Language taught through cooking
For those wishing to learn a new language in Barcelona, the traditional rite of passage typically begins in one of the city’s numerous language schools, painstakingly clawing one’s way from nivel infantil to the heights of the pluscuamperfecto. While grammar and theory are important, a new language is best tackled in a natural environment, doing enjoyable things alongside people who share a common interest. At least, this is the opinion of Mònica Soler, a director of BLA3, a recently opened cultural centre in Gràcia, which offers a wide range of vocational courses taught in several different languages.
For Mónica and business partner Sergi Vidal, BLA3 is more than just a business. It is the embodiment of 11 months of toil, both physical and bureaucratic. Both left established professional careers to found the centre, and confess that the three months originally set aside to transform the 200-year-old former bakery a minute’s walk from Plaza del Sol, into a multi-spaced cultural centre was wildly ambitious.
With labour costs sky-high due to Barcelona’s seemingly never-ending building boom, the pair was forced to roll up their collective sleeves and adopt the role of builder’s assistants, picking up skills such as plastering, tiling and anything else necessary to finish the job along the way. Eleven months later, with piles of red tape at their feet, construction was finally completed, and on March 22nd, BLA3 opened to the public.
“Our focus is not on squeezing large numbers of students into each class,” said Soler, who was clearly as proud of the centre’s structural transformation as of the service her business provides. “Our aim is to ensure that everyone who comes to our workshops gets the most out of them, learns something new and also improves the language of their choice in a natural and enjoyable way.”
Courses available at BLA3 are as diverse as yoga (taught in English, French and Dutch), wine tasting (Castilian) and Thai cuisine (English). Others on offer include the history of Gràcia, astrology and Egyptology and salsa dancing (Catalan, Castilian). Children are also well catered-to, with courses available in puppet making, world art and jewellery design.
New courses are regularly added to the BLA3 line-up, said Soler, all of which are taught in the native language of their teachers who, as well as being highly experienced in their particular discipline, are also experienced and qualified foreign language teachers. But for Soler, mere qualifications are not enough. “We only work with teachers who are passionate about their area of expertise. They also have to love the concept because this passion really comes across to the students.”
One such teacher is Sue Harrand who teaches the popular `How to make a home-made Thai green curry’ workshop in her native English. Having recently followed her passion for Thai cuisine to Thailand, Sue now shares the secrets she learned and her evident love of Thai food and fresh ingredients with her classes. “For me it’s such a pleasure to run this course. I love seeing everyone’s reactions to the new experience. It is very rewarding for me to see people learning.”
So far the concept has been well received, with attendance fairly evenly split amongst Barcelona natives and foreign residents. “I really liked the informal nature of the class,” said Susanna Rodríguez, a recent attendee of the Thai cuisine workshop.
And the curry? “Really yummy, I loved it. Though I think I may have added a few too many chillies this time.”
Pere Sarafi 24
Tel. 93 368 8635