Kristal Bivona finds there’s no time like the present to immerse oneself in Latin America
There’s never been a better time to study Spanish or Portuguese. Hispanic America and Brazil are projected to have bright economic futures, which will naturally increase the demand for speakers of Spanish or Portuguese in the business world. Of course, where business goes, students follow. Learning Spanish or Portuguese is an investment in one’s career: workers can earn more simply for being bilingual. Knowing Spanish or Portuguese, however, only gives special access to part of Latin America, so many companies who work in Latin America want employees who speak both. Fortunately, speakers of Romance languages tend to pick up other Romance languages relatively quickly. The other good news is that even students who are already proficient in Spanish or Portuguese have an excuse to go abroad and experience a new language and culture.
Hispanic America is wildly diverse and has something for every type of traveler or student. Starting north with Mexico, famous for its one-of-a-kind tourist destinations and beaches, its sprawling cosmopolitan capital city, lush jungles, endless deserts, and exceptional cuisine, then going south to Patagonia, with snow-capped mountains, ski resorts, and fantastic wilderness, Hispanic America has nearly every climate in between: the tropics, mild regions ideal for winemaking, mountains calling to be conquered by adventurers, places with four seasons, places with just a rainy season and a dry season. Furthermore, those who prefer cities have some of the world’s finest and most interesting to choose from: Buenos Aires, Santiago, Lima, Bogotá, Medellín, and Guadalajara.
Meanwhile, Brazil’s giant territory has enviable landscapes, from Rio de Janeiro’s Atlantic Forest and beaches to the Lençóis Maranhenses white sand with azure pools to the awe-inspiring Sertão, not to mention São Paulo’s sophistication, Bahia’s Afro-Brazilian hospitality, and Belém do Pará’s mystery at the edge of the Amazon rainforest.
With so many exciting opportunities to choose from, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most inviting programs for learning Spanish and Portuguese, with a special emphasis on summer camps. Also included are some programs in Spain for those students seeking European flavor and immersion programs right here in the U.S.
Founded in 2003, Amistad Institute is an organization located in Heredia, Jaco Beach, Monteverde Cloud Forest, and Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica. Amistad’s founders have nearly 20 years’ experience in the language immersion and volunteer industry with specializations in language training, volunteering for social development, nonprofit administration, and tourism. They are a team of experienced professionals who are passionate about offering Spanish language, volunteer, and travel experiences in Costa Rica. Amistad offers a wide variety of volunteer opportunities for international students around beautiful Costa Rica.
Spanish Abroad has offered summer Spanish camps in Latin America and Spain for nearly two decades. During this time, different program options through partner language schools have been refined to include intensive language-immersion courses, fun activities, and housing options that meet the needs of children and families when parents come along to learn Spanish. The summer camp in Tamarindo, Costa Rica, is popular, with children from five to 13 years old taking part in intensive Spanish courses along with cultural and beach activities in the afternoon. In addition, they go on adventure tours, including zip-lining and visits to the monkey park. Intercambios are arranged to practice their Spanish with local children. The entire family can stay with a host family, and parents as well as teens can take Spanish courses and surf instruction at the language school located right on Tamarindo Beach. In Spain, summer Spanish camp options with children’s, teen, and adult courses are offered in San Sebastian, Barcelona, Salamanca, Marbella, and Madrid. Full summer Spanish camps are at local boarding schools with all-inclusive language instruction, activities, excursions, meals, airport transfers, and shared room and board. Private apartments can be arranged at any location.
Concordia Language Villages
Concordia Language Villages has been bringing Spanish alive for youth ages seven to 18 since 1963. Located in the north woods of Minnesota, Spanish is one of 15 language immersion camps offered each summer, known as Language Villages. At El Lago del Bosque, the Spanish Language Village, villagers are immersed in the sights, sounds, tastes, and experiences of the Spanish-speaking world. Villagers learn new vocabulary and conversational skills while eating authentic, home-cooked meals featuring foods from a variety of Spanish-speaking countries or while participating in cultural activities, from canto or arte (art) to playing a game of fútbol. Villagers also experience traditional summer camp activities, such as time around la fogata (campfire). Each day, villagers also receive language lessons tailored to their abilities. The ultimate goal of all programming is an immersion experience in language and culture that motivates participants to be lifelong learners and to become responsible citizens in a global community.
