Can a 70-Year-Old Learn Spanish? Well, the answer is a big YES!
Age is but a number, and no one proves it better than David, a British businessman in his 70s with a thirst for new experiences.
In April, David started on an extraordinary journey from London to Cuenca, Spain, all in the pursuit of language learning and culture.
But can a 70-year-old learn Spanish and immerse himself in a new culture? The answer lies in David’s exhilarating experience at Spanish Express. And the unique educational programme tailored just for him.
Read on to explore how David’s adventure challenges preconceptions about age and learning while offering an intimate look at Spain’s captivating Easter traditions.
This is more than a Spanish Homestay Immersion diary; it’s a testament to lifelong learning and the enriching power of cultural immersion
Cuenca, Spain Diaries: David travels from London, England to Cuenca, Spain
Easter in Spain: Traditions, Culture, and Fabulous Semana Santa Processions
Destination: Cuenca, Spain
Aim: Experience Easter in Spain
Introduction to the student, his background, tastes and objectives
David is a globetrotting businessman with diverse interests. He has had a rich and varied life full of accomplishments and experiences.
Being able to speak multiple languages, even at a beginner level, can be a valuable tool for communication and building relationships in different parts of the world.
His background in mathematics and success as a businessman provided him with the skills and knowledge needed to build a successful group of schools in multiple countries.
His interest in art and love of international cuisine demonstrate a curiosity and appreciation for different cultures.
Overall, David has a wide range of interests and experiences that have contributed to a fulfilling and successful life. To make it even more exciting, he was keen to experience Easter in Spain with its traditions, culture, and fabulous Semana Santa processions.
A Spanish and cultural bespoke programme for David in Cuenca, Spain
Offering a tailored language course, where students can pick the city, town, or island they wish to explore while being accompanied by a Spanish teacher, is an exceptional chance for both language learning and cultural activities.
One factor to keep in mind is the language proficiency that senior students need to get the most out of the course.
Depending on the class, chosen locale and planned excursions, students may need a certain level of Spanish skills to be fully involved in the immersive experience.
Understanding the unique interests and requirements of each mature student is also crucial. This way, the course can be shaped to fit their specific likes and needs.
This might involve planning cultural activities, classes and trips that suit their interests, as well as pinpointing areas where they may need more language resources or practice in Spanish.
When it comes to planning, attention to logistics like travel, accommodation, and Spanish lessons is key to make sure everything goes well.
Clear communication with both the older students and the accompanying Spanish teacher is essential, as is a well-outlined itinerary.
In summary, a tailored course like this one has the potential to provide a uniquely enriching language and cultural experience for your school and senior students. It could be a valuable addition to your school’s courses for seniors.
David has journeyed to multiple places through our Spanish Homestay Immersion Programme (SHIP). He has been to Barcelona, Valencia, Cádiz, Navarra, Madrid, Salamanca, and this last year round, he opted for a tailored course to experience Easter in Cuenca.
We’ve also set up other bespoke courses for David in various Spanish locales like Madrid, Salamanca, and Asturias, as well as in Latin America, including Colombia and Peru.
Why learning Spanish will be made easier with an understanding of Spanish culture
Without a thorough understanding of Spanish culture, learning to speak the language at a high level or even becoming bilingual will not be easy.
People pick up languages for a variety of reasons, including exams, travel, employment, friendships, and family. But despite their disparate motivations, all of them share a fundamental goal: to communicate with others.
If the other person cannot understand what you are trying to say, there is no communication. Culture enters the picture at this point. It is crucial to learn a language and to have a solid vocabulary, of course, in order to communicate with others.
But it’s also crucial to know how to communicate with them, to comprehend what they mean when they speak. Plus, to use a language that both of you will understand. And culture is one of those things!
Why learning languages in your senior years is beneficial
Seniors can stay mentally agile and age gracefully. After all, age is just a number!
Is it ever too late to begin learning a second language? Based on our lessons and our 20+ years of teaching experience, the answer is NO.
Any individual, regardless of age, can become a language learner. That’s what our team of Spanish teachers, including myself, firmly believe.
