Written by Shanie
What are the best methods to truly learning a second language?
There are a variety of techniques that may help you move beyond the “Hello, how are you?” phase. Some believe that the Link Method of associating foreign words to your native tongue is especially helpful. Others use strategies such as memorizing the most common hundred words of the language or playing games that allow you to encounter vocabulary in a fun atmosphere. There is no doubt that these modes of mastery help. But there is another that is proven to take you from basic to fluent in the shortest amount of time – and that is the practice of immersion.
Immersing yourself in a foreign language not only helps you to readily use the new forms of grammar and vocab, but it is also great for hearing changes in word sounds, becoming accustomed to local terminology and, slang as well as understanding the culture that goes along with the linguistic communication.
Spanish is a language spoken throughout the world. In fact, there are over 400 million people that speak it as their native form of speech – making it the third highest linguistic process on the planet. It is also one of the top three languages for people that want to speak a second language.
Argentina is one country that is becoming a major player in helping other cultures learn Spanish. Due to its European atmosphere, first-worldliness and exceptional exchange rate, this beautiful and intriguing country is proving itself to be a fantastic option amongst travelers looking for a Spanish immersion course. Here are six schools that are a great choice in speeding up the learning curve:
Location: Buenos Aires, Cordoba, Mendoza, Bariloche, Ushuaia and Santiago de Chile
Coined began there mission of teaching Spanish to foreign speakers in 1971. Since then, they have developed an intricate program ready to meet all levels of language ability, whether you are interested in an intensive learning session, a super intensive class setting, or complete and total immersion. They also offer internships, volunteer programs and academic credits for courses.
Location of School: Buenos Aires
Native Tuition is a fairly new learning arena that was built on a great premise – looking out for the student’s best interest. The founders were past teachers in other Buenos Aires Spanish schools. Unbeknownst to their students, the institutions were pushing the teachers to use confusing lessons, hide information or slow down the class process so that students would book additional courses. Noelia Zaballa, a teacher at Native Tuition, explains, “Native Tuition is the result of years of bad experiences working as teachers in other Spanish institutes. What they asked us to do was against our ethics and passion for teaching and in the beginning of 2008 we decided to quit and start our own school.” But this isn’t the only aspect that makes Native Tuition a positive learning experience – the way that they hold their classes is also a bonus. “The idea of immersion that most schools have is to leave the student in the middle of the Spanish speaking world only guided by some grammar classes. We understand that immersion must be based in confidence and understanding of the culture you’re immersing in. Besides the obvious Spanish teaching, we also try to help our students understand the customs and behavior of Argentine society so they won’t feel like foreigners when they are among us!” Their popular Walk n’ Learn class style, which is a “field trip” manner of relaying vocabulary and grammar, lets students have a real-life interaction with Buenos Aires locals, whether it be in stores, on the street or in restaurants. And it seems their methodology is working. A student from the United Kingdom, John Ryley, found the program to be extremely helpful, “I’d tried all sorts of books, courses, paltalk, etc, but nothing, absolutely nothing, can compare to a one-on-one conversation with a native Spanish speaker. Having conversational classes with teachers from Native Tuition is the best time and money I have spent on learning Spanish. The level of understanding and patience with the teachers is outstanding. In my opinion, it’s the only way to go, outside of living in a Spanish speaking country. Give it a try, like I did, and you’ll see what I mean.”
Location: Buenos Aires
Expanish is another newcomer to the Argentine immersion school scene, but is a progressive classroom setting that has helped people from over thirty different nations learn what Spanish is all about. Expanish was created by two Argentines, Agustin and Alejandro, who had gone through learning a second language abroad. With their experience in learning overseas, they came to understand the importance of mixing with native speakers, getting a feel for the culture as well as the language. They decided to use this ideology as a way of sharing their beloved homeland and feel that they now offer one of the most innovative and customer-focused immersion schools in Latin America. Joanne Hurley, a representative of Expanish, expresses why the school varies from other Buenos Aires operations, “We are different from other schools as we are constantly searching for ways to improve the quality of everything we do and offer. We are constantly investigating trends to make sure that we are providing not only the best possible educational programs but also creating a true immersion into the Argentine culture. Expanish is customer focused, we prioritize quality instead of quantity and we create an atmosphere of complete immersion to provide students with an excellent education and the experience of a lifetime.” Expanish helps students find locals to live with and connects them with other activities such as tango lessons, workshops and contact with porteños (Buenos Aires locals). They also offer trips to other parts of Argentina, like Iguazu, Mendoza and Bariloche. Hurley sums up Expanish with this, “I think our students go home with a well-balanced view, they obviously see things that are different from their home countries, good and bad, but they are always enthusiastic to come back and experience the amazing things that Argentina has to offer and to learn more Spanish.”
