When I enrolled at ISM, I obviously realised the university’s international focus would also demand foreign language skills. Seeing as I had only learned English and Latin at school, I decided to start studying Spanish. For someone in my situation, ISM offers an intensive course for beginners, i.e. for people, like myself, whose knowledge of Spanish was limited to “hola” and “gracias”.
I was really looking forward to the opportunity of being able to start from scratch. However, the thought of completing the required 120 course units (1 CU = 45 minutes) and a two-week intensive programme before the start of the semester was a little daunting to say the least. Is it really possible to learn a new language in just two weeks? Will I be able to keep up with the others on the course without any prior knowledge? Will the intensive course provide me with sufficient knowledge to survive the first semester? I was therefore a little hesitant about studying at ISM. The course kicked off with the sixteen participants introducing themselves to each other in Spanish. Everyone took turns at repeating “me llamo…” (my name is) and “yo soy de…” (I come from); inevitably, some were better than others.
Bigger challenges soon followed: grammar and pronunciation. Our teacher drew our attention to correct accentuation from the start. For example, the Spanish letter “ll”, which is used in a number of well-known terms, for instance paella, is pronounced like the “y” in the word “yes”. After a few initial problems, we soon overcame these hurdles thanks to the many similarities between Spanish and English, and knowledge of good old Latin, which is often accused of being useless.
It soon became obvious that my initial fears about not being able to keep pace with my classmates were totally unfounded. The teacher helped each of us individually, while ensuring we were all at the same level and progressed at the same speed. Even though we completed the units at a roaring pace, it was easy to stay on the ball with a little bit of effort.
The intensive days passed in a flash and I could celebrate a certain level of success after just one week: I was able to introduce myself in Spanish and write small texts. Moreover, I was also able to draw on an increasing vocabulary that included business and international words. Besides the words that all beginners learn (numbers, months, colours…), we were also taught industry terms, professions and nationalities in Spanish.
During the second week we felt competent enough to tackle reflexive pronouns, statements of place, dative and accusative objects and el pretérito perfecto – the present perfect. At the end of the intensive course, I had a lot more confidence and was well prepared for the first semester with Spanish lectures.
The groups in these lectures were also relatively small and set out to give a warm and personal atmosphere. As part of the final examination at the end of the semester, we were required to present, on our own or with a partner, a company of our choice to the group. Together with a fellow student, I prepared a talk on the Disney Corporation and was surprised about the diversity of the company. The Spanish titles of well-known Disney films, such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which is known as “Blancanieves y los siete enanitos” in Spanish, often put a smile on our faces. Prior to the examination phase, the original preliminary course came together again for one week. We focussed on all the topics covered during the semester and revised for the written examination.
My personal summary of the first semester: a three-week intensive course, a Spanish lecture course, a company presentation in Spanish, a successful examination and my continued enthusiasm for the language. And my advice to anyone thinking about learning a new language when starting at ISM: everything is possible with a little motivation and the will to learn. Furthermore, it is a great opportunity to subsequently delve into new cultures, maybe even during an initial semester abroad. In this spirit, I wish all those taking part lots of fun and endurance while learning and discovering Spanish.
Author: Mijka Ghorbani