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Learn Spanish in Antigua, Guatemala

A Language School Is a Good Excuse to Spend More Time

After squeezing our dusty, tired bodies out of the bright red camioneta, or “chicken bus,” that carried us from Guatemala City, my friend and I found immediate comfort in the tranquility of Sunday morning Antigua. With richly-colored buildings lining our cobblestone path, we made our way to La Union, the Spanish school where we had reserved just two days before.

We stepped through a doorway in the yellow wall of la Avenida Sur and walked into a lush garden and courtyard filled with small tables for personal instruction. A member of the school’s staff welcomed us and introduced us to the host family we would be staying with for the week. Anna and Carlos were kind and welcoming, helping us as we struggled through our first conversations. After unpacking and spending several afternoon hours wandering through the streets, I was thoroughly enamored with Antigua.

On Monday morning I began classes and found my teacher to be friendly, flexible, and engaging. Before traveling to Guatemala, I had volunteered with a non-profit organization in Belize where I worked on women’s development issues. My teacher and I held a remarkably intense 2-hour conversation (remarkable because of my dismal Spanish) on the cultural, political, and religious factors that contribute to domestic violence against women.

Since I had chosen to study for six hours a day, the school offered the option of a second teacher in the afternoon so I could hear different accents and receive varied instruction. My second teacher was just as great as the first and by 3 p.m. my head was swimming with verb conjugations.

Spending the twilight hours in a café reading or studying became a daily routine, the perfect prelude to either a film at one of the local cinemas or a night out at one of the plentiful downtown bars.

Even though I only studied for one week, my Spanish improved significantly and I feel confident in relying on it during my travels. La Union offered flexibility in terms of study. You could choose between two and seven hours of study a day, and the school worked to create a convivial atmosphere by sponsoring activities such as tours and salsa lessons.

There are numerous Spanish schools in Antigua and most offer a similar experience at a similar price. (Prices vary from 20 hours of instruction per week in the morning for $95 or $70 for the afternoon to 35 hours of study per week for $125; a week-long homestay with a Guatemalan family cost $60. Ask about discounts and specials.) Most also offer the option of staying with a host family, which includes three meals a day and extra Spanish practice as well as a more intimate view of Guatemalan life. The schools cater to your level and respect your input on lessons. If you plan to stay in the area for several weeks or longer there are also many volunteer opportunities, either through the school or other organizations.

Learning Spanish in Antigua, surrounded by volcanoes and filled with beautiful colonial buildings and a rich history is a good excuse to spend more time there.

For more information: Contact: La Union, 1a Avenida Sur #21, Antigua, Guatemala;

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