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Spanish Schools in San Miguel de Allende

...and some interesting things you need to know before you go

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San Miguel de Allende Cathedral at Sunset

San Miguel de Allende Cathedral at Sunset

© Kathleen Crislip
A few days, which is how long I spent in San Miguel de Allende in 2008, may be too little time to make this judgment, but I think you can safely give this town in Mexico's hilly country east-ish of Guadalajara a miss without worrying that you've missed too much. It's a little bit the sort of place your parents would visit their adventurous parents, who've retired there because US residents find SMA very comfortable for Norte Americanos. And it's beautiful, with sweet cobblestoned street charm being purposefully maintained, but there are many lovely scenes south of the border that are substantially less spendy. An expensive town populated by a significant number of expats or retired folks from elsewhere and second home owners (perhaps 70 percent of the 12-14,000 expats among about 80,000 SMA residents are reportedly from the US) is not necessarily a bad thing (though I don't know enough about the socio-economic ramifications of such a scenario to comment on it; maybe it's a very good thing)... it's just not the thing for many independent travelers.

English is the language I heard most often on SMA's streets; although this is Mexico's interior and one might expect to hear Spanish most often, there may be something to be said for being catered to in one's own language, and with the accouterments (like chains) to which one is accustomed at home, while in a foreign land... it may, for instance, mean it's a good place to learn Espanol in-country, as one of the things I learned while recently in language school in Guanajuato was that it helped immensely to have an instructor who knows a bit of one's own tongue when doing a short-term lingo-learning stint -- great timesaver to know what's being taught if you've only got a week or two and need to make every class hour count.

Language Schools in San Miguel de Allende Other enticements to learning Spanish in San Miguel de Allende might be the proliferation of diversions available to non-Spanish speakers -- movies and theater offerings in English, a bilingual library (Biblióteca Publico, apparently founded by expats), tours in English. In fact, should you choose to study here, you might want to ensure you pick a homestay for lodging, as you'll be guaranteed some Spanish immersion that way. A few of the language schools in San Miguel de Allende I've heard mentioned which may be worth a look:
  • Academia Hispano Americana - Semi-intensive and immersion Spanish programs with up to twelve students per class; diploma for six four-week sessions
  • Centro Mexicano de Lungua y Cultura de San Miguel - Survival, semi-intensive and intensive Spanish levels with up to eight students per class; must snail mail deposit
  • Instituto Allende - Four-week study cycles with up to 12 students per class; academic credit available
  • Instituto Habla Hispana - one-month terms (80 hours of intensive Spanish) with up to ten students per class; very reasonably priced
  • Warren Hardy Spanish - three-day weeks; a blurb on the website quoted from the Minneapolis Star Tribune reads: "Warren Hardy is the guru of Spanish for older adults."

The Conclusion Prices are high (though just reflecting what the market will bear -- many visitors think the town is a bargain), it's gorgeous, it's near some superlative sides of Mexico's colonial country... whether you'll like it certainly depends on what you seek. Theme parks (albeit with an artsy, affluent vibe), though, kept springing to mind for me in this cute colonial city, declared a national monument in 1926: the center of San Miguel de Allende is picture perfect -- a flawless representation of what visitors might want Mexico to be like at its crispest and most convivial. However, if you're in Guanajuato (where you'll find a cool collegiate scene) and want to make a circuit to Dolores Hidalgo and Queretaro or Salamanca, stop by San Miguel de Allende and see what life in Mexico would be like were it scripted by Hollywood.

More reading on San Miguel de Allende:

More on language study in Mexico:

Mexico Travel: Beginner's Guide to Mexico Travel | Pre-travel Mexico FAQ | Spring Break in Mexico | Mexico Photos

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