Deciding which language school you are going to study Spanish at is a big moment. You'll most likely spend between one and six months learning Spanish, so getting the right language school is essential. There are hundreds of language schools in Spain and not all of them are as good as the others. Here are five factors to consider when choosing your Spanish language school in Spain.
The main reason you want to learn Spanish in Spain will most likely be because of the total immersion you get. So you'll want to be in an area where you can actually get the most out of eavesdropping on conversations in the street.
Unfortunately, there are several regions of Spain where the locals prefer to speak another language, such as Barcelona, where Catalan is the preferred language. And the accent in much of the south can be difficult to understand for a beginner (but perfect practice for more advanced learners!).
Ignore (Most) Recommendations
Every language learner and their (Spanish-speaking) dog has a recommendation for the best Spanish school. "My teacher, Carmen, was the best, you should definitely go to Los Amigos; it's a great little school", they might say.
But teachers come and go and the reputation of a school should leave with the best teachers, but it usually doesn't. This is particularly the problem with small schools.
Choose a Big School
Big schools mean lots of classes. If you don't like the class you're in, you can change. There are lots of reasons you might want to change classes, some of which I'll go into more detail about below. May the class is going to fast for you? Maybe too slow? Or maybe you just don't get along with your teacher. A large school allows you to change. Large school chains in Spain include Don Quijote and International House.
Find out Where the Other Students Are From
The whole world is learning Spanish. Some schools are stronger in, say, the Chinese market; others may be strong in the Brazilian market. Though politically correct schools may claim the linguistic make-up of your class doesn't matter, it does.
If your class is dominated by Portuguese and Italian speakers, it will move very quickly as your classmates are already quite familiar with much of the vocabulary and grammar. On the other hand, a class full of Chinese students will need to go slower to allow them to ask the meaning of words like 'tomate' or 'comunicación', which you'll know from English.
An excellent way to learn Spanish in Spain is to learn in multiple cities. There are several advantages to this:
- You'll get exposure to another accent.
- You get to see another city.
- You can offset the costs of staying in an expensive city by combining your studies with a stay in a cheaper city.
Though you can simply stay for a month with one school and then book a separate course at another school, studying with a school that has several branches makes the process easier. They will most likely use the same course materials and so can precisely pinpoint where you are in the syllabus to match you to the right class in your new school.
A good Spanish language school does more than just teach you the grammar and vocabulary. You probably want to learn Spanish because you want to get close to the culture than you can without the language, so some sort of cultural studies that go in tandem with your studies can be a great way to achieve your goals.
Some schools allow you to combine your language classes with formal classes in flamenco guitar, flamenco dancing, Spanish cooking or other elements of Spanish culture. Some offer a '20+5' system where you get 20 hours a week of Spanish classes and five hours a week of 'free' (i.e. included in the price!).