Learning Spanish In Singapore At Las Lilas, Recommended?

One reader wrote in and asked my opinion on learning Spanish as a language and learning Spanish at Las Lilas, the school where we learn Spanish.  Since I do come across questions like these from time to time (like from my friends via Facebook and Messenger), perhaps it is a good idea to share my thoughts here.  And if I write something nice about Las Lilas, they may pass my examination tomorrow, the next one, and the rest after?

I am kidding.

And I will also throw in a few tips that help me a great deal in learning Spanish.

*     *     I – Spanish as a Language     *     *

Spanish is a Romance language with 329 million native speakers (as of 2009), the second most spoken language in the world in terms of native speakers, after Mandarin Chinese.  As for the most commonly used language on the Internet, Spanish comes after English and Chinese (as of 2007).  But hey, these are just statistics.  You may pick up a new language for your personal reasons.  In my case, the language picked me.  Or rather Cynthia got me into learning a language of her choice.  In return, we have an agreement that she will learn a language of my choice.  That did not happen.  18 months of learning Spanish has sucked all my linguistic juice away.

If you are reading this, I presume, you are an English speaker.  So here are a list of similarities and differences from my observation of the two languages, at a high level, based on what I have learned so far.

  • English and Spanish share a similar set of alphabets.  Spanish has an extended set of characters.
  • You can read a passage in Spanish by observing the alphabets.  And hence, theoretically you could spell out the words based on what you have listened to.  Those who are trained to convert phonetic sound into alphabets (like Cynthia whose mother tongue is Bahasa Indonesia) would have an unfair advantage to those who are not (like me who is brought up with Chinese).  Such is life.
  • Some argue that English grammar is harder.  I think Spanish grammar is not easy either.  Perhaps grammar in general is hard because of the exceptions.  I often ponder: Why these exceptions?  Maybe there is beauty lies within exceptions, or exceptions are what make a language beautiful.
  • In Spanish, you have to remember words in masculine and feminine forms.  That extends to the adjective and more.  For example, a rose is feminine in Spanish, and hence you have to use the red color in feminine form to describe it (roja versus rojo).  And since a sunflower is masculine, the yellow color in masculine form is used instead (amarillo versus amarilla).
  • Spanish verb conjugation, in my opinion, remains as the hardest thing I have seen.  In English, when we talk about exceptions, we probably refer to do-does-did-done versus jump-jumps-jumped-jumped.  In Spanish, each tense has six flavors to cater for I-you-he/she-we-you (plural)-they.  The good news is, there are probably only about 100 variations in total (of all the tenses in six flavors) and once you have learned it, it is yours to keep.  The bad news is: How do you know which verb belongs to which variation (common Spanish verb runs in the order of 10,000)?  And when you listen to a verb in a particular form, how do you reconcile that with its infinitive form?  Lots of practice I suppose.
  • Another good news is, there is quite a fair bit in common between Spanish and English in terms of vocabulary.  Recently, I have browsed a book called The Big Red Book of Spanish Vocabulary.  I can recognize quite a number of them.  All of a sudden, Spanish is not that foreign to me.

*     *     II – Las Lilas     *     *

If you are residing in Singapore, Las Lilas is a school worth considering.  We are told that parents send their children to Las Lilas to study Spanish.  Classes are formed once there are five on board, though for beginner courses, they tend to admit a lot more students to perhaps anticipate for the higher drop out rate.  We have met with three different teachers at least and they are all great teachers who speak Spanish as a native language, well qualified for the job.  How fun learning can be, I reckon, depends on you and your classmates.  We have a lively group and we have known each other for months.  Las Lilas has designed a series of lessons in different levels.  Examination happens in alternate levels.  Personally, I hope to see a clearer written curriculum.  But I guess they have a casual learning philosophy in mind and for working individuals like us, it is just what we need.  Having said that, they host official examination too that is recognized in Spain (and other countries I reckon).

Each level has 10 lessons.  It works out to be about S$40 per lesson before discount (the longer you stay with the school, the more discount you get I think).  Course-ware is largely based on a textbook and an exercise book.  Handouts are given during the class.  And one or two lessons may involve learning through visual materials.

I wish Las Lilas can do more in terms of bringing the student community together.  It is, I believe, the vibrancy of the learning community that keep the Spanish spirit alive in a country whereby hardly anyone speaks Spanish.

To access the school’s website, please click here.

*     *     III – Tips on Learning Spanish     *     *

As a small disclaimer, I am not sure if I at all am qualified to write a section on tips.  Nevertheless, the followings help me in this Spanish learning journey.

