WHERE TO LEARN SPANISH?

Where should you learn Spanish in Spain?

It’s difficult to choose a Spanish school in Spain– very difficult. Not only are there a ton of cities, all of which seem interesting and attractive, but there are also many schools in each city that all offer practically the same thing.

Are all of these destinations really that good? Will I learn Spanish the same way in any school? What kind of leisure activities do they offer – and are they all the same? Apparently not. There are many different options, for different cities as well as different schools to choose from. From our experience, we’ll give you a few simple guidelines to minimize your mistakes in choosing the best possible Spanish school for you (because everyone is different, and everyone is looking for different things, of course!) Let’s start…

1.- Time and duration

Do you know for how long you are going to take your Spanish course? A longer experience (over 3-4 weeks, for example) is not the same as a short stay (1-2 weeks). If you’re staying for a longer period of time, we would recommend that you choose a city with a population of more than 500,000. There are only 6 cities like this in Spain, in order of size: Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Sevilla, Zaragoza and Málaga. We suggest this simply because smaller cities do not have as many cultural events, and you could get bored with what they have to offer after a few weeks. Of course, you may like this kind of calm, unrushed atmosphere, especially if you’re used to living in a small town.

However, in our opinion, it’s also good to challenge your usual habits and try new things – maybe you’ll be pleasantly surprised. You should also keep in mind that the cost of living in the two largest Spanish cities (Madrid and Barcelona) is much higher, especially in Barcelona, where transportation and rent can be up to 30-40% more expensive than in other places. On the other hand, there are more possibilities for short stays, but you should also consider that Spain has many very beautiful and prominent cities that can be seen in one weekend(especially in Castilla, the central region of Spain, where Salamanca, Toledo, and León are). Therefore, for our first selection, we would opt for these four cities: Valencia, Sevilla, Zaragoza, and Málaga.

2.- Dates

Do you know when you want to go?

It won’t be the same in the winter as it will if you go in the summer. The north (Bilbao, San Sebastián, Santiago) and center of Spain (Madrid, Salamanca, Valladolid) are much colder (and rainier in the north) than in the south (Sevilla, Córdoba, Granada) and east of Spain (Barcelona, Valencia, Alicante).

In general, winter in northern and central Spain lasts from the end of November until March, and in the rest of the country, especially in southern and eastern Spain, from the end of December to February. It’s important to note that the temperature never drops below 0, even though in the central part of Spain frosts and snow are common, at least in January and February. In the north it’s harder, since the cities are generally on the coast.

In the south and east, frosts and snow are rare, except in Granada, since it is at the foot of an important mountain range. On the other hand, the summer months are mild on the coast, as much in the north as in the south and east of Spain, but very dry and extremely hot in central and southern Spain, especially in the cities with no beaches (Madrid, Salamanca, Córdoba, Sevilla). In July and August, from 1 pm to 6 pm, the only thing to do is go to a pool or a cathedral (it’s very cool inside!). Normally the locals opt for a good siesta (if their work allows, of course). With these things in mind, we suggest that you look for destinations in Mediterranean coastal cities (avoiding the north during the winter), where the temperatures are milder, and aside from that, the beaches are an added incentive.

We promise that these places have a lot to offer! According to these criteria, Valencia and Málaga would be the destinations to choose from in Spain. Shall we continue?

3.- The selection of Spanish schools

It’s common enough to hear: I’ve found at least 10 schools in the city where I want to go. Which one is the best? It’s hard to tell. Let’s see…

3.A It’s best to choose schools which are accredited by the only valid official seal that ensures that they’re teaching under strict parameters and periodic quality evaluation. That is, schools accredited by the Cervantes Institute. There are almost 100 such schools throughout Spain, but if you’ve already decided on a city, that greatly narrows down the choices. Let’s continue…

3.B We recommend that you don’t go to chains of schools that offer multiple destinations in Spain. Why? It’s simple. These chains have a lot of business throughout the world, and their marketing campaigns are excellent…but in general that is where their good management stops. Their objective is to get more and more students. The main radical difference is that in small schools, the director is also the owner of a family business. As the person in charge, he or she is much more considerate and flexible when attending to your individual needs than the director of a school which belongs to a chain of 5, 10, or 30 schools around the world, where management decisions are made by a higher supervisor and the director has little decision-making power.

It seems logical, right? We will repeat, we are just offering you some guidelines based on our personal experience. Of course, these are subjective, since they come from our opinion.

3.C Good, now we’ve narrowed down the options, right?

So here are our last suggestions:

C.1 – There should be photos of the school on its website. The facilities are often inferior, on the third floor of an old building with no elevator, for example, and the schools barely post photos of the facilities themselves, just amazing photos of their city – Careful with this!

C.2 – Is the school a part of a social network? Facebook? Google+? Does it have a lot of followers or friends? Maybe they are satisfied students who wanted to keep in touch because they had an unforgettable stay. Have you thought about contacting them and asking them directly what they thought about their experience? Perhaps that way someone who was a student at the school can help you make the right decision.

Do not underestimate this choice, of the destination where you want to learn Spanish in Spain or the school where you want to study Spanish effectively. Ultimately, it is an investment in your education and you should consider it very carefully. There is no doubt that you will be thankful you did. Good luck with your search!