The Escuela Scoop: Why Spanish Language Schools in Nicaragua are Central America’s Best Bargains
|León is a youthful, cultured city in which to learn the language.
It is no secret that the best way to learn to speak Spanish is full immersion—go abroad, live with a non-English-speaking family, take classes every day, study, practice, make mistakes, then repeat these last three steps until your brain feels like refried beans. Nicaragua is a prime location for your language-learning travails: A cheap and safe nation where for about US$200 a week, you will get 20 hours of instruction, room and board with a family, trips, and activities. In comparison, a similar program in Spain would cost at least $500 a week.
With few exceptions, most schools follow the same basic structure involving a combination of language instruction and cultural immersion activities. That means two to four hours of class in the morning, followed by community service activities or field trips in the afternoon. Most schools are flexible and offer one-on-one instruction, or teachers best suited to your Spanish level, even if your only word is “hola.”
To a certain extent, your choice of Spanish school in Nicaragua is more a question of geographical preference as anything else. Prices quoted below are subject to change, and note that at any school, the more weeks you commit to, the lower your weekly rate drops. Most schools provide airport pickups if requested.
Spanish Schools in Granada
Catering primarily to international university students but welcoming all, Casa Xalteva Education and Cultural Center (011-505/2552-2436), has been delivering intensive Spanish language training since 1995. Casa Xalteva, a non-profit education for sustainable development project, also includes an education shelter for disadvantaged youth which is fully funded by your tuition. 20 hours of one-on-one lessons US$150/week + US$90/week for homestay (paid directly to the family), with a stress on volunteer activities; highly recommended by former students, located in a quiet location in a historic colonial home. The school was recently featured in the gorgeous documentary short film.
Mariposa Spanish School
Study Spanish in the cool, breezy hills just south of the capital, only an hour away from Managua or Granada, in a countryside setting that feels more remote than it actually is. Mariposa Spanish School offers one-on-one instruction, six grammar levels from beginner to advanced, as well as interactive courses for children. The grounds include stunning gardens, an animal rescue project, and a comfortable, solar-powered eco-hotel. The school provides a full menu of local activities, homestay option, service opportunities, and day trips. Afternoon discussions teach about the history, culture, politics of Nicaragua, or sign up for salsa dancing and cooking classes. US$300 per week gets you 20 hours of formal Spanish classes; private room with en-suite bathroom (solar powered hot water); 3 meals per day; all afternoon and weekend day activities; and use of library. La Mariposa is non-profit and income goes to support a wide range of community and environment projects.
|One-on-one intensive classes are offered at many schools, including here at Mariposa Spanish School.
If you would really like to get out there and get a taste of campesino farming life, consider studying Spanish at Hijos del Maíz Escuela de Español Campesina, an off-the-paved-highway experience in the village of El Lagortillo, in the northern province of Estelí, for only US$130 a week.
Laguna de Apoyo
Another school that feels remote, but is actually only a few miles from Granada, Proyecto Ecologico is situated in a lakeside lodge in the crater of an ancient volcano, at the edge of a gorgeous blue lagoon. The spot is incredible, only an hour from Managua, less to Granada, yet still tucked away in its own green world. This is one of the longest-running schools in the country. Lodging and food are excellent; students are placed in a one-on-one and/or group learning context (max. 4 per teacher) for five hours per day, five days per week. One week costs US$190, includes classes, activities, room and board in their lodge. The weekend program has Spanish classes Saturday and Sunday, with all meals included, and room Saturday night. The school is operated by the non-profit Nicaraguan Foundation for Integral Community Development.
Want to time your studies to coincide with Nicaragua's coffee harvest, between December and February? Then enroll in the Matagalpa Spanish School (located Del Banpro, media cuadra al este, email@example.com, Tel. 011-505/2772-0108). They’re actually open year-round and will show you Nicaragua's great green north while teaching you Spanish for $90 to $120 a week, depending on the amount of instruction. They offer a package entitled “Getting to know Matagalpa and our Culture.” Create your own weekly class schedule and know that hiking and culture tours around the area are immediately available. Inquire about work exchanges, in which can teach English to their instructors and tour guides, or translate documents in exchange for Spanish classes.
San Juan Del Sur
This is the only beach setting with a selection of Spanish schools, so you can go to class all morning and surf all afternoon. San Juan del Sur Spanish School (tel. 011/505/2568-2432) has one of the best locations in town: across from the bank and right on the beach! They offer all-inclusive packages for US$195/week; very experienced teachers with very effective methods.
Spanish Ya (tel. 011-505/8898 5036, located 100 meters north of the Texaco station) offers Spanish immersion programs for beginners, intermediate, and advanced Spanish students, from $190 per week, which includes 20 hours of classes, homestay in private rooms, and afternoon activities. All teachers have more than 4 years teaching Spanish as second language.
One of the best deals around and easy to recommend is Doña Rosa Silva's Spanish School (tel. 011/505/621-8905, firstname.lastname@example.org), offering four hours of daily instruction, up to six days a week for US$100--plus US$60 for a homestay; several of her students had nothing but good things to say.
Latin American Spanish School (tel. 011-505/8820-2252) is a recent start-up headed by a half dozen entrepreneurial and professional Nicaraguan Spanish instructors with, on average, over eight years' experience teaching foreigners. They offer a basic 20-hour instruction and activity package for US$120, plus US$90/week for lodging with private bath and three meals a day.
If you are just rolling into this wonderful, youthful colonial city in the shadow of several volcanoes, stop by the Casa de Cultura for a listing of available Spanish language classes. If you’d like to arrange something in advance, consider one of the following:
Vapues Tours (tel. 011/505/2315-4099) offers intensive, full-immersion one-on-one Spanish classes, especially aimed at improving the student's practical communication skills. An experienced local teacher will help you improve your Spanish and you will get to know the city of León and its inhabitants at the same time. Packages are also possible, visiting several Nicaraguan cities and receiving class in each of them. Day tours can be booked directly at the Vapues Tours office. Prices for a week, including lodging in a private room with a local family and 20 hours of one-on-one class (8-12 AM), start at US$180 per week.
Another excellent choice in León is Metropolis Spanish School (tel. 011-505/8932-6686), located just one block north of the Cathedral, and operating since 2005. They offer a full package with homestay and cultural activities for US$180 a week, or hourly instruction.
Viva Spanish School (located "del FNI, 2 cuadras al sur, Barrio La Luz," tel. 011-505/2270-2339) offers intensive one-on-one classes (20 hrs per week) to students of all ages and backgrounds; one week of instruction, including all materials is US$90–175. The school also offers evening classes for people who live and work in Managua (4 hrs per week), online classes via Skype, and a two-week package that includes time in Granada. Modules of study are available for missionaries, medical students and businesspeople, covering specialized vocabulary in each area; also advanced courses, tourist Spanish, a Literature Class, and a specially developed Children’s Program which includes games, art and other activities.