Despite the recent earthquake, Chile remains a very attractive Spanish immersion destination.
Having recently survived a powerful earthquake and still enduring the national ordeal of its trapped miners, Chileans took a break in September to celebrate the bicentennial of their independence. They say that during the celebrations, the average Chilean is expected to gain an extra 15 pounds in weight, but it is only once every 200 years.
To say that Chile is a land of extremes and jaw-dropping natural beauty is an understatement. The country boasts over 2700 miles (4,300km) of coastline and encompasses a wide variety of geography. It is bounded by the Andes Mountains to the east, the Atacama Desert to the north, the Pacific Ocean to the west, and the Patagonia region to the south. Journeying from the world-renowned vineyards of central Chile (be sure to try their Carménère variety) to the icy polar region in the south, you’ll find it hard to believe that all this variety — and all this beauty — can be found in one place.
Against this striking natural backdrop exists one of the most stable economies in South America with an adult literacy rate above 96 percent. New center-right candidate Sebastián Piñera succeeded Michelle Bachelet as President in March. Chile has one of the lowest rates of unemployment on the continent, and in recent years has negotiated free-trade agreements with nations worldwide. The Chilean people pride themselves on their dependable financial system, reliable government, and modern facilities, as well as on their welcoming receptivity to foreigners.
The country was colonized by Spain in the 16th century, so many of Chile’s people are mestizos, or descendants from the marriages between Spanish settlers and indigenous groups, such as the Aymara and the Mapuche. Chile also received many immigrants from other European countries. Spanish has remained the official language while some native languages are spoken.
At the heart of it all is the nation’s capital, Santiago. Nestled in a valley at the foot of the picturesque Andes, the bustling metropolis is an interesting blend of contrasts: colonial architecture and modern skyscrapers, lively street scenes and quiet parks, elegant shopping and local street markets. In Santiago, you will find the charm and culture of Latin America with all the amenities of the first world. The city is clean, safe and efficient, and its six million residents are very friendly and hospitable to foreigners.
In addition, the city is ideally located in the center of the country. This makes it a nearly perfect base from which to visit northern and southern Chile, as well as to see the sights of the central region. In less than an hour and a half in either direction, you can be strolling on the coast of the Pacific Ocean or skiing in the snowcapped Andes. With plenty of recreational options, striking natural beauty, and the conveniences of a modern capital city, Santiago makes an ideal location to study Spanish abroad.
Chile offers the experience of learning Spanish while enjoying fresh powder skiing one day, wine tasting another, and a golden beach the next. Santiago de Chile, located in the central valley of the country, is a cultural, commercial, industrial, and political epicenter. Credited as both cultural and modern, Santiago boasts both tourist attractions and adventure sports. COINED Spanish school is located in a beautiful 1925 building recognized as a national monument. The Spanish school has 12 spacious classrooms, a video room, internet, a cafeteria and terrace with a wonderful view of the city center. Students can combine their program with salsa lessons, cultural activities, ski lessons in winter and a number of extra activities organized by the school every week.
Students of ECELA who study in Santiago — or any of the five ECELA schools spread throughout Argentina, Chile, and Peru — discover the local culture and accent in classes led by credentialed, native Spanish-speaking instructors. A world of opportunities exists outside of the small classroom environment, and ECELA-led excursions take students everywhere: from the mountains to the shores, to the dance floors, the vineyards, and the futbol stadiums to immerse students in the language and the vibrant cultures of Latin America. Students are also encouraged to study at the different ECELA school locations to gain a more complete South American perspective.
The philosophy of Escuela de Idiomas Violeta Parra — Tandem Santiago is to teach languages by bringing people together instead of using technology. The school implements this philosophy by providing opportunities for Spanish students to meet Chileans in order for the students to practice their Spanish by speaking directly to people who speak the language. In addition to the language courses, the school also offers special eco-tourism weekend trips and daytrips.
As a member of the Tandem International Network, which ensures quality standards, the school uses the Tandem Language Method, where students have a set amount of time for language exchange in groups and on an individual basis.