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Where should my family travel in July for Spanish immersion?

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Dec 22nd, 2018, 07:29 PM
  #1
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Where should my family travel in July for Spanish immersion?

Hello! Looking for advice on what South American or Central American country to travel in July with a 5 year old and 7 year old for a Spanish immersion experience for a few weeks. Safety is priority. Also important is cost, and weather (not pouring rain during rainy season 24/7). Thank you in advance for guidance!
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Dec 23rd, 2018, 06:37 AM
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A few years ago now we spent a couple of months in Quito, Ecuador learning Spanish. The Accent and pronunciation there seemed very clear compared with other places in South America. We checked out a lot of the language schools there and posted a review comparing the all on Tripadvisor. If you are interested I will try and ind a link to that report with all,the detail and names of the schools.

Ecuador was cheap, possibly the cheapest in terms of tuition fees. We have been there in July and the weather is pretty good. Safety wise, Quito wantnt the bestbbut that may have changed. At the time we were living in the SA Explorers Club which wasn’t in the best part of town. Living with a family would doubtless be a lots safer. Some schools also had places down on the coats so you could, in theory, split your time.

We also did a month in Cusco, Peru using a foundation who employs unmarried mothers who are ostracised somewhat by society there. This was a fun experience, lessons in the morning, out an about in the afternoon in markets, helping in schools etc. Having spent a lot of time in South America I do feel that of the two, Peru is a lot easier places to "live" than Ecuador but both have their attractions. The weather will be as good as it gets in the Peruvian Andes in July.

Having studied in these places, we found using Spanish elsewhere in South America and indeed Spain pretty easy in most places with the exception of Chile and Argentina where, they seemed to understand us ok but they tended to use words we hadn’t encountered and spoke with such rapidity thtabwe found it very difficult at times to understand. We are in Mexico at the moment and we sometimes are finding it hard here. For those reasons alone, I would probably avoid those countries ( although they are all wonder places to visit).

Hope this helps a little.
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Dec 23rd, 2018, 04:59 PM
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The general rule is that wherever the Spanish boot came down hardest during the Conquest, that is where you will find the "best" Spanish. So Ecuador, Peru and Colombia. Ecuador has some very good schools and has been in the business much longer than a lot of places. But any decent language school will teach you "proper" Spanish. The problem arises when you try it out on the street! I would look at Crellston's list (when he finds it!).
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Dec 23rd, 2018, 10:26 PM
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Interesting way to put it Huentetu. I would look for what I call "Andean Spanish" which would include some parts, but not all of Colombia (not the Caribbean Coast for example). Because Ecuador's currency is the US dollar I don't think it is as inexpensive as it was previously.

I found spoken Spanish in Peru the easiest to follow (Chilean the worst!) since they speak relatively slowly and pronounce most letters . In Chile, it's impossible. I liked to say after two weeks in Chile , it almost seemed like they were speaking English in Peru.

Sorry I don't have any schools to recommend for you, though. I studied Spanish in school and have not been motivated to get those verb tenses back up to speed since I am more or less functional at present.

I also find Mexican Spanish (which is spoken around Los Angeles where I live) not the easiest to follow.

If you want immersion I'd avoid Costa Rica, where there are too many expats (and it isn't as safe as it's reputation).
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Dec 24th, 2018, 05:45 AM
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When I first came to Chile I was totally bilingual - or so I thought. I had been speaking Spanish for 27 years. But it might as well have been Japanese in Chile. The vocabulary was different, local slang was prevalent, the ending of words dropped (handy for not learning the tenses) and the speed made me dizzy. Sometimes 15 minutes would go by in a conversation and I had no idea - not even a hint - of what had been said. Give them their due, Chileans do recognize that their Spanish is not up to scratch. There are good language schools here but you would likely be lost out on the street.
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Dec 24th, 2018, 06:43 AM
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Gee it is hard to find stuff on Tripadvisor!

Here is the text of my post there on the subject of Quito Language schools:
Having read a great deal about Spanish schools in Quito I thought it might be helpful to some if I posted our recent experience of searching for a school:

When we arrived in Quito our first task was to seek out a good Spanish school where we could take lessons of around 4 hours a day. For background, we had previously had a few weeks of lessons in Peru about 5 years ago and so were not complete novices, but had forgotten much of what we had learnt.

Staying at the SA Explorers Club we sought opinions there and came up with a shortlist of five schools and visited them all over our first couple of days here. Our impressions/ experiences are as follows:

Spanish school in Quito, Spanish in Cuenca, volunteer & travel Spanish

A bright open plan school which partially sells itself on its work in the community. We were provided with a run down of the school and its methods by the Scottish born owner. It seemed the most professionally run by far of the schools and was probably our second choice. What put me off was the open plan set up, which I felt I would find a bit distracting and, to a lesser extent, the ages of the teachers, who all seemed a little too young.

