Put off by the high prices and sophisticated lisps of Spain, hundreds of thousands of eager-to-learn travellers flock across oceans every year in search of the best places to learn Spanish in South and Central America. Some are here for a rundown of survival basics or for a quick booster for their rusty Spanish, whereas others are committed to settling down for months to master this beautiful language.
While the basics in Spanish are very easy to pick up, to get to an advanced level or fluency is really tough in a language with so many conjugations & tenses (hello, both versions of the imperfect subjunctive) and oftentimes odd ways of going about saying things. It’s therefore important that you give yourself a fighting chance with a good place to study. These are what we consider the top 3 best places to learn Spanish in Latin America, including average starting costs for Spanish courses there:
Learning Spanish in Sucre, Bolivia
The constitutional capital of Bolivia, Sucre is alive with Spanish schools offering excellent rates for private or group classes, plus very low costs of living. You can expect to find an hour of private tutoring with a qualified teacher to cost 40-50Bs (£4-5), and discounts should be offered on bulk bookings. Because of this, Sucre is a real hub for Spanish-learning backpackers, so there’s always people to meet and places to go. On top of that, the Spanish spoken in Bolivia is generally very slow-paced and clear, perhaps because for much of the country’s population the first language is actually Quechua. Don’t worry though, you’ll still be learning ‘real’ Spanish.
Learning Spanish in Antigua, Guatemala
Again, another hub for Spanish courses. You’ll find many people here staying in hostels long-term, or finding homestays so that they can absorb as much of the language as possible. Again, the accent is clear and chilled enough to understand. The city itself has so much to offer, so you’ll always be able to find a quirky (and cheap!) coffee shop to study in. Prices for a 1-to-1 hour session in Antigua tend to be in the region of 60-80 Quetzales (~£6-8) depending on the school, with discounts on booking in bulk. Lots of students also use nearby Lake Atitlán as a place to learn Spanish. The lake town of San Pedro in particular has a wealth of cheap Spanish schools and homestays to help you pick up the language.
Learning Spanish in Medellín, Colombia
Is there anything this city can’t do?! We recommend Medellín not only for its popularity for Spanish courses, but also for its incredible buzz. The city is full of friendly people that are usually more than happy to have a conversation with you, giving you ample opportunities to practice what you’ve learnt. You’ll find some bigger schools here, which is always good for meeting people, taking part in immersive workshops and making the most of your trip. Prices for private Spanish classes in Medellin normally start at around 70,000COP (~£18) depending on the school, with discounts on booking Spanish courses in bulk. Medellín is the most expensive of the three options for best places to learn Spanish in Latin America, but it makes up for it in energy and the sheer number of things to do there.
Where not to learn Spanish in South America
Although we know some people who have had awesome experiences studying and/or working in these countries, we personally would not recommend Uruguay, Argentina or Chile, unless you have a particular desire to settle there longer term. This is mainly due to the accents in Uruguay and Argentina, which can throw even a native speaker off (the most prominent factor is ‘y’ and ‘ll’ being pronounced as ‘sh’, which causes all sorts of confusion – “como se shama la plasha amarisha”, for example). In Uruguay, it almost sounds like people are speaking Spanish with a Brazilian accent. The accent in Chile is easier to understand, but they tend to slur a lot of words in a quick sentence, and their level of slang usage is second to none. Who’s up for a challenge?