If you’re interested in perfecting a foreign language that you can use in over 31 countries, Spanish is a language that you’ll want to learn! Studies show that the best way to learn a language is through complete immersion, and it sure helps to be in an incredible location! If Spanish language acquisition is more important to you than gaining college credit, taking an intensive Spanish course abroad could be an affordable and focused way to quickly improve your language skills while having the free time to explore a new part of the world. On the other hand, Spanish study abroad programs are a great option for students interested in college credit too.
Great news: there are over one hundred location options for Spanish study abroad! This may seem a bit overwhelming though, so we’ve broken it down for you with some popular places to study Spanish abroad, specifically in Central America, South America, and Europe.
Mexico has hundreds of Spanish language programs in some very unique cities. Guanajuato and Oaxaca are popular destinations for learning Spanish in México, and neither city is as overwhelming or touristy as Mexico City, Puerto Vallarta, or Playa del Carmen. Mexico’s Spanish language programs even occasionally offer volunteer options and extracurricular activities, like soccer, conservation projects, or trips to ancient ruins. Did we forget to mention the food?! Mexico has some of the best cuisine and street food in the world.
If you’re looking to learn a very pure form of Spanish with minimal slang, Spanish programs in Guatemala would be a great choice. The natural beauty of this country is easily accessible from just about everywhere, not to mention this Central American country has active volcanoes, rainforest, Mayan ruins, and incredible sea snorkeling. Antigua is the most popular city to study Spanish in Guatemala, but you’ll also want to check out Xela as well as programs in the small towns surrounding Lake Atitlan. The Caribbean coast has much more to offer than just playa and turquoise sea.
In Colombia, individuals can choose from a variety of Spanish language courses in Barranquilla, which happens to host the famous Carnival festival in February! Whether you study Spanish in Colombia near the sea or in the Andes mountains, it is very easy and affordable to travel from town to town and get to know the country’s landscape and unique cities. Colombia also has a rich history of artists and writers; make sure to read some Gabriel Garcia Marquez novels prior to your trip!
Spain is one of the most popular destinations for Spanish language programs abroad, but it can be more expensive than its Latin American counterparts. If you’re interested in a completely immersive Spanish language experience, choose a less touristy town to learn Spanish abroad in, such as Salamanca, Burgos, Malaga, or Extremadura. Spain’s great transportation system makes it easy to get to the big, famous cities like Madrid and Barcelona so you can still get your fill of Gaudi and El Prado!
Spanish Language Programs Abroad
Spanish language programs span from basic language courses to robust cultural immersion programs, which may even include volunteer or internship components. If you are serious about Spanish language acquisition, it is best to choose a program that is longer than four weeks. Most classes provider 16-25 hours of Spanish courses per week, with both group and individual options. Be realistic about how much Español you’ll pick up during your Spanish studies abroad; the longer you stay, the more you’ll learn. The more you put yourself in situations where you have to speak Spanish, the better!
Summer immersion programs are the most popular type of Spanish programs abroad, as they work well with regular school schedules. If you choose to study Spanish abroad during the academic year, you can expect to be surrounded by far less international students, since it tends to be a slower time of the year.
Spanish learners will usually have the option to choose from credit-bearing language courses at a university alongside other international students or classes at Spanish language schools, where classmates will come from all ages and backgrounds. Spanish language programs that include college credit and a transcript will always be more expensive, but if you are already a university student, it will be well worth it! Program costs will also vary with program support level; if you are interested in on-site 24/7 emergency support, airport pickup, cultural activities, and accommodation, expect the price tag to be at least double that of a bare bones program that only includes coursework.
Intensive Spanish language courses typically have four main components: oral comprehension, listening, reading, and writing. If your main objective is to have conversations with local Spanish speakers and you don’t care as much about writing, choose a Spanish language program that focuses on conversation and find a language intercambio friend!
Tips for Gaining Spanish Fluency
Let’s be real. Learning a language is not easy; it takes most people years to feel comfortable understanding and speaking a new language. Luckily, English and Spanish share many common words, or cognates, so some words will already be familiar to you!
If you’re starting from scratch, it is recommended to take a minimum of eight weeks of Spanish language courses if you want to leave feeling like you will retain some of what you learned. If you already have an intermediate level of Spanish prior to studying Spanish abroad, four weeks to three months could be your ticket to getting to the next level of proficiency. Before you choose a Spanish language program abroad, make sure to go over your goals and understand what you want to get out of the program. In-country immersive language programs are best for those seeking accelerated speaking and listening comprehension skills.
The absolute most important thing to remember is that YOU are the one that will have the most impact on your language acquisition. If you choose to put yourself in situations where you will be speaking and listening to Spanish, you’ll learn much faster. Stay with a homestay, attend cultural events like plays, go to concerts in Spanish, and speak with vendors at the market. Avoid only hanging out with native English speakers or you’ll risk falling into the trap of going to another country only to speak English all the time. If you choose to travel in your host country or region, download some Spanish music or podcasts to listen to while you travel. You’ll be dreaming in Spanish sooner than you think!
Benefits & Challenges
There are incredible advantages to being multi-lingual: it can help you get a job in your preferred career, communicate with people from all over the world, and expand your mind in exciting ways!
Studying Spanish abroad will expedite your language learning capabilities through immersion that you simply cannot get in your home country. By studying through an all-inclusive Spanish program abroad, you’ll also be able to supplement your studies with enriching cultural and historical activities which give you a more well-rounded experience and understanding of your host country.
There are certain cultural norms that are typical of Spanish-speaking countries. Business will almost always move a lot slower than what you are used to, the waitstaff may take their time before they serve you, or you may be late for a meeting because public transportations rarely arrives on time. These experiences can be frustrating at times but they can also be a great excuse to strike up conversation with the local next to you and to practice your Spanish language skills!
Learning Spanish abroad will help you gain skills that will stay with you through life. Spanish is one of the most commonly spoken languages in the world and the intercultural communication skills that you’ll learn from living in another country will give you an advantage in the workplace, interpersonal relationships, and future adventures abroad!