The Best Places to Study Spanish in South America

A dramatic view of the Spanish language city of Quito, and the Ecuadorian countryside surrounding it
hstiver / Getty Images

When it comes to the number of native Spanish speakers around the world, they are only outnumbered by speakers of the Mandarin language. It is the primary language in every nation throughout South America but Brazil, where Portuguese is spoken.

It is believed that there are also around eighty million people who either speak Spanish as a second language or are learning the language. When it comes to really getting a feel for learning Spanish, there is no better way to learn than to immerse yourself in a country where Spanish is the primary language. There are many cities across South America where people can submerge themselves in a culture where everything happens in Spanish.

Quito, Ecuador

Ecuador as a country is noted as one of the best places in the world to learn Spanish outside Spain itself, because the people speak with a very gentle accent that can generally be understood throughout the Spanish speaking world.

As the country's capital city, Quito is a great option because it has a wonderful culture and a charming old town to explore, with plenty of people who are used meeting visitors on a regular basis. It is possible to take a course at the Catholic University of Quito, or there are several other dedicated schools and tutors that you can choose from.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

The capital city of Argentina is a very interesting place to live and to spend time, and with so many people living there, it is no surprise that there are plenty of options for those who want to speak Spanish.

The city has plenty of pleasant and attractive areas in which to stay, and there is a strong tourism industry that means there are plenty of people in the city that do speak English. However, one warning for those who have some experience with Spanish or have learned the language in another country, the Italian influence in Argentina means that the language has a significantly different accent, with the "ll" sound used in a different way, and the tempo and tone of speech adopting a more Italian lilting tone.

Santiago, Chile

Chile is another popular country in which to learn Spanish. With solid access to the Pacific Coast and the mountains of the Andes, the city of Santiago is a particularly nice place to live and to learn Spanish.

Almost everyone in Chile speaks Spanish, but like in many other areas learning the language in the capital does provide a nice safety net, as there are many people who speak some English, especially as many younger people will have been to a school where learning some English was compulsory.

Like Argentina, Chile does have its own accent in terms of the Spanish that is spoken there, although most people with a grasp of Spanish should be able to understand the standard form of Spanish that is commonly taught.

Bogota, Colombia

Although this Colombian capital was once known as a city where visitors were often targeted by gangs and drug cartels, this has changed significantly, and the city is a charming and safe place to visit.

The lively social scene offers plenty of opportunities to practice Spanish, and even if the Spanish isn't perfect, it is still possible to express yourself through dance in one of the many salsa clubs in the city.

There are plenty of institutions that offer Spanish courses, with all of the major universities in the city offering Spanish classes, while international embassies and foreign bodies such as the British Council also have their own Spanish lessons. The Spanish spoken in Colombia is quite neutral and free from too much slang and accent, meaning it is ideal for those who are new to the language.

Cusco, Peru

The historic city of Cusco is one of the most popular tourist destinations in South America. Although there is a strong tourism industry in Cusco, visitors will find that outside of the main tourist areas few people will speak English, meaning that learning Spanish will have progress quickly in order to get along.

There are plenty of schools offering Spanish lessons in the city, while many visitors will also choose to further immerse themselves in Peruvian culture by studying a little Quechua, which is one of the native languages in Peru.

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