A unique opportunity for cultural immersion on the Mediterranean coast of Spain, this urban summer camp in Valencia is ideal for 16- to 18-year-old teenagers, perfectly combining learning Spanish through fun workshops in the morning and recreational and cultural activities in the afternoon, with students from all over the world. The workshops are accredited by the Cervantes Institute, ensuring that children get the most out of the course offered. Spanish host families are selected carefully so that students feel welcomed and live in a safe environment. Valencia offers a perfect combination of cultural and recreational activities for teens in summer, such as sailing, dancing, cooking courses, and visits to the extraordinary City of Arts and Sciences, and students can fully enjoy the nearby beach.
Middlebury-Monterey Language Academy
Middlebury-Monterey Language Academy’s residential Spanish language program is a unique opportunity for students in grades eight to twelve to live immersed in language in the U.S. or abroad. The academy is based on Middlebury College’s famed language schools, which for nearly 100 years have enabled business leaders, diplomats, and educators to master world languages and make deep global connections. In four weeks at the Spanish Academy, 88% of students accelerate their language learning by one full level, and 45% of all students gain two or more language levels on the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Language’s proficiency scale. As part of the Spanish Academy, students take the Language pledge, a formal commitment to communicate in their target language at all times during the summer of study. The pledge comes from a long history of tried-and-true immersion education and formalizes students’ dedication to effective language practice for absolute beginners through to advanced language learners. Whether students study in the U.S. or abroad in Spain, they will gain tangible language skills, applicable to real-life settings, while also partaking in a variety of cultural activities. Students might have the opportunity to learn the art of flamenco or how to make tapas or empanadas, take an excursion to a local Spanish or Latin American restaurant, write and produce their own Spanish film, visit museums, and more. From morning assembly until lights out, students will be immersed in Spanish language and culture, among likeminded peers.
Spanish Center Merida
The fascinating state of Yucatan, rich in culture, history, and natural wonders, is home to Spanish Center Merida, a school that offers full-immersion Spanish courses in a very friendly and cozy atmosphere. The city of Merida, imbued with a sense of peace and safety, is a fine blend of traditional cultural heritage and modern comforts, which makes it the perfect host city for international students. Merida has a prime location too, close to enigmatic Mayan sites, charming small towns, grand old sisal haciendas, ancient cenotes, and paradisiac beaches. The city has a vibrant art and cultural scene made up of a wealth of museums, theaters, beautiful colonial architecture, traditional folk art, artisanal handicraft, and an exquisite gastronomy. Spanish Center Merida offers students a richly unique learning experience. The courses are carefully tailored to the needs, interests, and learning style of each student, enhanced by many cultural activities such as cooking classes, salsa dancing, handicraft making, visits to local museums and markets, and short trips to Mayan sites and cenotes.
San Cristóbal Spanish School
The San Cristóbal Spanish School specializes in providing quality online lessons over the internet with Skype and at its school in San Cristóbal, Chiapas, Mexico. The native Spanish-speaking teachers are experienced instructors who make lessons online interesting, enjoyable, and interactive. Skype students can learn at any time and at their own pace. These one-on-one online Spanish lessons foster quick learning.
In the heart of Buenos Aires, Elebaires offers Spanish immersion programs of varying lengths including both private and group lessons year round, excursions, support services, social and cultural activities, and skill workshops such as tango and photography. The school provides local homestays with Argentine students or families, as well as internship and volunteer placements to complement courses. They offer special programs such as Spanish and Volunteer, Spanish and Medicine, and Spanish and Tango, as well as customized content courses for high schools. By emphasizing the importance of actually living in Argentina like a true porteño, letting students experience and participate in Argentine culture rather than just observing it, Elebaires really sets itself apart from other Spanish organizations abroad and is thus expanding considerably. It is a Certified Spanish School by SEA (Asociación de Centros de Idiomas de Argentina) and has university accreditation to provide international transcripts for college or university students.