Locations: Lima, Cusco, Santiago, Buenos Aires, Bariloche
ECELA, which stands for Escuelas y Centros de Español en Latin America (Schools and Centers of Spanish in Latin America), is one of the largest Spanish-as-a-second-language institutions in Argentina. Due to their size they offer a larger staff of teachers to choose from. They also provide an ability to attend the same schooling platform (allowing you to start where you left off) in various countries and cities. ECELA has been in business since 2000 and consider it their goal to give their students a learning experience of a lifetime. Their most popular program is the multi-location program. Cecy Quezada, an ECELA staff member, explains why, “Many of our students come to travel in all of South America. With our multi-location program they can travel and stay with a local family in each location. Our different Spanish schools are closely integrated with curriculum and services, which provide our students with the opportunity to alternate locations with ease and continue studying without a lapse in their program.” A previous student from the United States, Jerry Wang, shares his experience, “I was a student at ECELA in Buenos Aires for six weeks, Bariloche for two weeks and Santiago for eleven weeks. Going on one of these trips/programs is absolutely one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life. ECELA Latin Immersions is a pretty good program. They have a good balance of social activities, field trips and classes. It is better than just traveling or vacation because you actually gain skill from it. The Santiago school even helped students find volunteer or work opportunities. The social component of the trip was the best part of the whole experience. In five months I must have met about 200 people, ranging from 19 to 65 years old. The relationships I built are life-long and we continue to keep in touch.”
Location: Buenos Aires
Interhispanica considers their school to be the best choice because of the level of education of their instructors. All of the teachers have university backgrounds in linguistics, language or literature as well as multiple years of teaching experience. Many also are involved with the Universidad de Buenos Aires, giving them a high level of schooling. They also respect the size of classes and do not allow attendance to surpass four students per teacher. In addition to their regular classes, they offer workshops that concentrate on conversation, writing and grammar, to give you the extra attention that is sometimes needed when learning a second language. Interhispanica is also one of the only institutions that offer programs on Latin American studies. Courses include Argentine Literature, Latin Literature, Latin American Economy and Argentine Politics and Society. Sharon from Toronto, Canada found Interhispanica to exceed her expectations, “I came to Buenos Aires, Argentina, from Toronto, Canada, with a very limited knowledge of the Spanish language and have been taking private lessons here for the past several months. I myself am a teacher, and subsequently, have high expectations when I find myself in the role of the student. From the onset, my teacher, Silvia, demonstrated skill and professionalism in assessing my knowledge of the Spanish language. It was obvious to me that she had a great deal of experience and was adept at identifying my current skills, as well as my areas of need. From that moment on, I felt confident in her abilities as a teacher.”
Location: Buenos Aires
EDENA stands for Enseñanza del Español en Argentina (Teaching of Spanish in Argentina). EDENA prides themselves in creating a fun learning environment for those seeking to understand Spanish as a second language. They offer classes not only in their school setting but also at your private residence or workplace. They teach their lessons in Spanish only, using language structures, vocabulary and grammar in cultural situations and themes. Classroom size is kept to a maximum of six students, private or a combination thereof. EDENA offers six levels of courses and provide an evaluation test via email to help quickly determine your level. All materials such as books, tapes, media, music and games are provided with the tuition. They also offer free excursions to various neighborhoods throughout Buenos Aires, museums, historical sites and theaters, accompanied with a teacher for extra support. Though EDENA has helped a varied level of ages to learn Spanish, they have also been involved with corporations and governmental figures as well. Such big names as Ford, MTV and IBM have sent employees to study with EDENA.
When it comes to learning a second language, nothing compares to learning it from the source. Experiencing the sounds, smells and emotions that are associated with Spanish helps imbed the words, grammar and sentence structure much better than rote memorization in a classroom of your native land. Plus, there is nothing wrong with combining the pleasure of a vacation with the expansion of the brain. Trying an immersion class just may surprise you. Fluency in the world’s third most spoken language could be just around the corner.