Where is best to study Spanish in Latin America? Why study Spanish in Latin America? Here’s a few tips for selecting a country and a Spanish school.
The first decision that needs to be made is selecting a country, and city or town, in which to study. Firstly, forget about Spain, where the accent is horribly unattractive and prices far higher than in Latin America. My tip would be to select a country that you want to visit anyway - and every country in Central and South America has a range of Spanish schools. Accents vary throughout the continent, and this may well affect your decision when choosing where to study. Consider that both Argentina and Chile have accents that are much harder to understand than those of other countries. Another important consideration is that accents within countries themselves can vary greatly, and generally speking the coastal regions have the hardest to understand accents.
Colombia’s strength in terms of studying Spanish is the local accent, which is possibly the clearest in all of South America. Colombia’s weakness in the lack of Spanish schools in the country - there just aren’t as many as in other more frequently visited countries. I myself studied at Medellin’s EAFIT university, which I can recommend.
Both Mexico and Costa Rica have clear accents, lots of Spanish schools, and an infrastructure well geared towards travelling. Costa Rica’s a particularly safe and peaceful country, so if you are hung up on safety issues it might be the best choice for you. Check out Universal de Idiomas in San Jose if you want to learn Spanish in Costa Rica. Mexico’s forte is the shear number of excellent Spanish schools - there’s a range of schools along the Pacific coast, so when you’re not studying to can chill on the beaches, or go surfing. The more culturally minded students might prefer to be inland and study in one of Mexico’s beautiful colonial cities - Oaxaca, Taxco, Merida and Cuernavaca all have plenty of Spanish schools, plus many other towns in addition.
Those on a really tight budget might want to consider studying in Guatemala, as it’s one of the cheapest (and poorest) countries in Latin America. There are a range of schools in the tourist hubs such as Antigua and Lake Atitlan.
Both Ecuador and Peru are very popular choice for studying Spanish. The accents are clear, and the travel attractions draw lots of tourists, which in turn has lead to a plethora of Spanish schools. In Ecuador, Quito is the most popular choice. It’ a great place to meet other travellers, and the nightlife is pretty buzzing. I studied at and can recommend the Rumiñahui Spanish School in Quito and am still friends with my teachers. In addition, the Viva Verde Spanish School is based in Quito, but also offer opportunities for “studying in the jungle”, in addition to studying on the coast, and they donate proportion of profits to environmentally or socially sustanable projects. Elsewhere in Ecuador, consider Otavalo or Cuenca if you prefer a smaller town than the capital. In Peru, Cuzco is the best option for finding a school - there’s dozens, the nightlife is buzzing (there are a lot of foreigners in Cuzco) and the nearby tourism attractions are quite amazing.
Once you’ve selected a country, and a city, you’ll need to select your school. It’s often difficult to know which are the best schools. Hunt around on travel forums (such as the Lonely Planet’s thorntree forum) looking for suggestions, or ask for suggestions. Watch out for the Spanish schools themselves masquerading as former students! Check out individual schools’ websites - if they look cheap and poorly designed, you may well find that the school is similarly so. Also, look into what training and accreditation the teachers have.
Studying Spanish in Central or South America is a great way to immerse yourself in the local culture, meet local people, and make friends with other travellers. Studying every day for just a month will allow complete beginners to subsequently be able to hold a basic conversation in Spanish with the local population - you’ll enjoy your subsequent travel experiences much more if you’re able to communicate with the local people.
Here’s some useful resources to assist students planning on studying Spanish in Latin America:
Learn Spanish - IMAC is recognised at one of the best options for learning Spanish in Latin America. They offer programs in Spain, in addition to courses in Mexico, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Argentina, Chile and elsewhere.