Tía Tula is a lovely Spanish school with two centers both situated right in the historical university center of Salamanca. It is accredited by the Instituto Cervantes as a school of high-quality Spanish teaching. Just like Salamanca — a city which is known worldwide for Spanish teaching — Tía Tula combines its classical framework and facilities with the modernity of its people and their methods. Inside, there are pretty, comfortable, and pleasant classes with views of the monumental zone of the city. The school has an excellent academic program and an extraordinary body of teachers specializing in teacher training and offers high-quality accommodation and a wide range of extracurricular activities to complement the lessons and live Spanish in the streets.
CPI allows students to see more of Costa Rica by combining classes at two or all three sites in different regions of the country: the city of Heredia, Monteverde Cloud Forest, and Flamingo Beach. Students appreciate the professional academic campus setting infused with comfortable spaces, lovely gardens, a pool, sporting areas, and open-air dining facilities. They offer support services like bilingual office staff, Wi-Fi, cultural activities, and tours to enhance the learning experience. The school also offers flexibility to customize programs, as well as to combine morning group classes with afternoon private classes. Groups are no larger than four people, which allows individual attention and increases the student-teacher interaction. Programs are for all ages and are available year round. Students can alternate accommodation options by living with a host family in one location and choosing the student residency in another. CPI offers competitive prices and works with U.S. universities to assign academic transfer credits.
Ecela Spanish, with language immersion institutes in Santiago and Viña del Mar, Chile, plus schools in Argentina and Peru, promises to take novice students to near Spanish fluency in five to seven months. Their distinct teaching approach centers on learning by speaking, with 60% of class time spent in conversation “micro groups” of only four students. Cinema Latino movie nights, “turbo privados” (one student, two teachers), and conversation exchanges with locals enhance the intensive and enjoyable learning experience. Because Ecela attracts students from all over the world, people often cite their unexpected, international new friendships as the program highlight. A yearly reunion weekend is held each March, rotating between Argentina, Chile, and Peru. The event is exclusive to “Familia Ecela” (ex–Ecela students and past and current staff members). Although most students arrive as beginners or intermediates, Ecela is also popular with Spanish instructors looking for skill enrichment. During summer 2015, a special seminar will give 16 educators a chance to experience Chilean culture and boost their teaching skills. The special program is exclusively for Spanish instructors whose native language is not Spanish.
Academia Uruguay is a school exclusively dedicated to teaching Spanish as a foreign language in intensive group or individual courses on all levels. It is a small school by international standards, but probably the largest Spanish school in Uruguay. Students from around the world come for the mix of academic excellence, complete cultural immersion, professional service, and wide variety of regular and tailored courses offered. For instance, the school offers Spanish and tango courses, special carnival packages in summer, and special courses for Brazilian students. The school is located in a recently restored building in the old district of Montevideo, overlooking Constitution Square, and is easy reachable from all parts of town.
As part of the Academias Latinas network (with Academia Buenos Aires and Academia Bariloche), it shares the network’s academic materials and similar levels, which facilitates mobility among students. The school has been an accredited center of the Instituto Cervantes of Spain since 2012, a member of Tandem International since 2010, and was the first school to obtain registration from the Department of Education of the Ministry of Education and Culture of Uruguay.
Having traveled to more than 50 countries, the Canadian director of Spanish Panama, Joseph Ennis, selected the El Cangrejo neighborhood of Panama to be the home for his school 13 years ago.
The school’s staff of 16 teachers aims to help students to learn Spanish and understand Latin culture. The most intensive Spanish programs include a combination of group (always small, four or fewer students in a class) and private lessons, airport pickup, accommodations, city tour, and salsa dance lessons. There is also an optional jungle tour or a complete driver-led set of excursions that can take students just about everywhere. The excursions are also set up in a way to help students practice the Spanish they learn in class.
There is a social terrace with complimentary coffee, and even Portuguese and English programs are offered, as well as business Spanish for executives. Spanish teachers as well as Portuguese and English teachers also go onsite to client hotels or offices.
Global Leadership Adventures
Global Leadership Adventures (GLA) offers unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for high school students to catapult their Spanish skills to the next level while participating in meaningful volunteer projects abroad. Students — from beginners to fluent speakers — travel to beautiful regions of Costa Rica, Guatemala, or Peru for the chance to immerse themselves in the sights and sounds of a new way of life. From community service to excursions and cultural events, language is given a new context throughout the entirety of a GLA program, and students return with an increased comfort and understanding of the Spanish language.
