November 2007 issue

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Beautiful Quito

Set in the Andean mountains, Ecuador’s capital city, Quito, is full of history, culture and tradition. Gillian Evans reports.

For language travellers, Quito has a major draw. “The Spanish spoken in Quito is a clear spoken Spanish [with] no [particular] accent,” claims Norbert Stimpfig at Lector Academia de Quito. “Also, the Quiteños speak slowly and clearly and they also like to hold a conversation with foreigners.”

But Quito is not only ideal because of its linguistic attractions. Quito is, according to Andrea Diehlmann, Student Coordinator at Centro de Español Vida Verde, “one of the most beautiful cities in Latin America”. She continues, “Here students experience a lot of history, culture, fantastic architecture and different traditions.” Enrique Torres at Ordex Cultural Exchange/Interdeco adds, “Quito is a fun city with many tourist attractions and a variety of museums.”

One of Quito’s main attractions is the Old City, a designated Unesco World Heritage Site. With its labyrinth of narrow cobbled streets, magnificent colonial architecture and beautiful Plazas, it is a popular place for visitors and students alike. “During their free time, [students] love to explore the Old Town in Quito,” confirms Monica Barreno at Galapagos Spanish School. ”Lovely churches and a lot of history awaits visitors there.”

One of Quito’s best-loved attractions is La Comaniade Jesus Church (1), which dates from the 17th century and has an interior adorned with seven tons of gold leaf. Another popular trip is to El Panecillo (2), which translates as “little bread loaf”. Topped by the huge statue of the Virgen de Quito (3), a winged Virgin Mary, it offers breathtaking views of the city surrounded by mountains and volcanoes. Other highlights include a ride on the teleferico (cable car), the Central Bank Museum, home to an impressive collection of pre-Columbian artefacts, and the Plaza de la Independencia (4) with the President’s Palace.

But there is also much more to discover, as Kirsten, a 22-year-old US student studying at Academia de Español Quito, recounts. “There are lots of cool places to hang out in Quito,” she says. “On nice days the Carolina Park is a great place to run, play sports, have a picnic or visit the many attractions located there such as the Botanical Gardens or the Natural History Museum.”

Quito also hosts a great nightlife. Kjetil Haugan at Simon Bolivar Spanish School reports that the most popular night-time haunts are in the Mariscal area, “which has been transformed into a zona Rosa with bars, restaurants and nightclubs, and is crowded with tourists throughout the year”. According to Diehlmann, the best venues are situated on the Amazonas, Juan Leon Mera and Reina Victoria streets. Kirsten goes into more detail: “For going out at night Papaya Net is a good place to start. It’s centrally located, has a fun atmosphere and the drinks are very affordable. From there, there are a number of other bars and clubs, within easy walking distance. For a more low-key evening, Red Hot Chilli Pepper is a great place. The food is great and the frozen margaritas are cheap but delicious.”

For those students looking for more than just a touristic experience of Quito, many schools arrange volunteer placements. “In Ecuador and Quito you find many possibilities to volunteer in different social projects,” confirms Diehlmann. Such experiences are not only personally rewarding for the students but also enable them to glimpse another side of Quito.

When it comes to sport, Quiteños are passionate about football. “Quito has four or five teams in the professional football league so football matches are a great attraction every weekend, and sometimes during the week as well,” relates Torres. “Also, the Ecuadorian national team has Quito as its home city. It is an unforgettable experience to watch South American qualifying games for the World Cup between Ecuador and Brazil or Argentina.” Outside Quito there are also plenty of things to do to add to a language travel student’s rich experience of Ecuador. Diego del Corral from Academia Latinoamericana de Español mentions hiking, mountain biking and river rafting as popular adventure activities, while excursions to the Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World) Equatorial line, the Otavalo Indian Market and the Cloud Forest are essential for any visitor, and many language schools include these trips and more in their activities programme. Diehlmann states, “Vida Verde offers different activities for students all through the week. We go with our students to visit fruit markets, we organise salsa and cooking lessons, offer city tours by day and night, and tours to the region at the weekends.” For those wishing to travel further, Quito is, according to Torres, “strategically located to travel to popular destinations such as the Amazon region – five hours – the beach – four-to-five hours – and most flights to Galapagos also depart from here”.

As well as the organised activities, students at Academia de Español Quito are often treated to spontaneous activities. Gustavo Moya at the school relates, “One afternoon students may get private salsa lessons in order to show off on Saturday night. Another time, you could be heading back from the museum when your teacher points out a little café that you might never have noticed and inside you enjoy the best humitas (corn bread) and coffee in the city.”

Quito’s main festival, Las Fiestas de Quito, takes place on 5 and 6 December to celebrate the Spanish foundation of the city. During these two days, the city is alive with street parties and other organised events. “There are a lot of young people partying around,” says Moya, “but there are also official celebrations such as concerts, Reina de Quito pageant, art shows and bull fights.” Other events throughout the year include Carnival during February/March and the Holy Week festivities at Easter. “Easter is a special time for our catholic population,” relates Moya. “There is a special, very tasty soup that gathers all the grains of the harvest, and on Good Friday the famous massive Quito procession [takes place].”

