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Learning Spanish in S.America!?!

Travel Forums Central/South America & The Caribbean Learning Spanish in S.America!?!

1. Posted by dlovallo1 (Full Member 119 posts) 5y Star this if you like it!

Hi all,

Following the back end of a RTW trip next year i'm going to be landing in Santiago and spending around 3 months travelling around south america (Bolivia, Peru etc) before departing from Rio. I've heard from many that it's always good to speak some spanish as finding natives which speak good english can be a bit of a rarity and i would love to learn the language anyways.

I will go there having no knowledge of spanish, but has anybody got any advice on how it is best to pick the language up? Will it be easy to just pick it up naturally whilst travelling with a phase book or is it a good idea for example to do a homestay in bolivia and have a couple of weeks of intense lessons? if so what sort of price would i be looking at paying for lessons?

Any advice on this subject or any past experiences would be great.


P.S i know it's portuguese in brazil, but i think the languages are quite similar anyways and hopefully can get by with a bit of spanish.

2. Posted by ryssbalt (Budding Member 6 posts) 5y Star this if you like it!

I have been traveling in South and Central America. In Guatemala there are lot of Spanish schools especially in Quetzaltenango( called Xela by local people) and Antigua. In Antigua there are more then 50 Spanish schools.
People in Guatemala are very nice and honest.

3. Posted by Cecci (Budding Member 3 posts) 5y Star this if you like it!

I would think a intensive course would get you furthest. In Costa Rica (maybe a bit far from where you're planning on going?) they have some places where you can work as a volunteer at an animal "hospital", stay at a local family and get spanish lessons. You get lessons in the morning and work with the animals in the afternoon. And the Costa Rican people are really nice :)

4. Posted by imaredhead946 (First Time Poster 1 posts) 5y Star this if you like it!

Hola! ;) I've posted a lot here so I will recap my resources and then tell a little about them and my experience. I'd recommend studying Spanish before you go on your trip so you will be better prepared. Before you go, find someone in South America who can/will help you learn now and even more once you arrive, then put your new found language skills to use!



1- Living Language Spanish Coursebook - ISBN 1-4000-2032-8 (EXCELLENT & easy
resource!! :) I purchased book used from for less than $5)
2- Living Language Audio CD's corresponding with book
3- (Use for Spanish grammar exercises
& more. Also a very good and FREE online resource)
4- Google for Spanish poetry and translate (Pablo Neruda, Poema Veinte a/k/a
Poem 20 is one of my favorites)
5- Translate English to Spanish online using (you may
know a better one but this worked great for me) :)
6- Spanish Television, News, Movies, or FREE Spanish Newspapers - The game shows
can be quite entertaining!
7- Bilingual Spanish/English Speaking online email or chat friend

**** END OF RECAP ****


I'm not sure where you are traveling from to get to South America but I will be traveling from Atlanta to Peru later this year. I hate needles so I'm dreading the Yellow Fever vaccine. Oh well. Ok, I know very little Spanish; however, thankfully, I have Peruvian friends in Lima who speak fairly good English. I don't know about the intensive courses there that Cecci mentioned in their post but I think I agree with some of Cecci's post. You may be able to meet someone or a family online "in advance of your trip" who can help you by being a chat or email friend before you go and who will also be there to help you when you arrive. An email/chat friend helped me 12 years ago when I was going to try to learn Spanish. Sadly, I didn't go to South America back then and now I'm starting over with studying/learning Spanish. It's difficult when you don't have someone to speak it with every day and I want to be prepared BEFORE I get there! haha!

  • ** Also, most recently, I have been using the Living Language Spanish Coursebook and the English/Spanish dictionary set. You can purchase as a set new as I did; however, I lost part of mine and had to replace my coursebook but I was able to purchase a good used coursebook by itself and that saved me some money. It has helped me tremendously to be able to read and comprehend a little bit of Spanish so that I will be able to get by somewhat on my own.

If you aren't going until next year, I would highly recommend buying and studying this book now BEFORE your trip and to carry it with you when you go because it is very, very, helpful and extremely EASY to understand! It starts with the basics and teaches Spanish pronunciation, grammar, Feminine-Masculine usage of words, counting & numbers, "who, what, where, when, why, & how", etc. as well as other useful Spanish language information. It has tests with the answers. If you don't plan to carry an electronic translator on your trip, I'd definitely buy this book and study BEFORE you go. :) In my opinion, The Living Language series is one of the best and "affordable" courses on the market (and no, I don't own stock. LOL!). I bought my replacement course book used from (I had lost part of my set) and I paid less than $5 USD for it including shipping (I also saved $30 on a German set for my daughter by shopping!). I plan to take my Living Language Coursebook with me when I go to Lima to use as a reference because even though I have English speaking friends there, I will be venturing out on my own for part of my trip. I will learn the basics such as counting, getting through customs, asking for directions and/or other questions before I leave. My friend told me that as long as you say "Soy un turista" (I am a tourist) when you go through Customs they will gladly welcome you! LOL! :) One of my favorite learning phrases is "¿cómo se dice ______ en español?" which means "How do you say (insert word) in Spanish?"

Another thing I have done is search online for Spanish poetry and translate using Babelfish. ( ) I also was watching a couple hours of Spanish TV each week as well as picking up a free Spanish newspaper each month and "attempt" to read it. Many Spanish/English words are almost the same and I have found that it really helps. I try to learn a few new words each week that do not look like English words. I have a difficult time speaking Spanish (rolling my R's) but I do ok with most of it as long as I speak slowly and also ask others to speak Spanish slowly. *** I also discovered a FREE website for Spanish grammar exercises that lets you take grammar tests by selecting the correct answers from a dropdown, etc. It gives you a score when finished and shows you the correct answers. I've learned some just by taking the test and failing in order to get the correct answers. Some of it you may be able to use and some of it may be too advanced (depending on what you know already). Some is too advanced for me but it's still an excellent tool for learning. The educational website is ( ). The name of it actually used to be Spanish Grammar Exercises until not that long ago.

I know this is a lot of information to read and that's why I recapped at the beginning especially since some people get bored with a lot of details. Anyway, I hope this helps. :) Have a FABULOUS trip to South America!!

Buena suerte y buen viaje! ;) (Translation: "Good luck and a pleasant trip!" *I think. I'm still learning. LOL!*)

Ima :) :) :)

5. Posted by stevnale (Budding Member 2 posts) 4y Star this if you like it!

Go to Ecuador, for me they speak the best spanish, very easy to learn, i went to Manta, a city with a beatiful beach, and i think is the best place to learn spanish!

6. Posted by fran.machado (Budding Member 6 posts) 4y Star this if you like it!

Hey, I'm from Santiago de Chile. I will be in Rio de Janeiro in march learning portuguese. Then I can help you here in Santiago. There are a lot of language centers with spanish for foreings.
We use so many slangs so in the beginning can be hard, but we also have a very neutral accent, wich is better.
If you are coming let me know, I'm planning a trip to he noth of Chile and Bolivia.