I'm down Mexico way sussing out the Spanish schools that may help me improve my terrible grasp of that lingo, and I've concluded from my brief (thus far) research that gorgeous Guanajuato is a great place to attend language school, with several "official" options as well as a multitude of folks ready to privately tutor, too, for $20-35/hour. I've been spending some of my days at Escuela Mexicana this week, a pretty adequate place in a pretty city with friendly folk from everywhere attending. What I've always heard has turned out to be true: in order to get the most out of one's time while doing this, one should be able to speak a little of the lingo before attending a short-term language school like Escuela Mexicana. I've got background high school and college study in romance languages (French and Italian), which helps when learning another romance language, and I've made attempts to study Spanish before -- classes at my local community college, attending intercambio, lots o' travel in Latin America, watching dubbed movies ('kay, kinda kidding about that last part, but kinda not). Interestingly (since I had always heard Guanajuato was a big language-study destination), I've heard less of other languages than I expected (English and French being what I thought I would find). Including from our teachers. My first day of class didn't go so well, as our vocabulary teacher spoke almost no English. I got what we were doing about twenty minutes into the first hour of class, and after two hours with her, felt like I had learned nothing -- not even what the syllabus would be, for instance. I've now arranged for private classes for me and my companion with a teacher who speaks some English, and our week will consist of grammar with other students and one-on-two lessons in vocabulary for travelers -- I've only got a week in school here, and want to get lots for my money; immersion isn't going to cut it for me on such a short-term basis. Why They Come It's cool that this cute colonial city has a young vibe; it's packed with students -- most are from Mexico, probably studying at the university here, but many have come from around the globe, hoping for keys to unlock their Spanish here at Escuela Mexicana, a local school, or Don Quijote, another short-term Spanish school but with locations in South America and Spain as well as Guanajuato. Among my classmates, I've met two graphic artists on a year's Latin America sabbatical from Boulder, CO, a UK office manager gal who's been traveling Mexico before hitting Cuba, a retired geologist from Quebec who just bought a house in Guanajuato, and a 20-year-old vagabond guy-around-town from Canada who's doing Mexico for several months before moving on to Guatemala. What they all have in common: they arrived in Mexico with some Spanish skills (Zach has been in-country for four months and been talking the talk; Natalie has been studying on her own; the couple took a course like Pimsleur; and so on), found upon arrival that they needed more language knowledge than they'd anticipated in order to get around, and made their ways to Guanajuato because they'd heard it was the place to be for language school in Mexico. A short term solution like Escuela Mexicana is perfect. Ann, on the other hand, is at Escuela Mexicana for three months, and wishes now that she had enrolled in the University of Guanajuato instead; the short-term schools, she says, offered her more flexibility, though. In between classes, I'll be exploring this lovely little town: plenty of touristy things to do and see and lots of good coffee. I'll be practicing my lame Spanish at the many sidewalk cafes, and in the promising-looking mercado, where I've spied a whole lotta things I want to eat. I'll keep you posted on whether I think you should come on down and practice your own Espanol among these tree-lined plazas.
Part Two: Se Hablo Espanol...Sort Of
- Spanish Schools in San Miguel de Allende
- Learning the Lingo
- Yo Suis Perdu"
- Langauge Travel