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The Adult Guide to Learning Spanish Abroad in 6 Cool Destinations

Thinking of taking the leap and going abroad to learn Spanish?

Maybe you’re tired of the same old learning routine.

Maybe you’re thinking of getting that passport a few new stamps.

Or maybe you’re just craving adventure and looking for a grown-up gap year.

Whatever your reason, living with Spanish speakers 24/7 is a guaranteed way to boost your language skills and just may be the life-changer you’re looking for.

Oh, there’s a rumble in the adult crowd already. I hear it…

Do you have less than a year to devote to language learning? Are you worried about the practical aspects of leaving on an adult Spanish learning adventure?

Hey, I hear your concerns, my adult friends. You may not think it’s practical, or possible, but surprise! It’s both practical and possible, and easier than you may believe.

In this post, we’ll check out what kinds of options are out there for adult Spanish language learners.

But first, let’s debunk the myth that going abroad to learn a language as an adult isn’t ideal or workable.

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Why Learning Spanish Abroad Is a Super Opportunity for Adults

Learning Spanish abroad just screams opportunity for any age group, and it’s obvious why. Immersive learning is the natural way to learn any language.

That’s exactly what we language learners seek—the most authentic method for acquiring language skills with a minimum of unnecessary or unnatural effort. We strive to be fluent, and quickly, and we hope to have some fun while getting there. The good news is that going to a Spanish-speaking country will not only ramp up your proficiency, it will be interesting and provide cultural insight that no textbook learning can offer.

Another plus? Many Central and Latin American countries have not only language learning programs but costs of living abroad that are very affordable. I don’t know about you, but any time I see a bargain, especially on travel and learning, I jump on it!

Having said that, it’s necessary to acknowledge that going abroad to study as an adult is a decidedly different adventure than doing so as a younger person.

Adult learners do bring a unique set of concerns to the equation. Traveling may not be practical for some when jobs, mortgages and families are factored in. Maybe now isn’t the time for a language trip abroad, and that’s fine. There’s no harm in dreaming and planning!

But there are also advantages for adult learners considering going abroad. You may have more disposable income or be newly-retired and have more time.

Even if you’re working, you may have greater freedom to be able to save up and then tap into vacation time at your job, which may give you more options—than if you were a student, for example—and a greater ability to plan for exactly the type of experience abroad you want.

Again, keep in mind that there are bargains to be had, so even adults on a fixed budget may be surprised to find something to fit their needs.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Language Program

What’s your current level of Spanish?

Before deciding how and where to study Spanish abroad as an adult, the first step is to evaluate your Spanish. Is it sufficient for whatever adventure you may want to plan? Are you a complete beginner? If you’re interested in a particular program, does it have minimum language requirements? If so, make sure your skills are up to snuff.

There are two internationally recognized proficiency tests for Spanish:

  • The DELE, or Diplomas de Español como Lengua Extranjera (Diploma of Spanish as a Foreign Language).
  • The CELU, Certificado de Español: Lengua y Uso (Certificate of Use of Language in Spanish).

If you’re thinking of attending a university in a Spanish-speaking country, it may be necessary to take one of these exams.

Also, checking out the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages will give you an idea of where you fall on the scale. A1 is elementary knowledge of a language while C2 is considered proficient.

Do you want certification or credit?

You’ll want to check to see whether a program is accredited if certification or credit is a goal. Some learn for personal growth while others require proof that they’ve completed a course. If that’s part of your reason for learning, make sure to check out this important point.

What else do you require for your trip?

Decide specifically what your expectations and limitations are regarding accommodations, location, financing, exploration and even climate. Maybe you don’t want to head off to a place at the height of rainy season, or who knows, maybe you do—in either case, prepare to take note of the weather conditions in your research even if only to help you pack accordingly.

Speaking of packing and preparation, you may want to seek out a helpful guide or phrasebook from Lonely Planet for the country you’re heading to. Any extra amount of knowledge you can give yourself about your surroundings or linguistic quirks of the area will go a long way to making your stay more comfortable and enjoyable.

As you begin looking into the concrete details of programs and dates, remember that it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of planning a trip abroad, but you don’t want to forget what I call the “ho-hums”—the stuff that doesn’t make my heart race but is absolutely necessary.

Make sure your international medical coverage and contact information for the US embassy are handy, for instance. No one wants to need these things, but if you do run into an issue, it makes sense to have them readily accessible.

Resources for Spanish Immersion Programs for Adults

  • Go Overseas is a solid review resource. They have a ton of countries and programs listed, so if you don’t find what you’re looking for in one program, keep checking out more options. Also, they have in-depth information about scholarship programs as well as cultural insights.
  • IPSA (International Partners for Study Abroad) is a worldwide consortium of universities, colleges and language schools and offers programs in 42 countries. This organization is headquartered in the United States and stresses that its primary concern is providing safe learning environments for international study.
  • Spanish Abroad is another site you can check out that guides you to a a variety of programs offered in different countries.
  • And just in case you’re still thinking studying Spanish abroad is limited to a certain age group, think again. There are exciting opportunities available for any age group, including this Spanish Study Holidays program for those 50+. The schools are all in Spain but there are five cities to choose from, and the learning extends from language study to after-hours cultural activities.

