México and Costa Rica are deservedly two of
America’s favorite tourist destinations and they also offer
a wealth of Spanish immersion opportunities
México is a vast (over 750 thousand square miles) and diverse country which defies generalization. However, the Mexican tourist board divides México into six regions:
Northern Known for its extreme weather conditions and characterized by its deserts, nature reserves and rugged mountain ranges. Some cities in the region are key industrial and business centers;
Central The heartland. Here you will find plenty of natural surroundings, picturesque towns full of life and color, and beautiful colonial cities, some of which have been declared World Heritage sites;
Southern and the Gulf Lined with the shores of the Gulf of México and the Pacific Ocean, this region offers an abundance of marshes, mangrove swamps and forests, all of which are ideal for ecotourism outings and exciting outdoor adventures;
Yucatán Peninsula The gateway to the Mayan world. Here you can enjoy the white-sand beach resorts and the blue waters of the Caribbean Sea, where you can scuba dive along the world’s second largest coral reef. You can also swim in fresh water pools in submerged caverns, known as cenotes;
Pacific Coast In this region, there are cities and towns with rich cultural and culinary traditions, as well as some of the best beaches for water sports like surfing and fishing;
Baja California Inhabited from time immemorial, this region is a sports playground, where you can also discover the underwater treasures of the Sea of Cortez, and witness the amazing migration of the gray whale.
Tourism has suffered in recent years due to the world economy and an increase in violence resulting from the government’s crackdown on gang activity. Recently, the number of violent incidences has dropped dramatically and the country looks like it is on its way back to becoming a tourist mecca. In any event, keep in mind that México is an expansive country and that incidences of violence have been largely isolated and a result of power struggles between rival gangs.
Schools in Central México
Querétaro Language School
The Querétaro Language School is new concept in learning Spanish. The campus is located in the heart of the UNESCO world heritage city in central México, and they focus on giving personal attention to each student, using the entire city as a classroom. QLS is an exclusive school that does not enroll more than 30 students at the same time to allow a personalized learning experience. At any one time, all the staff and teachers will know the names, levels and needs of all students. Unlike many other language schools which teach multiple languages, the school focuses exclusively on teaching Spanish to foreigners and teachers have an average of 15 years of experience doing just that.
Although the city was founded in 1531, it has it modern side thanks to its outstanding industrial and economic development in the last 15 years. In 2009, Querétaro was the metropolitan area with the highest GDP per capita in México at US$20,000. QLS also prides itself on giving back to the community and arranges volunteering positions for its students for free.
Over the years, QLS has had the privilege of being able to welcome teachers, staff and students from the world’s top universities such as Harvard, Yale, Cornell and Oxford to name just a few. It has also been the school of choice for ambassadors, U.N. officials, and senior embassy staff from many countries.
Cuernavaca Language School
CLS, founded in 1960, offers total immersion programs in Cuernavaca, the City of Eternal Spring. The program takes an eclectic approach which combines both traditional and current language teaching principles which facilitate rapid improvement in Spanish language regardless of the student’s current ability. It successfully develops the four language skills, grammatical reflection and the knowledge and comprehension of the Mexican culture. Class size never exceeds four students and may be smaller. Every member of instructional staff is a native Spanish speaker who has received rigorous training in the teaching of Spanish as a foreign language from certified professionals.
Spanish Institute of Puebla
The Spanish Institute offers a three-week intensive, six hours per day program. Students learn from the outset to think and express themselves in Spanish as they participate in the eight level award-winning academic curriculum and wide variety of extra curriculum activities.
The school has a functional approach to language acquisition emphasizing the use of Spanish in authentic and diverse circumstances with a communicative focus, concentrating on verbal interaction. Even group classes include two hours of individual conversation per day. Regular classes are dedicated to learning the structure of the language (comprehension, grammar, reading and writing) and afternoon classes to using it.
The institute has provided immersion programs for over 25 years to students, professionals (from all fields) and seniors from more than 55 countries. While attending the program, there is a vast number of activities you may do from cooking or dance lessons to paragliding.
The Spanish Institute of Mérida
The Spanish Institute of Mérida received UNESCO’s “Educational Excellence Award” in 2009 and has specialized in teaching the Spanish language and its culture since 1984. The program conforms to ACTFL standards, and participation earns six credit hours. More than a hundred universities in the U.S. and Canada have given credits for their classes. All teachers have university degrees in Spanish as well as many years of experience teaching Spanish as Second Language. Spanish programs run six hours a day, two of which are conversation only. Two one-day excursions are also included. Facilities include air-conditioned classrooms, large desks, comfortable chairs, wi-fi, computer lab, and a cafeteria.
Solexico Language and Cultural Center
Solexico Language and Cultural Center in Playa del Carmen provides students with the opportunity to learn Spanish in a short period of time while being immersed in Mexican culture.
