A Guide To Learning Spanish in Spain
Learning a new language isn’t typically all fun and fiestas. It can take years to master the grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation necessary to communicate fluently in a second language. However, by taking Spanish language courses in Spain, students can learn through fun and fiestas. In fact, language immersion programs are actually the best way to learn Spanish in Spain, allowing students to practice their Spanish in almost every part of daily life. Admit it: sipping sangria, sitting in a picturesque plaza, and hopping between ferias sounds a lot more stimulating than flipping through a dusty textbook, ¿no?
Often referred to as La Furia Roja (The Red Fury), Spain is sure to welcome students with its bright architecture, laid-back lifestyle, and delicious local dishes. While the Spanish culture is distinctly warm and spirited, each region of Spain has its own special flare that will warm any studious heart.
Madrid is the perfect combination of modern, big city living with the preserved beauty of the historic plazas and streets. Thanks to the Castilian Spanish dialect spoken in Madrid, accents aren’t prevalent, which makes it easier to participate in conversations and order a bowl of cocido madrileño. The city has a large student population, tons of museums, and a great nightlife, so students can enjoy a day at the Prado Museum followed by a night at the discoteca for informal Spanish lessons in Madrid. However, there is a price to pay for all this glamourous living; Madrid is one of the more expensive places to learn Spanish in Spain, so students are advised to create a budget and find some free gems along the way. That shouldn’t be hard, however, with the Retiro Park, numerous fountains, cultural fairs, and outdoor concerts scattered throughout the city.
Seville, referred to as the cultural capital of southern Spain, offers Spanish language learners the chance to truly immerse themselves in Spanish traditions. This authenticity makes it an excellent choice for Spanish language programs in Spain. Whether wandering around the Plaza de Espana or spending an evening watching the famous flamenco dancers, you’re sure to get a great feel for Spanish culture in Seville. Sevillanos are known to talk fast and have a strong accent, but once you are able to communicate with locals here, it will feel even more rewarding.
Valencia is situated on the Mediterranean Sea, with easy access to both Madrid and Barcelona. The Spanish dialect in Valencia is a mix between Catalan Spanish (similar to the unique accent found in Barcelona) and Castilian Spanish that is spoken in Madrid. The city’s proximity to the sea gives students plenty of sunshine and beach time, without losing access to all the cultural activities and events offered in bigger cities. For some extra comprehension practice, sign up for a paella cooking class to learn all about this famous dish that originated in Valencia.
For a more authentic immersion experience, consider Spanish language courses in smaller towns that pack a punch. Salamanca is a university city that claims to have the perfect Spanish accent, while the Mediterranean city of Cadiz is cheap, non-touristy, and absolutely gorgeous. Not only do off-the-beaten-road destinations give you more opportunities to interact with locals, instead of fellow international students, but these locations will also show you the authentic nooks and crannies of a nation that is much more than stereotypical beach towns and bull fights.
Whether it’s for your resume, a future job, or simply travel, learning Spanish in Spain is the perfect way to become fluent and confident talking with native Spanish speakers. Polish your grammatical structures, practice profusely, and dive headfirst into the social and historical contexts of this majestic language through Spanish language programs in Spain.
The most structured Spanish language courses in Spain are offered through universities. In addition to frollicing around college campuses, there’s additional motivation to study hard, as successful completion of university Spanish courses in Spain may be transferred to your home university for official college credit. Spanish language courses at the university level tend to have higher costs, but direct enrollment in a local university can also lower some costs. Taking Spanish language courses in Spain in a university setting can also include excursions, extracurricular activities, academic supplies, and sometimes even accommodation; all of these inclusions can add up to a good deal, so review carefully what is included behind every price tag!
Aspiring Spanish speakers often take courses offered by Spanish language schools in Spain, which provide a variety of courses to suit students interests and goals. Course schedules and the required time commitment vary greatly between schools, with class hours customizable and enrollment often on a weekly basis. Many Spanish language schools in Spain offer intensive programs that meet every day of the week for organized lessons. Social and cultural events that give students the chance to experience the country firsthand while meeting a few amigos are also commonly included. Language exchanges can usually be arranged through Spanish language schools in SPain, as well as group outings and end-of-the-week fiestas, just to keep things spicy.
Many Spanish language programs in Spain give students the option to live in a homestay. Living with a Spanish family allows students to get to know the culture in a whole new way, while also giving them the opportunity to practice their Spanish around the clock. Not to mention all of the delicious, home cooked meals that will be brought to the dinner table every day; if you want to steal a century-old family flan recipe, this is your chance.
Other than daily tapas and glasses of rioja, there are some distinct advantages to learning Spanish in Spain, instead of from a textbook.
Castilian Spanish is known as being closest to the textbook Spanish students learn in school. With this dialect of Spanish, they generally use the more casual form of vosotros/as, instead of ustedes. Not only is it easier to apply high school Spanish into the real world here, but the high standards of proper grammar and spelling in Spain make this a great location for all forms of the language. While spoken Spanish is exotic and beautiful across the ocean, there’s not much importance placed on writing or grammar, so it can be frustrating from a scholastic point of view.
One thing to keep in mind is the abundance of regional accents found throughout Spain. From Aranese in Catalonia and Basque on the northern coast to the widespread Catalan and dreamy Galician, there are strong variations in pronunciation and vocabulary from one coast to the other. Not only are there alterations in emphasis, intonation, and structure, but there might be new words entirely. Especially in the smaller towns, dialects are prevalent. But, fear not. Just like Don Quijote, you are on a mission to gain deeper understanding and conquer new lands, so tackle each region with a fresh mind.
¡Español por favor! Especially if opting to learn Spanish in Spain in a city like Madrid, or another big Spanish city, be prepared to hear quite a bit of English in more touristy areas. While it will be a challenge, force yourself to speak in Spanish and embrace all opportunities for cultural immersion. Afterall, that’s why you went to Spain!
Balance Your Budget. Some parts of the country can be pretty pricy, making it important for students to be money-conscious while attending Spanish language programs in Spain. Especially if living in a big city, take advantage of free activities to keep spending under control. If affordability is a major concern for you, keep in mind that smaller towns offer cheaper living costs and a richer immersion experience.
Spanish is the second most widely spoken language in the world, as the native language in more than 20 countries. Whether you’re inspired by travel, pursue a career abroad, or learn Spanish for personal reasons, learning Spanish in Spain makes language learning a far more meaningful experience (¡adiós, Rosetta Stone!). By the end of your Spanish language program in Spain, you’ll not only be able to communicate more confidently, but you’ll have plenty of good material to ramble on about to your new, Spanish-speaking buds.
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