¿Dónde puedo aprender a hablar español?
August 4, 2008 1:16 PM   Subscribe

Where can I find a good Spanish language immersion program? (Ideally in a Spanish-speaking country.)

In the past I have debated moving to Spain with the goals of A) having an international living experience and B) improving my Spanish to the point of being conversational. However, I have learned it is difficult to get a work visa so I have begun exploring language immersion programs, instead. And I have a few questions.

1) Should I do this in Spain, or some other spanish-speaking country?

Some thoughts: I am very eager to have easy access to visit other European countries, in addition to just liking Spain itself, so Spain is my preference by far. But I am concerned that anywhere in Europe may be cost prohibitive. (Central or South America might be more cost-effective, no?)

2) City v. small town?

3) How do I find the *reputable* ones?

4) Are there programs that cater to specific age groups? (I'm in my mid-20s.)

5) Do they typically help with your social life, too?

And just in general, ignoring everything else I've asked, if you have any recommendations for programs that can offer a great experience, or if there are resources I should be tapping into, please tell me about it! I am new to this.

Muchas gracias! :)
posted by inatizzy to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

1) Definitely Central America or Mexico - it'll be much more useful in Cambridge than the Spanish you learn in Spain. And much much cheaper.

2) Depends on your personality.

3) Same ways as anything else. Ask for recommendations, scour the internets. I did one in Antigua, Guatemala that was good, but so long ago that the recommendation doesn't matter much. Might look for programs that are affiliated with a local university, like the one in Monterrey, Mexico. Avoid the sites that are essentially aggregators or brokers that connect you to the programs; deal with the schools directly if you can. I know people who've had good experiences in San Cristobal de las Casas (you'll meet a lot of artsy ex-pats) and Costa Rica (surfers and eco-tourists).

4) Probably, but I suspect that many of the students will be in that age group anyway. That's when I did it.

5) Yes.

De nada.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 1:37 PM on August 4, 2008

Best answer: A few thoughts, having done this:

1) Do it in Central America or Mexico. Cheap to fly to, and the language school costs will be minimal. For instance, you can do a language school with homestay (a must for learning) AND food provided for around $175 a week. Also, you're there to learn Spanish - not to visit other countries. The easier it is for you to turn the trip into a backpacking tour, the more likely you will. Spain is very, very touristy, and Central America/Mexico will be a much better choice. Go for Guatemala, Nicaragua or Honduras for the cheapest places. Costa Rica is pretty expensive.

2) Depends on how long you're there. A small town makes it much less likely that you will be able to cheat and find people to speak English with. It's also much more manageable as a nonspeaker A large city gives you a lot more to do.

3) A lot of guidebooks have basic listings. ..and ask on Metafilter.

4) I would do *everything* to avoid other Americans your age. I cannot stress this enough. It will be a lot harder, but when you spend your weekends speaking English and going out drinking, you will be wasting your time and money doing something you could do in the US. (This is one of the reasons you might want to avoid Costa Rica)

5) Absolutely, but this is why you should live with a family, who will pull you into their social life (that being said, try to get placed with a family with people your age)

A la orden....
posted by waylaid at 1:48 PM on August 4, 2008 [3 favorites]

Europe won't be cheap but it doesn't have to be impossible. Three years ago I spent about 10 days in Barcelona in a sort-of hostel in a non-touristy neighborhood. My room was a one-windowed cell in a former garage with a private bath for about $20/night, if I remember right. This included a dresser of sorts, bedding, and a charmingly bare light bulb hanging from the ceiling. I had kitchen privileges in the house, and food from the market was cheap.

You might want to go somewhere other than Barcelona. My ability to pick up basic Catalán was far more useful than my advanced Spanish. You might find it less confusing to be in a more Spanish-speaking area.

I would choose a non-touristy area of a medium-sized or big city that has good public transportation. That way you can get far away from your hosts/school and have adventures on your own.

Another possibility is Argentina. The language has its quirks, but the costs will be much lower, and the country has a lot of variety and interesting neighbors.

I just read your post about working in Spain. When I was in Barcelona, I easily picked up work for a US-based creative agency. They needed a native English writer to cover a conference. It was legal because it was the Chicago office who hired me, though my contact was in Barcelona. I had emailed the Barcelona office before I left to say that I'd be in town and available for gigs. So if you have marketable skills, don't completely write off the ability to make legal, decent money while you're traveling, but don't depend on it, either.
posted by PatoPata at 2:44 PM on August 4, 2008

Best answer: My girlfriend is in Xela (Quetzaltenango), Guatemala right now in an immersion program and loves it. You live with a family and pay ~$100 a week for instruction (1 on 1 all day), room, and board. She d is able to travel on weekends to the volcanoes, hot springs, huge craft markets, the lake, etc. She says countryside vistas are spectacular.

Here's a list of schools in Xela:

I'm not sure which one she is in but can find out if you mefimail me.
posted by pinto at 3:06 PM on August 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

What do you want to learn Spanish for? Keep that in mind because Spanish is Spain not only is pronounced differently than Latin American Spanish, the vocabulary is distinct as well.

I studied Espanol para Extranjernos at the Escuela Oficial de Idiomas in Madrid. It was cheap and great classes - one of the best teachers I ever studied under. I had a visa because I am married to a Spaniard but there were plenty of students in the class who left the country every 6 months to keep their visa current. Madrid is certainly not cheap, but living frugally is possible. It's fairly easy to teach English in Spain - there are lots of "under the table" type jobs that want a native English speaker (although be prepared - most prefer British English). It's also easy to arrange "intercambios" where you practice your Spanish with a native speaker in exchange to helping them with their English. This is also a great way to meet locals.
posted by daneflute at 6:38 PM on August 4, 2008

Best answer: I second Xela, Guatemala. I had a great experience there in 2003 at a school called Sakribal. It's an interesting town, but it's non-touristy enough to be good for immersion. If you want to get even more immersed, head for Leon or Esteli in Nicaragua.

Another good website for Spanish schools is www.123teachme.com.
posted by lunasol at 6:56 PM on August 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

I've also been to Xela, Guatemala for Spanish classes, and also recommend it highly. Antigua is also an option, it is very fun, but it primarily a tourist destination.
posted by bluejayk at 2:00 PM on August 5, 2008

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