  • Bond well with your classmates and your teachers.  It makes the learning journey more rewarding, common sense as it may seem.
  • I use  Collins Concise Spanish Dictionary.  I have done some research before investing close to S$60.  And at Kinokuniya, I browsed dictionaries of different publishers and have finally decided on this.  It comes with an online edition too, free.  The downside of the online edition is its clumsiness that requires repeated log in.  Therefore I hardly use.
  • I also use the mobile edition of the Collins Dictionary (about S$15).  As and when I need to look up a word, all I need to do is to pick up my wireless phone.  I use the mobile edition so much more than the paper edition.
  • I find Langenscheidt’s Pocket Bescherelle Spanish Verbs very useful, as a reference tool.  The conjugation tables contain entries in red that denotes exceptions.  It helps for me to focus on those exceptions and memorize.
  • For online translation, I love SpanishDict.com.  For serious verb conjugation, it is Verbix.com hands down.
  • To read everyday Spanish and to watch Spanish video clips, our teacher has recommended Radio Televisión Española.
  • My favorite Spanish podcast?  That has to be Coffee Break Spanish.
  • If you listen to Internet Radio like I do, don’t miss Europa FM.
  • I have bought a few Spanish books too.  But I have yet to read them.  Some enjoy reading the Bible in both Spanish and English side-by-side with one another.  I intend to get Spanish-English Bilingual Catholic Bible.  Well, if I am going to read some literature again and again in Spanish, I may as well clock in some points to Heaven, no?

This list will grow, for sure.  But for now, that is all I have got to share.  Thanks for reading and feel free to drop in comments if you have more queries, or have something, anything to share.

51 thoughts on “Learning Spanish In Singapore At Las Lilas, Recommended?”

  1. Hello,
    I have just signed up at Las Lilas last night. Thanks for the tips, I think I will enjoy the experience 🙂

    1. Yovita – Great stuff! Hope you will enjoy the journey. I am still learning at the school, about 2 years!

      We are on Tuesday evening class. Drop by and say “hola” if have the chance.

      Hasta luego!

      1. hi, i am interested in spanish learning and i have dropped an email to Las Lilas. Until now, no reply yet. I tried to ring this school again but to no avail. Is there alternative? kindly advice

        1. Lisa – Hey, it is good to hear that you are interested in learning Spanish!

          OK. To be honest, at times it does take time for their admin to pick up inquiries. Some of my friends had that issue too. I will try to follow up for you and alert the school. Alternately, you may just turn up at the school and inquire. That is properly the fastest way.

  2. I learn Spanish @ Las lilas too. My teacher has been Elena all the while. Say hi if we bump into each other there next time 😀

    Suggestion: learn salsa & bachata together with Spanish, and then go listen to all those songs on youtube together with the lyrics opened in another window. Can improve without knowing it lol…

    Cheers.

    1. Ping – Good suggestions. I shall take note! I have a Nokia Comes With Music phone and have been downloading Spanish songs to listen. But I think reading the lyrics would help a lot!

      Yes, please drop by and say hi if we can. Ours is Tuesday evening class though. Our teacher was Natalia but she left. Now is Alejedra.

      1. Hello, thanks for sharing this information, it was very useful 🙂 Could you tell me where to get the Spanish course materials from? Must I buy them from the school or is there somewhere else where I can get them, and at what price? Thanks 🙂

  3. Hi
    I am planning to pick up spanish. Your tips are certainly going to be helpful.
    I can see you have a great flair which is seen in your article.

    Cheers
    Bacchus

  4. Hi,
    Thanks for your tips. I’m thinking of dropping in Las Lilas this week to find out about their upcoming schedule for beginners. One question: How do you practice Spanish? To be able to retain and learn the language, I assume one needs to converse in it constantly.
    Many thanks,
    Nikhil

    1. Nikhil – Certainly it is good to drop by in person. Because some tried to email but somehow didn’t get a response.

      Indeed, practice is the key. It is not going to be easy, I have to admit. Our class has a Spanish blog site and we try our best to practice our writing over there. Depending on how close you are with your classmate, for me, at times we have evening gathering. And we also take the opportunity to speak in Spanish (having our teachers with us certainly help!)

      Have fun learning Spanish. We are on Tuesday class by the way. Hope to see you one day.

  5. Hey, thanks for the tip. I have just signed the beginner course. Just wondering whether you want to sell your used book? As it is quite expensive to buy the new one. Thanks

    1. Ada – Good stuff! Which day of the week have you signed up for? Ours is on Tuesday.

      I am afraid we are are keeping our textbooks for future referencing (still so much to revise!) The good news is that each book can last you quite a few levels.

