Spanish Lessons in South America
Choosing the Country
Our original plan was to get to Quito and learn Spanish there as 1) it’s cheap 2) the Ecuadorean accent is easier to understand. We were, however lured to spend more time in the Galápagos Islands, so we skipped this and headed to Darwin’s playground instead. We ended up taking Spanish lessons in Argentina, where is is more expensive and there is a strong, distinctive dialect. Was this the right choice?
If you want an easy to understand accent and slow speaking style, for your Spanish lessons then Colombia or Ecuador are the best places for you. My belief is that if you are a beginner then the accent really doesn’t matter. You will learn to speak “sh” instead of “y” in Argentina but who really cares. Most people, even after months of lessons will still sound foreign!
If you want the cheapest Spanish lessons available in South America then Bolivia has the lowest cost of lessons and living. The cost of living is definitely the clincher here, particularly if you want to spend more than a couple of weeks in one place. Against that is that you will be spending most of your time perhaps not in the most varied of places.
If you want to compliment your studies with weekend adventures and dramatic landscapes then Argentina wins every time for me. There are Spanish lessons to be had in every major city. They all have their tourist draws nearby and an excellent bus service (or you can rent a car as we did).
Cost of Lessons
In Argentina, which is probably one of the more expensive places to learn, we paid around AR$ 150 (£8) per hour. It’s possible to get lessons in the cheaper countries for £4 per hour. It is however relatively easy to cut costs.
Team up with other travellers or join an already established group class. You will save around 30% of the cost by doing this.
If your concentration levels will hold do as many hours per week to get a larger hourly discount. We did 10 hours per week and that was perfect for us. I think 20 hours would have been fine too if done in 2 hourly blocks.
Choosing the Right Spanish School
As with all things personal recommendations are the best way to find a place to take your Spanish Lessons. There are other factors, though that you may want to take into account.
Flexibility of Timings
If you want to go on a tour for a couple days, explore the area for a weekend, will you be able to flex your classes to enable this? Check with the school their evening, weekend and morning hours to see if it fits with your plans.
Is it an environment that you feel you can learn well in, how big are the classes, is the teacher qualified and competent?
Some people need structure work flows, others to constantly switch things up, whatever your learning style make sure that the school offers it in their Spanish Lessons.
Set Your Expectations
It’s easy to be disappointed with your progress if you don’t know what is realistic to achieve. Our school, Idiomas Salta, said that 40 hours minimum of Spanish lessons would be needed for a complete beginner to get to a reasonable level of present tense understanding. Don’t think 10 hours of Spanish lessons will mean you’ll be reading Don Quitoxe cover to cover and joining a Spanish book club to discuss it!
For an improver I think that 20 hours would be enough for you to grasp another tense and continue to learn, but I guess that depends on your memory levels (being a tad older I think mine suffers a little!).
You need to immerse yourself in the lessons, practice (live in a homestay if possible), and devote your time to the Spanish lessons as a break from your travels to chill whilst stretching your mind.
Our 2 weeks at Idiomas Salta, Greg and I had a lot of fun. Greg has an Argentinian accent that I find so funny. We’ve done homework together for the first time and we made new and interesting friends.
As always, leave us a comment if you’d like to ask a question or add your experiences of taking Spanish lessons.