Figure out the best way to get from Central to South America, when you should book your accommodations for Carnaval and local language school recommendations. If it's on South America, it's in this forum.

Recommend a good place/school for Spanish practice?

Kuros

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  • Added on: April 14th, 2010
Hi everyone,

I hope this is an appropriate post for this forum...

I would like to spend around a month studying Spanish somewhere in South America this summer (mid June to mid July). I have no great preference, but Peru and Chile appeal to me slightly more. I have basic Spanish skills (I can hold up a simple conversation), and I learn quickly.

Could anyone recommend some good schools, anywhere in South America? Would WOOFing or something else be just as effective as a school?

Budget for this is around $1500, including airfare.

Any advice is greatly appreciated!

Tortuga_traveller

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  • Added on: April 14th, 2010
1. Would WOOFING pick up the language as quickly?

A: Some people, probably 10% or 5% of this countries population, are capable of just 'picking up' a language. People like this must have a nearly eidetic memory for vocabulary, and an intuitive sense for accent and grammar. They are usually linguistic students, or become linguistics students, though some have other skills. Are you one of them? If you are, go for it. I know a few people like that. I'm not one of them.

2. From what I've read here, Quito, Ecuador is a popular place to learn Spanish, and its certainly big enough to absorb any number of students while retaining it's Spanish Speaking character. Lima should be good as well, though from what I've read, I'd prefer to be in Cuzco. I'll let you know when I hit Lima, and then Cuzco. There are also schools in smaller towns, where you will be a little more bored, but might learn more Spanish.

3. If I were going that way, I would think about Bolivia, since it's a fairly cheap country, IF one can find a good school. I'd look in La Paz for that.

Chile: I don't recommend it. They speak very quickly, and their accent is often un-intelligible to fellow Spanish Speakers. I recall one time when a Chilean asked a question to a Mexican Academic in Spanish, and the Mexican had no idea what the Chilean was saying. It would be more profitable in the general sense if you learned in Peru or Ecuador, even Argentina, rather than Chile. Oh- and the poster after me will mention Columbia, and I hear they have some of the clearest best Spanish in the Americas.
Last edited by Tortuga_traveller on April 14th, 2010, edited 1 time in total.
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travellingdad

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  • Added on: April 14th, 2010
People don't think instantly of Colombia, but we had an amazing trip there, and studied Spanish in Cartagena for a week. The whole experience was wonderful. Cartagena is an incredible city and there's not much English so you get a lot of opportunity to practice. And Colombia is wonderful - despite all that you may have heard about it !

Canadianbackpackinggirl

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  • Added on: April 15th, 2010
Hi Kuros,

There's lots of great locations to learn Spanish in South America in.

As Tortuga mentioned, the Spanish in Chile is a bit harder to pick up on. This is also true in Argentina, where they pronounce their "ll"s as a "sha", making it difficult to understand, and they also speak quite rapidly (which is a shame, because Buenos Aires is a great city to spend some time in, but probably just not the best place to learn Spanish).

The Andean countries (Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru) all practise a very clear form of Spanish, as well as Colombia. And, the good news is is that these countries are very affordable! I did two weeks of lessons in Banos, Ecuador (a few hours south of Quito by bus). Its a smaller town, about 14,000 people, but it was a GREAT place to hang out, great hostel there, as well as lots of outdoor activities to do (hiking, mountain biking, hot baths), and suprisngly hopping nightlife in the little town (its a resort town for Ecuadorians). Ecuador is extremely affordable - my hostel was about $5/night, and my one-on-one lessons were only $5/hour. (I studied at Myra's Spanish School). I wouldn't recommend Quito due to it being a bit of a dangerous city - I felt very safe and secure in Banos, which is important if you want to spend a few days in a place and practise your Spanish with the locals. I've also heard great things about taking lessons in Cusco, and as well in Colombia (which yes, I agree, is wonderful, even if you don't wind up taking lessons there I would suggest a visit). If you're wanting a beach town, maybe consider Mancora on the coast of Peru (good place for surfing and kitesurfting), or perhaps Taganga in Colombia.

Good luck!

Kuros

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  • Added on: April 15th, 2010
Thanks for the replies and great info! I hadn't even thought about Colombia. It looks like there isn't more than a $100 or so difference in air fare...is there a site for schools, someway I can check how reputable they are in the different cities?

Thanks again!

Tortuga_traveller

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  • Added on: April 16th, 2010
I looked up, or tried to look up the ratings of language schools in Columbia. I had little luck.

If you are a college or university student, you might want to go to the Spanish department and ask which schools THEY recommend, and if you can get college credit for the experience. This would be the best way to profit from this experience.

I found two of them by name. YOu can find them too, on Google, but one had good but not fantastic reviews and was not especially cheap.

The other I couldn't find.

Now-if you are new to Spanish, it matters little where you go, because unless you have an ear for accents, your Spanish will sound contrived no matter where you study after two weeks to a month of study. If you go to a country with clear Spanish, people will understand you no matter what country you study in, even those in Chile.
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KathleenO

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  • Added on: April 16th, 2010
I think the Ecuadorian accent is very easy to understand (not so much on the coast, but in Quito). The other posters are right in that Chilean Spanish is hard to pick up. I'm married to a Chilean and live in Chile so I've figured it out for the most part, but they they use LOTS of slang. I also have a hard time understanding some Argentinians because the accent is so thick. I wonder if Bolivia is a good place to learn because of the large indigenous population? I've never been there, but I remember how in some parts of Guatemala, Spanish was a second language in the indigenous communities!

