It doesn’t take a genius to realize that some knowledge of the local language will make the experience of visiting a new country that much richer—Argentina is no exception. Although it’s possible to get by without it, a bit of Spanish can go a long way in solving day-to-day problems, making new friends, and finding out about those hidden gems that other gringos will never see.
The good news is that it is very easy to learn ‘on-the-job’ in the country itself. Buenos Aires hosts dozens of language schools, and as the number of overseas visitors to Argentina has boomed, other cities and popular tourist hotspots have also opened institutions for traveler. In fact, there are so many options now that choosing one can be somewhat overwhelming, without the help of a guide…
Armed with your specific Spanish learning wants and needs, it’s time to select a school. There are hundreds of private language schools in Buenos Aires alone, as well as courses available at universities, and competition keeps standards consistent and prices respectable. Below is a comprehensive (though by no means exhaustive) list of institutions and their contact details. The price quoted is for a standard, two-week program, with 20 hours of group classes per week. Special offers and discounts are common, and available on the website listed. Suerte!
University of Buenos Aires (UBA): 25 de Mayo 221, Centro, Capital Federal / (+54) 11 4343-5981 / http://www.idiomas.filo.uba.ar/ / firstname.lastname@example.org / 875 pesos (4 weeks, 15 hours per week). The languages faculty at the state university offers Spanish courses for foreigners at very low prices, though cannot provide the same level of flexibility as private schools, and are better suited for longer-term visitors.
Spanish Via: Pte Luis Saenz Peña 277, Congreso, Capital Federal (Saenz Peña subte: línea A)/ (+54) 11 4381-5963 / http://www.spanishvia.com/ / email@example.com / US$295. This school also runs a Latin American culture course, which combines Spanish lessons with workshops on local art, literature, society, politics and, of course, tango. Travelers are able to complete their program in other cities around the country.
Experiencia Buenos Aires: Cabildo 936, Belgrano, Capital Federal (Olleros subte: línea D) / (+54) 11 6207-3273 or 5883-4284 / http://www.experienciaba.com/ / firstname.lastname@example.org / US$230 (30 hours total).Based in upscale Belgrano, around 15 minutes from downtown, the emphasis in this institute is to use practical resources (eg. local newspapers) and common situations (eg. asking for directions) to merge classroom teaching with daily life. Discounts are available for groups (3 or more people) and university students can apply for a scholarship.
DWS Spanish School: Avenida Córdoba 4382, Capital Federal / (+54) 11 4777-6515 or 4773-1379 / http://www.danielawasser.com.ar/ / email@example.com / US$380. A slightly more expensive option, but this school offers a range of standard and specialist programs, and is affiliated with Voluntario Global, a local NGO (see volunteering guide).
Íbero Spanish School: Uruguay150, Congreso, Capital Federal (Uruguay subte: linea B) / (+54) 11 5218-0240 / http://www.iberospanish.com/ / firstname.lastname@example.org / US$270.Special programs at this centrally-located school include an in-depth study of Argentine legends Eva Perón and Jorge Luis Borges. The competitive price includes a weekly conversation class, lesson in Argentine cinema, and city excursion.
American British Institute: Av Acoyte 948, Capital Federal / (+54) 11 4958-5590 / http://www.abinstitute.com/ / email@example.com/ US$XXX. Despite primarily teaching English to locals, this institute also offers Spanish courses for foreigners.
Español Andando: (+54) 11 5278-9886 / http://www.espanol-andando.com/ / firstname.lastname@example.org / US$80 Not a school as such, but a 4-day programs for beginners, with 3 hours of Spanish instruction each day. The program is a list of activities that costantly involve the participation of the student in actual life of the city, allowing the student to learn basic survival skills by a 100% practical method.
Argentina I.L.E.E: Av. Callao339 (3rd floor), Capital Federal (Callao subte: linea B or D) / (+54) 11 4782-7173 / http://www.argentinailee.com/ / email@example.com / US$230. Operating for over 20 years, and with other branches around Argentina and South America, this school is well established and offers a comprehensive range of courses and volunteer/internship work. Guarantees that all teachers hold a relevant postgraduate degree and have five years experience.
Academia Buenos Aires: Hipolito Irigoyen 571 (4th floor), Capital Federal (Plaza de Mayo subte: linea A) / (+54) 11 4345-5954 / http://www.academiabuenosaires.com/ / firstname.lastname@example.org / US$380. The slightly higher fee for this centrally located school incorporates several extra curricular activities and the opportunity to join in voluntary work without additional cost. Also has the option to combine studies in Buenos Aires with partner school in Montevideo, Uruguay.
