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¡Hola Cuba! Learning Spanish in Cuba

By Jessica Whyte

Last updated: 4th August 2015

I caught up with our Operations Manager, Katie Penberthy, to have another chat about her unforgettable recent trip to Cuba, and what it was like to learn Spanish in this colourful country…

Jess: Could you already speak any Spanish before you went to Cuba?

Katie: Having never studied Spanish and only knowing the words for Hello (Hola!) and beer (cerveza!) I was a little nervous about my lack of local lingo knowledge! I needn’t have been worried though, as Spanish lessons are included in the Completely Cuba package, which I sampled during my stay. I soon picked up enough Spanish to get by during my time in Cuba.

Jess: Where are the Spanish lessons held?

Katie: The best thing about the Spanish lessons on the Completely Cuba package is that lessons are really relaxed and informal, and you get to learn the language in all sorts of locations around Havana. One day we went to the public library, which was a really interesting building, another day we were based in a poetry house (a public building where locals can come to get involved in poetry) and we even had a lesson on the beach!

Jess: What was your Spanish teacher like?

Katie: My Spanish teacher Pablito was incredibly helpful and friendly and he really put me at my ease.

Spanish language teacher next to a white board with students taking notes

Jess: How do the Spanish classes work?

Katie: I was placed in the beginners’ class with 5 of my fellow novices and we started with the basics and built up from there! All of the project co-ordinators spoke English, but most locals on the street don’t, so the Spanish lessons came in very handy.

Jess: How did you find practising your Spanish in Cuba?

Katie: Usually I am quite shy about trying to speak new languages when abroad, as I get embarrassed when I get it wrong, however something about Cuba and the people made it so easy to try and speak Spanish. Everybody was very encouraging and really enjoyed helping me out, and before I knew it I was starting conversations with locals at restaurants and in and around Havana in my daily life! It really helped that we did not learn in formal classes or in a school environment but that the lessons were more informal and took place in locations where we could immediately interact with local people. It made the whole experience so much more relaxing!

Jess: Did you learn a favourite new Spanish phrase while you were in Cuba?

My favourite new Spanish word is Canchanchara – it’s the name of a tasty Cuban cocktail!

If you want to find out more about Katie’s exciting trip to Cuba, next up I’ll be asking her all about her time hanging out in Havana…watch this space! In the meantime check out our Cuba programmes here

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