Posts Tagged ‘Latin America’

Stay with a Family in Latin America and Learn Spanish

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

So you have started learning Spanish and you want to take it to the next level? Well, by staying with a family in Latin America you will be able to become fluent in Spanish very quickly.

A few years ago I ventured to deepest, darkest Peru to stay with a Peruvian family on the coast. It had always been my dream to visit South America and I would like to tell you that I had done my research thoroughly and knew exactly what to expect from the experience: but that would be stretching the truth.

In reality, I was super young, footloose and fancy free and caught up in the spirit of adventure. It only occurred to me to start thinking about what I was in for when I was on the airplane. I suddenly realized how little research I had done into the place I was going to be staying for the next four months and began to get nervous.

Luckily the family I was placed with was very welcoming and had as much interest in me and learning about my culture as I had in theirs. Everyday I would help the mother of the family go to the market for the daily food and then prepare it in the kitchen. This was a great experience because not only did it give me a solid couple of hours to speak Spanish and develop my fluency and vocabulary, it also taught me how to make many delicious Peruvian dishes.

At first eating a hot dish in the middle of the day in summer heat was difficult for me, but I got used to it and came to see this ritual as part of the glue that holds Peruvian families together. The chance to escape work to meet with your family is an important factor in why Peruvian families are so close. As everyone sat around the dining table it was another chance to speak Spanish and interact with both adults and teenagers – boy did I learn a lot of slang!

Apart from “sit down please” and “how are you?” no one in my host family spoke any English. From day one I was forced to interact in pure Spanish and a little bit of sign language.

At times it could be frustrating when I really wanted to share something with them and I felt clumsy doing it, or could not find the words. At times I just really wanted to have a chat to someone in English. At times I would think I understood something correctly and it turned out I did not. At times it was really tiring communicating 24/7 in Spanish. Immersing yourself in another culture and language is a challenge, no matter which way you spin it.

Poco a poco things got much easier. Gradually I found that I could communicate my thoughts and feelings much more clearly, I could keep pace during the dinner conversations, I could understand jokes and give come backs when I was being affectionately teased and I could keep up with the drama taking place on the TV soap opera.

Without having completed my stay with a Latin American family I doubt I would ever have reached the level of fluency that I achieved after only four months in Peru. I learned more in that time than any grammar book could ever have given me and it motivated me to keep trying to surmount the nightmare of Spanish verb conjugations.

There is no doubt in my mind that staying with a family in Latin America is one of the best ways that you can develop your language skills – and, if you are lucky learn to make some awesome South American food.

Travel Through Latin America and Learn Spanish at the Same Time

Monday, July 1st, 2013

Latin America with its hypnotic rhythms, exotic cuisines, verdant rainforests, ancient civilizations and tropical beaches offers a dizzying concoction of potential travel experiences. From hiking the Inca Trail to penguin spotting in Patagonia, Latin America is an exciting and memorable travel destination.

Spanish dominates Latin America, in fact there are more than 400 million Spanish speakers on the continent, so what better way to learn than to travel throughout Central and South America?

Immersing yourself in the culture and language is a guaranteed path to Spanish fluency. As you travel throughout Latin America you can take Spanish classes and organize home stays with local families before moving onto your next location.

The accent, pronunciation and slang used in different countries throughout Latin America are unique. By splitting your time up between various spots around the continent you will be exposed to a great variety of Spanish and your listening skills and vocabulary will thank you for it.

Peru is often said to have the most pure Spanish in all of Latin America. This is attributed to the fact that it was the headquarters of the vice-royalty in the days of colonialism and hence had a large population of nobility. The Peruvian accent is clear and Peruvians tend not to pepper their speech with as much slang as experienced in countries such as Chile or Mexico. The chief locations for learning Spanish throughout the land of the Incas are Lima or Cuzco. If you want to go off the beaten track Trujillo, Chiclayo, Piura, Arequipa and Mancora are also options for enrolling in language schools.

Moving further south Chile is a stunning country blessed with dramatic mountain ranges and the spectacular beauty of the wine growing regions in the south. Chilean Spanish is considered to be very fast and bedecked with a lot of slang, but there are plenty of language schools in the capital Santiago that can get you used to the rapid pace of Chilean Spanish. While sampling some of the delicious wine in the Viña del Mar region in the south you can also brush up on your Spanish skills.