Playa del Carmen is located in the center of Mexico’s Riviera Maya in the state of Quintana Roo. In the heart of the Yucatán Peninsula, this small city is approximately 35 minutes from Cancun’s international airport and 40 minutes from Tulum.
Playa del Carmen attracts people from all over the world because of its relaxed, tropical atmosphere and its unmatched beautiful beaches. “Playa,” is a great place to enjoy the cultural and historic richness of Mexico and the Mayan people.
Solexico offers small groups with a maximum of six students per instructor. All Spanish programs and levels are available year-round, with flexible schedules according to the needs of each individual student or business, university, college, and high school groups.
Solexico Language and Cultural Center was founded in 1997, and also has schools in Oaxaca and Puerto Vallarta.
Instituto de Lenguajes Puerto Escondido
Instituto de Lenguajes Puerto Escondido is located within a two-minute walk and overlooking an extremely beautiful beach and world class surf break, Playa Zicatela better known as the Mexican Pipeline. From the classroom, students can watch people surfing and view the sunset over the ocean.
Programs are flexible and students take a hand in designing their own course; students choose: the number of hours per day and days per week they study, if they want small group or one-on-one classes, if they want to participate in community service projects or fun workshops taught in Spanish such as cooking, local artesanry, surfing and salsa dance lessons, if they would like to stay onsite in a bungalow, a student apartment, live with a local family or find their own lodging.
Costa Rica extends majestically from the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean, even though its width is barely 200 miles and its area is only 20 thousand square miles.
Biodiversity is the keyword of this welcoming country where everyone just seems contented. If you travel throughout the provinces of Costa Rica, it’s impossible not to be in awe of the country’s stunning landscape.
Not surprisingly, Costa Rica is one of most highly-valued tourist destinations on this planet. This small piece of land includes all of the necessary components to satisfy the taste of thousands of travelers welcomed every year.
The country is divided into seven provinces: San José, Alajuela, Cartago, Heredia, Guanacaste, Puntarenas, and Limón. Together they offer almost every type of tourist destination, including extensive rainforests, volcanoes, rivers traveling through the mountains, beaches, national parks, and forest reserves.
Schools in Costa Rica
WAYRA Spanish Institute
WAYRA is located at the beautiful Tamarindo Beach, on the west coast of Costa Rica, and has offered a full Spanish immersion program since 1996. Recognized as a DELE examination center and associated with the Instituto Cervantes, it is a great choice for students who want to learn Spanish in a serious environment but at the same time would like to enjoy the beaches and the many outdoor activities such as surfing, snorkeling, canopy, kayaking, and fishing.
Spanish classes are held in beautiful classrooms with a lot of space and a perfect view of an amazing tropical garden where animals like iguanas and monkeys can often be seen. They offer different lodging options such as three student houses in Tamarindo that are all within walking distance of the school and the beach. In addition, students can experience real Costa Rican life staying with one of their carefully selected host families in the nearby towns of Villareal and Santa Rosa.
Spanish at Locations
Spanish at Locations is an organization with four Spanish language schools; all located in very attractive, touristic areas. The Costa Rican school is in Turrialba, a charming little town in the lush and beautiful Central Valley in Cartago province. Famous for being a white water rafting hotspot and base camp, this town lies 35 miles east of the capital city San Jose and is an excellent place to tour the pre-Columbian ruins at Guayabo, or the rarely visited but lovely Parque Nacional Volcan Turrialba.
A quiet town, Turrialba with its charming street corners and gorgeous surrounding sceneries is among the few places in Costa Rica with direct access to a volcano’s crater. From the summit of the volcano, you can on a clear day, see the Irazu, Poas, and Barva volcanoes in the distance. Among the most rarely visited national parks in Costa Rica, the Turrialba Volcano National Park is home of the active Turrialba Volcano, whose last major eruption occurred in 1866. The volcano itself is only 10 miles northwest of town. However, it is safe to climb, and though the facilities at the park are rather basic, it is a worthwhile trip.
Intercultura — Sámara Language School
Intercultura offers intensive Spanish language and cultural programs in the friendly university city of Heredia, and at their beautiful Sámara Beach campus on the Pacific Coast. They offer daily cultural activities such as Latin dance, intercambios with local English students, cooking, film, yoga, and lectures.
Intercultura’s city campus is a beautifully renovated colonial complex, with fully equipped classrooms, language lab, tropical gardens, and outdoor terraces.
The Beach Campus is a custom-built, oceanfront facility with AC and ocean view from every classroom. The garden gate opens right onto the sand, allowing students to go for a quick swim between classes, or just relax in a hammock under the palm trees.
Students can stay with a Costa Rican family or in a hotel — both options are within walking distance of the schools.