      1. hey wilfrid, my class is on wed evening :).
        My friend and I going for the same class, can we buy 1 set of textbook and make a photocopied as well? WIll the teacher allow my friend use photocopied?
        Have tried to search for 2nd hand book from bookinbookout, but seems no one is selling.

        1. Ada – Ah, I am pretty sure you can share one textbook. That’s what Cynthia and I do. Because we don’t see any point in buying two. The school may insist that you have to buy the exercise book. Because you may wish to write your answers onto it. I am pretty sure you could reason with them because if you can share with one another, I really see no point in buying two sets. And for sure, they are not going to deny your entrance just because you are not buying the textbook and the exercise book.

          PS. The textbook is the more expensive one.

  6. Hey Wilfrid,

    I bumped into this website just recently to learn more about Spanish schools in Singapore. I haven’t got back any replies since I last contacted the school few days ago. Is it still operational? Will I make more friends here? Please advise (:

    1. J.S. – Hey there, sorry to hear that the school has not got back to you yet. I will try to follow up on your behalf next week. Usually they will need to assemble a class and it may take some time for them to do so (get a teacher and a slot as well).

      The school is certainly operational. Depending on your personally, we have made tons of friends from the school! Yes, if you are open to making friends, I am confident that you will 🙂

      1. Thanks alot Wilfrid! Much appreciated!
        Certainly do wish to attend classes asap! Hopefully its on a weekend. Yes, open and available. Hahaha. Cheers!

        1. J.S. – I had a check with the school’s admin. Apparently, they are in the mist of revamping their website because at times, enquires are not sent to them. Also, one staff is down so they are still catching up with the emails. The best way to catch their attention is to call them up. Or just turn up at the school. Good luck!

  7. Besides formal schooling such as Las Lilas, is there a society of Spanish speakers (such as Alliance Francais for French) in Singapore? I am looking for one with that model where my kid can learn Spanish but also be involved in the community. Thanks for any advice.

    1. Seok – Thanks for your comment and I can ask around for you. Off my head, I am only aware of SSWA, which stands for Spanish Speaking Women Association. I am not sure if this is relevant to your needs.

  8. Thank you for sharing~ Very informative indeed. I had wanted to share the textbook but my friend is reluctant. Hence, I bought it. Then again, I see it as an investment, so… perhaps 1 or 2 lesser extravagant meals. Oh well. From now on, perhaps get from library some other reference materials and not buy. I am thinking of kids’ book for beginners, do you have any recommendations?

    P.S. I just started my first lesson last Thurs.

    1. Rachel – Sorry for the late reply. I am just back from an overseas holiday. You may search for a book caolled “El Búho Que No Podía Ulular”. You can even Google download the PDF version I think!

      I have also bought Alice in Wonderland in Spain. Looks like quite a doable book to read … hahaha. You’d never know.

  9. Hola Wilfrid!

    I have came across your website and I find it very useful. =) And that’s why my friend and I registered for the class at Las Lilas! I like the classroom orientation. I mean in the sense that everyone sits in a semicircle that sort of thing. Not like the typical classroom setting. Learning a new langugage is hard. Especially when my classmates can understand what the teacher is saying most of the times but I don’t have any clue. Feel a bit stress though at times.

    Hope that I will survive the class and enjoy learning Spanish! =)

    Adios!

    1. Huda – Hola! I am happy and excited that we are officially classmates!

      Yes, I am still studying at Las Lilas Indeed, learning a new language is hard. But take your time, practice often, and study at your own pace 🙂

      I hope to see you one day at our school. My class is on Tuesday. For years, it has been that way.

      Adios!

      1. Nice to hear from you Wilfrid!

        My class is on Saturday though. Hopefully one day we will see each other at Las Lilas. =) Oh, my teacher is Amelia by the way. Wah, you must be in advance class by now right since you have been studying for years?

        Do you have any recommendations or suggestions to improve on the listening part for beginner level? I think I am terrible at listening. Haha!

        Btw, I think you got some nice and interesting entries and photos in your site here. =D

        Adios!

        1. Huda – Hola, thanks for your kind words 🙂

          Guess what? Amelia is our teacher too! She is good, so full of energy and happiness!

          To be honest, I am pretty lousy at the language hahaha. We are on advance 2. For listening, I would highly recommend listening to Internet Radio. My favorite channel is Europa FM. If you are using an iPhone or an Android phone, you can download the radio app. Alternatively, you can listen off the website. The link is on this post.

