Where Your Eyes Go, Your Ears Will Follow

Pat Verano explains why Spanish immersion works so well in Argentina

An old proverb explains: where your ears go, your eyes will follow. Or was it, “Where your eyes go, your ears will follow”?

Either way, this metaphor describes how your senses help you acquire language and offers insight into the success of immersion programs.

In effective immersion programs, students learn the new language by using it throughout the day in social and academic situations alike. They are highly motivated to learn the new language because it is useful and meaningful to them. Eventually, talking and thinking in the new language becomes natural.

The setting of an immersion experience is key. Take Argentina: a vast, rich country with thousands of opportunities to be inspired by — from tango to the country’s pristine natural beauty, replete with mountains, lakes, forests and waterfalls, visitors encounter beauty everywhere. Culture and language, hand in hand, foster a unique process which at best results in native-like brain processing. Chomsky would call this real acquisition, a process that occurs unnoticeably.

Instruction and academic structure deepen the acquisition and learning processes and legitimize the immersion experience abroad. Argentina boasts of having among the finest and highest academic standards of Spanish in Latin America. There are plenty of Spanish schools and universities that offer not only Spanish but degree programs, too. Some students come only to learn the language, while others enroll in a university academic program.

By choosing an academic course at an accredited university in Argentina, students have the possibility of earning three to six credits for every four-week Spanish course completed. Courses are a combination of both classroom activities and the unique experience of exploring the surroundings. Students are given a placement test upon arrival to find the class that fits their needs and knowledge.

For those universities that require their students to earn credits while abroad, this is an ideal way to go. Some Argentine universities have formal agreements with American universities. High school students have the opportunity to return with a whole semester credit and take the CILES test (Certificate of International Spanish Language), which was designed and created by the Universidad del Aconcagua, situated in Mendoza.

The Universidad del Aconcagua, UDA, was created in 1965 and was officially recognized by the Argentine national government in 1973. It is one of the most prestigious private universities in Mendoza, one of Argentina’s most cherished provinces. It has five colleges and a high school: the School of Psychology, the School of Medicine, the School of Business Administration, the School of Economic Sciences and Law, the School of Foreign Languages, and UDA High School. The university has been evaluated and its courses of study have been accredited by CONEAU.

Universidad del Aconcagua is part of a network of private universities, the Red Andina de Universidades (RADU), which have jointly created a graduate course in educational management. A research body, Consejo de Investigaciones de la Universidad del Aconcagua (CIUDA), supervises all the research activity conducted at the five schools. The results of the research are presented in national and international meetings and published in journals.

The university campus is located in the heart of the downtown area. Classrooms are well lit, spacious, and modern. The library, located in the main building, can be used and accessed through the internet to consult the most up-to-date international databases.

Courses can be tailored to cover students’ needs and the requirements of their American universities. Students can maximize their experiences by getting involved in numerous clubs, music and dance activities, and sports and outdoor activities.

Added to this flexibility, the small-city environment and the backdrop of the picturesque Andes give this program an outstanding opportunity for every foreign student seeking high academic standards, a peaceful stay, and opportunities for socializing and fun in a healthy environment.

Homestay does not fall into any regulated or legal category in Argentina, so hostels, hotels, and student residences have ended up housing most of the students living in the country. However, some schools are to enhance the immersion experience by enabling students to experience family environments. The legal framework in Argentina with regards to language tourism has high standards, so liability insurance and contracts are necessary. Agencies and institutions work together to assure all legal requirements are met without increasing fees. There are rules and regulations designed to help with any medical, accident, or legal issues. Students should check with their schools to ensure that they are covered with the right insurance program, find out the guidelines they need to travel safely and study comfortably, and explore different accommodation possibilities.

One of the most exciting aspects of studying in Argentina is that foreign students can easily enroll in volunteer programs to work on projects such as teaching English, working in orphanages, and helping with conservation efforts. Volunteering in school systems is very straightforward and there are plenty of opportunities. Whether one is in high school, a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) graduate, or a college student, most schools require little more than voluntary and selfless effort. Volunteering students gain valuable skills, knowledge, and the opportunity to get to know the culture and the language. These experiences leave profound memories in minds and hearts, and will stay with the students forever.

Argentina offers students the opportunity to immerse all their senses in the Spanish language through the country’s natural beauty, its diversity, and the cultural charm of its people.

Pat Verano is the educational director of Argentina Language.