s different. It’s just 2 people talking. It’s not stressful, you learn at your own pace. One person speaks Spanish and one person listens, comprehends part of what was said and replies in broken Spanglish. Lather, rinse, repeat, until magically you find yourself understanding what your teacher is saying, replying to basic questions and performing basic conversation.
It’s magic, really, that in just a week you can improve your Spanish drastically. You develop a relationship very quickly with your new teacher, it’s the same for everyone, you will sit there for 4 hours a day every day, talking about your life, their life, and trading stories. By the end of the week, my new maestra knew more about me than many of my friends back in London. I even scared the hell out of her by telling her a few of the debaucherous stories from my travels. Later on I speak to my Spanish friend in Spain on Skype and we have our first ever conversation in Espanol. It’s obviously basic, but she’s amazed at the progress that I’ve made, my ego is stroked and I feel great.
The classroom is not only in the classroom either; it’s wherever you want it to be. It’s your money, so you can go wherever you want, you can go to any of the amazing cafes in the town to sip the famous Guatemalan coffee, you can have breakfast, wander around the markets or do your weekly food shopping, as long as you’re talking, and more importantly, listening to your teacher, you’re learning.
At night you stay with your assigned Guatemalan host family who feed you, and do their best to make sure you’re comfortable. They’ll provide meals, a bed, (sometimes) internet and sparkling repartee. They will be your family away from home and usually the mother of the family will want to adopt you as one of her own. It’s true that I’ve fallen in love with several 50-something Guatemalan women here in Antigua.
And the cost for all this: 20 hours of Spanish, all your meals, a private room and an experience you won’t forget… all for a lot less than $200? Pfff. I’ve spent more than that on a night out in London!
My daughter and I traveled to Antigua in April of this year. I had contacted Erick via Email the previous December. He was very helpful and answered all of my questions very honestly. Erick wouldn’t take any money in advance and even arranged to have our teachers meet us at our hotel the first morning to walk with us to the school.
Both my daughter and I found the town of Antigua to be delightful. We felt very safe the entire time we were there. The travel books such as Lonely Planet warn of pick pockets, but we saw no evidence of that. Our visit coincided with Semanta Santa, (Holy Week) and we were part of very large crowds for the daily processions. We did hire a local guide to take us up to the cross, a short walk outside of town, but we did the rest of our sightseeing with just the local maps. Finding your way around town becomes second nature after a few days.
At the school, my daughter and I each had our own teacher. Erick matched my daughter Cynthia with a teacher close to her age. Cynthia had taken 3 years of Spanish in high school and two years in college. Her teacher had her reading stories and conversing almost exclusively in Spanish.
My teacher, Arely, has a good sense of humor and was very patient with me as I was new to the language. I learned many basic concepts. The environment at the school is relaxed, but they are focused on giving you the best possible experience. Everyone associated with the school was professional and very friendly.
I had arranged a trip out to Pacaya Volcano through our hotel, but Erick has excellent connections in Antigua and could have set up that trip for us. They also have afternoon events and you have free access to Wi-fi; I brought my lap-top (or the school has their own computers you can use) for email communication.
Feel free to contact me if you would like more information. Cynthia and I took hundreds of pictures, ate great food and learned Spanish in a wonderful setting.
I studied at Cima del Mundo in July for two weeks. I was just beginning to feel that maybe I could learn Spanish when it was time to leave. But, there was an option to continue my education with the school – SKYPE.
I was assigned to the same teacher that I had when in Guatemala, Rosario. Thus began my classes via the internet and SKYPE. To date, I have had 30 two-hour lessons. We have not been able to use the video portion of SKYPE so our lessons are audio only, with the ability to type back and forth.
At first I thought it would be difficult to learn through audio only – but within five lessons I was comfortable. I aim for one to two lessons each week. The school has been great at working around my schedule. My teacher is as patient and kind as she was when I was at school. I receive a homework assignment after each class. It has been awesome.
I am a nurse, and am now able to have conversations with my Spanish-speaking patients. I am grateful for the modern technology that has allowed me to continue my lessons. I recommend SKYPE for anyone and everyone.