Kuros

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  • Added on: April 16th, 2010
I'm not new to Spanish..I've had a year of college classes, and lots of self-study. I practice on Skype with native speakers and such. I mainly just need immersion now to become more fluent. My school does do a trip to Quito, Ecuador every summer for Spanish students that you get credit for, but it costs thousands of dollars. But you're right, I can ask them what school they use. Nothing stopping me from going there myself and avoiding the school tuition fees...thanks! Plus I can just take the proficiency exams when I get back to get the credit.

Canadianbackpackinggirl

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  • Added on: April 17th, 2010
Hi Kuros - not sure if there is a website that you can look up all the schools in Colombia, Ecuador, etc., just try googling etc, but as Tortoga said, not sure how much luck you'll have.

If I was to spend a month in a place, what I would do is first think about where you want to spend an entire month - do you want a beach town, somewhere known for outdoor sports, or a big city with nightlife more your thing? (I.e. do you want to tan/hike/party after your lessons each day?). Decide on what kind of place you want to live in for a month, and then after that decide on the school - most towns/cities should have at least one good school. If you live in a hostel for a month, they should be able to recommend you a good school - that's how I found Myra's in Banos, the hostel I was staying at (Plantos y Blancos) recommended the language school, and it was great. I know that if you're thinking of Bolivia, in La Paz, if you stay at Wild Rover Hostel, they'll actually get a teacher to come to the hostel for you and study with you every day - I didn't take up this option but there were people I met at Wild Rover that took this route and were quite happy with the lessons they were getting, plus it was very cheap. La Paz is a good place if you're looking of a good nightlife, but it personally wasn't my favourite city.

And again, as everyone was saying on there, I would recommend studying in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru or Boliva due to the clearness of the language. And budget wise, these countries are much more affordable as well, so that's a plus! Chile, Uraguay and Argentina are amazing countries with great people, but the language can be difficult to grasp.

Kuros

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  • Added on: April 19th, 2010
Well, my focus will be learning/practicing Spanish. I am not really a go out to a club and drink kind of guy, but it could be fun, I suppose. I'd rather see natural attractions or do some volunteer work.

Right now, the Fox Language Academy in Sucre, Bolivia is looking nice. They will let you teach English at their academy, which is something I would like to do. Sucre seems like a really nice, interesting town. Kind of low-key, lots of things to see.

I think I've narrowed it down to Bolivia or Peru...but I'm going to have to do some more research on Peru. Any thoughts on a low-key place in Peru where I could perhaps teach english?

Tortuga_traveller

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  • Added on: April 19th, 2010
I'll let you know in two months. By then I'll have scoped out the area, since I'm leaving for Peru tomorrow night,.

I suspect Lima is not a really low key. Cuzco might be. IN any case, if you want to teach English for money, you'll need some kind of city or town center. It is possible other areas have that need, but they won't pay as well.

Theres a place you might want to check out in Peru. It's called travellernottourist.com, and they have an interesting volunteer position that I might well check out.
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Kuros

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  • Added on: April 19th, 2010
Thanks for the link! I'll take a look. I don't care if it is paid position, though. I have enough money that it isn't necessary.

I hope you enjoy your trip, and thanks in advance for the info!

Felix the Hat

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  • Added on: April 21st, 2010
Another vote for Colombia. Ecuador is probably the most popular place in South America to study Spanish. I haven't been there, but just came back from Colombia. Colombians (at least he ones that don't live on the Caribbean coast) speak a very clear Spanish, widely known as one of the easiest accents to understand. It's quite cheap to live there, and facilities in cities like Bogota and Medellin are good (you can drink the tap water).

Chile is not a particularly good idea. It's very expensive, and the Chilean accent is the most impenetrable one in Spanish.

Kuros

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  • Added on: April 21st, 2010
The only thing that concerns me about Colombia is the safety...from what I'm reading, if you stay in Medellin or Bogota, you'll be fine, just stay out of the jungles or entire southern part of the country. Is that accurate? Does anyone have some recomendations for schools in Medellin or Bogota?

aml98

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  • Added on: April 21st, 2010
Here's a site with ratings:

http://www.123teachme.com/language_schools/

I studied at Simon Bolivar in Cuenca, Ecuador and thought it was REALLY great (I studied at 2 schools in Guatemala and one in Cochabamba too, so I have some comparison). The teachers were very good, my family was fantastic and the city is lovely and manageable. Cuzco is a great place but very touristy. There's more a sense in Cuenca of people living their lives, not focusing on the tourist industry. I also had a private tutor in Cochabamba who was fantastic. He saw my textbook from Simon Bolivar and was SO surprised it was from a South American school - he'd never seen a textbook from a Spanish school other than ones in Spain. Simon Bolivar has a school in Quito too but someone who came from the Quito to the Cuenca school liked the Cuenca one much better. My family took me everywhere with them - weddings, birthday parties etc. Much different from the families I stayed with in Guatemala (Antigua and Xela).


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