From our InterExchange Working Abroad Ambassador Tom in the Volunteer in Peru program:
Maybe you have some questions about classes. I will try my best to make a FAQ for potential questions! This will be rather difficult, considering I have not received any questions yet about classes for there to even be a measure of frequency. Nonetheless, I am highly motivated, haha. That being said, if anyone has questions about ANYTHING, please post a comment and I will figure out a way to answer them, whether by commenting myself, or just incorporating it into my next blog post!
A COMPLETELY BLIND FAQ ABOUT CLASSES:
PQ (Potential Question) 1: Do you pay extra for classes?! I want to take classes, but I worry about my wallet. A (wo)man's gotta eat!
PA (Potential Answer) 1:
Short answer: Nope! Included in your program fee = 20 hours of group classes weekly. BONUS: During volunteer weeks, you can attend one free Spanish class per week! Also, you can pay more for extra individual classes.
Long answer: The program fee that you pay for the Perú volunteering program includes 20 hours of classes a week, for 4 weeks! For most Spanish schools in the area, this is the standard for group lessons - that is, 4 hours a day of classes, 5 days a week. If you want individual lessons that focus on a certain area (general conversation, ser vs. estar, para vs. por, pesky irregular verbs, whatever), you can very easily schedule an hour-long class in your own time for about 30 soles per class (you get a volunteer discount). Finally, even during your 4 weeks of volunteering (assuming the standard volunteer abroad program breakdown), Amauta Spanish School (InterExchange's international cooperator in Cusco) offers a special evening Spanish class per week that you can sign up, for free! Classes so far have covered past tenses, pronouns, and commands.
PQ2: Tell me about the timing of classes -- when are they, and do I have to attend classes?! I prefer to sleep until 2pm every day and I worry that I will be forced into a horrendous morning schedule that will make me miserable!
PA2: Your first week, you are assigned to either morning (8:30am-12:30pm) or evening (2:30pm-6:30pm) classes with a 20 minute break in the middle. Unfortunately, you are stuck there for the week. Fortunately, you switch blocks every week. So, if you have morning classes your first week, you have evening classes the next week! But since you have so much time to yourself, it is incredibly easy to balance your schedule, regardless of which block you are in!
PQ3: My Spanish is horrible/okay/pretty freaking good already, will I get stuck in a class that is completely inappropriate for my existing Spanish level? That just ain't worth it!
Short answer: No.
Long answer: Your first day (Monday), you take a brief Spanish placement exam. It is crude, but totally works. It has a written portion that focuses on grammar, and an oral portion where you have a basic conversation with one of the professors. This way, you are placed into a class that is of the appropriate difficulty, and you don't feel bored.
PQ4: How many Spanish teachers do you have? Dude, what if you hate your Spanish teachers?! Are you stuck with them forever?
PA4: First of all, let me just say that, while you will encounter a wide variety of teaching methods, all of the teachers love teaching and are good at it. That being said, you have two teachers every week. They each teach two hours a day, with your 20 minute break signifying the switch. Every week, you get two new teachers, so if for some reason you didn't like the teaching philosophy of style of certain teacher(s), you aren't stuck with them!
PQ5: Do I get enough attention individually from the teacher? I mean come on, I want to get my money's worth! How can I learn Spanish with a class of like a gazillion people?
PA5: No worries! The classes have a max of 6 students. And in my almost three weeks here, I have always been able to say what I wanted to say, ask what I wanted to ask, and never felt like I was being smothered by the other students. If anything, the amount of students is perfect for generating a "hang-out" environment where you are not only learning the nuts and bolts of Spanish, but also just having rather in-depth Spanish conversations for 4 hours with friends.
PQ6: So. The million dollar question: do the Spanish classes even work?!
PA6: Yes! And I am not just saying that. The single biggest reason for electing this program during the last summer of my life was to learn Spanish, and so I would be supremely disappointed if I didn't feel like my Spanish was improving as much as I had hoped for. I am also not alone in my sentiment, as all of the classmates I have asked agree that their grasp in Spanish has improved greatly since the beginning of classes. The teachers all have a fairly strict Spanish-only policy, and while some English will inevitably slip out, the vast majority of the students are motivated enough to use as much Spanish as possible. I constantly find myself seriously dorking out whenever I use grammar or vocabulary I might have learned that week.
PQ7: Are you stuck in a classroom for the entire time, or do you go on super cool field trips and stuff?
PA7: Not at all! During important festivals, our teachers took us out to downtown to view the parades and explained the history of the holidays/saints/statues/etc. We also took various field trips to nearby relatively obscure but amazing art exhibits that I would have completely missed otherwise. Of course, all of the trips were conducted in Spanish, and we ended up basically just enjoying nice afternoons talking to art owners, street vendors, etc.