moving to Latin America, languages galore
September 7, 2005 2:28 PM   Subscribe

I am seriously considering moving to somewhere in Latin America to teach English and learn Spanish.

The short story is: I just received my ESL license from the state of MN after finishing a grad-school program. Problem is, I can't seem to find a job here. Things could open up, but I figure I should turn this seemingly bad situation into a fabulous opportunity to travel and learn Spanish.

My thinking right now is to sub locally and make some money while I figure things out. I also have the opportunity to house-sit during the winter so I would be able to save a lot of money during that time. After that, (around March or so) I would be free to leave (although there is some flexibility with this). I'm 23, no car payments or credit-card debts or whatever.

That's the background, now the questions:
1. How do I go about finding a job? I've been searching, and the results have been pretty overwhelming so far. I'm not expecting to make a ton of money (hopefully enough to live on), but I don't want to volunteer. I'd like my savings to be for travel and emergencies for the most part. I know some people suggest just moving down there and finding a job when you get there, but that makes me nervous. (Not saying I wouldn't do it, but it's not preferred.)
2. Where should I go? I'm pretty open in terms of locales. Right now I'm leaning towards Costa Rica or Argentina for unknown reasons. My main criteria is that I want the city/country to be relatively safe. (archive question)
3. Places to take classes to learn Spanish while I'm there? Even if it's just for a week or so at the beginning. I know some basic Spanish, but my listening/speaking skills are pretty low. (I know there was a thread about this recently but I'm having trouble finding it... erm, nevermind.)
4. Is my timeline off, or does it not matter? From a few sites I've looked at, it says the academic year in some Latin American countries starts in February.
5. Any other suggestions, advice, reasons why I should or should not do this...(although knowing this place, all I will get is "Go! See! The! World! Right! Now!").

Yes, I've searched the archives. This is helpful too.
posted by jetskiaccidents to Work & Money (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
1- Ex-gringa-GF came down to Chile with your same plan though not any teaching credentials and ended up working at a smallish english-academy where she was basically exploited, paid about the equivalent of 1/2 of one of her 20 students' tuition. You need a visa if you want to not be ripped off.

2- Chile is quite safe, so is Argentina mostly. Argentina is more fun (especially Buenos Aires: the food, the nightlife, the opposite-(or same-) sex, etc.). Chile is a bit priceir than Argentina, but there's more work and it's better paid. If I wanted to learn Spanish I'd probably choose Peru or Ecuador, as they speak very clear, well pronounced spanish, without as much slang or idioms, IMO.

4- Academic semesters vary as you move from one climate to another (Peru and Ecuador have different academic calendars in the highlands than at the coast, for example). Chile and Argentina have 1st sem starting in March.

Email's in profile if you decide to come down south.
posted by signal at 2:51 PM on September 7, 2005

Ecuador is very popular in this regard, although like signal said you won't earn much down there. Quito and Cuenca both have dozens of Spanish schools to learn from (Ecuadorians speak very clear Spanish, good to learn from), and there are lots of opportunities in Quito to teach English. Check with the South American Explorers for more info.
posted by gottabefunky at 2:56 PM on September 7, 2005

It wouldn't be nearly so World Travel, but I feel compelled to note that you can teach English and learn Spanish easily enough by moving to Miami or Tampa or New York or LA or Chicago or San Francisco or San Antonio or even Chapel Hill.

You might think of that as a way to build contacts that could help you get a better-paying, less-exploited job in Latin America.

When I talk to Spanish-speakers, they usually point to Costa Rica as speaking "good" Spanish.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:37 PM on September 7, 2005

I had a huge long paragraph written about the different types of Spanish spoken throughout Latin America, and then I re-read your question, and realized: You are a 23 year-old woman with no debt and some sense of adventure. The answer is obvious:

Buenos Aires. Just. Go.

(If you were willing to consider alternative languages, I'd say do Portuguese instead of Spanish and go to Rio. But then, you might never come back.)
posted by ambrosia at 4:19 PM on September 7, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks so far, everyone. signal, I think I read that story in another thread as well. Getting exploited is not my goal by any means. ROU - not a bad idea, but I could do that just as easily here as well (the twin cities). As far as I'm concerned, if I'm moving anywhere, it's out of the country. Ambrosia - Brazil is really tempting, but I want something I can use when I come back! I don't know many Portuguese speaking students.
posted by jetskiaccidents at 6:06 PM on September 7, 2005

jetskiaccidents: yeah, a while back somebody asked specifically about ESL in Santiago, so that's where I wrote a longer version of the story.
Second "Buenos Aires. Just. Go." You'll have the time of your life.
posted by signal at 7:13 PM on September 7, 2005

I wouldn't suggest Miami as a place to learn spanish. Aside the the poor reputation Cubans have for their spanish you're dealing with a lot of 2nd and 3rd generation speakers whose only spanish education comes from their parents, a goodly percentage of whom are poorly educated Mariel refugees. Our university ran classes specifically for the large number of incoming students who had been speaking spanish all their lives but who would have been considered functional illiterates if that was their primary language.

If you want to get paid but aren't fussy about how much why not the Peace Corps? The salary is sufficient to pay for your living expenses in the area and most workers have enough left over to also do a little traveling during their placement. The adjustment payment at the end isn't a lot but it's also something.
posted by phearlez at 7:32 PM on September 7, 2005

I totally want to go to Patagonia. They have whales, and penguins, and glaciers...but I don't know anything about ESL programs.
posted by leapingsheep at 7:36 PM on September 7, 2005

Response by poster: I haven't looked into the Peace Corps...but I am somewhat fussy about what I would be doing. I want to teach English so I have some international teaching experience when I come back. Do they have those sorts of programs? [I'll go look it up in the meantime..]

Also... Buenos Aires is sounding really nice.
posted by jetskiaccidents at 8:44 PM on September 7, 2005

Here's a great place for you: Roatan, an island off the coast of Honduras. A third world country, yes, but Roatan is quite safe because it is an increasingly popular tourist destination. It boasts the second largest coral reef in the world and attracts serious divers from all over. There are several schools, both public and private. One of the very best schools in all of Honduras is a private bilingual school right outside of Coxen Hole, the main city. Most kids from here go on to college. Committed teachers are always in demand - Spanish not required, just encouraged. There are also a couple of one-on-one intensive Spanish schools on the island - very affordable too.

Housing, if you look around, is quite reasonable, even beachfront. Living expenses are not bad either, although not as cheap as on the mainland. The island is small, about 35 miles long, and incredibly beautiful. A Caribbean paradise. The swimming, snorkling, and diving are unparalled on this side of the globe. Honduras itself, the mainland, is sketchy - can be dangerous, lots of gang activity. But Roatan is like another country and the Honduran government goes to great pains to attract (and protect) tourists. A lot of young Americans around, including teachers.

Short (2 hour) plane hop from Miami.

I have lots of info so email me if you are interested.
posted by Prestocran at 10:59 PM on September 7, 2005

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