Simon Bolivar - Spanish Language Schools in Ecuador

We spent only about 3 minutes in this school before leaving. The person we spoke to seemed to be not at all interested in answering any questions and just wanted to give us a few brochures and get us on our way ( maybe because it was lunchtime?)

Cristobal Colon Spanish School - Be inspired

Other Spanish schools were not complimentary about this place ( I won't go into detail) but we went anyway as we had read lots of good TA reports. Again the place was open plan and from what we saw the teachers were again, quite young. As we were looking for if not, properly qualified teachers, then certainly those with experience, this was a concern. When we asked the owner about this he didn't really have any answers. This was the cheapest of the schools which begs the question as to how well paid the teachers are?

Two things concerned us about this place:

The poster in reception offering 2 hours of free lessons to anyone posting a positive review on Trip Advisor and,

In the handout pack on vocabulary etc. the page devoted to the crudest sexual phrases and obscenities. Useful for some, no doubt but to put it in their promotional pack - I don't think so! I am no prude but even I found it offensive!

We did try to find Terracentro Spanish School as recommeded by the DE here but unfortunately, after searching and asking around for 30 mins we still couldn't find it and gave up.

http://la-lengua.com/

We spent a while chatting with the director and a couple of the teachers at La Lengua all of whom were older and more experienced than the other places we visited and we warmed to them immediately and decided that, although they were a fair distance from The club, they were the school for us. There was a bit of discussion around which teachers we would get and (I specifically wanted a teacher who spoke reasonable English ) and we agreed a programme for the next few weeks.

Our time there was not without incident, a slight lack of direction at times and a tendency to digress from the planned program from time to time. A couple of times we had to change teachers because of illness etc., but nothing too disastrous.

We both got on well with our respective teachers and made good progress over the three weeks we studied.After a couple of weeks, I decided that I had had enough of grammar and vocabulary and asked for more specific focus on "travellers Spanish" which worked well for me.

We started off with 4 hours per day study but after a week and a half or so decided to reduce to 2 hours a day as we found that we were running out of steam halfway through the lesson.

We supplemented our school study with a great website http://www.studyspanish.com/ which helped a lot with revision etc.

Don't be afraid to ask for exactly what you want in terms of programme, teacher experience, fluency in your native tongue etc. Immersion teaching methods work for some but not for me, at least in the beginning when I found being able to query stuff in English to be essential. Teacher experience and maturity count for a lot and, most importantly someone who speaks Spanish clearly and SLOWLY ( at least at first) helped me immensely..

The actual link for responses and comments is:

https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowTo..._Province.html
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Dec 24th, 2018, 06:47 AM
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huentutu and Mlgb - good to know your experience of Chilean Spanish was the same as mine - I was beginning to think it was just me! Also agree with the Mexican Spanish. We are coming to the end of 7 weeks in Mexico and have lost count of the number of blank expressions on both side of te conversations we have had here!
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Dec 24th, 2018, 10:53 AM
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LOL Huentetu and crellston. Two anecdotes.. On my first visit to Chile, the lodge owners where I stayed in Punta Arenas were English teachers, thank goodness. One commented that the poorest person in Peru speaks better "castellano" than the richest person in Chile.

Another time in Cuenca Ecuador I went to a concert where a Chilean musician (Freddy Torrealba) was speaking before he played and the audience was not reacting at all. Finally he said "You all don't understand me, do you?" Everyone laughed. I got the joke, too.

If you are looking for some pleasant mid-sized cities with good potential for Spanish immersion Cuenca would be an option. I also like the coffee belt in Colombia (even Medellín for a larger city) but double check the weather..Colombia has a so-called "bimodal" rainy season. I was there in May and had some exciting thunderstorms. There are fewer touristy sights than the Peruvian Andes.. But great coffee!

Of course crellston and I share a love of Lima..but in July it will be foggy on the coast. It's high season for tourism in the Andes, though.
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Dec 25th, 2018, 04:16 PM
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Cuenca is a great suggestion. A lot to see in and around the city. Sucre in Bolivia is another option . A very pleasant city with a lot of language schools.

Another language anecdote.
I spent a couple of year learning Thai at weekly evening classes in a college close to my home and I got reasonably proficient. In order to expand my conversational skills , when travelling in Thailand I would often ask, in Thai - what is this/that etc. Pointing to a long thin orange vegetable on a market stall I asked lady what it was called. Very slowly and deliberately, she replied CAR ROT.
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Dec 25th, 2018, 04:45 PM
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LOL crellston.

I like Sucre and Bolivia. Bear in mind that if you are a US citizen you still need an expensive tourist visa and getting there maybe more expensive than other options. Cost of living should be reasonable once settled in. Sucre is a university town with a relatively mild climate. I would love to return.
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