Argentinean Spanish is known among native speakers for its lyrical accent. The huge numbers of Italian immigrants that came to Argentina in the 18th and 19th centuries have left their mark on the national accent. The main centers for learning Spanish in Argentina are Buenos Aires, Cordoba and Bariloche in Patagonia.

Heading north to Central America, Costa Rica with its white sandy tropical beaches holds a great deal of appeal. Costa Rica has set aside 20 per cent of its territory for national park lands where visitors can experience jungles rich in tropical flora and fauna. There are several Spanish schools set up in San Jose and some of them also run volunteer ecological programs alongside the language classes.

Mexico at the top of Latin America is also home to the largest population of Spanish speakers in the world. Perhaps for this reason it is also one of the widest users of slang in Latin America. Mexico has a ton of language schools for travelers in many different cities and pueblos. Whether you want to hang out in colonial Guadalajara or hang out on the beach in between classes in La Paz, Mazatlan or Puerto Escondido you can find the right combination for you.

Latin America has more than 20 countries with Spanish listed as an official language. If you want to immerse yourself in castellano and become fluent while enjoying some truly spectacular sites, several world heritage sites and even a world wonder or two, then start making plans today. Not only will you arrive home with fluent Spanish, but you’ll bring with you fistfuls of fantastic memories.

Teach English in Latin America and Learn Spanish at the Same Time

Monday, June 17th, 2013

Feel like adding a bit of spark to your life and broadening your horizons? Why not consider teaching English in Latin America and learning Spanish at the same time? There are multitudes of locations all around Latin America that offer programs where you can teach English to locals while becoming a Spanish speaker.

If you would love to be able to chat away in Spanish and not sound clumsy, then the only way to do it is through immersion. By living and breathing the Spanish language and Latino culture for an extended period you can become truly fluent and have an incredible experience to boot.

All throughout Central and South America there are places crying out for English teachers and you can visit for just a few weeks or extend your stay. From teaching business executives to street children, there are programs and schools that would love to have you working with them.

When coming to Latin America to teach English and learn Spanish you have two possible plans of attack. The first is to enroll in a volunteering program: these are generally all inclusive. They will organize home stays or accommodation; food, training, a teaching position and Spanish language classes. Basically they do all the complicated stuff and leave it up to you to enjoy your experience. The downside to these programs is that they are often quite expensive and you do not earn much of a wage from your teaching work.

Some well known organizations that run teaching programs around Latin America include: World Teach; Alliances Abroad and Global Vision International Global Vision International also has a six month program that takes volunteers to work and learn in Guatemala, Honduras, Ecuador and Peru.

In addition to these very well organized and well-connected programs, there are also many small programs looking for volunteers to teach in poor areas. The little guys rarely have the resources for fancy websites, but have very valuable grassroots programs happening. These can generally only be discovered once you make it to Latin America and start scouting around.

The second option is to DIY. Start by working out where you would like to go, and then pack your rucksack and start knocking on doors of language schools when you get there. After you have found a job and a place to lay your head, you can organize yourself some Spanish lessons. This option will probably result in more of a living wage for you and lower costs, but if you do not speak Spanish it may be tricky to organize things like accommodation.

Many enthusiastic travelers to Latin America send out resumes and CVs hoping to line up a teaching job before they arrive. In reality, this almost never works. You are much more likely to land a job by knocking on doors and presenting yourself in person. Forums on websites such as and can help you to make some valuable contacts and get great advice about where the jobs are.

You may be wondering how you can teach English if you do not have any qualifications, but most volunteer programs offer some basic training and materials before you make it to the classroom. Many language schools in Latin America will also accept you if you have a university qualification – although you will most likely be working there illegally. International and bilingual schools may also be an option. They are unlikely to hire you as a classroom teacher, but they are often looking for native speaker class assistants.

Teaching English while immersing yourself in Spanish language and Latin culture is a surefire way to become fluent in no time. Not only that, but you will make lifelong friends and have endlessly fond memories of the hectic and noisy, but warm and friendly place that is Latin America.