In the first week of the October half term, a group of eleven Oundle School Sixth formers studying Spanish set off for Salamanca – a relatively small university town near Madrid – for a week of cultural and linguistic immersion.
Head of Spanish, Marta Viruete Navarro commented, “The trip was designed for the pupils to boost their language skills in a more realistic setting whilst also allowing them to explore the incredible heritage of this historic town.”
Every day started with a few hours of Spanish lessons in Salamanca’s language school. Younger pupils were launched head-first into complex grammatical structures that they would not encounter at school for another year, and the older pupils were given the opportunity to help the younger ones and consolidate the basics. Grammar lessons were always followed by more cultural lessons covering the traditional features of Spanish culture (such as famous painters Picasso and Goya, writers such as Cervantes, and classic books such as Lazarillo de Tormes), as well as more topical and recent issues such as Catalan Independence and the increase in CCTV surveillance in Spain.
Pupil Ed Hodgson commented (16), “These issues encouraged rich discussion and, occasionally, fierce debate. We were only allowed to speak in Spanish, thereby improving our ability to talk naturally and think on our feet in order to make our viewpoints clear in another language.”
In the afternoons, pupils visited some of the many sites that Salamanca has to offer including the Cathedral of Salamanca, the ancient university building, and the stunning Casa Lis (now an Art-Deco museum). They also learned more about everyday Spanish culture through a visit to the cinema, a paella-cooking lesson, and dinners at restaurants in which they tried the local cuisine.
Being the second oldest university town in Europe, the group was also not short of literary sites to visit, and afternoons regularly ended in visits to significant places such as Garden of Calisto and Melibea (which inspired Fernando de Rojas to write his Tragicomedia de Calisto y Melibea), the statue of Fray Luis de León, and the famous Bull statue that was pivotal to the plot of the famous Lazarillo de Tormes, helping pupils to visualise what they were learning.
Pupil, Danila Mikhaylov (17) commented, “The trip provided a golden opportunity to explore Spain as it is: we visited a wonderful selection of historical sites with inspiring mediaeval architecture, reminiscent of the long-gone grandiose days of the Spanish Empire, we learnt about the literary world of Spain, for example, the works of Unamuno and de Rojas that had hitherto been largely unknown to all of us, we also experienced various other aspects of Spanish culture, including food, siesta and the legacy of the Civil War. All of the following reinforced and strengthened my desire to continue learning Spanish in the Sixth Form in order to be even more conscious of the riches which the Spanish culture contains.”
Marta concluded, “Overall, the trip was a great opportunity for pupils both to improve their Spanish and to learn about the culture in a way we wouldn’t be able to do at school, as well as providing a great insight into the heritage of this historic town.”