Spanish Immersion with Academic Experiences Abroad (AEA)
AEA’s Spanish immersion programs bring students to Spanish-speaking communities in Latin America — such as Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. There, students not only study with local teachers, but also immediately put their skills to use while visiting the sites, exploring the markets, and experiencing the local cuisine and culture. All AEA programs are customized to specific requests and academic goals.
Language & Friendship Individual Family-Stay Experience
A host family awaits each student who embarks on an experience abroad with Language & Friendship which offers individual immersion family-stay experiences in France, Costa Rica, Argentina, and Spain. They are designed for students who have had at least two years of language study, and are ready to speak the language and experience a new way of life in the culture by living the daily life with a host family. Each individual family stay lasts three to four weeks. Students grow in self-reliance and personal responsibility, expand global career opportunities, and, most importantly, forge new international friendships. With 25 years of experience in language immersion programs, Language & Friendship offers a tried-and-tested study abroad option.
With two unique locations — the vibrant university town of Heredia and beautiful, tranquil Sámara beach — Intercultura offers total immersion Spanish language and culture programs for students of all ages and nationalities. Students move easily between the two campuses without any interruptions in the learning process and experience two very different lifestyles of Costa Rica. Students also participate in free cultural and extracurricular activities offered daily and can volunteer if they choose. Intercultura is the only language school in Costa Rica recognized by the United Nations’ Global Compact. They work with individual students and groups from around the world and have been chosen by Duke, UNC, the University of Connecticut, and others for their study abroad programs. Widely recognized as one of the top language schools in Costa Rica, In Heredia, students can also choose the 24/7 Homestay Spanish Immersion or enjoy Spanish + Surf in Sámara.
WAYRA Spanish Institute
WAYRA is located at beautiful Tamarindo Beach, a perfect place for those who enjoy water sports, the natural outdoors, and lively entertainment. Situated on the northwest coast of Costa Rica, WAYRA Spanish Institute has offered a full Spanish immersion program since 1996.
Recognized as a DELE examination center and associated with the Cervantes Institute, it is a great choice for students, from any age or occupation, who want to learn Spanish in a professional environment. At the same time they can enjoy the beaches and the many outdoor activities such as surfing, snorkeling, diving, sailing, kayaking, fishing, tubing, yoga, martial arts, hiking, and more.
Spanish Classes are held in beautiful and comfortable classrooms both in and outdoors. Students learn in lots of space and perfect views of an amazing tropical garden where animals like iguanas, monkeys, anteaters, porcupines, squirrels, and many exotic birds can often be seen.
They offer a wide variety of lodging options such as student houses in Tamarindo, which are all within walking distance from the school and the beach. In addition, students can experience real Costa Rican life and the meaning of “Pura Vida” by staying in one of their typical families, carefully selected in the nearby towns.
Lenguaventura dedicates unique, adventurous bilingual camp experience to teens between 14 and 17 years old from all over the world, supported by a team of passionate young people who really love what they do. The Lenguaventura camp is a combination between language learning (Spanish or English) focused on communication skills, adventure activities, and cultural visits. Tarifa is famous for the many sport activities that can be exercised, especially kitesurfing and windsurfing, but also for its endless beaches and beautiful views toward Morocco.
Broadreach Spanish Immersion Programs
From villages along the Inca Trail in Peru and Ecuador to the charming mountain towns of Costa Rica and Nicaragua, it is the real-world experiences Broadreach students have outside of the classroom that set their Spanish immersion programs apart. Students take part in authentic cultural workshops, homestays with village families, and meaningful and sustainable volunteer opportunities with community-based organizations. Locations are off the tourist-beaten path, which enables students to have a truly immersive experience they would not get in highly traveled tourist destinations. In Ecuador, students have the opportunity to volunteer in local health clinics, which provides them with a unique venue to practice their Spanish and lets them give back to a community that gives them so much throughout their stay. The weeklong homestay allows students to do more than visit a culture, but to actually live that culture. Peru not only has students trekking the ancient path of the Incas, but provides them with a unique opportunity to work at a biological research station with a Broadreach partner organization, the Amazon Conservation Association, on service projects that have a huge environmental impact on the Amazon River ecosystem. In Costa Rica and Nicaragua, the zip lines of the jungle canopies and rapids of the Rio Pacuare provide an adventurous backdrop for practicing Spanish in real-world situations.
