Galego Sen Fronteiras: Week 2 Program Review

Friends in Galician course

In my last post I began writing all about my experience with the Galego Sen Fronteiras Galician language program I recently completed in Santiago de Compostela. When I left off, I had just finished Week 1 of the course, which you can read my review of here. If you’re interested in learning Galician or living in Galicia’s capital, then you’re in the right place because I’m diving into my Week 2 Program Review here!

At this point in the program, our daily schedule was pretty lather-rinse-repeat. We had two hours of grammar and a conference in the morning, and 90 minutes of conversation in the afternoon. My classmates and I were starting to get a hang of the Galician language and the program. But just when things started to feel comfortable, the course kicked it into high gear.

Week 2 was like the first week—on crack.

In addition to the normal hours we already had, there was an extra event each evening that lasted another two hours, making each day about 12 hours long. On top of that, the Día Nacional de Galicia was the 25th of the month, so instead of celebrating for just one day, there were free concerts every single night in Santiago for two weeks prior to the holiday. When it comes to partying, Galicia goes big, and so did everyone in the program.

I’m not complaining, though. This second week was probably the most fun I had all summer, and definitely made the program well worth the money. But it was a struggle for everyone when it was time to crawl out of bed and go to grammar class each morning.

For more information about Galego Sen Fronteiras, download the application guidelines PDF.

Here’s the breakdown of the second week’s events:

Luns – Monday

9:30-11:30 Theoretical grammar class

12:00-13:30 Conference: Corpos para a caza (Bodies for the hunt), Chus Pato

16:00-17:30 Conversation class

19:00-20:30 Event: Cantos de Cegos (Songs of the blind), aCentral Folque

These days in our grammar classes we moved from basic topics like articles and pronouns to the main verb tenses used in Galician. Similar to Spanish, Galician has six personal pronoun forms and each has a different conjugation for each verb, whereas English has either one or two. For example:

So basically, to learn how to talk about anyone doing anything, you have to memorize six conjugations, times eight verb tenses, times every verb in the language. Welcome to the struggles of Romance languages.

For our conference that day Chus Pato, who is considered one of the best contemporary Galician poets, presented for us. Instead of discussing her own poems, she introduced pieces from 10 of the most current poets in the region. We watched a few videos of the authors reciting their works and got an insight into more recent contributions to Galician literature.

In the evening we got our first taste of traditional Galician music. Ariel Ninas from the group Cantos de Cegos put on an educational concert for us. He demonstrated different musical styles as he played a unique instrument I’d never seen or heard of before: the zanfona, or hurdy-gurdy.

Yeah, it’s actually called a hurdy-gurdy. “ER MER GERD!”

To play it you turn the crank on the side with one hand while playing the notes on the keybox with the other. The crank turns a wheel that rubs the strings and produces the sound, like the bow used to play a violin. Here’s what it sounded like:

Martes – Tuesday

9:30-11:30 Theoretical grammar class

12:00-13:30 Conference: As mulleres na tradición musical galega (Women in traditional Galician music), Uxía

16:00-17:30 Conversation class

19:00-20:30 Event: Tour of the cathedral of Santiago

Our full immersion in Galician musical traditions continued Tuesday as we had another music-themed event.

If you haven’t noticed yet, music is a huge part of Galician culture. I constantly point out to my boyfriend how often Galicians sing. When someone randomly starts singing in public, people join in—it never fails. Galicians even have the reputation of sounding like they sing when they speak because of the exaggerated inflections they use. It’s why their accent is unique from the rest of Spain. I’m so used to it now, that I barely understand the slurred mumbles that people use in the south. Sorry, Andalucía!

Tuesday’s conference was incredible! We had a private concert and tambourine lesson by the “Dama of Galician Music” herself, Uxía Senlle. Uxía is one of the most respected Galician artists—hence her title—with 12 award-winning albums over the last 30 years. She spoke about the importance of women in music as she sang and her partner Sérgio Tannus played the guitar. Since Sérgio is Galician-Portuguese and lived in Brazil, they also taught us about the influence of Galician immigration in South America.

Uxía is beyond talented and it was an honor to have her sing just for us.

In the evening there was a tour of the monuments and Cathedral of Santiago.

Mércores – Wednesday

9:30-11:30 Theoretical grammar class

12:00-13:30 Conversation class

18:30-20:30 Event: Encontro de confraternidade (Singalong)

By Wednesday it was time for us students to sing and perform. Each class chose a Galician song and rehearsed it for our singalong that evening. Since we loved her music, my class decided to sing a song by Uxía called “Túa Nai É Meiga,” or “Your Mom is a Witch.”

I know it sounds like a Galician “Yo Momma” joke, but the song actually goes,

I cried on Sunday afternoon

Lourenzo came, he told the truth

Your mom is a witch, I’m scared of her

Your mom is a witch, and your dad is a bad man

I’m scared of her and that she’ll eat me

Even Uxía admitted that the song doesn’t make much sense. But why a witch? Well that comes from Galicia’s Celtic heritage.

This topic deserves its own future article, but I’ll summarize here. Over 1,000 years ago a Celtic tribe called the Gallaeci settled in the northwest of Spain that is modern-day Galicia. That’s why there’s a great deal of Celtic influence in the culture. Traditional Galician music is folk played by bagpipes and tambourines, the cuisine is hardy meat-and-potato dishes, and the land even resembles Celtic countries like Ireland. Today the region is considered the seventh Celtic nation and shares many similarities to Scotland as well.

In the evening we met at the Parque de Bonaval to put on our singalong. After performing our Galician songs, different nationalities sang or danced to a song from their native country. One group sang a hip-hop song from Italy and two girls performed a traditional dance from Russia. My friends from Quebec played a song on the ukulele and sang in French (so of course they were the best!) Here’s a gif I made of that day:

Xoves – Thursday

9:30-11:30 Theoretical grammar class

12:00-13:30 Conference: Camiños longos e pasos pequenos (Long roads and short steps), Luís Iglesia

16:00-17:30 Conversation class

19:00-20:30 Event: Xogos cantados e bailábeis, aCentral Folque

Class went as usual on Thursday as we continued learning more advanced grammar. Our teacher assigned us short excerpts from novels of famous Galician writers which we had to analyze in a short essay for homework. I read a passage from O Suso by Xose Luis Mendez Ferrín which I definitely recommend.

After class we had our second conference by an actor, this time with Luís Iglesia. He gave an interesting presentation about his work in theater, television, music, monologues, and dubbing of shows into Galician. Luís also talked about Galician in the media today after the years of attempts to silence the language (which I talked about in my Week 1 Review.)

At this point I was so exhausted from the long week that I skipped the dance concert that night to study and finish other homework. It looks like bloggers live a non-stop party life, but sometimes we have to take a break and work too.

Venres – Friday

9:30-11:30 Theoretical grammar class

12:00-13:30 Conversation class

18:00-19:30 Class trip to the house of Rosalía de Castro

Last but definitely not least, on Friday we took our second field trip to the house of Rosalía de Castro in Padrón.

Rosalía de Castro was so influential that her name is synonymous with Galician literature. The very first Galician Literature Day celebration was on the centenary of Castro’s first work, Cantares Gallegos. Rosalía was a very educated woman who proudly wrote in Galician rather than Spanish. Because of this she faced a lot of maltreatment and contempt since Galician was seen as a “language of the illiterate.” However, it won her the respect and admiration of Galicians for speaking their native language. Castro was a women’s rights activist and stands as a symbol of women’s strength.

The museum we visited was the original house where Rosalía lived in Padrón. Our class posed for a picture in the beautiful garden before entering the house. Inside there were personal belongings and furniture along with paintings and quotes from her on the walls. What I found most intriguing was what we learned about her bedroom. Her original bed where she died of cancer in 1885 was still in the exact spot she had left it.

All in all, I have to applaud the Xunta for organizing such fantastic activities and guest speakers all week long.

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions about the program or Galician, or just want to chat, leave me a comment below! Look for my Week 3 Review coming soon! Happy travels!

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I’m an American expat living in Galicia. I want to inspire travel, learn a dozen languages, and try every food in the world.

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