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One week home-stay/ language school during hoilday

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I would like to spend one week in central/ south america- home stay- during the week of Christmas with the opportunity to do a quick spanish study. My Spanish is not great but I have some basic foundations, i.e. have traveled some in the areas, studied in school, etc. Pretty basic tho. I'd like to find a homestay situtaion for the week of Dec 22-29th. ANY ideas are welcomed! Thanks! Andrea

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    I think you'll find the best bang for your buck in Guatemala; culturally it's a great choice, too. I've pasted my opinions/experiences with language schools below. Hope you find just what you're looking for!

    You can search for schools by country or city using
    but take the ratings with a grain of salt. Specific to Guatemala, try
    but keep in mind that they haven't added schools for many years so some terrific ones (like the Cooperativa, below) aren't listed.

    For bang for your buck, Guatemala leads the list of Spanish schools in CA, followed closely by Honduras. In both countries 1-on-1 instruction is the norm; in other CA countries and México it's hard to find and you pay dearly for it - sometimes 3 or 4 times what you'd pay for the same offerings in Guatemala. I HUGELY prefer 1-on1 instruction because I want my own strengths and needs, learning style, and desire for a break or a change of pace to drive the curriculum and instruction. Even in a small group - 2 to 4 people, that's unlikely to be the case as we're no 2 alike in this challenging language learning process.

    In Guatemala Antigua, Xela, and the villages around Lake Atltlán are all popular choices. Antigua has the least effective immersion environment because there are dozens of schools and thousands of tourists at any given time so the infrastructure is largely English speaking. I'm not over fond of Xela; it's chilly at that higher altitude and it's a big (not so attractive imo) city and I'm just not a city person. The surrounding area is interesting, though, and here is a link to information about that area: . The lake is where I prefer to head.

    In Honduras, I think Copán makes an excellent base for study - cute town, lots to do including museums, the ruins, a bird park, a butterfly place, hot springs, caving, and hiking. Although it gets a lot of visitors because of the ruins, they seem to be mainly day trippers or stick to their hotels and surprisingly few locals speak English (a good thing for Spanish acquisition). La Ceiba is a city and HOT so I haven't headed back there; the immersion factor is decent (though it's better in small towns imo because the locals get a kick out of helping you practice) and there are great outdoor activities in the area. The islands (and in general popular beachy places in all countries) make poor immersion environments but have their own appeal.

    In any school, ask for what you want; if you're not pleased with your teacher or host family, fix it instead of going on week after week in a situation that doesn't fit your needs. I wouldn't commit to more than a week or 2 until you know the school and town is a good fit for you. Teachers in quality schools are so good at assessing your level and learning style that moving doesn't "cost" as much as you might think. If it feels right - don't move.

    If you're interested in university credit for Spanish immersion study or volunteer and cultural learning projects, check out

    Here's a link to my photo collections with blog and travelogue links on the main pages; I'll refer you to collections below.

    The following are schools I’ve attended and can recommend personally.

    Academia Antigüeña is a good school in Antigua, Guatemala - strong teachers, cool activities, interactive host families, though I had 3 add'l students in mine which was common. Prioritizing homestays is really important in Antigua where many schools offer stays that are more like boarding houses than family stays. Several people have complained about staying with Olga, the secretary of the school, so I'd avoid that. Familia de Cesar Sactic is wonderful. Antigua isn't a good immersion environment but it's a good place to start if you haven't traveled in CA much. Guatemala 2009 collection

    Cooperativa is my home away from home, better than ever now in a beautiful new setting. Young, talented teachers, culturally important activities, interactive families (though a bit more humble lodgings than in the others), and heavy community investment. I have life-long friends there who have helped me start a non profit:
    2007 and 2009 collections for study, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014 for more local photos - I'll be at least visiting there every year and usually studying for a few weeks.

    Ixbalanque in Copán Ruinas, Honduras is another great school you could consider - beautiful new school building, cute town, great staff and families. I've enjoyed their weekly activities, too, and there's lots to do in the area. 2005, 2008, and 2014 collections

    Central American Spanish School with bases in La Ceiba and on Utila and Roatán is a good school; in La Ceiba my teacher and host family were really amazing. La Ceiba is HOT and I'm not much of a city person, though. The islands are poor immersion environments as English is widely spoken; lots to do though (I'm a diver). 2006 collection

    Instituto Jovel in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico - beautiful school, well run, good staff and families. I enjoyed San Cristobal and surrounds but it's MUCH more expensive. 2010 collection

    If you contact any of them, please tell them hi from Stacey. :-)

    Let me know if I can answer more questions!

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    The week you've specified is far from ideal. I question if any schools will even be open Christmas week. Are you locked into that time? Could you do this another time of year?