ILERI Spanish School
ILERI Spanish School, run by Leonor Ramírez, was founded in Escazú, Costa Rica in 1992. In 1994, he opened a branch in Betania, El Dorado Panama City. The school is located 20 minutes by taxi or bus ride from the downtown and banking areas of the city. It is only ten minutes away from the seasonal dry forest located in the Parque Natural Metropolitano, complete with tamarind monkeys, anteaters, and sloths.
Panama city has a geographical location full of cultural and ethnic contrasts. Panama offers the student an attractive diversity, from the colonial city to a modern city of skyscrapers; from the densest jungle in the world to an archipelago with one of the purest indigenous cultures left in the hemisphere — the Kunas.
The offer total immersion Spanish programs, lodging with a family, and airport pick up Classes for all ages and levels are four hours a day, with small groups or private lessons. Salsa and merengue dance lessons as well as cooking classes in Spanish offer students multiple skill sets to master at once in a way that makes learning fun. The school can also arrange volunteer projects for students who are looking to make a difference in their travels abroad.
Universidad de la Sabana’s Vive Español
The university offers a program in Spanish to help international students learn the language and improve communicative competence by working in the four language skills — listening, writing, speaking, and reading — whilst giving participants the opportunity to get to know Colombia.
Classes start every Monday and are delivered in the morning to give students the opportunity to participate in other activities in the afternoons. Students can choose the number of weeks they want to study and when to start.
Vive Español unites language learning, the richness of Colombian culture, and many extracurricular activities to provide students with an incredible and authentic experience throughout their stay.
AEC Spanish Camps
The AEC Spanish Institute in Costa Rica is all about studying Spanish and exploring the land. Meet the real Costa Rica with AEC as your language and adventure guide. They began their language program with more than 20 years of language and adventure experience. They have extensive experience accommodating high school and college groups from arrival to departure. With a teacher to student ratio of no more than six to one, the language experience is exemplary. Three dynamic locations — Turrialba, Playa Dominical and Arenal — offer students opportunities to experience three distinct regions. Playa Dominical is a small, friendly village with the most consistent waves in Costa Rica. Turrialba, located in the central highlands, offers a highly immersive language experience with few tourists. The Arenal campus located near the Arenal Volcano offers medical spanish and standard Spanish with private classes. AEC offers Spanish immersion, teen language and volunteer camps, Children’s Programs from preschool to age 13.
Christian Spanish Academy
CSA is a professional institution devoted to teaching Spanish as a second language. Their private classes provide a lot of flexibility and enable a tailor-made education. CSA was originally created with the vision to help missionaries with the specific language needs and skills required to perform their job effectively, but the primary goal of CSA is to teach Spanish regardless of religious views. CSA specializes in Spanish for specific purposes, such as business, flight attendance, civilization and culture, medical fields, and childcare. The program is approved by the Instituto Cervantes of Spain. CSA is located in La Antigua Guatemala, one of the world’s most magnificent colonial capitals. Its stone-paved, peaceful parks, fountains, and many palaces and cathedrals are filled with the romance of the ancient era.
El Pasaje Spanish School
El Pasaje Spanish School was founded five years ago by a group of Spanish teachers and has already achieved an important presence online thanks to the positive feedback of its former students: it is well known for being highly rated on travel websites, travelers’ forums, and social networks. The school is located in the very center of the city and offers a wide variety of affordable Spanish programs: intensive, semi-intensive, and regular classes are dictated for small groups or single students. As for private classes, they also offer tuition at home, online lessons, and preparation courses for international exams. All the Spanish programs are designed to develop the students’ skills in listening, speaking, writing, and reading, while always aiming to improve their communication ability and introduce them to Latin American culture.