Agent viewpoints

“We only represent Academia Latinoamericana de Español in Ecuador. Ecuador is quite popular with our clients, [who are] from Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Faroe Islands, Greenland, France and Germany. But they don’t necessarily choose only Ecuador, as the Academia Latinoamericana de Español also proposes the possibility to extend lessons in their Peruvian and Bolivian schools. Thus, we have some clients combining three countries. Most of our students [also] combine their Spanish course with volunteering in social institutions in Quito (or in national parks and Galapagos). There’s something for everyone [in Quito] – adventure, shopping, culture or just relaxing.
”Marion Andersen, EXIS, Denmark

“Ecuador is truly one of the most surprising and delightful countries anyone could ever want to visit and enjoy. This is because of its unique location on the Equator, its accessible size, affordable economy, breathtaking natural beauty, but most of all its loving and attentive people. Quito, [being] the capital and being centrally located, is ideal for its cultural and historic centres, in addition to being the best location for all inter-country travels to any area you can imagine: the unforgettable Galapagos islands, Amazon basin, and alpine-like Paramo of the central highlands. Students are surprised by the rich Indian culture, the mix of modern architecture juxtaposed against the ice-capped volcanoes you can see in the distance, along with its cool climate. The kind, generous and loving nature of the people of Quito is typical of all people of Ecuador. They are so warm and welcoming to foreigners [and] this is what everyone who has been there will remember forever. The food is Andean and is full of fresh flavors of seafood, along with a typical corn/rice/potato based menu.”
Suzanne Bell, Academia LatinoAmericana de Español, USA

“In Ecuador we only offer language courses in Quito. The living expenses are quite low compared to other countries in Latin America. Quito is the ideal place to learn the language as the Quiteños speak a very clear Spanish, easy to learn for every student. Our partner school in Quito offers very good tuition in small classes or individual tuition. The colourful market in Otavalo is one of the most frequented sights in Ecuador. Besides, students are interested in climbing the volcanoes and visiting the hot springs in Baños. Some students enjoy a trip to the rainforest or to the Galapagos Islands. Most students are surprised about the differences between the nice old buildings in the old city and the modern style in northern Quito. A lot of students are impressed about the very kind and helpful people and their strong family bonds. The food is quite surprising”.
Petra Muller, iSt Internationale Sprach-und Studienreisen, Germany

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Boa Lingua

Capls Canada
CLC Canada
English Australia
International House
      World Organisation
Perth Education City
Quality English

Alphe Conferences

InterGlobal Ltd
Student Guard

Business Telecom
GSM International

Malta Tourism

Kaplan Aspect
      Opus Programme
Twin Group

BASP (Buenos Aires
      Spanish School)

English Australia
Milner International
      College of English
      (Australia, England)

Ceran Lingua
      (Belgium, England,
      France, Ireland,
      Japan, Netherlands,

Open English

Bodwell College
      Language Centre
Capls Canada
CLC Canada
Centre Linguista
College of New
East Coast School of
      Languages (ECSL)
ELS Language
English Bay College
English Language
      Training College
English School of
Focus International
Global Village
      (Australia, Canada,
IH Whistler
ILAC - International
      Language Academy
      of Canada
Intrax English
Language Studies
Lethbridge College
National School of
Omnicom School of
PLI - Pacific
      Language Institute
Quest Language
Saint Mary’s
Stewart College of
      International College
University Canada
University of Calgary
      College International
Vancouver English
Vanwest College
YMCA Greater
      Language School
Zoni Language
      (Canada, USA)

Escuela de Idiomas
      Violeta Parra-
      Tandem Santiago

Mandarin House

Academia Centro-
      americana de
Academia Latino-
      americana de
      de Idiomas (CPI)
Wayra Spanish

Quito S.I. Spanish

Bell International -
      Camp Beaumont
ILS English Ltd
International House
      World Organisation
Kaplan Aspect
      (Australia, Canada,
      Ireland, Malta, New
      Zealand, South
      Africa, UK, USA)
LAL Language and
      (England, Malta,
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Language in London
      Language Academy
Malvern House
      College London
Oxford Intensive
      School of English
      (Australia, England,
      France, Germany,
      Spain, USA)
Quality English
Queen Ethelburga’s
Saint George
St Giles Colleges
      (Canada, UK, USA)
St Mary’s Hall
Study Group
      (Australia, Canada,
      England, France,
      Germany, Ireland,
      Italy, New Zealand,
      South Africa, Spain,
Twin Group
University of Essex -

France Langue
Institut de Touraine
Institut International
      de Rambouillet
Langues Sans
SILC - Séjours
      (England, France,

BWS Germanlingua
Carl Duisberg
      (England, Germany)
inlingua Berlin
International House
      Berlin - Prolog

Alpha College of
Centre of English
      (England, Ireland)
Dublin City University
      Language Services
Galway Cultural
ISI- International
      Study Institute
Liffey Linguistics
Swan Training

Dilit -
      International House

Durbe Ture

EC - English
      Language Centres
      (England, Malta,
      South Africa, USA)
English Language
Malta Tourism

Acalli Intensive
     Spanish Program
International House -
      Riviera Maya

Christchurch College
      of English Language
Wellington High

Rocio Language

Derzhavin Institute

EAC Language
      Centres and Activity
      (England, Ireland,
      Scotland, Wales)

Cape Town School of
Language Teaching

Escuela de Español
      la Brisa S.L.
Malaca Instituto -
      Club Hispánico SL
Pamplona Learning
      Spanish Institute

Boa Lingua
EF Language
      Colleges Ltd
      (Australia, Canada,
      China, Ecuador,
      England, France,
      Germany, Ireland,
      Italy, Malta,
      New Zealand, Russia,
      Scotland, Spain,
      (Australia, Canada,
      England, France,
      Germany, Italy,
      Japan, New Zealand,
      Russia, Spain,
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ALCC - American
Kaplan Aspect
      Educational Centers
      (Australia, Canada,
      Ireland, Malta, New
      Zealand, South
      Africa, UK, USA)
Saint Timothy’s
University of
      California Riverside
University of
      Santa Barbara
University of
      California Santa Cruz
University of Illinois
      at Urbana-
Zoni Language
      (Canada, USA)

Cardiff Language
      School Ltd
      (CELTIC School)