Instituto Profesional de Educacion Daza
Instituto Profesional de Educacion Daza’s Spanish language immersions program is designed for the traveler who wants to immerse in the language, people, culture, and enchanting land of Costa Rica.
IPED’s Spanish School is located in the peaceful and safe provincial town of Heredia, and provides the educationally motivated traveler with a cultural and learning experience. Latin American culture revolves around “La Familia” and in their homestay program, by living with a Costa Rican family, students gain an unparalleled insight into Costa Rican culture.
In addition, they offer varied cultural activities such as Latin dance classes, cooking classes, language exchanges, and visits to the central market that will delight the senses and broaden understanding of Costa Rican culture. Excursions to the many natural wonders of Costa Rica, such as its tropical rain forests, beaches and volcanoes will make the trip unforgettable. They also have a beach campus on the exciting Caribbean coast of Costa Rica.
Academia de Español d’Amore
Academia de Español d’Amore is a personalized Spanish language school with 19 years of experience teaching Spanish and immersing students into Costa Rican culture. Located in the peaceful and biologically rich Manuel Antonio, the campus is surrounded by rainforest, pristine beaches and the must-see Manuel Antonio National Park. For those wanting a little city life, nearby Quepos provides every need.
At Academia D’Amore, small classes utilize the Communicative Approach and are conducted completely in Spanish; with students of all ages and different walks of life, there is no “typical student.” An oral exam places each student in one of six different levels of classes — from those who speak no Spanish, to advanced speakers. Additionally, most students participate in the homestay program; where they live with a screened Costa Rican family. These hosts offer a private room, two meals a day and speak only Spanish — true Spanish Immersion.
Classes meet four hours a day, Monday through Friday; with one day devoted to Latin American cultural excursions held outside of the classroom. (For example, studying in the jungle, learning about the various ecosystems within the tropical rain forest.)
La Academia also offers S.S.P. (Spanish for Specific Purposes) in four different disciplines: Medical, Business, Legal, and Education Spanish. This is a great opportunity for those who want to concentrate on a specific linguistic area of action.
Held in comfortable, ocean view classrooms, classes are small, personal and meet in the morning or afternoons (depending on group placement), leaving enough time to explore Costa Rica’s unparalleled rainforests and beaches, or mingle with its famously warm people.
Centro Cultural de Idiomas
Centro Cultural de Idiomas was founded in 1986 in Alajuela, and currently has schools in Heredia, Alajuela, and San José offering Spanish courses. At CCI all instructors use practical methods that develop grammar, pronunciation, listening, as well as oral skills. In addition, in order to ensure both individual attention and full understanding, lessons are scheduled in small groups, usually no larger than four students.
The homestay program will help increase understanding of Spanish as well as afford the opportunity to learn about the lifestyle and culture of the Costa Rican people. Host families are carefully chosen to provide a clean, safe environment. Most host families have at least one member who speaks some English, in order to facilitate communication and avoid misunderstandings.
Their central location in the country also allows easy access to beaches, mountains, volcanoes, and other recreational activities.
Universal de Idiomas
With more than 30 years teaching Spanish, Universal de Idiomas is one of the most experienced Spanish schools in Costa Rica, and it is also conveniently located in the heart of San Jose, with access to countless restaurants, discotheques, museums, and shops. San Jose is the ideal place of departure for trips throughout the country.
Universidad VERITAS in Costa Rica has many options for students linguistic, cultural, sports and ecological adventures.
They offer Tropical Dance classes at no extra charge for students as well as the possibility of participating in soccer teams, Theater Club, Guitar Club, Yoga Club, Spanish Conversation Club, Costa Rican cooking classes, and Golf Club available at an associate golf course. They work with a student travel agency within the university that helps students plan all their weekend trips and organize accommodations and special budgets.
Spanish courses are based on the use of authentic and practical contexts in order to facilitate the acquisition of vocabulary and grammatical structures. The functional approach in conversation program has lightened the intensive 4-hours/day schedule.
Semester students who wish to take other courses in Culture, International Business, Intercultural Communication, Environmental Sciences and Photography, but don’t have an advanced level of Spanish, can enroll in courses taught in English. These courses meet twice a week for two hours each day throughout the 12 week semester.
Students with an advanced level of Spanish can enroll directly with Costa Rican students in Architecture, Interior Design, Graphic Design, Product Design, Film & T.V., Digital Animation and Photography in our Quarter system.
The use of slides, music, telephone messages, radio programs, documentaries, movies and news broadcast, has helped VERITAS develop different audio/visual modules. These materials, together with what is called “the street laboratory of San José City,” assist in teaching cultural and linguistic aspects.
VERITAS offers language-only oriented programs, Elective and Sustainability Studies, Special Interests Short-Term programs and Faculty Lead programs, Experiential Education Programs and Integrated Art, Design and Architecture programs.
You can find further information about Costa Rica and other Latin American destinations at www.languagemagazine.com.