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EDUCATION RESOURCES

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Spanish Language Schools
compiled by Ron Mader

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If you want to change the way people think, you can educate them, brainwash them, bribe them, drug them. Or you can teach them a few carefully chosen new words.
- Learning Notebook

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Is it time to learn Spanish?

In 1994 we created the web's first online Directory of Spanish Language Schools, a feature that remains one of the most popular on this site. By focusing on the schools where students can immerse themselves in language studies, the directory is a unique meeting place for the schools and potential students -- the newbies who are just figuring out they could learn Spanish in Latin America and Spain.

Schools that are featured in this directory are also pestered by Ron Mader to provide tips on regional eco travel and to keep us abreast of local happenings. These schools also have access to the Taller 21 Workshops.

For students, it's a matter of getting down to basics. The following are the answers to the most popular and frequently asked student questions:

What is a Spanish language school?
How long do courses last?
Why should I study abroad?
What level of language skills do I need?
Where should I study?
What are characteristics of a good language school?
What should I expect to learn?
What do I need to take with me?
Where do I live?
Should I live with a family?
How do I know if a school is right for me?
How do I know if a school is legitimate?
Can I get university credit for classes taken abroad?
What is not included in the program fee?

WHAT IS A SPANISH LANGUAGE SCHOOL?

There are many schools in Latin America and Spain that teach Spanish via an immersion experience. Experential learning is highly recommended as a way to acquire a living language as well as the culture of our world neighbors.

Some of these programs are run in conjunction with a university. Others are less formal and reservations are made at the door.

In the past 20 years have these schools really taken off. Some cities in particular have a great reputation for being such educational centers. For example, take a look at the positive cultural and economic role schools play in Oaxaca City, Mexico and Quito, Ecuador.

WHY SHOULD I STUDY ABROAD?

There are two good reasons. 1) You want to learn about another country. 2) You wish to be comfortable speaking and understanding the Spanish language. Experiential learning is fun and immersion learning -- using the language outside the classroom -- is an effective way to aquire new skills.

WHAT LEVEL OF LANGUAGE SKILLS DO I NEED?

Language schools offer programs at all levels, from beginners to more advanced levels with specialized skills.

HOW LONG DO COURSES LAST?

Courses can last from one day to several months. Most schools encourage students to take at least three weeks of classes for maximum benefit.

WHERE SHOULD I STUDY?

You decide! Since there are so many schools, the decision of where to go may seem overwhelming.

Choose the country first where you'd like to learn. Then choose by the city. Get recommendations from friends, write or call the school directly for details.

WHAT ARE CHARACTERISTICS OF A GOOD LANGUAGE SCHOOL?

Two words: personal attention. You don't want to be treated like a number. That said, most schools also have an established "program." They have been in the business of teaching Spanish longer than you have had in learning the language! Better schools offer cultural outings as well as a library or book exchange and bulletin board. In other words, they offer immersion into the local environs as well as the language.

Some of my favorite schools donate a percentage of their income to social projects and offer the students an opportunity to volunteer or link up with projects in the host country. Another good sign are original study materials, which the student can use to learn as well as brush up on the language after returning home.

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WHAT SHOULD I EXPECT TO LEARN?

This depends on your commitment and eagerness to learn the language. At least, you'll be better prepared for your travels. "Menu Spanish" is a perfect one-day workshop. If you want to devote more time, you'll have a greater command of the Spanish language. As with other things in life, you'll get out of the experience what you put into it.

WHERE DO I LIVE?

Many schools offer home stays with local families. You can also arrange your own lodging or choose to live in an apartment or hotel. Consult a guidebook to get a good idea of what lodging typically costs.

SHOULD I LIVE WITH A FAMILY?

If you wish to immerse yourself, live with a family.


WHAT DO I NEED TO TAKE?

If you are combining education with travel, make sure you cover the bases. Bring the appropriate clothes, travel necessities (camera, guidebooks, medicine) and a bilingual dictionary. We've prepared a travel checklist.

 

HOW DO I KNOW IF A SCHOOL IS RIGHT FOR ME?

Select a school on how well it appeals to you. If you are skeptical, you can also ask for recommendations. Most schools are willing to give you the email addresses of students.

A school's word of mouth reputation is worth more than all of the advertising in the world. If you have any doubts, don't commit yourself to more than a week of classes. If you can, visit the school and talk with the teachers and students.

The best advice is to let the director of the school and your teacher know what you'd like to accomplish - whether it's survival Spanish or if you have more specific goals. They will be happy to accommodate your needs if you let them know your needs.

HOW DO I KNOW IF A SCHOOL IS LEGITIMATE? I DON'T WANT TO END UP GETTING RIPPED OFF.

Post a query to a public forum or a site such as Facebook.

CAN I GET UNIVERSITY CREDIT FOR CLASSES TAKEN ABROAD?

Many schools offer credit transfers. Ask your college first.

WHAT IS NOT INCLUDED IN THE PROGRAM FEE?

Program fees do not include transportation, visas and departure taxes.

I WOULD LIKE TO LEARN SOME SPANISH BEFORE I GO. ANY SUGGESTIONS?

Preparation makes a good trip even better. Invest a few hours each week in learning a language's vocabulary. Buy a good dictionary.

What to read? Choose a newspaper from Mexico or links featured online the Latin America Media Project.


LEARN SPANISH


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