With today’s cutting-edge technology, the learning process for picking up a foreign language has become even easier. Online platforms provide Spanish resources that teach you grammar vocabulary and introduce you to new words through fun and engaging games.
To fully immerse yourself, taking an intensive Spanish course through a Spanish Homestay Immersion Programme in Spain is a brilliant idea.
Before diving into David’s inspiring story of studying Spanish, let’s explore the rich cultural activities that unfold during Holy Week in Spain.
Spain is renowned for its Semana Santa or Holy Week traditions. Centred around popular piety, these traditions are largely shaped by the processions organised by religious brotherhoods.
While some of these organizations originated in the Middle Ages, others were inspired by the Counter-Reformation and formed in the 20th and 21st centuries. Family tradition is crucial for becoming a member, or “hermano,” and usually, any practising Catholic can join.
A distinct feature in Spain is the nearly universal use of the Nazareno, or penitential robe, by some participants in the processions. This costume comprises a tunic, a hood with a conical tip that conceals the face, and sometimes a cloak.
Worn by penitents in the Medieval Era, the robes allowed them to demonstrate their penance while preserving their anonymity. These Nazarenos may traverse the city streets barefoot, carrying wooden crosses or processional candles and sometimes even wearing chains and shackles as a form of penance.
Another commonality among all brotherhoods is the inclusion of elaborate “Pasos,” or floats, featuring sculptures that depict gospel events tied to the Passion of Christ or the Sorrows of the Virgin Mary.
Marching bands typically accompany the “Pasos,” playing “Marchas procesionales,” a genre of songs rich in imagery and associations.
Semana Santa in Cuenca, a World Heritage Site by UNESCO
Semana Santa in Cuenca is distinguished by its immense beauty and unique character, earning it the status of an International Tourist Attraction. This is also why the city received UNESCO’s Patrimony of Humanity designation, elevating it above other Spanish towns.
In Cuenca, the Easter Week celebrations are complemented by Religious Music Week, featuring notable and popular languages, international orchestras and performers each year.
Arrival at the city centre of Cuenca on Maundy Thursday – PROCESIÓN DE PAZ Y CARIDAD
At 4:30 p.m., the doors of the Church of Nuestra Señora de la Luz, the patron saint of Cuenca, swung open. From that point on, the eight brotherhoods involved in this procession—one of the city’s oldest—executed a display of processional coordination that was simply awe-inspiring.
David and I landed in Cuenca amid the Procession of Peace and Charity, faced with a two-hour wait to cross the street to our rented flat.
As a native speaker of Spanish, I’ve experienced many such cultural activities in various regions of Spain, but for David, it was a journey into the Spanish way for the first time. He was captivated and didn’t miss a moment to capture it all on camera.
After the two-hour wait, we finally made our way to our accommodation, located right in the midst of the Easter festivities. Realizing we were in the heart of it all, we decided to take a coffee break at our own pace, right there in the flat, which was simply lovely.
Just then, we noticed the procession was moving right below us, heading to the other side of town.
Over eight and a half hours later, the Archconfraternity of Peace and Charity was already back at the starting point, near the bridge of San Antón, marking the end of Maundy Thursday and the continuation of Cuenca’s rich cultural activities.
Whether for mature students, senior citizens, or of course those of different age groups interested in learning a new language or taking a two-week course on General Spanish, immersing oneself in such events offers a perfect Spanish experience, one that even Don Quijote would approve of.
Spanish Express couldn’t have been a better setting for David’s introduction to Spanish culture.
Procesión Camino del Calvario
Cuenca was getting set for a special night. On Good Friday morning, a big event called Camino del Calvario was about to start. The church of San Andrés was where it all began.
Lots of people showed up for this event. We were lucky because our apartment was right above where it all happened. The event started at 5:30 a.m. We made sure to be on our balcony to see it. The event went on until about 12:30 p.m. After breakfast at a local coffee shop, we walked around with the crowd in Cuenca.
One big moment was at the church of San Felipe Neri. That’s when the Miserere song was sung. Everyone was quiet to show respect. Then the Cuenca Music School Choir sang Miserere without any instruments. It was so moving that many people cried.
