The opportunity to travel is a real bonus of being a Tour Co-ordinator at Rayburn Tours, so when I was invited to observe Ryde School with Upper Chine’s language tour to Salamanca, I jumped at the chance!
Ryde School’s Party Leader, Mrs Burgess, is a real fan of the ‘Golden City’ (named after the yellow sandstone buildings which glow at sunset) – this was her sixth visit! It is not hard to see why: with a claim to both the oldest university and the clearest spoken Spanish in the Hispanic world, Salamanca provides an inspirational backdrop for a language tour.
Every morning, the group benefited from immersive language lessons at Enforex’s school in the heart of Salamanca, housed in a beautiful sixteenth-century former convent five minutes from the stunning Plaza Mayor, with views from the classrooms of the city’s breathtaking baroque cathedral.
Written by Rhys Stevenson
Educational Tour Co-ordinator
I am a linguist but had never learned Spanish before. Armed with little more than a smattering of holiday Spanish, I was handed a textbook and sent to an A1 adult class. The benefits of an immersive learning environment can hardly be overestimated. As a former EFL teacher, I understand that teaching beginners in the target language is no mean feat; however, with encouraging exclamations of ¡Muy bien! and ¡Eso es! in abundance, the specialist teachers at Enforex brought on my confidence and knowledge of the language leaps and bounds. In the space of four mornings, my profesoras had me recounting the group’s Salamancan adventures en español (admittedly only in the present tense, but I like to think this added a certain narrative tension to my anecdotes that would be lost with the command of more tenses!).
The ‘Enforex effect’ seemed similar for Ryde School’s year six, who had no qualms about using their Spanish with market vendors and museum staff (even if the latter was mostly to gleam answers to Mrs B’s worksheets!). In this sense, language instruction in the mornings really complimented the range of excursion activities in the afternoon and I would recommend this combination for any language tour.
So once lessons are finished, ¿Qué se puede hacer en Salamanca?
A guided tour of the picturesque historical old town – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – by Enforex brought the history and tradition of this fascinating city alive. We learnt about medieval romances and scandals and saw how these were reflected in Salamanca’s architecture and art; we searched the gateway to the ancient university for the famous frog on a skull (the symbol of Salamanca, which legend proclaims has brought great success to the students studying there for eight centuries); we admired the baroque architecture of the Plaza Mayor and the cathedral, and climbed the ieronimus towers for spectacular views over the town.
As a former winner of European City of Culture, the city boasts numerous museums for a variety of interests – from Art Nouveau to F1 cars! Enforex guides chaperoned the group and engaged us with activities for the museums tailored to school-aged learners of Spanish.
Undoubtedly my personal highlight of the tour was the traditional music and the opportunities for a dance! As a final farewell to Salamanca, Ryde School spent the last evening of their tour at a tapas restaurant. Dressed in medieval garb, four musicians performed ‘La Tuna’, a tradition that stems from the medieval university culture in Salamanca, and one lucky student was serenaded! For the budding dancers among us, we were also treated to a Flamenco masterclass in Madrid before our flight; equipped with our castañuelas, I believe we captured the fiesta spirit, if not always the fancy footwork!