In the past 12 years, Lima Peru has become the newest hub for language schools offering an immersion language experience to students who want a crash course in Spanish. This growth in interest to study in Lima, the "City of Kings", is thanks to a convergence of factors, beginning with a growth in tourism to Peru, and a renewed interest by investors who are opening new offices, and who require their expert staff to have a working knowledge of the local language.
So, what is "immersion"?
This can vary among schools, but at the El Sol Spanish School, one of the pioneers in Lima to offer this service, "immersion" means 20 hours in the classroom split between grammar and conversation classes, plus a range of extra-curricular activities to ensure that students have plenty of opportunity to put what they have learned into practice.
According to Associate Director, Alan La Rue, who founded the school in 2001, for immersion programs to work, they need to incorporate three fundamental factors: passion, practice, and performance.He explains that students need to feel a high level of motivation - or passion - to be able to meet the intensive pace of the classroom, so teachers work to keep the energy level high, and to constantly be on the lookout for signs of culture shock and weariness.
The practice comes from the classroom dynamics, where students are often given the opportunity to participate in role plays, games, presentations, or other dynamics which give them the chance to rehearse what they have learned in a supportive atmosphere under the guiding hand of a teacher.
Then finally comes the performance, where the school creates different scenarios for the students to use what they have learned with native Spanish speakers. This could take the shape of a student outing, a cooking class, or a home stay experience with a Peruvian family.
According to La Rue, "A home stay experience is one of the best ways for students to use Spanish in a real-life setting, and they also gain the benefit learning Peruvian culture social protocol when they participate in the families activities".
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Students can usually begin classes on a weekly basis and study for as long as they feel is necessary, though the average length of stay on an intensive program usually ranges from two weeks to a month.
Below are some actual pictures from within the school and the program: