The Spanish room at Interlenguas is a small cell with a map of Spain on the wall and a form to fill in: '50 Fears in Language Acquisition - tick the ones relevant to you'. I avoid 'Having nightmares in Spanish' and opt for the less obtuse 'Fear of failure' and 'Not being understood'.
At 10.05 my tutor, Ana, arrives and for the next 12 hours I will be encouraged to contribute 70 per cent of the conversation, all of which will be in my slightly-above-beginner's (but rusty) Spanish. Ana seems pleased that the ticks on my form number less than ten, explaining that some high-flyers are loath to articulate even a few words of their chosen language for fear of appearing foolish. No such qualms for me though as we falter through my dias normale. Unable to remember the verbs for 'wake up' and 'apply my make-up', I rapidly learn the phrase no tengo idea. Ana tells me to express myself in any way I can, provided it is in Spanish. I tell her that I make my face good.
All new words and expressions are noted down by Ana (afterwards I will be sent a tape of these notes) and I am left free to battle on with my daily timetable assisted by a pack of activity cards.
By 12.30pm we have sketched an outline of my life and work and I am feeling far more in the swing of things as we emerge into sunny South Molton Street and stroll to La Rueda Tapas Bar where the waiters are asked to address me only in Spanish. Having ordered the tapas (much more familiar territory) we carry on discussing how I met my husband, Ana always at the ready to note down any interesting words.
Clients sometimes spend the afternoon putting together a work-related presentation but I prefer to imagine myself with a second home in Puerto Banus or as a diplomat's wife relocating to sunnier climes, so we concentrate on shopping. Fortified by lunch, we head off to Selfridges. In the magazine department we gossip over Hola and discuss an article in Epoca about terrorism in Spain. We visit linens, lighting, sports and end up in furniture. Even in this informal environment, Ana continues to steer my progress, working through difficult verb declensions and sentence constructions.
At 5pm it is time to head back to South Molton Street. At this point I realize I have five hours to go and experience a wave of panic. Ana explains that this can be a crisis time for some clients. Learning a language, she says, is like giving up smoking - you need patience and motivation and then one day you emerge from the tunnel into the light.
My next tutor arrives and we talk about faxes and phonecalls. Useful stuff but my brain is beginning to slow up and I am relieved when we leave at 7.30pm for another Spanish restaurant in Soho. Once there, I find it hard to concentrate and I warm to the waiter who begs us to stop working and 'just enjoy'. At 10pm it is buenas noches and I head for home.
Such intensive training is perhaps not ideal for the complete beginner but if you want to progress dramatically in just a few hours then this is certainly the course for you - though to avoid going un poco loco it's probably better to sign up for an eight- rather than a twelve-hour day.