Spanish abroad
June 22, 2005 12:33 PM   Subscribe

I want to go to Latin America for a couple months (2-3), starting at the end of August/beginning of September, to learn Spanish, immersion-style. Ideally, I would stay with a host family and go to small-ish classes every day.

I've done some internet research, but it's hard to tell what programs are better than others. I really have no preference as to location - it's wide open. My budget would hopefully be under $2000. Any advice/recommendations/tips? (PS - I speak a little Spanish; I'd say low-intermediate)
posted by ORthey to Writing & Language (11 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
A very popular destination is Antigua in Guatemala. I spent a month there a few years ago and had an excellent time. I attended this school. They helped set everything up. The price was ridiculously low, something like $60/week for 4 hours/day private lessons + another $55/week for room+board with a family. There are probably over 40 spanish schools in Antigua so the competition means that the school goes out of its way to keep students. This means that you can switch teachers as many times as you want, you can also switch families...etc. Anituga itself is a very nice place to hang out for a while, with many restaurants and cafes, beautiful colonial architecture, surrounded by mountains, with easy access to many nice sidetrips in the area, including the famous Tikal mayan ruins (used in the original star wars movies), the pacific and Caribbean coasts, lake panajachel, volcanoes, mountains, etc...
posted by blueyellow at 1:23 PM on June 22, 2005

There are many schools in Costa Rica. The Spanish as a whole is very good and transferrable to any part of the Spanish speaking world. Costs are fairly cheap. Its extremely safe. The country is gorgeous and easy to get around. I went to Intensa a few years back, it was an overall great experience. Has been years though.

I would not recommend "studying" in Quepos, CR if you intend to actually learn anything other than you tolerance for cheap rum.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:28 PM on June 22, 2005

You should take a look at Antigua or Xela in Guatemala. There are many, many language schools in these towns and they all offer host family accommodations, one on one lessons, and cultural activities. They also tend to be more economical than the programs I looked at in Mexico or Costa Rica.

I studied at the Centro Linguistico Internacional Spanish School and thought very highly of it. I paid less than $100 USD a week for four hours a day of one on one lessons plus an hour or two of cultural activities (city tours, salsa lessons, etc) in the afternoon. My teacher was great and I feel I learned a lot during that time.

I would also recommend program shopping. If you sign up in advance only for a week or two at one school, you can go sign up at another program the follow week if you’d like to try something else. That way you can get a basic feel for the schools when you get there.

Have a great trip. Buen viaje!
posted by Staggering Jack at 1:30 PM on June 22, 2005

Im actually here in Ocatal, Nicaragua right now doing much of the same thing, though through my university (so its not a formally open program. If you decide to do Nicaragua, the Moon Handbook: Nicaragua has excellent listings for Spanish language schools in all the major cities. (Esteli, Leon, Grenada, Managua, etc).

This isnt really a positive thing for Nicaraguans, but since the country is so poor (most poor next to Haiti in the Western Hemi), the costs tend to be less here, its one of the cheapest countries in Central America.

Same ups as the rest of Central America though...great climate, friendly people, great food, and beautiful landscapes and beaches.
posted by jare2003 at 1:35 PM on June 22, 2005

Oh, I would also recommend looking into programs in Mexico, there are still some in Chiapas that give a good cultural experience as well as language training. Whatever you pick, be sure that you are getting a real immersion experience if you really want to learn. The less you use your English, the more you will learn.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:36 PM on June 22, 2005

Another recommendation for Antigua. Romantic crumbling colonial architecture, strong indigenous presence, volcanoes towering over the town on three sides (if I remember correctly). It is the only place I know where you get off the bus and the touts come to you saying "Language school? Language school?" Have fun.
posted by LarryC at 2:13 PM on June 22, 2005

Awesome... thanks everyone. It's looking like Antigua is pretty popular, as some of my friends have recommended as well. Gracias!
posted by ORthey at 3:26 PM on June 22, 2005

if you're interested in coming to chile, my email is in my profile, but i have no real experience of english language programs here. the only advantage i can think of for chile is that it's probably the most stable place in south america. on the one hand you might consider that boring. on the other hand it might make life feel a lot more like "normal" and less like being stuck in some arbitrary hell where nothing works as you expect.

i would suggest peru myself just because peruvian speakers are so clear and easy to understand.
posted by andrew cooke at 3:38 PM on June 22, 2005

That's a short trip. Are you returning for school or a job because those things can wait. There's nothing like working/traveling down to the southernmost tips of chile/argentina. You will always find someone wanting to learn english. Happy travels wherever you go.
posted by poodlemouthe at 4:14 PM on June 22, 2005

I was looking for information on this myself. I found this web site,, that compares some of the schools. One of the schools, Probigua, also offers online tutoring -- it's $5 an hour and you use a webcam and headset to speak to your Guatemalan tutors. Might be useful before you go.
posted by chickenmagazine at 9:59 AM on June 23, 2005

I went to this school in Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico. Total immersion, host families to stay with, excursions most days and weekends. I loved it. Would definitely recommend.
posted by sadie01221975 at 8:19 PM on June 23, 2005

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