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    Stacey, I can't thank you enough!!!! Truly! Your response has given me much to research and I'm thrilled to have the first hand info! I will check out the links and your photos! Many many thanks!!!
    Of the ones you've listed- which of the ones do you feel would most meet my desired criteria (below)
    1) Warm weather. A MUST!
    2) Affordability (I'm totally OK with 'humble' lodgings. I prefer the 'under belly' and genuine interactions with locals to toursim and hot spots anyday!
    3) Ease in getting around
    4) Of course, safety
    5) Ease in extending my stay a few days outside of the host home or school, i.e. hotelitas, hostels, cheap/ safe, etc.


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    Hi Jeff- I was wondering the same thing about the holiday but this is when I can go. It seems many schools offer courses during this time but I'm assuming they will be closed on xmas. Wondering what I would do!? I'll be traveling alone and it will prob be weird.... but I think I'll go anyway. Any ideas? I would hope to spend some time with a local family? Maybe volunteer? Any ideas/ thoughts? Thanks! Andrea

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    Most schools I've attended still have classes except for Christmas day; though I haven't studied or lived with a host family at that time of year, I know lots of folks who have.

    1) Quite sure that Chiapas and Xela would be colder than you're looking for. Antigua and Lake Atitlán in Guatemala and Copán Ruinas, Honduras would be cool to warm - you'd likely want a sweater or light fleece in the mornings and evenings and day time temps would tend to be in the 70s. If you're wanting really warm weather, the coast and islands of Honduras (of my list) would be your best bet.

    2) The Guatemala schools are best value cost-wise, especially the Cooperativa of my list.

    3) 4) 5) None of them are hard to get to, considered unsafe, or tough to find good value lodging in.

    I prefer smaller towns, too - part of the reason the Cooperativa is my favorite.

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    I'm an American author living abroad for a year with my family in Central America (and writing about our experience at I can strongly recommend the Cooperative Spanish School in San Pedro. We chose to go there for a variety of reasons: we wanted a home stay experience that was not run like a boarding house with many students staying with one family (the case in some more urban areas like Antigua); we were operating on a tight budget; we wanted to be in a place where we would feel comfortable walking around as a family after dark (I wasn't sure if that would be the case in Xela); and we love the outdoors and wanted to have opportunities to explore. Of course, we also were looking for a school with a strong track record for teaching.

    In January 2017, the LA Times is going to publish a travel article written by me about our experience in San Pedro, but in the meantime, here is a post from my website where I describe a day in our lives at the language school:

    6 a.m.: Wake up to the sound of roosters and wander up to the third-story cement rooftop of your host family’s house to do some exercises. You’ll have to duck under a line of laundry hung out to dry by your host mother who still washes clothes in the lake, but even then the view is spectacular: sparkling Lake Atitlan just in front of you, and the verdant slopes of San Pedro volcano at your back.

    7 a.m.: Breakfast with your Tz’utujil Maya host mother down on the first floor of the house, just inside the small courtyard planted with rosebushes and a fruiting lime tree. Today’s menu: tamales and coffee for the adults, and because your host mother has astutely figured out that your kids aren’t wild about tamales, chocolate-flavored cereal and milk for the children. Your kids inhale their breakfast, and enthusiastically thank your host mom in Spanish!

    8 a.m.-noon: One-on-one Spanish lessons at your school. As usual, you and your teacher start out with conversation in Spanish, por supuesto (of course). Yesterday evening you attended a school-sponsored lecture about the Maya calendar and astrological signs, all in Spanish (much of which you understood, to your delight!). As a result, today you have all sorts of questions for your teacher. She explains the role of midwives in interpreting a child’s calendar sign. An hour later your conversation has evolved into a discussion of U.S. immigration and your teachers’ many friends who have emigrated north looking for work. Over the course of your four-hour Spanish lesson, your teacher expertly weaves in more formal grammar instruction. Today’s topic: the different uses of the two “to be” verbs in Spanish–ser and estar. During the language school’s mid-morning coffee break, the two of you join the other teachers and students for a snack of crispy empanadas. Your kids and husband report, with excitement, that tomorrow they will be teaming up to make tissue-paper kites with their teachers during their lessons.

    12:30 p.m.: Lunch back at your home stay. Today your host mother has made delicious broccoli cutlets, rice, and guacamole. As with all meals, there are steaming corn tortillas on offer. “Buen probecho!” Your host siblings chime the Spanish equivalent to “bon apetit” as they rush in and out of the kitchen, coming and going from work and school. After lunch, your family helps your host mother out by washing dishes in basins in the courtyard. You would like to go kayaking on the lake this afternoon, but your youngest child already looks tired–he has nearly fallen asleep at the dinner table for the last week as he adjusts to Spanish and his new environment. When he asks if he can go watch cartoons with his host sister, you agree, putting the kayaking plans on hold for another day. The whole family spends a lazy afternoon at home, lounging in the hammock, playing card games, and doing Spanish homework.

    If you'd like to read about the rest of the day, you can find the whole story here:

    Good luck in finding the right school!

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