If you’re planning to travel around Latin America, one of the best travel tips I can give you is to learn Spanish! Before I begun my adventure in Central America, I’d been doing Duolingo religiously on a daily basis. Of course, this was helpful- I could put together basic sentences and express myself in most situations. But, let’s be honest, an app can never make you conversational or fluent. Instead, what you need is proper help from a native. I decided to learn Spanish in Guatemala and it helped me improve my Spanish to no end. Here are 7 reasons why you should, too.
It’s the Most Affordable Place to Learn Spanish in Latin America
Guatemala is considered to be the best country to learn Spanish in Latin America. Why? Because, quite frankly, it’s cheap as chips! I did my lessons with Utatlan Spanish School in Xela, a charming city in the Western Highlands, and it cost just 1365Q (£140/ $186) per week. That included 20 hours of lessons, homestay accommodation and 3 meals per day, as well as afterschool excursions. Honestly, with prices like that, there’s absolutely no excuse not to learn Spanish in Guatemala if you’re going to be passing through on the backpacker trail. Equally so, if you want to go to a Spanish speaking country specifically to study Spanish, you won’t find a better option than this!
Live with a Friendly Guatemalan Family at a Homestay
Guatemalan people are some of the friendliest we’ve met on our travels. While we were doing our Spanish course, we opted to live with a Guatemalan family in a homestay in Xela. Not only was this a great way to practice our Spanish out of class, but we also got to learn more about Guatemalan culture and try different foods, too.
We had loads of fun living with our homestay family. We could chat about random things around the dinner table and really immerse ourselves into our Spanish practice.
A lot of people worry that a homestay family might not be able to adapt meals to their dietary requirements but we met students who were vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, lactose-intolerant- you name it! Because all of the families have experience hosting Western students, they knew how to adapt the meals to their tastes. If this is holding you back from doing a homestay in Guatemala, you have nothing to worry about!
To have the most immersive experience learning Spanish in Guatemala, combine your studies with a homestay. You can be sure of lightning fast progression when you’re conversing in Spanish round the clock!
The Spanish Spoken in Guatemala is Clean and Easy to Understand
A lot of people consider Guatemala to have the easiest Spanish accent in Latin America. Because of this, by studying Spanish in Guatemala, you’ll develop a more universal accent that’s easy to understand. Plus, since the accent is cleaner and slower, you’ll feel more confident conversing with locals when you’re still starting out
There’s Loads to See when you Learn Spanish in Guatemala
By studying Spanish in Guatemala, you’ll have plenty of time to see all the amazing things that the country has to offer. You can see the awe-inspiring ruins of Tikal, explore the Mayan villages around Lake Atitlan and watch lava spewing out of an active volcano from the top of a dormant one!
If you decide to spend several months learning Spanish in Guatemala, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to explore all these places. (And have a great excuse to hop over to the gorgeous San Cristobal in Mexico for your visa run!)
It’s at the Start of the “Gringo Trail”
The “Gringo Trail” stretches all the way from Mexico right down to the tip of Argentina, Chile or along to Brazil (depending on who you ask!) If you’re beginning your journey from Europe or North America, it makes the most sense to fly to Mexico and travel from top to bottom. But, before you can really begin your journey, you need to brush up on your Español!
Luckily, Guatemala is just one border hop away from Mexico. Spend your time in Mexico practicing the basics and then formally learn Spanish in Guatemala to really hone your skills. With a bit of time and lots of practice with your teacher, you’ll be set up for the rest of your trip.
There are Lots of Afterschool Activities to Choose From
We chose to study with Utatlan Spanish School because of all the free activities that they had on offer. From visits to traditional textile factories, to hiking trips and movie nights, these afterschool activities offered us some of the best opportunities to practice our Spanish outside of the classroom while learning about Guatemalan culture.
And Different Places to Study, too!
The main places to study Spanish in Guatemala are Antigua, Lake Atitlan and Quetzaltenango (Xela). We opted to study Spanish in Xela because it’s not as prominent on the tourist trail as the former two destinations. Because of this, we could really immerse ourselves into the language and culture. A lot of people say that Xela is the best place to study Spanish in Guatemala, and I have to agree! We loved our experience and don’t think it would have been the same in Antigua or Lake Atitlan.
Most backpackers decide to attend Spanish schools in Antigua, Guatemala, mainly for the social scene. But, since the place is flooded with travellers, most end up speaking English as soon as they get out of class. Equally so, I’d imagine the same to be true for the likes of San Pedro and San Marcos on Lake Atitlan.
If you really want to learn Spanish in Guatemala, I recommend getting yourself to Xela where there are much fewer travellers!
Learning Spanish in Guatemala is one of the most worthwhile things you can do while travelling in Latin America. Not only will it set you up for the rest of your trip, you’ll make plenty of memories during your course, too. I loved my time studying at Utatlan Language School in Xela and would recommend them to anyone looking to learn Spanish in Guatemala!