Tee Up This Translator
So you haven't bothered to learn Spanish, and now you're heading to Mexico City. The Bookman electronic Spanish-English dictionary can help you get around.
Say you need to ask someone where the nearest telephone is. Instead of fumbling through a paperback dictionary, just punch in "telephone" on the Bookman's small keyboard. The Spanish translation - "telefono" - immediately appears on the translator's small screen. Press the "Say" button, and a recording demonstrates how to pronounce the word. You can then place "telefono" in your personal word list, so it will appear in vocabulary-building games (such as Hangman) that are featured on the same device.
The Bookman Spanish/English Speaking Dictionary translates, defines, and spells more than 250,000 Spanish and English words. It also includes a built-in grammar guide that offers up conjugations and inflections. Weighing just 6.8 ounces, it fits easily into your coat pocket - or your golf bag.
Coordinates: $99.95. Franklin Electronic Publishers, 800-266-5626; http://www.franklin.com
The Home Course
No time to go to Spain? load up an audio tape or a CD-ROM, and you can still learn Spanish in your off-hours.
Living Language: Ultimate Spanish (Basic-Intermediate). Eight 60-minute cassettes and a 398-page instruction book. $75.
By immersing you in conversation, Living Language helps you learn Spanish the way a child would. The first lesson launches you into an all-Spanish conversation at a law firm. It runs through an entire dialogue; then it repeats the dialogue, line by line, allowing you time to practice pronouncing the words. Vocabulary drills that draw on the dialogue follow.
Coordinates: Random House Inc., 800-733-3000; http://www.livinglanguage.com
Language Connect University: Spanish (Self-Study Edition). Four CD-ROMs for Windows 95, two audio tapes. $99.
Using a speech-recognition feature, the CDs deliver feedback on your pronunciation: You repeat a word from the dialogue, "bienvenido" ("welcome"), and a bonk! resounds - you're speaking like a turista. Pronounce the word correctly, and you hear an approving, high-pitched ting! There are 60 multimedia lessons, all built around interactive conversations.
Coordinates: Syracuse Language Systems Inc., 800-797-5264; http://www.syrlang.com
Take a Learning Vacation
Besides the Malaca Instituto, there are many other language schools that combine full-immersion class work with recreational activities. Here are four resources for finding your own way:
1. Transitions Abroad is a bimonthly magazine that focuses on independent alternatives to mass tourism; occasional issues list language schools located around the world. It also publishes the Alternative Travel Directory, a comprehensive annual guide to learning vacations. For example: Spanish-language programs in Costa Rica that include rain-forest excursions and ecology seminars.
Coordinates: $24.95 for a one-year subscription. Transitions Abroad, 800-293-0373; http://www.transabroad.com
2. A company called eduVacations, based in Washington, DC, will coordinate a vacation to fit your enthusiasm - be it learning French while biking among Bordeaux vineyards or practicing Italian while learning about wine and cooking in Florence.
Coordinates: Mary Ann Puglisi at eduVacations Inc., 202-857-8384
3. The National Registration Center for Study Abroad, based in Milwaukee, has surveyed language schools in 20 countries and assembled listings of the best. Many of these schools also offer sight-seeing excursions and other activities, such as golf and horseback-riding. Call the Center for comprehensive information on schools in the country you wish to visit.
Coordinates: National Registration Center for Study Abroad, 414-224-3464; http://www.nrcsa.com
4. If other resources don't work out, you can jump-start your information-gathering by phoning the tourist office of the country you plan on visiting.
Coordinates: For Spain, call the country's tourist office in New York City, 212-265-8822
Tips from Your Caddie
When to Go Unless you like intense heat and crowds of pale-skinned German and British tourists, don't go to Malaga in July or August. May through June and September through November are good months to visit: It's sunny but not hot, and the Instituto has relatively few students.
Where to Stay
The Instituto can help you arrange for off-campus housing either in your own apartment or with a host family - where you'll be fed and forced to practice your Spanish. (The word on host-family situations is highly favorable.)
If you stay on campus, stick to the executive rooms. They have double beds along with amenities such as a refrigerator, a coffeemaker, a TV, and a telephone. Ask for a room facing the sea on the third or fourth floor.
Bringing the Kids
For students with families, the Instituto can arrange housing in nearby apartments. It can also arrange a flexible class schedule for parents who want to spell each other when taking care of their children. Diversions include horseback-riding, the beach (about a 15-minute walk away), and the Instituto's pool.
The Instituto plans to have Internet hookups for individual use in the near future. Check out Netsk@fe (70 Ave. Juan Sebastian Elcano), an Internet cafe where you can send and receive email and cruise the Web.
Spain is full of warm, generous people, but you should stay alert for pickpockets. Use common sense: Wear a money belt and leave your valuables in the safe at the Instituto. And don't leave your luggage unattended.
Coordinates: Prices vary at the Malaca Instituto. Two weeks of classes and lodging in an executive room (meals not included) cost $1,100 at the current exchange rate. Ida Willadsen, founder and director, 34-5-229-32-42; firstname.lastname@example.org
A version of this article appeared in the April/May 1998 issue of Fast Company magazine.