This article shall reveal some thoughts that may help fellow travellers answer the question if they should do a spanish languge course in a Spanish-speaking country or not. From my trips to South America I know many people that e.g. did a preplanned Spanish-course in Quito, Ecuador. Others may realise at the destination that they need to learn some Spanish. For many visitors, a Spanish-course would come in handy, others might not need it and learn the language by sharing time with locals instead. This article shall help to take the decision and comes up with a simple pros and cons list. However, the decision is solely up to you.
Try to answer these questions (they are not complete, just a hint)
Are my skills to meet strangers high or low?
Go ahead! Don‘t be scared! You have to be able to read the signs to meet other people. The more you travel the more you build up routine to get in touch with strangers. The more of these social competencies you internalized the more likely it is that you will get away just by learning “on the street”. I you prefer traveling in a group, then go for the language course with likeminded people.
Do I need a language certificate?
If this is the case, the choice is crystal clear. Make sure the school follows international standards that define the level of language competences. But be aware that potential employers will check your ability and if you should stop practicing you start losing it. On the other hand, without certificate you will get proofed anyway.
Do I want to learn for myself and with friends or do I prefer to learn with likeminded people?
Most locals you will get to know doing what you like to do. Fellow classmates are around at the language school. You could organize learning groups. Try to find a compromise out of both so that you can utilize the basics learned in school and try them out with local friends. Without a language course you might get prepared for the everyday life with your local friends, but it will take longer as they won’t talk slower and without weird dialects for you.
Do I need structure in the learning process or am I determined enough to learn for myself?
Language schools offer structured lessons that treat day to day situations according to your level and grammatical requirements. If you find this method too fast and if you think you can learn for yourself then you should use your time to hang out with local friends and practice.
Do I prefer to learn by writing, listening, speaking or seeing?
Without a language school you will most likely focus on audiovisual senses, whereas in school you will write more. If you are a visual learner and able to connect words with situations and images, it is possible that you get bored in a language school, although speaking of course is a subject there as well. Though, as a visual learner you will most likely learn more “on the street” and by hanging out with local friends, because this is where realtime situations happen that will help you connect to the right words and phrases. Lessons in school might be too fictive for you. Basically, if you follow that method, you are learning exactly how you learned your mother tongue as infant, which we all have practice with. If you need decent level of writing skills in combination with language practice, then the school might the better option.
Would you like to speak a formal Spanish?
If this is the case you should choose the language school, since locals will teach you slang and fluency, which is not an option for rather formal meetings. Take school classes if
- you would like to learn with likeminded people
- you need a certain structure, but you are not able to manage it yourself
- you need a language certificate
- you need to have decent writing skills
- you would like to speak a formal Spanish
- you would like to learn faster, more intense
- you have low time capacities
- you need professional teachers rather than slang-influenced locals
Don’t take school classes if
- You would like to hang out more time with locals
- You have a high determination
- You feel that you could learn only by getting in contact with locals
- You can quit the need for a language certificate
- You want to learn Spanish like babies do, the most natural way
- You would like to be able to communicate with your local friends rather than in formal occassions
To sum it up, travelers that need Spanish for their jobs and who do not have much time at while traveling are more likely to choose language classes in school. People who stay longer and who are visual learners that are able to remember words by situations and images might choose to hang out with local acquaintances, as they are more likely to create in-depth connections with locals.
Hint: Do a short language course and try to get in contact with locals likewise if you are not sure. Many schools advertise their services at the destination and might be cheaper than booking classes from home. Also, there are tandem-groups at Facebook and Couchsurfing where locals give rather unstructured classes or will meet you on conversational basis. As well these platforms are always a good idea to consult for social events where you will meet locals quite rapidly. You can ask me for further info and more recommendations. Also, I would like to connect you with my own friends in these countries.