Studying Spanish
January 17, 2005 6:35 PM   Subscribe

I have one semester left in college (until the scholarship money runs out) and I would like to spend it abroad minoring in Spanish. As much as I love Spain, I would prefer to go somewhere more exotic and off the beaten path. I’m looking for adventure to accompany my education. I’ve only been to Mexico and Cuba and would like to get people’s perspectives and recommendations on other Latin American countries. If you were in my shoes, where would you go and why?
posted by TheGoldenOne to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total)
I studied Spanish in the 80s in Antigua, Guatemala. Antigua is the former Spanish colonial capital of Central America, lots of fascinating architecture and ruins, plus Mayans from the mountains who come down to trade. Volcanoes ring the town, you can climb them on the weekends. And it was dirt cheap back then.
posted by LarryC at 7:02 PM on January 17, 2005

I spent a few weeks in Honduras (based in San Pedro Sula, with side trips to Cortez, the Mayan ruins in Copan, and the Bay Island of Roatan). Besides Mexico, though, it's my only touchstone for Latin-America (other than a bunch of native friends in college). If that makes it to your realm of options and you have questions, feel free to e-mail me (in profile).
posted by Ufez Jones at 7:14 PM on January 17, 2005

Argentina. A fantastic country on the way back up after some miserable years, great beef, great pizza, great wine (drink the malbec), and a very distinctive variety of Spanish ("castellano" as they call it there) that will make you either loved or hated wherever you go.
posted by languagehat at 7:21 PM on January 17, 2005

Just on the language... back in the dim mists of history when I took Spanish classes from other homo habilis, I was told, pretty consistently and by native Spanish-speakers of different nationalities (but all AFAIK Latin-American), that if you had to learn a particular dialect of Spanish, you should learn Costa Rican Spanish.

Apparently the prejudices and ears of others line up so that Spanish as she is spoken in Costa Rica is generally seen as "good" Spanish, while Spanish from Cuba or Chile or Argentina might be seen as "good" or "bad" Spanish depending on where you are or who you're talking to.

Of course, I may have been misled.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:08 PM on January 17, 2005

I took my first year of college in Panama, towards a Spanish degree. I took an anthropology class that included a weekend visit to Cuna villages on the San Blas islands off the coast; my abuela took me to see the Festival of the Black Christ in Portobelo; I spent Carnaval in Las Tablas.... there's plenty to do. For adventure, you could even travel in the Darién jungle, although not too close to the Columbian border! If you're interested and you have questions, email me; I can always pick my father's brains for you.
posted by Melinika at 8:54 PM on January 17, 2005

I have been told that if you want to hear (and thus learn) the spanish equivalent of midwestern american english (no accent, as spoken by Johnny Carson & Merv Griffin) go to Columbia.
posted by spock at 10:39 PM on January 17, 2005

i don't think anyone really cares about accent. if you speak good argentinian spanish, or columban or chilean, or whatever, people will recognise the accent and be impressed that you speak with a recognisable accent from "somewhere" rather than just like a gringo (and it gives you an instant topic of conversation....)

i live in chile, but i've not spent much time in other latin american countries so can't really tell you how it compares (sometimes i am, well, a little frustrated with this place, but i presume that's my problem living in a different culture rather than anything particular to chileans, whatever i may say at the particular moment...). this place has a reputation for being the "most english" (for which you might read "western") country in latin america. i'm not sure if that's good or bad. it's probably the most economically stable and one of the most prosperous. it also has a wide variety of climate, good transport, low crime, (relatively) uncorrupt police and politics, etc. i found it easy getting a permanent visa and you can live quite cheaply here.

i'm afraid my email is broken and will be til next month some time (seems my server back home has died), but if you can wait til then, email me if you have more questions.
posted by andrew cooke at 4:11 AM on January 18, 2005

Go to the Andes in Peru. Beautiful, cheap, and very nice people.
posted by eas98 at 7:36 AM on January 18, 2005

I'd go to Buenos Aires. Never been, myself, but a couple of college friends loved it there.
posted by willpie at 8:09 AM on January 18, 2005

Aw heck, why limit yourself. Go to Turkey. Go to Buyuk ada, and island in the Bosporus an hour's ferry ride from Istanbul, and learn Ladino, the medieval spanish of the Sephardic Jews. The Island is the weekend and vacation spot for Istanbul's Jewish community (alongside the better off set of the Istanbul Armenian community) and the old ladies still speak Ladino in the village squares.

Of course, you'll be pronouncing "nuevo" as "muevo" and the "h" as in "hay" is not silent, but otherwise, it's basically Spanish.
posted by zaelic at 8:16 AM on January 18, 2005

so a semester chatting to old jewish ladies is pushing the limits? ;o)
posted by andrew cooke at 8:36 AM on January 18, 2005

Response by poster: Yeah, I've always been fascinated by the Jewicized version of languages like ladino and yiddish, but I really need to get my Spanish Spanish down pat before I go and confuse myself with similar languages. It's bad enough that I throw German and French into my Spanish conversations.
posted by TheGoldenOne at 5:41 PM on January 18, 2005

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