Here’s a bonus for you: Immersive learning doesn’t have to wait until you’re already abroad. Start learning at home with FluentU’s authentic learning program.

FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons. Use FluentU’s annotated subtitles, interactive vocabulary lists, flashcards and more to brush up on your Spanish before you embark on your language-learning journey.

6 Awesome Destinations for Adults Heading Abroad to Learn Spanish

These highlighted destinations take into account criteria relevant to adult learners, including availability of programs, convenience and price. Nearly every school chosen has flexible start dates for coursework, options for accommodation and is near public transport. There are varying price points to accommodate budget concerns, so if one option is too pricey, check out the next one. Hopefully, this assortment will yield at least one perfect fit for your language adventure!

These suggestions are also designed to help with the immersion experience in that many cultural, geographical or historical points of interest in the countries mentioned below are within immediate or even day-tripping distance. So when class is over, you’ll be able to get out and explore all your surroundings have to offer.

Let’s take a peek at what’s out there.

Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a beautiful Central American country that’s politically stable and is considered a very safe destination for travelers. The Spanish spoken by locals tends to be easy for language learners to understand.

IPSA offers four options for language study in Costa Rica. While they all teach Spanish through immersion, they’re diverse in location, so if the city isn’t your thing, it’s possible to choose a rural setting.

The Tamarindo Spanish School is also a good choice. It’s located right on a beach, so surf’s up all the time! It should come as no surprise that they actually cater to those who wish to combine surfing with Spanish lessons. Spanish & Surf Programs are wildly popular!

Guatemala

Guatemala is a hotspot for Spanish learners in general, not only those specifically seeking to ramp up their Spanish skills during their visit. And since it’s a Spanish-speaking country accustomed to hosting language learners from across the globe, it’s almost a given that you’ll enjoy an excellent immersive Spanish experience. Also, while Spanish is the official language, there are still 21 Mayan dialects spoken in this culturally rich nation.

IPSA has one school, located in the center of colonial Antigua, which is the Guatemalan hub for language learning.

The Antigua Spanish School is probably the most well-known, highly-respected center for Spanish language learning in the country. They offer several options for study, but if it’s possible, maximize your immersion journey by staying with a host family.

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is a US territory, so if you’re a US citizen you’re technically not even leaving the country to study but will still have a strong immersive experience. So if you don’t have a passport but live in the US, this is a viable option!

The San Juan Spanish School specializes in giving students the language skills necessary to achieve professional success as well as teaching with an eye on upgrading communication abilities so you’re better able to enjoy global travel. They have several pricing and program options and seem willing to accommodate travelers who wish to create a somewhat customized learning experience.

Spain

Spain is, of course, a great destination for studying Spanish abroad! Peninsular Spanish is slightly different from Latin American Spanish, so just be aware of the basics before you go.

IPSA has a total of 12 programs in Spain.

Sampere Madrid is the place to go for a highly ranked program in a cosmopolitan center. An added bonus is its location in the country’s transportation hub. Experiencing cultural events and visiting national treasures—like the Museo Nacional del Prado—is just a matter of a hop-on, hop-off ride on public transport. And no one should visit Madrid without a day at the museum!

Salamanca University, west of Madrid, is very old, highly regarded and attracts global learners. Spanish students are likely to meet others from all over, so cultural exchange on a broad scale is almost guaranteed. Their classes are small, so student-teacher interaction is maximized.

With program locations in several destinations, the hard part of choosing Spain for study abroad may be deciding which school to attend!

Ecuador

Ecuador is a very popular destination for Spanish language immersion learners. It’s a beautiful country and financially conscious students will appreciate the low cost of living. The Spanish spoken by Ecuadorians is considered to be pretty true to classroom Spanish which makes this a good spot to pick up authentic language skills.

IPSA offers two programs in Ecuador. One is in Quito and the other is in Manta, a port town.

The Yanapuma Spanish School in Quito has a healthy reputation for Spanish language teaching. It’s a flexible program and they offer volunteer opportunities to help defray study costs.

Nicaragua

Nicaragua is an impoverished country, but a rich cultural heritage, friendly locals and geographical wonders make it a viable option for immersive Spanish study.

IPSA has one school, which is located in a historic district. There are all levels of Spanish coursework offered, so this is a place with broad appeal.

The Mariposa Spanish School is located an hour from Granada. The school is eco-friendly and combines Spanish study with volunteering.

If your preferred destination isn’t on this list, peruse Go Overseas and IPSA to find the perfect Spanish abroad experience, or check out our guide to language programs in Mexico.

 

Use Every Opportunity to Deepen Fluency When Abroad

Make the most of your time away.

Keep in mind that homestays optimize immersion. Take advantage of other opportunities, as well. Watch local television shows, attend cultural events, cook with your host family and sing along to the radio. Use your newly acquired language skills, and don’t be upset if you make a mistake. Just keep going!

Explore while you’re abroad. See and do as many things as possible in the time you’re in your destination country. Don’t hide in your room—get out and meet people, chat with them and enjoy every aspect of the immersion experience!

I hope you’re able to find a unique opportunity to learn Spanish as an adult that fits your lifestyle and budget. It could be the perfect way to boost your Spanish proficiency and give yourself the adventure of a lifetime!

¡Buena suerte! (Good luck!)

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