I have decided to start my trip in Ecuador, and I will be flying into Quito on 10/7/08.
My original plan had been to sign up with a language school in advance, though I've seen posts from many threads where people recommend signing up once you actually arrive in country. Apparently, you get a better feel for the school and save a lot of money as well.
My questions are:
1) How difficult is this in general?
2) How do you go about finding the schools?
3) Will it be much harder given I know nearly no Spanish to begin?
4) What should I look for in the schools when making my decision?
5) Should I go somewhere outside of Quito that is less tourist-y?
6) I had hoped to do a home-stay program to better immerse myself, and many pre-arranged programs include this. Will it be more difficult finding these arrangements if I do all of this after arriving in Quito? Are most Spanish schools affiliated with some kind of home-stay program?
Thanks for all your help! Should anyone have advice not touched on by my questions, feel free to offer it. I can't wait for this trip to begin!
1) easy. All schools in Quito, Guayaquil and Cuenca are extremely geared to tourists. All staff speaks at least some English, and the information they give is often better than what you can find online (if any at all)
2) walk around Quito city center and you will stumble upon one every 10 meters or so
3) no, your learning curve will simply be different. Very much in general, people who start learning a foreign language where that language is actually spoken around them outperform those who start elsewhere
4) you have to decide what you want. If you want enough Spanish to get by during your trip, you have to look for someone good at teaching conversational skills. If you're interested in grammar or literature, you need another kind of teacher. If you eventually want to continue for a formal degree, it would be better to consider going to Spain...
5) that would be a good idea to immerse yourself in a spanish-speaking community, but not necessarily if you're a starting learner. Fellow students may help to keep up your motivation
6) no, and no. You can also enroll on the spot, but it is more likely that you have to wait a little before you can start. Not all schools offer homestays; specifically in Quito I wouldn't know a single one, even.
I looove Quito, lived there for 4 months last year.
Check out the south american explorers club, just up past the dance school, on george washington & 6 december, they have a list of schools, with reviews on how people liked them. Or as bentivogli said, just wander the streets, they are everywhere.
Many of the hostels offer lessons too, or can recommend somewhere for you.