Home to the Inca Empire, Peru is a country that is known for its multi-ethnic background, diverse climate conditioned by the Andes Mountains, and a lil’ some ‘em called Machu Picchu. Peru is a great destination for language study in Latin America for those who want to acquire Spanish language skills in a new context. Peru’s mixture of indigenous culture and Spanish influence can be found in everything from its food to its architecture. City and urban dwellers alike will find comfortable options for language study in Peru. Whether you want to master Spanish or tackle Quechua is up to you!
Peru has a variety of cities, towns, and villages offering plenty of opportunities to improve your language skills. Whether you want to live in a populous city like Lima or immerse yourself in a rural community like Urubamba, there are many different places to brush up on your Spanish skills or learn the indigenous language of Peru.
Lima is the capital of Peru and rests upon the country’s Pacific coast. It is the second driest metropolis in the world, after Cairo, Egypt, and can therefore be recognized by its barren hillsides. Known for its cuisine, Lima hosts an annual food festival that should not be missed as well as an impressive farmers market showcasing a range of fresh ingredients. Once your stomach is full and you’ve learned the names of every possible dish, you’ll be able to visit Lima Plaza Mayor, the Lima Cathedral, or the Government Palace to practice your Spanish language skills outside the classroom.
Cusco is a city in the Peruvian Andes and the gateway to many famous sites and regions throughout the country. As a well-known world heritage site, Cusco is the most visited city in Peru. Though it has a very different landscape than Lima, Cusco provides an equally vibrant and colorful experience for language study in Peru. Well-preserved colonial architecture and Spanish influence can be seen in juxtaposition to the Inca culture in Cusco. Whether you are interested in learning Spanish or Quechua, Cusco is a city that will allow you to improve your language skills immensely.
Urubamba. Located in the Sacred Valley, Urubamba is just an hour from Cusco along the Urubamba River. Home to sacred ruins, not the least of which is the infamous Machu Picchu, Urubamba is no stranger to international travelers. Despite being a popular travel hub, Urubamba remains a small village that doesn’t feel much like a tourist destination. With a strong influence from indigenous groups, Urubamba is a popular choice for language study in Peru among those who want to experience the Peruvian way of life in a tranquil, traditional setting.
Language Programs in Peru
Spanish is the national language and therefore the most popular language of study in Peru. Although, Quechua, Peru’s other official language which is spoken by indigenous groups throughout South America, can also be studied at various language schools in Peru. Aside from choosing a language, aspiring participants will also need to choose a structure and institution for their language studies.
Language Schools play host to the greatest number of language programs in Peru. Those who choose to attend a language school in Peru will typically take classes in a traditional classroom setting and attend a set number of lessons each week. Language schools in Peru also encourage students to immerse in the local culture outside the classroom, in order to improve language acquisition and speaking skills. The social aspect of attending a language school in Peru alongside other international students will increase opportunities to practice will fellow language learners and experiment with new language skills in everyday life.
Language Courses Combined with Community Service. Participating in language programs in Peru that combine language courses with service projects will allow you to improve your language fluency while familiarizing yourself with Peruvian culture directly through volunteer work. The biggest difference between these programs and attending a language school in Peru is that excursions or field trips are replaced with volunteer opportunities. Contributing to service projects will help you build an even stronger foundation of speaking skills, all while having a positive impact on local communities and working closely with the local people.
University-Based Courses. Studying at a Peruvian universidad is another type of language program opportunity in Peru. It is important to note that Quechua is not likely to be offered as a language of study by local universities. If you are interested in studying Spanish in Peru, whether you want to work toward fluency or simply build a foundation in the language, studying at a Peruvian university is a beneficial way to earn credit and get experience interacting with local students and professors.
Scholarships & Costs
Available scholarship opportunities will vary depending on the type of program you choose, but most language programs in Peru offer some type of financial aid or scholarship opportunities for participants. There are many other ways to fund language study abroad in Peru. For example, you can request support from family and friends, whether in person or online (through fundraising sites like FundmyTravel).
Although Lima and Cusco have the highest cost of living in Peru, overall Peru is an affordable country to live in, especially by American standards. The currency of Peru is the Nuevo Sol, and the exchange rate is around 2.55 Nuevo Sol to $1. Food and local produce is very affordable, with most local products, such as apples, tomatoes, and orange, costing less than $1 per pound. Transportation is also very affordable, a one-way ticket on public land transport is usually around $.50. While the cost of living will vary depending on your choice of accommodation, overall Peru remains an affordable destination for language study abroad.
Accommodation & Visas
Living arrangements offered by language schools in Peru range from homestays to guest houses to apartments. Homestays are the most popular, and recommended, form of accommodation, as living with a local family will help you develop your language skills most greatly. Regardless of what type of housing you choose, your program provider or language school should work with you to make finding a place to live as easy as possible.
A visa is not required to attend language programs in Peru if you are from the U.S., U.K., Canada, or Australia. Students can simply enter the country as a tourist and then inform the consulate how long they will be staying in Peru. Tourist visas are valid for a maximum of 183 days. If your language program is longer than 183 days, you will likely be able to obtain a student visa.
Benefits & Challenges
More than Machu Picchu. Language programs in Peru will not only give you the chance to see some of the most famous Inca ruins in the world, you will also have the chance to see many other sides of the country. From the coasts to the mountains, there is plenty of beauty beyond the sacred site of Machu Picchu worth exploring.
Projects & Proficiency. Peru gives aspiring Spanish speakers the unique opportunity to not only learn a new language, but also give back to local communities through volunteer work. As you become more comfortable speaking Spanish, or Quechua, you will also be able to see the lasting impact you are making on locals in your host city.