Frequently Asked Questions

I'm a total beginner - what are my study options?

El Patio has several options for beginners. It's good to think about how to combine study with your lifestyle to make it a smooth ride! Here are some things to consider:

  • How much time you have to attend classes - they are mostly on weekday evenings
  • How much time you have during the week between classes - to devote to homework, memorisation and practice
  • How long you are able to concentrate - classes are usually 1.5 or 3 hours (the latter with a break)
  • Do you have a busy lifestyle? Factors can include your job or studies, your travel time to get to and from class
  • Are you planning to be away at some stage in a Term - would a shorter, more intense course be wiser?
  • Is there a day of the week that is preferable? Sometimes this is the deciding factor!
  • Is there a time of day that is prefereable? Eg, some can't make a 6pm class after work, so a later one is good
  • Is there a type of beginner course better suited? Eg, a quick one for your trip? More serious language building?
  • Do you just want to try something out without much commitment to see how you go?

The main thing to consider is that your course fits comfortably with your lifestyle. That way you are going to have a better chance of attending all classes in a course, and so move on confidently to the next level!

We've put together an in-depth look at all of our beginner options! Have a look at our Where to Start? A Beginners Guide flowchart and article to help you make the best decision!

I know some Spanish - how do I work out which level I'm in?

We are able to assess fairly accurately which level may suit a student through an informal chat, preferably in person. Factors which you then need to consider are:

  • hours of prior study completed
  • time you have spent in a Spanish speaking country
  • the amount you wish to review and correct (filling grammatical gaps)
  • the amount you wish to be challenged (you may want to do extra work to catch up)
  • the amount of time you are realistically able to devote to study each week
  • which night of the week you can attend!

You could also have a look at our test your level page - it's quite helpful.

Do you teach Spanish Spanish or Latin American Spanish?

The Spanish we teach is a standard Spanish, so it may be used all over the Spanish-speaking world. For beginner classes, the Spanish is very general and neutral, and of course a student is welcome to use their own pronunciation preference if they do already have one.

Read more ...

If I enrol in a course and find it's too easy or difficult, can I change levels?

Yes, sometimes it may take trying a couple of classes to find the correct level. You are welcome to move up or down even after the course has started, with the proviso that of the number of classes in the course is not exceeded.

If I miss a class, what can I do to keep up?

We will email you the work covered and any homework set so you will be kept up to date with your class.

We also have a special service where you can attend an alternative class during the same Term of the course.

This can be done only by arrangement and subject to space. Please note that we may not have the exact class (as the one you missed) available, but we will try to help! In any case, the contact hours are important, even if they are revision (language learning is about repetition!).

You will have the homework for your actual class forwarded so you can stay on track.

What's the difference between Elementary 1 and Spanish for Travel?

Spanish for Travel is a course that functions a bit like a phrasebook - you learn words, phrases and topics that are relevant to travel situations, but you don't delve into how it's all put together.

Elementary 1 is the foundational course of our language courses, so the approach here is to instruct how the language works.

Naturally there is a bit of overlap between these two courses—greetings, presentations, asking basic personal questions, numbers, pronunciation and so on.

Bear in mind that Elementary 1 is twice the number of hours as Spanish for Travel. So you would choose Elementary 1 if you thought you might continue your Spanish study and wanted to learn it properly, whereas Spanish for Travel is better suited if you have very little time, or you aren't really interested in pursuing your inner Spanish-speaker!

Can I enrol a friend at the same time in the online cart?

Yes! When you select a course from the Enrol page, you are taken to a page with more information of the course, including any recommended textbooks. 

Beneath where you enter your own details, you'll see a link to Enrol another student in this class. This allows you to enter their details and click through to make the payment for both in one transaction.


Example of how to enrol another student in this or another class

How long does it take for me to be able to speak Spanish?

If you are living in a Spanish-speaking country as well as actively studying the language, you could achieve a certain level in 6 months. However living in Australia and attending a 1.5-hour class per week, we suggest that it takes around 18 months (or 6 levels) to get to be able to conduct a basic conversation using some past tenses, at a Lower Intermediate level. For the 3-hour weekly classes, this time is halved. Of course, this varies between individuals and factors such as amount of practice and memorization, having learnt languages before (understanding grammar), willingness to speak out and openness to having your errors corrected (learning from mistakes!).

Why are there so many levels?

Our pacing and levels are designed for students living in a non-Spanish-speaking country. Most students in the 1.5- or 3-hour classes per week are either working or studying, so Spanish is an after-hours activity. For this reason the levels progress slowly, as new grammar and vocabulary need to be accompanied by oral practice, to make sure that it goes in. If you are able to study hard and/or have someone with whom you can practise regularly, that is great, and you are welcome to move more quickly through the levels. Any school which states that a language can be learnt faster is unrealistic, as this is usually only possible in a Spanish-speaking country.

If I enrol and have a change of circumstances, can I defer my studies?

You may transfer your course to a later Term if you request this prior to 5pm of the Friday preceding the start of Term, and pay an administration fee of 20%.

Please note: once a Term has started, it is not possible to transfer to a future Term, nor is a refund possible. See Terms and Conditions of Enrolment

Do you have classes in conversation?

You have to know how to speak before having a conversation! All of El Patio’s courses are conversational, where learning to talk is emphasised in the four skills – talking, listening, reading and writing. Writing and reading are used as a way of helping you memorise new forms,  to speak, and here, some students wish to develop their written skills while others have no interest.

Conversation is encouraged in all classes, and this generally depends on the group itself, however, from Elementary 3 onwards, classes are generally 100% Spanish.

We do offer courses that are named Conversation, and these are also graded according to level, for example Conversation Elementary 1. Students at an Elementary 1 level would have difficulty participating in a conversation class that was at a Lower Intermediate level! These courses are highly practical with an emphasis on oral skills, with a bit of revision to address any grammatical queries about the topics. Conversation courses are great if you:

  • are finding that you are learning lots of Spanish but are not confident to use it
  • want to consolidate what you've studied, to really get it in and own it
  • have some knowledge of Spanish or want to return to study
  • would like to check where your level sits before joining a language course
  • are a university student needing a bit of a boost

I've just returned from travels where I picked up some Spanish. I want to continue learning, but don't want to start from the beginning ...

The two main skills involved in language learning are accuracy and fluency. Normally students who have learnt a language from travel experiences, without formally studying, have a high level of fluency (or confidence with some things), whereas students who have learnt solely through study have a higher level of accuracy than fluency. Sometimes students who have a degree of fluency without grammatical accuracy find it a bit boring coming into a class where more emphasis is placed upon accuracy. As a prospective student you might decide between:

  • the amount you wish to review and correct – filling in grammatical gaps
  • the amount you wish to talk but also be challenged – you may want to do extra work to catch up.

Prospective students at post-Elementary levels, who are serious about improving their Spanish, often have to adapt to the classroom situation by realising that it is not the same as a conversation session, it is a learning environment (that is also fun!).

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