Rayuela Spanish Institute: Chacabuco 852, San Telmo, Capital Federal (Independencia subte: linea C) / (+54) 11 4300-2010 / http://www.spanish-argentina.com.ar/ / email@example.com / US$390 (inc. registration fee).Based conveniently close to many hostels and tourist accommodation in San Telmo, this long-running school offers the standard group or private options in a relaxed environment.
Amatua Spanish School: Federico Lacroze 2129, Belgrano, Buenos Aires, Argentina / (+54) 11 4777 2130 / http://www.amautaspanish.com/amautaspanish/argentina/index.asp / firstname.lastname@example.org.Learn Spanish in Buenos Aires at AMAUTA Spanish Language School: Spanish Classes, Spanish Immersion and volunteer work. Study Spanish now.
Intercultural: República de Siria 241, Mendoza / (+54) 261 429-0269 / www.spanishcourses.com.ar / email@example.com / U$S 266
This school, which offers small group classes and private lessons, is well respected for its many other services and activities offered at no additional costs. From afternoon activities like visiting wineries to their weekly language exchange with locals, along with free volunteering placements and economical home stays, this school is truly full-service.
Spanish In Rosario: Fundación Convivencia/ Jujuy 2805, 2nd floor, 1st office / Tel: +54 9 341 6845550 / +54 341 437 7015 / http://www.spanishinrosario.com// firstname.lastname@example.org. The mission objective of this school is to offer a personalized experience, with students able to tailor-make their course and choose the location of the class. City tours of Rosario are offered in the first week of lessons.
ABLE Spanish: Caseros45, Córdoba / (+54) 351 423-3300 / http://www.ablespanish.com/ / email@example.com / US$290.On top of standard and sector specific Spanish course, this school can also place students in a customized internship at a professional organization, for between two and twelve months. Partner schools are available in Buenos Aires, Mendoza, Ushuaia and Bariloche.
Unilanguage: San Martin 980 (flat 6˚A), San Miguel de Tucuman / (+54) 381 497-6125 / http://www.unilanguage.com/.ar / firstname.lastname@example.org / US$270. This institute offers a range of Spanish studies and volunteer programs in Tucuman, offering a distinct cultural experience to more popular traveler destinations.
Los Andes Spanish School: Catamarca 784 Sur, San Juan / (+54) 264 422-4527 / http://www.andesschool.com.ar/ / email@example.com/ US$1300 (complete package includes homestay, transfers, community placement, and social activities). Specialist packages include exam preparation for US high school students and teacher training for already fluent speakers. Its location in San Juan means great opportunities for outdoor excursions and wine tours.
La Montaña: Elfein 251, Bariloche / (+54) 294 452-4212 / http://www.lamontana.com/ / firstname.lastname@example.org / US$290. Set in the popular ski resort of Bariloche, this school can offer adventure sports in the mountains as part of its extra-curricular program. Aware of the large number of short-term visitors, a special 2-week traveler program, which includes hostel/homestay accommodation and transfers, is available for US$495.
SET Idiomas: Corrientes23, Córdoba / (+54) 351 421-1719 / http://www.learningspanish.com.ar/ / email@example.com / US$270.Although based in Córdoba, this school offers a ‘Spanish on the road’ program, which allows travelers to continue studying in Buenos Aires, Mendoza and Bariloche. Useful for short-term students who are keen to explore various parts of the country.
Choosing A Program
Most language schools offer students a wide variety of teaching programs, from basic Spanish grammar and conversation to tailored courses targeting a particular industry, such as medicine, law or business management. Each institute also caters to all levels of Spanish, whether absolute beginners to experienced linguists reinforcing their existing knowledge.
Before starting any language course, students take an assessment test, so that they placed in the appropriate class for their understanding of Spanish. This is either taken at the school on the first morning of lessons, or sometimes at home before arrival. Either way, it is purely a guide, and nothing to worry about. In addition, most schools will allow students to switch levels if they feel they would be more comfortable at a different level.
Groups or Private?
Lessons on a standard Spanish course are generally taught in small groups, usually between two and six people. Fees are charged on a weekly basis, with discounts common for long-term courses and up front payment. However, private tuition is widely available for those seeking greater flexibility in both scheduling and study areas. While new students can join a group class any Monday, private students can often start on any day, fit their lessons into a convenient time, and even arrange to meet outside of the school (eg. at home or the office). This option is generally more expensive, and charged at an hourly rate anywhere between US$15 and US$25.
