Where bet­ter to learn a lan­guage than in the coun­try it­self? Ru­pert Parker prac­tises his Span­ish skills

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE - MAL­LORCA: SIX NOT TO MISS

Palma’s fa­mous cathe­dral, a short drive from the Ho­tel Bon Son ( while a vintage train ( trans­ports you north PALAU DE L’ALMUDAINA, PALMA The site of a royal palace since the 13th cen­tury when the Mal­lor­can kings con­verted the Is­lamic fort which stood here — com­plete with fur­ni­ture and ta­pes­tries from over the cen­turies. LA SEU, PALMA The cap­i­tal’s huge cathe­dral dom­i­nates the town with the Gothic ex­te­rior hid­ing work by An­toni Gaudi among oth­ers. CASA ROBERT GRAVES, DEIA The home of the Bri­tish writer and poet, who lived on the is­land for over 50 years, in­cludes some of his own pos­ses­sions as well as de­tails of his life. THE TRAIN TO SOLLER The vintage wooden train trav­els from Palma to Soller in the north through the Tra­muntana moun­tains, past olive groves and cit­rus trees. EAT ENSAIMADAS These pas­tries, filled with cream, cus­tard or curd, are a tra­di­tional Mal­lor­can break­fast — Palma’s C’an Joan de Saigo has sold them since 1700, although Forn de la Glo­ria has an­other 18th cen­tury pedi­gree. THE CAVES OF DRACH The caves are one of the is­land’s big­gest — and busiest — at­trac­tions. But de­spite the crowds, the spec­tac­u­lar un­der­ground shapes and lake are still mag­i­cal.

Most peo­ple come to Mal­lorca for the sun and sand but I’m in Palma, the is­land’s cap­i­tal, get­ting ready to start school. In­stead of loung­ing on the beach, my plan is to brush up on my Span­ish, spend­ing four hours each morning in the class­room at In­ter­na­tional House. I just hope that my smat­ter­ing of the lan­guage will stand me in good stead.

Even though I’ve spent time in South Amer­ica, even at­tended a cou­ple of classes be­fore, I’m sur­prised by how lit­tle I can re­mem­ber in my writ­ten and ver­bal tests.

The tricky part, as any­one who’s ever at­tended a lan­guage course knows, is that you’re of­ten caught be­tween a rock and a hard place — ei­ther it’s too easy and you learn noth­ing, or it’s too dif­fi­cult and you still learn noth­ing.

On the ba­sis of the tests, I’m as­signed a class, just one above the be­gin­ners: we’re a small group of around 10 with Ger­mans, Swedes, Ital­ians, French, one English and my­self.

Javier, the teacher, is young, keen and full of fun, so no­body is fright­ened of mak­ing mis­takes — apart from me, of course. I spend the first les­son ab­so­lutely ter­ri­fied, dredg­ing my mem­ory to re­call any ves­tige of Span­ish, but grad­u­ally I’m open­ing my mouth and semi-in­tel­li­gi­ble words and phrases start to spill out.

For­tu­nately school fin­ishes at 1.30 which is just in time for a sub­stan­tial Span­ish lunch to nour­ish my brain. Palma has a huge num­ber of ex­cel­lent restau­rants, many with a good value set meal.

Af­ter­noons are free for home­work, ex­plor­ing the city or catch­ing some sun, while the school organises op­tional ac­tiv­i­ties in the evening too. Dur­ing my week, there’s a guided tour of the old palace as well as a live fla­menco con­cert.

Much of the class is spent do­ing rou­tines with a part­ner, so you’re forced to get over those nerves and try to speak. As a re­sult, my ini­tial fear be­gins to dis­ap­pear and I gain in con­fi­dence — so much so that I find my­self try­ing to de­scribe York­shire pud­ding and horse­rad­ish (rábano pi­cante) in our last les­son on food, re­sult­ing in a gold star for my in­ge­nu­ity. Most Brits take the easy way out and de­scribe fish and chips in­stead, it seems.

Af­ter all my hard work, I feel I’ve def­i­nitely made progress. All I need now is… a re­lax­ing hol­i­day



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