The Hanging Houses
Between processions we decided to walk around the city and admire all that Cuenca has to offer. The Hanging Houses, also known as the Casas Colgadas, was our first stop. We were really excited to see them as they are famed for being the setting of Miguel de Cervantes’ novel, Don Quixote (1615).
The Hanging Houses were reportedly started in the 15th century and gradually expanded until the 18th. Additionally, there were updates throughout the 1920s. Around this time, many of them were constructed, but presently just a few are still standing. The three that are accessible are the most famous, with wooden balconies perched precariously on the cliff.
The historic city of Cuenca was added to UNESCO’s list of world heritage sites not only for the Hanging Houses but also for its old city wall, mediaeval stronghold, first Gothic cathedral in Spain, and other examples of 12th to 18th-century religious architecture.
Cuenca is a walkable city and the breathtaking views are worth the journey up the hills and through the narrow alleys into the town’s centre, which is situated between the Júcar and Huécar gorges. Make sure to see the Plaza Mayor, which was started in the late 12th century and has the impressive Cathedral and arcaded Town Hall.
Get over your fear of heights and walk across the Puente de San Pablo’s iron footbridge for some amazing pictures of the hanging houses. The Convent of San Pablo, which is at the opposite end and is now a Parador and one of the greatest places to stay in the city, is even more beautiful at night under the floodlights.
Procesión del Santo Entierro
The procession of the Holy Burial of Christ starts its procession from the Holy Church Cathedral Basilica at around 9pm. This is an official procession that brings together all the city’s Holy Week Brotherhoods and Guilds, who attend the procession with their scripts and representations. From the first temple of the Diocese, two brotherhoods make their procession.
David and I were really keen not to miss anything so we followed the procession around the city until it was time to have a lovely dinner in a traditional restaurant in Plaza Mayor.
On Saturday we decided to go sightseeing outside Cuenca city centre so that we could digest all the processions and cultural events we had seen in the last two days.
We visited the Enchanted City which is unquestionably one of the most spectacular locations in Spain where you can meet and learn about karst geological processes and admire its whimsical formations. It is situated in Valdecabras, in the centre of the Natural Park of the Cuenca mountains and surrounded by enormous pines. As a result, on June 11, 1929, the Enchanted City was designated a Natural Site of National Interest.
It dates back to when the Enchanted City was a portion of Thetis’ seafloor, 90 million years ago. Salts, notably calcium carbonate, were deposited because of the calm waters.
David and I spent a few hours there with a local guide who made sure to tell us even the smallest detail of that amazing place.
From there we made our way to a very well-known area of the Natural Monument, the source of the Río Cuervo and its beautiful waterfalls.
During our visit, we were able to observe a significant group of birds related to the forest ecology, such as the grey wagtail, dipper, and short-toed eagle, as well as a large number of animals, including red squirrels, Miller’s water shrews, and wildcats.
On the other hand, the river’s waters act as a reservoir for wildlife that is connected to its waters, including trout, dragonflies, mollusks, etc. Regarding the vegetation, there are pine forests next to which the savin juniper may be seen in the most exposed parts.
Procesión del Encuentro
With the departure at 10am of the processional floats of Ntro. Señor Jesucristo Resucitado and Ntra. Señora del Amparo, both from the same brotherhood, from the old church of San Andrés, the last of the processional parades of Holy Week in Cuenca begins.
David thoroughly liked his Easter vacation in Cuenca, Spain. He recorded dozens of hours of video and hundreds of pictures for his collection. Every year, David picks 12 images to include in the David Game College calendar, always making sure to include Spain.
Have you ever visited Spain during Semana Santa? We invite you to come next year and live a unique cultural experience with our host teachers and local guides!
Visit Spain with us, and live an experience like David’s!If you want to live an exciting adventure like David’s during Semana Santa in Cuenca, Spain, join our SHIP! 😃
You will be able to discover beautiful cities like Barcelona, Valencia, Burgos, Madrid and Palma de Mallorca amongst other amazing locations while learning and practising Spanish at our teachers’ homes or anywhere else in Spain, accompanied by our teachers and local guides. ✏️
Here you can read about our students’ experiences in Dosrius, Barcelona. 📖
Come and join us and become the protagonist of our next diaries. 😁