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As seen in the Transitions Abroad 2010 Latin America Webzine Issue
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Language Study in Chile
Articles and Resources on Chile

Learning Spanish in Chile at a Santiago Language School

A Participant Report from the Manhattan of South America

Learning Spanish in Chile with Tandem in Santiago
The main avenue of Santiago, the Alameda.
Isabel studied Spanish at Tandem Santiago—in a city known as the South American version of Manhattan.

Arrival in Santiago

The plan had not been to stay in Chile for more than a day. In fact, in a certain sense, I was “obliged” to cross the Andes to come to Santiago from Mendoza. My tourist visa of 90 days in Argentina was expiring, and hopping over to Chile was to save me from any trouble with the authorities.

After a night of very little sleep—the winding bus ride interrupted by over an hour at the Argentinean/Chilean border—I arrived in Santiago at 5.30 a.m. The bags under my eyes weren’t the only reason I couldn’t see much of the city; it was still dark and I took a taxi directly to the hostel where I was to stay, La Casa Roja.

A couple hours later, I awoke to the growling sound of my hungry stomach. 10 a.m., and it was time that banks would open and I could withdraw money to buy breakfast.

The bustle of the Barrio de Brasil, with its plenitude of international restaurants, immediately caught my attention. And as I began speaking with some Chilean “Sanhattanites”—Santiago being the South American version of Manhattan—it became clear to me that the capital was worth more than a 1-day visit.

Ultimately, I decided to stay a while and complement my cultural exploration of Chile with Spanish language classes at Tandem Santiago.

Tandem is a global network of schools, offering language courses of all levels, along with activities, excursions and other educational events. The reason I chose the school is because it is associated with the Instituto Cervantes and offers specific preparation for the D.E.L.E. exam, but all types of language instruction are offered. Even though most students sign up for classes well before their arrival in the city, Tandem Santiago is very flexible. I emailed Tandem regarding classes on Tuesday, took a written placement test the same evening, and started classes the next day! Granted, I was taking private lessons, though joining a group class would also have been possible. Moreover, I had arranged my own arrival and accommodation; if you want Tandem to pick you up from the airport and/or book you a place to stay, whether that is a home stay, hotel, hostel, shared or private apartment, you should book in advance. (For useful links to arrange your own accommodation, see the bottom of the page.)

The Spanish School and the Classes

The Tandem Santiago school is located in a university neighborhood, also very close to the colorful Barrio de Bellavista, which you will undoubtedly get to know if you enjoy nightlife. The school itself is well-kept and offers a good learning environment; in addition to equipped classrooms, there is a computer lab, study area, and patio available for student use.

The quality of the classes will, of course, depend upon your interest, your teacher and if applicable, the other students in the class. My experience with Ramón, a friendly and energetic Chilean, was very positive. He answered not only my grammatical questions, but also educated me on Chilean customs and history. (A quick point to keep in mind: if you are trying to learn the type of Spanish spoken in Spain, make sure to request a teacher of Spanish origin; Chileans tend to swallow the ends of words and have different expressions in general.)

Due to the nature of private classes, I was able to shape my curriculum according to my needs, the main reason I had signed up for individual instruction in the first place. Arranging additional classes was also quite flexible; though take into account that group classes usually take place in the morning from 9 a.m.-12 p.m., while private classes are scheduled after lunch, from 2.30 p.m. onwards.

In between and after class, you can participate in voluntary activities. There is a weekly lunch to get to know other students, in addition to an intercambio during which you can practice your newly acquired language skills. Trips to museums and other institutions of importance are also part of the weekly program. And if you can’t get enough of the Chilean life, salsa classes and excursions to other parts of Chile are offered at reasonable prices. 

And speaking of prices, the cost of classes is also in proportion to that of other schools. The initial registration fee is US$52 — (you only pay this once) and then US$22 per private class (45 minutes). Group classes are less expensive, and then there are specific rates for special courses, such as a 10-week D.E.L.E. prep course, which is US$225. There are many other options for length and type of Spanish courses Tandem.

There are even internships offered all over Chile via Tandem, usually requiring a decent knowledge of Spanish, if you are so inclined. Please see their website for more information.

Still Looking for More?

What is great about Tandem is its global network of schools. You can transfer easily between the Tandem schools internationally and continue your studies elsewhere, such as Argentina, Peru, Uruguay, or countries in Europe such as Spain, France, Italy, and Germany. In most cases, you don’t need to pay the registration fee a second time, and may even have a discount on further classes! All this just makes you want to keep learning.... 

For More Information

Language Schools in Santiago

Tandem Santiago

Natalis Language Center

Both of the above offer D.E.L.E. preparation.

Accommodations in and around Santiago

First of all, Tandem offers its own homestays and apartment accommodations, at varying levels of price, and they are worth checking out.

Comparto Depto: literally means “shared apartment,” but you can also find private apartments here. There are no fees since you contact the owner directly.

Craigslist: Click on the Santiago section. Likewise, there are no fees to rent apartments.

Before you find a longer-term apartment, hostels are an option. La Casa Roja is one recommended option. You could even offer to work there (usually 18 hours/week in exchange for free accommodations). If you are looking for a place closer to the Tandem school, check out Pure Lounge Hostel or Footsteps.

For longer-term rentals in and around Santiago, check out Andes Properties which offers modern apartments more on the luxury side starting at about $700 for a 1-bedroom.

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