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FAQ's About Spanish Language Schools in Latin America

Traveling to a country where you don't speak the language can be scary, but it's also a great adventure. Here's a quick review of some of the most frequently asked questions about Spanish language schools.

What are the choices?

Many schools in Latin America and Spain not only teach foreigners the Spanish language but provide an immersion experience as well. Some are run in conjunction with a university; others are less formal. Reservations can be made ahead of time or at the door. Note that some countries and cities like Quito, Ecuador, and Antigua, Guatemala, have more schools than others.

Why should I study abroad?

Cultural and language immersion is an excellent way of learning and retaining a living language while learning about the culture.

Where should I study?

There are so many choices that the decision about where to go may seem overwhelming. First, choose the country where you'd like to learn. Then choose by the city and school. How to find the best school? Ask! Get recommendations from friends, write or call the schools directly for details and a short list of former students for you to contact. Best of all, visit.

What are the characteristics of a good Spanish language school?

Personal attention. You don't want to be treated like a number. The better schools offer family stays and cultural outings. In other words, they offer immersion into the local culture as well as the language. Some of my favorite schools donate a percentage of their income to social projects and offer the students an opportunity to volunteer or link up with worthwhile projects in the host country. Another sign of a good school is original study materials for the student to use immediately as well as after returning home.

What should I expect to learn?

This depends on your commitment. If you can only afford a week, at the least you'll be a better prepared for your travels; if you can devote more time, you'll have a greater command of the language. Many language vacationers use the school as a base and venture out from there—often with their tutors alongside them.

What do I need to take with me?

If you are combining education with travel, make sure you cover the bases. Bring the appropriate clothes, travel necessities (camera, guidebooks, medicine), and a bilingual dictionary.

Where do I live?

Many schools offer homestays with local families. You can also arrange your own lodging or live in an apartment or hotel. Consult a guidebook or ask the school officials to get a good idea of what lodging typically costs.

How do I know if a school is right for me?

The best bet is to select a school on prior recommendations. A school's reputation is worth more than all of the advertising in the world. If you have any doubts, don't commit yourself to more than a week of classes. If you can, visit the school and talk with the teachers and students. The best advice is to let the director of the school and your teacher know what you'd like to accomplish—is it survival Spanish or do you have more specific goals. They will be happy to accommodate your needs if you let them know what your needs are.

Can I get university credit for classes taken abroad?

Many schools offer credit transfers. Ask your college first.

What are the pros and cons of using an agency instead of arranging schooling with an individual school?

On the plus side, an agency can handle international payments—many accept credit cards—and it offers an international point of contact. On the downside, many agencies require you to prepay before starting a program and some charge a registration fee.

How long are typical language courses?

Courses can last from one day to several months. Most schools encourage students to take at least one week of classes and preferably two or three weeks for maximum benefit. As always, it depends upon your abilities and needs.