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Visit Madrid

How to Spend your Downtime in Madrid

There are many reasons why Madrid might just be the right place for you to embark on a Spanish immersion programme. Fun, vibrant, diverse, tolerant and altogether charming, the capital has all the elements that make huge urban conglomerates so attractive: hard work and hard play.

As is the case with every big city, Madrid can offer many distractions from any kind of work, let alone learning a language. However, the flip of that coin is that the reward after a hard day's work can also be more fulfilling than in most places. Nevertheless, one thing that you will have to focus on is creating a schedule, plan or daily routine to make certain you have your tasks covered. Otherwise, the pace and rhythm of the city's lifestyle might well take over and make you forget about everything else.

Mix and Match

Like most things, the extraordinary amount of choice Madrid offers to visitors and locals alike when it comes to just about anything has two sides to it. Yes, it might be an endless source of distractions that keep you from doing your work and always make you think you are missing out on something, regardless of what you are doing. On the other hand, however, it presents an opportunity to combine different activities and make the most of it.

Specifically, it means that if you want to learn Spanish in Madrid then you have a heap of resources that might help you make your learning experience more functional and at the same time also more amenable. The degree to which this optimisation will be possible depends on the specific traits of each individual's personality, but if your tastes are in line with the cultural possibilities on offer in Spain, then the process should be fairly simple.

Museo Reina Sofía

For instance, one creative, fun and altogether fascinating way to learn Spanish is to combine a language course with an academic subject or activity of your interest. Particularly rich in terms of the variety and quality of its offer is the artistic option in Madrid, with some of the most remarkable and comprehensive collections not only in Spain but across Europe. With the Museum el Prado, the Museum Thyssen Bornemisza and the Contemporary Art Museum Reina Sofia, Madrid is rivaled perhaps only by Paris and London as the art centre of the continent.

So, a good alternative to simply sitting before a book and trying to learn verbs by hitting your head against a dictionary would be to learn the artistic jargon, to head out to the museums and to try to come to grips with the different characteristics, tendencies and techniques prevalent through the history of art movements. In this respect, a Spanish and Art History course in Madrid would be absolutely ideal to make your learning experience come closer to the accepted notions of fun.

Museo del Prado

So, art is not your thing, and once you see one of those religious paintings hanging from the walls and ceiling at the Museum el Prado, you have, to all practical effects, seen them all, and you don't see why everyone is banging on and on about this depressing 'Tenebrism', and if you never get to see another example of the American landscape paintings they so intently described as 'Hudson School' at the Thyssen-Bornemisza (who can even say the name?), it won't be a day too soon. Fine, so here's another choice for you:

A lover of more practical things, I gather you enjoy your food and drink. Granted, Madrid might not be Granada, where with every drink they serve you enough free food to feed a whole family, but Madrid boasts an endless selection of bars and restaurants where they will dish up proper, authentic, irresistible Spanish food. 'What's that got to do with learning Spanish?', I hear you cry. Quite a lot. Would you know how to ask for a courgette in the supermarket, buy a nice piece of cod in the fishmongers and choose between a dozen different Spanish wines in the corner shop? I didn't think so.

I gather you know where I am heading, by now. Several language schools in Madrid will offer combined courses of Spanish and cooking with local recipes and traditional preparation styles that will add fun and activity to your learning while making it immediately useful for you. Just imagine you have been in Madrid for a couple of weeks and you can already hang out in the bars and explain how a dish is prepared, why it isn't correctly done and where it comes from. Impressive.

When it comes to learning a foreign language, often the most important element is the creativity with which the classes are imparted. Nothing will help students more than their own participation, interest and determination — but this is often hard to get and harder still to keep. If you go to learn Spanish in Madrid, many of the distractions that might seem counter productive for your progress can be turned into positive elements that will guide you in the process of learning and prompt you to keep working harder. So don't pass up on this unique opportunity!