I've got six months to travel some of the countries South America (aiming for Ecuador, Peru and Chile -- possibly Argentina as well, but I realize this may be pushing it). This trip would take place from October-March, encapsulating all of summer..
I would like to start with at least a month in one country learning Spanish. I had three years of it in high school, but that was over a decade ago now, and I'd imagine my trip will go much better if I at least have the basics of communication down.
My questions are:
1) Are there better countries for learning Spanish (I've read in places that Chile's dialect is different enough that it's not the best place to learn).
2) Is it better to go through one of the programs I can find online, or find a local class upon arriving? I have found many online, but I can't tell if they are overpriced or not. And I don't mind paying a bit extra to get a class I'll be happy with.
3) Are there any specific schools or classes that the experts would recommend?
It looks as though Ecuador is probably the best starting point for most reasons, but I figured I would throw this out to you all for help anyway.
Any interesting personal experiences would be great to hear! Thanks!
My favorite topic, language in South America. Your initial read on learing in Chile is (in my humble opinion) spot on. The alternative? While I studied Spanish in college, if I were to do a graduate program, I'd fly straight to Bolivia. I know it's not on your list, but it has the "cleanest" Spanish, great to get a language base. From personal experience with the people, climate and size, I'd recommend Sucre or Cochabamba. If you can't make it to Bolivia, I'd stick with Ecuador or Peru before studying in Argentina, unless you want an accent that rivals Madrilenos from Spain.
In Sucre, Bolivia, I met some travelers who signed up for a course and an apartment within a week, and were settling in for a long-term stay. That's just one example, but I think it's indicative of the overall opportunities to not book in advance and test a city out before committing to it. Also, you'll have far more bargaining power and options if you make arrangements in person.
Hope this helps, let me know if there are any specifics I might be able to add to help you make a decision. No matter what you do, it'll be an excellent adventure.
I lived in Cartagena Colombia for a year in 2007. I know Spanish, but I found many Spanish schools there...Especially hidden and cheap ones in the more depressed section of Las Murallas, called Getsemani. There is little or no English in the city...it is on the Caribbean. The accomodations are cheap. The people are fantastic. There is only one McDonalds in the WHOLE CITY (and does no business) The Salsa is incessant (first good, for me, and THEN FUCKING TORTUOUS!!!) but there is so much to explore....Colombia is largely shiied away from, so it ain't inundated with our type....but if you stay in Getsemani, you will get your share of interaction (and boom chick boom chicka boom chicka boom chicka boom boom boom boom music...That techno shit drives me insane.) So, I suggest this town....Also, it's easy to see the wider world of Colombia from here...AND find an English teaching job, if you are so inclined.
I'm Julia, and I have been to Argentina and studied at Ibero School. The classes were really good. Since I was staying at the Garden House Hostel in San Telmo Art Factory the gave me a 10% discount. Here you have the links for the pages for you to look: www.ibl.com.ar and www.artfactoryba.com.ar. Both places were really nearby, so I could just walk.
Hope Im helping you with this information.
I would agree with Piecar. Colombia for me has a very neutral and clear accent and you won´t get distracted into speaking English because there are less travellers there.
Else Ecuador or Peru would be fine. Chile and Argentina have strong dialects so I suppose it would be a little bit more difficult but you could still pick up some of the lingo.
The thing you need to do is find a place without any gringos. Stay there for a month, learn Spanish in a school and stay in a spanish speaking house. Then you´ll be sorted. Try not to travel and learn because the different accents in towns will make it harder.
You will easily find a school when your in town so no need to book up an expensive package from abroad.