Aside from the extra control, the choice between solo and group classes is largely down to personal preferences. In a one-on-one situation, a student can focus on a particular area of difficulty or interest, and therefore ensure a solid understanding of each topic without fear of holding up the group. However, studying with peers offers the opportunity to learn from others´ different points of views and mistakes. Naturally, a group course is also a good way of meeting like-minded people (with a similar command of Spanish), though there are still plenty of opportunities to make friends outside of the classroom (see ´The Social Side´).
Most schools will offer the best of both worlds with a standard group course complimented by private lessons, where students can consolidate or expand on the subjects encountered earlier.
Again, most schools have a variety of programs that allows students select how long – and how many hours per day – they wish to study. The norm is 20 hours a week, with four hours of lessons every day starting at either 9am or 2pm. Bear in mind, some excursions or activities may take place during the afternoon, though starting early may interfere with plans to exploit Buenos Aires´ famed nightlife. Super intensive courses are another option for those working to a short timeframe, and can involve as many as 40 hours of class a week. The intensity of private tuition is almost entirely up to the student, and can include anything from two hours a day to the occasional lesson squeezed into a lunch break. Combined group and private classes generally involve a 4-hour morning lesson, topped up with two hours of one-on-one in the afternoon.
Those seeking specialist knowledge and skills can be accommodated at most language schools, which offer at least some tailored options. Industry-specific courses are useful for people considering working or studying abroad, with business, law and medicine among the most common choices. Depending on the school, there is sometimes the potential to combine classroom tuition with a placement at a relevant institution, proving the opportunity to put theory into practice on the same day.
More broadly themed programs are also widely available, with the potential to focus on Argentine (or Latin American) culture, society, literature, politics or economics. Such courses are more likely to include a mixture of class tuition and outdoor educational activities.
In almost all cases, schools require payment up front, though this can often be done on a week-by-week basis. It is worth checking ahead which forms of payment are accepted, though cash (in either US dollars or pesos) and major credit/debit cards are usually fine. Registration fees are also required upon starting at a new school, and involve a one-off payment of around US$30-US$50.
Most schools will offer additional services to students to make their visit as smooth as possible. This can start with transfers from the airport, offering medical/travel insurance (sometimes a pre-requisite for studying), and sorting accommodation. It is common for language schools to be connected with numerous apartments in the city, which can involve staying with a family (encouraged as a means of full Spanish immersion) or private lodging. It is worth remembering that while this option takes away the stress of finding a place to stay, the school will generally charge some commission, and this rental prices will be slightly higher than the norm. With any extra service, it is worth enquiring about any additional fees, as these are not always evident on the website.
The Social Side
Learning Spanish in Argentina isn’t just about conjugating verbs in a classroom. Getting out there and practicing on the street is key to rapid development, and language schools encourage this by organizing social activities and excursions for students. Whether it is just sharing a pizza on a Friday lunchtime or joining a full day hike into the Andes, it is the social side of Spanish studies that provide the best opportunity to get to know students and teachers outside of the classroom, and can often from some of the best memories of a trip.
High on the list of activities are the obvious staples of Argentine culture; football and tango. It is increasingly common for Spanish courses to now include a number of tango lessons, where students can feel comforted in the knowledge that they won´t be the only beginner to this complicated dance. Trips to Boca Juniors or River Plate – the two leading soccerclubs in Buenos Aires – can ensure security, especially getting in and out of the stadiums. There will likely be a mark up on regular ticket prices, however. Other typical city activities will include nights out a selected bars or clubs, with a reserved area and drinks promotions for students, walking tours, cooking classes or, if the school is equipped, a traditional ´asado´ on the roof terrace. Language schools in more remote areas will usually be able to offer deals on adventure sports and outdoor activities.
Whether these are included in the tuition fees or require payment depends on the individual institution, though students will often receive some sort of discount from the regular tourist price.
Some schools will be affiliated with local NGOs, offering a direct route into voluntary work (see also ´Volunteering guide´). This can range from a day visit to a school in a poor area of town to a more formal, month-long (or longer) placement. Where applicable, students will generally receive a discount for voluntary placements, and will pay an additional weekly fee on top of standard fees for classes.
Internships are another option for longer-term students. This can be in the school itself (working on the administrational or marketing side of business, for example) or even at a local organization, if the school is connected to any. Again, placement fees should be expected, though some places might offer free Spanish classes in exchange for work, though a minimum time commitment will probably be required.
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