Thirdeyemom

Learning Spanish like a local in La Ceiba, Honduras

Author’s note: This post is part of my series on my recent trip to Honduras. To read past posts on Honduras, click here.

Finding the right program abroad can prove to be a daunting task. I searched countless hours on the Internet but after the trip to Honduras I realized my mistake. I was searching for volunteer opportunities not spanish language schools. Little did I know that almost every language school offers volunteer opportunities alongside their program. Had I searched under spanish schools, I would have found lots of options. In retrospect, everything worked out more than fine. It just took me a roundabout way to find my school, Centro Internacional de Idiomas. Next time, I’ll know the back way in and do it differently.

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Centro Internacional de Idiomas (CII) is a Spanish Language Immersion School located in the beautiful upscale Toronjal barrio of  La Ceiba,  in which students are taught one-on-one by a certified Spanish Language teacher for four hours per day.  The school began in 1992 and is located in a lovely single-family home with a wonderful outdoor courtyard full of tropical flowers and plants.  The teachers are all college graduates and are friendly, bilingual and excellent instructors.

The first morning of class, I arose at half past six, had two large glasses of “mi gasolina” (Honduran coffee) and a delightful home-cooked breakfast of baleadas from Gloria, at my host family. I was happy that the coffee was strong. I needed it!

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Home brewed Honduran coffee muey fuerte!

Here is Gloria preparing the tortillas from scratch to make the baleadas. The baleada is one of the most common street foods in Honduras. The basic style is made of a flour tortilla which is folded and filled with refried beans, quesillo or cheese and sour cream.  I adored them, especially with hot sauce!

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The little dough balls for making tortillas.

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Breakfast is served! Mmmmm…..delicioso!

After breakfast, it was time for school. Centro Internacional de Idiomas is located in the center of town about a ten minute drive from Gloria’s house. Every morning Gloria drove me to school and picked me up in the afternoons. Along the way, we passed buses, old cars and families on motorcycles on their morning crawl to work.

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Heading out down the main road to school and the center of town.

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Morning traffic.

Classes started promptly at 8, however, since I’d be volunteering at a local daycare center I did my coursework after lunch from 1-5 and spent the mornings with the children. I would have preferred doing my classes in the morning when I’m fresh and it is cooler outside as I had a hard time staying awake some afternoons. But it was best to do my volunteer work in the morning so it didn’t interfere with the children’s afternoon nap.

The school is located in the beautiful Toronjal neighborhood which is one of the nicest barrios in La Ceiba. It is where the 1% live, the few that have managed to climb above the rest of most Hondurans in a country in which 80% live in poverty.

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What a contrast on this street as opposed to the rest of La Ceiba. It is like two different worlds.

IMG_2292IMG_2288IMG_2289IMG_2374IMG_2370We pulled up to the school and I was pleasantly surprised. The school was built inside a beautiful home surrounded by a delightful garden filled with tropical plants. The best part of all was the outdoor terrace where I preferred to have my classes each day (unless it was raining making the notorious blood-sucking mosquitos appear and bite the heck out of my legs).

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A look inside the gate at the school. Sadly all homes and buildings are securely gated, some with barbed wire on top, for security. Sometimes it takes away from the beauty and open feel of a place.

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On the terrace.

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Taking a break from lessons and playing Spanish Scrabble.

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View from my perch. Nice place to learn!

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During my short breaks, I’d enjoy all the lovely tropical flowers. This one still had some drops leftover from the afternoon rain.

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I was amazed at how challenging the classes were and how much I learned. Four hours of one-on-one Spanish lessons can be grueling. After awhile my head simply began to hurt as it was getting too mixed up with information. I was thinking in three languages half the time given my years of French and I often found myself throwing French words and verbs into my sentences. But fortunately I had a very patient teacher who laughed along with my mistakes and moved me forward.

By the end of the week, I could already see my improvement. I had moved up the language scale and was actually able to communicate. However, the more I learned the more I realized I didn’t know which can be quite frustrating.  As I discovered with French, language learning takes a very long time and it is best to learn immersion-style inside a native speaking country. In the case of Spanish, I’ll just have to go back to another Spanish speaking country! (Shhh…Don’t tell my husband yet! :)

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16 comments

  1. Learning Spanish today is a good edge to the marketplace. I’ve been trying hard to motivate myself to learn the Mandarin because it is one of the most spoken languages. Besides my interest to learn it, I can use this to find an extra job online.

    Thank you for sharing your experience. Do you have any tips for those who want to learn a new language like me?

    • Glad you found the post helpful! The best way to learn is total immersion but if you can’t do that, it also helps if you know someone in town who you can practice with. I met with a Peruvian woman once a week just for conversation. I also bought books and listened to tapes. The internet is really good as well. Good luck! :)

  2. Wonderful post full with great photos.

    I have never learnt Spanish in schools, but I spent 4½ months working in Spain when I was young. So it was there I learnt Spanish. I do not know so much about grammar, but I can speak it. Anyway it does not prevent me to make my blog in three languages: English / Spanish and French.

    Welcome to my blog and check my skills in Spanish without any school.

    • Thanks so much for introducing me to your blog! I just subscribed. I speak French too so I can also practice my language skills by reading your blog! :) Gracias and Merci beaucoup! Nicole

  3. P.S.
    How did you feel about the safety in Honduras? My daughter visited a boyfriend there once, and he seemed terribly afraid for her the whole time. Similarly I have a friend in El Salvador, but he has received very credible death threats even though he is not rich. Both countries seem to be run by gangs. I was afraid to go there. :-(

    • I won’t lie, it is not the safest place I’ve been. I felt safer in Guatemala and Costa Rica than Honduras but while I was there on the mainland I never went anywhere alone and always had my host family drive me to my volunteer work and pick me up. After I got back from Guatemala, I’d heard lots of stories about things happening there so I think you’ve got to be extremely careful especially as a solo female traveler. Usually the gangs are drug related and don’t mess with tourists however if you look wealthy or are out in bad parts of town or late by yourself, than that is not wise. Good question! I loved my visit but am not sure I’d go back unless the crime improved.

  4. I enjoyed your blog. I’ve been to La Ceiba once – it has some very pretty aspects of it. I didn’t think Honduras had too many Spanish schools compared to neighboring countries – did you see many? Where is your next adventure? :)

    • Yes I agree. There aren’t as many schools there as her neighbors. I really want to check out Nicaragua next year. We’ll see! Next stop is France this April! :) I was a French major and lived there twice years ago so I’m looking forward to it and am sure I’ll mix some Spanish in by accident!

  5. Roxy

    I really enjoyed your blog too, I just came across it while researching volunteer options in Latin America- I am hoping to go this summer and trying to decide now where to go and what to sign up to. Any advice or tips you can offer about traveling in that part of the world would be greatly appreciated. Peru is really appealing to me to be honest, have you ever been? I found a great looking project there working with street kids in Cusco, it may interest you too

    http://www.spanishschoolsblog.com/spanish-blog/2013/03/20/volunteer-work-in-cusco-peru-with-streetkids/

    Please let me know, and thanks again! Yor photographs are beautiful too!

    • Thanks for the email! I’d be happy to help or answer any questions you have. I have been to Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Peru, Argentina, and Chile. Feel free to email me directly at: thirdeyemom@yahoo.com.

      In Peru, I visited Cusco but only for a day en route to Machu Picchu. It was 12 years ago and I did like it. It is very poor but then again so is Honduras. Feel free to email me with questions and I’d be happy to help!
      Nicole

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