Latin American Spanish is spoken more around the world than [the Spanish] that is spoken in Spain,” enthuses Gladys Portela at Academia Latinoamericana de Español, San Jose, Costa Rica. And quality is being widely recognised, argues Eduardo Trucco at SET Idiomas, Córdoba, Argentina. “For one thing, people are now much more aware of the excellent academic level of the top schools in the region.”
Gloria Ribeiro, Co-Director of the newly opened Academia Bariloche, Argentina, also emphasises quality. “When we launched Academia Bariloche as part of the Academias Latinas schools, people were telling us how great this was, because Bariloche and Patagonia are such incredible places for nature lovers. Whilst that is true, we see things from a different angle. We want students to come because of the language learning experience, implying an excellent academic level, fully professional service and a complete immersion offer. And of course we want students to enjoy the magnificent surroundings.”
“Students gain an understanding of the people, history and culture of the region,” enthuses Harriet Guerrero at Cemanahuac in Cuernavaca, Mexico. “We offer a chance to live and study in a rural community in central Mexico. This gives people an opportunity to see what life is really like outside the bustling cities,” she says, highlighting that there are no more than five students per teacher, as well as guided field trips to places of historical and cultural interest. Guerrero notes that Cemanahuac continues to receive a number of professionals requiring Spanish for work. “We are also seeing an increasing number of retirees coming to study and travel,” she adds.
The Mexican city of Puebla has, advises Jane Lewis at the Spanish Institute of Puebla, been named by the New York Times as one of the must visit cities in the world for 2012. “We are in an ex-convent in the middle of the second biggest historic centre in America and most tourist attractions are within walking distance from the institute,” attests Lewis. The school offers an intensive programme of six hours a day of study “that is accredited by over 150 universities worldwide”.
“The weather in San Jose is beautiful year round, with an average temperature of 22 degrees,” boasts Portela. “San Jose is in the centre of the country, making it very easy to travel to both coasts, volcanoes, national parks and reserves,” she continues. Nonetheless, museums, cinemas, nightlife, great restaurants and markets can all be found in the city. “Our school has been small since it was founded in 1990. The idea has always been to provide our students with a personalised service and make them feel at home. The smaller the school, the better and faster the results in language [learning],” opines Portela, who adds that one-to-one Dele preparation classes are becoming increasingly popular.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, is “a beautiful city full of culture and things to do”, notes Jascha Drel at Expanish. “We offer all kinds of free extra activities such as a weekly city tour, dance classes and mate [a traditional South American infused drink] tasting. Also we offer other activities for an affordable price, for example trips to football matches, a polo experience or group/private tango classes.” Expanish has recently expanded its offerings with two new courses. The Cultural Classes “give students the possibility to learn something about the culture and history of Buenos Aires, Argentina and Latin America”, says Drel. Meanwhile, the Ultimate Spanish Crash Course is designed for students who want to get the most out of their visit to the region.
Innovation is evident in offerings across the region. “Last year we launched a Medical Spanish course which has been a big hit with North American students in particular,” says Federico Hoeser at Academia Buenos Aires. Trucco, meanwhile, reports that SET Idiomas has created a specific course for Brazilian students.
In response to growing demand for multi-destination study, the Amerigo schools network has been established, with Academia Uruguay, Academia Buenos Aires, Tandem Santiago and SET Idiomas as founding members. “It is made up of Spanish language schools with a long and prestigious track record that have formalised their existing cooperation under the umbrella of Amerigo,” explains Hoeser. He adds that the group offers a central reservation and invoicing system, and a common progressive commission scheme. Members have synchronised many activities including teacher training courses and report systems.