          Hasta luego! Jajajaja.

          1. Hola again Wilfrid!

            Gracias for the recommendation! Will go and listen to that channel.

            Good to know that we have the same teacher. Yup, she’s full of energy! Oh, the Spanish word for hahaha. We just learnt that on the last lesson!

            All the best to our learning journey in Spanish!

            Cheers,
            Huda

  10. Hi there, I was just researching on the spanish schools and came upon ur website. So i guess I can choose this school as it seems to have lots of good comments.

  11. Hi there..thanks for the information about spanish class in Las Lilas. Anyway, is there any class for full time student and international student? I’m from Indonesia. Thanks before 🙂

    1. Alexander – Thanks for dropping by. They run classes during the day and in the evening too as well as weekend. I am pretty sure you can find a slot that suits you!

  12. Hi,

    Have you finished all your courses in Las Lilas (since your post was written 3 years ago)? I just wanted to ask how it was and if you feel that you can consider yourself fluent? 🙂

    I’m planning on taking courses, but I’m already at an intermediate level. I just want to improve on my grasp of the language.

    Thanks!

    1. Mila – While I can’t remember how many courses my wife and I have taken, I would say we were like 80% complete? Maybe more?

      Certainly not ‘fluent’ for me. But my wife is doing pretty good. After years of studying in the language school, my wife is still ‘living’ the language. She read Spanish books, watch Spanish TV, and has joined a Spanish learning community in Google+. I don’t think she is ‘fluent’. But I reckon she is doing a lot better than I do!

      Personally, I think there is only this much a school can teach. We have to live the language. Back to your question, if you are looking for advancing your Spanish language skill, certainly going into more advance topics in a school setting would help. At least you are encouraged to study regularly by attending classes and doing homework 🙂

      I hope this helps!

  13. Hi, from the school’s website i’ve gathered that make-up lessons are not complimentary? What happens if you have to go overseas for holidays or work then? Also, is the class schedule chosen by your class? How does that work? I’m trying to find a good place to learn Spanish now, thank you

    1. Estee – In my time, there are two types of make-up lessons. Usually there are more than two groups of the same class running in parallel. So, if you miss the Tue class, you may join the Sat class free, perhaps one or few weeks later (some groups are staggered).

      Or you may ask the teacher to give you a private tuition as make-up class. And that you would need to pay.

      As for class schedule, usually there are options. Like Tue evening or Sat morning class for the same level. You may choose the one that suits you.

      I like learning from Las Lilas. Their teachers in my time were good. Pretty sure they are still good. Good luck 🙂

  14. Hi Wilfred, just wanna ask u a doubt. Is it sufficient to study the basic and intermediate modules in Las Lilas in order to speak fluently in Spanish? Are the advanced modules a must?

    Cos i have calculated and it will cost about $10k plus to complete all the modules.

    Thank you. =)

    1. Eric – I think in order to speak a language fluently, you have to take it outside the school and use it. No matter how many courses you take, it would be hard to master a language unless you live it.

      Advanced modules are pretty hard. Perhaps the best way is to start the journey and see how far you will get?

      Best of luck!

      1. Hi!
        wow… it seems pretty hard…it is like me trying to learn tamil…
        But very useful links and tips :), I am a spanish, if you need help, just let me know… 🙂

  15. Hey, I just stumbled upon your blog while I was researching on Las Lilas. Any idea if the teachers and teaching method are still good? I’m contemplating as I don’t have friends who are interested in learning it with me. Did you finish all the courses?

  16. Hi
    Am interested to learn Spanish. Would appreciate if you could furnish me with details on fee and duration of the course.
    Thsnk you
    Kim

  17. I believe two factors are vital to language learning:

    1) the passion and teaching methods of the teacher, and
    2) the dedication of the student in learning the language

    Without a physical teacher, a dedicated student can learn any language using the vast amount of online resources. I know quite a handful of people who speak reasonable good Spanish without having ever to step into a school.

    However, the learning journey can be cut short (much shorter) if they had a guide – a good teacher.

    Juan
    PS: I am latino. I will be glad to lend a hand should anyone needs help in the language. Feel free to contact.

  18. Hola! Recently I finished an A1 DELE preparation course in Las Lilas and I am very happy with my teacher and the materials we used. I still don’t know if I passed the official exam but very likely I will be back for a full A2 course as soon as I have some time.

    They have some info in their FB about new courses but for prices I think you should check their site or send them an email.
    Ana

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