Tandem Santiago–Escuela de Idiomas Violeta Parra has been offering Spanish immersion courses since 1992, making it one of the oldest specialist schools in Chile. The school has been awarded the Excellence Award from LanguageCourses.net for the last eleven years, thanks to high levels of customer satisfaction.
With about 40 students in group courses divided into nine levels, small groups are guaranteed. The school’s “fast–track” method suits many learners by accelerating the learning process, with convincing results in twelve weeks of intensive immersion. As a member of the Tandem International Network of quality schools it offers Tandem interchange activities with local students in mixed groups and language-learning pairs in which international students teach English to Chilean English students in return for Spanish lessons. Social activities, museum visits, and eco-tourism trips are also available.
Miguel Angel Asturias Spanish School
Miguel Angel Asturias Spanish School in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, offers 25 hours of private one-on-one instruction, homestay with all meals, and activities for only $150 per week. Using the school’s interactive immersion method, a student will speak for hours a day and make vast progress in a short amount of time. In addition to learning the language, students also learn about the realities of life in Guatemala and Latin America, taking away a deeper understanding of this part of the world.
Many of Miguel Angel Asturias Spanish School’s teachers have been there for ten years or longer. Each one has a unique perspective, based on a broad array of specialties and experiences, to lend to in-class discussions of a wide range of topics.
A founding principle of the school is to give back to the community, and both directors have degrees in economics with a wide variety of experience working with rural communities. They offer students the opportunity to share their own skills, interests, and enthusiasm helping the people of Guatemala while practicing and improving the student’s Spanish.
The Miguel Angel Asturias Spanish School’s highly regarded medical Spanish program combines intensive general Spanish instruction with specialized instruction focused on medical terminology and situations. It is ideal for doctors, nurses, medical school students, pre-med students, emergency medical technicians, and others in the health care fields. Students may also choose to volunteer in a rural hospital or clinic. Their veterinary medical Spanish program has a similar structure and volunteer options. For more information, please visit www.spanishschool.com.
Spanish at Locations
Spanish at Locations is an organization with schools located in attractive tourist areas of Costa Rica and Panama. The Costa Rican school in Turrailba is located in a charming little town in the lush and beautiful Central Valley in the Cartago province. Famous for being a white-water-rafting hotspot and base camp, this town lies 35 miles east of the capital city, San José, and is an excellent place to tour pre-Columbian ruins at Guayabo or the rarely visited but lovely Parque Nacional Volcán 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 the volcano’s crater. On a clear day, the Irazú, Poás, and Barva volcanoes are visible from the summit of the Turrialba Volcano. The school in Costa Rica — Spanish by the Sea — was founded in 2012 and is located in the town Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, a small, laidback beach town located on the Caribbean Coast close to the Panamanian border. Apart from its natural jungle beauty Puerto Viejo is known for its waves which attract surfers from all over the world due to their height and consistency. Spanish at Locations has three schools in Panama which is becoming a popular destination among students and expats alike.
This summer, Homeschool Spanish Academy is offering its Summer Passport Program — a virtual journey through the Spanish language, with a teacher guiding students through probing UFO landings in Mexico to tracing the origins of the Nazca Lines in Peru to letting their imaginations run wild with the running of the bulls in Spain.
Over the seven-week course, students have the opportunity to learn conversational Spanish (or brush up from past courses) while learning about Latin American and Spanish culture. There are no exams to study for, no homework to turn in — just fun and learning in a relaxed environment with an instructor. Summer Passport is a truly innovative summer language experience that students can enjoy from the comfort of their homes.
The idea behind COINED is that the schools emulate Latin America — an amazingly varied region with glaciers on one side and Caribbean beaches on the other, not to mention tropical jungles, snowy peaks, deserts, and salt flats.
COINED has been organizing international experiences for students from all over the world in Latin America for over 40 years. Today, students can follow their passions as they choose from Spanish schools, internship and volunteer programs in over 40 locations across 15 countries — from Argentina through Chile, Peru, Cuba, and Guatemala to Mexico.
Students can select their destination, pick any Monday of the year to start the program, and plan their own study routes combining multiple locations and programs. Those interested in nature, education, or community work can choose worthwhile volunteer programs. University students, graduates, and those changing careers can invest their time in internship, in any professional field.