Have you ever driven past houses and wondered what went on beyond the closed doors?
Or maybe you’ve walked down a city sidewalk after sunset, glanced up at a high-rise apartment and tried to imagine what the tenants were doing just beyond their brightly lit windows?
Ever think of going inside and finding out? I mean, in a non-intrusive, totally legal sort of way?
Homestay can get you there.
It’s more than just a peek through a window.
It’s a way to open the doors wide and invite learners into the environment.
A Spanish homestay program brings learners to the language in an absolutely unique way.
It’s the go-to method to surround yourself with the language and the locals who speak it. It offers the chance to participate, rather than just watch and wonder.
It’s an opportunity of a lifetime.
But getting up and living with an unfamiliar family in a completely foreign place may seem strange and even a little scary.
As Mark Twain famously said:
“Twenty years from now you’ll be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.”
So don’t just dream it—do it!
We’ll help you find the right option for you right here in this post.
How the Homestay Experience Brings Spanish to a New Level
Homestay programs allow you to stay with a host family in the Spanish-speaking country of your choice. While you’re there, you’ll have a chance to live like the locals, from shopping to making dinner.
Participating in a homestay program has plenty of benefits:
- Exposure to the local culture: Most host families try to offer their house-guests as many interesting and culturally enriching activities as possible. Movies, museums, historical sites, sporting events, dance lessons (tango, anyone?) and so many other experiences are part of the homestay adventure.
- An immersive experience: Let’s be real here. If you go to a Spanish-speaking country you’ll be in an environment where Spanish is the everyday spoken and written language. Being surrounded by it 24/7 is sure to power up every aspect of your language journey.
When you have only one option—Spanish!—fluency grows rapidly.
- Opportunities to use Spanish in everyday situations: If you’re going to order in a restaurant, see a movie, shop for groceries or do almost anything, you’ll need to be understood.
Fulfilling basic needs (like dinner and friendship) is a great motivation for learning!
- Rapid vocabulary growth: Vocabulary acquisition is a breeze since every time you interact with the locals you have the unique opportunity to learn from them. And the more you interact, the more you learn. So get out there and mingle!
- A glance at how Spanish is actually used: Spanish slang and common Spanish idioms abound when you’re immersed in a culture. It’s a super time to learn from authentic speakers just how to sound like one.
Of course, you’ll need some basic knowledge of Spanish before you embark on your journey, or you risk being overwhelmed. Prep before you go with FluentU.
FluentU takes real-world videos, like music videos, commercials, news and inspiring talks, and turns them into Spanish learning experiences.
Other sites use scripted content. FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the Spanish language and culture over time. You’ll learn Spanish as it’s actually spoken by real people.
FluentU has a wide variety of videos—topics like soccer, TV shows, business, movies and even magical realism, as you can see here:
FluentU brings native videos within reach with interactive transcripts. You can tap on any word to look it up instantly. Every definition has examples that have been written to help you understand how the word is used. If you see an interesting word you don’t know, you can add it to a vocab list.
Review a complete interactive transcript under the Dialogue tab, and find words and phrases listed under Vocab.
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU’s robust learning engine. Swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you’re on.
The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning, and it recommends you examples and videos based on the words you’ve already learned. Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re learning the same video.
Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store for iOS and Android devices.
6 Spanish Homestay Programs for Full Language and Cultural Immersion
IMAC Spanish Language Programs in Guadalajara, Mexico offer homestay options in conjunction with their immersive Spanish language learning program.
Their variety of courses (from group programs to individualized learning and even courses geared toward particular professions) means that a diverse group of students can register. I mean, there’s really something for almost everyone—and all in one gorgeous spot!
Their one-student-per-family rule means that every homestayer will get lots of attention from their host family. And families strive to offer intensive use of their native language in every home environment.
You’ll experience many authentic cultural adventures with tu familia anfitriona (your host family). Remember: Guadalajara is the second-largest city in Mexico so there are abundant cultural points of interest to check out!
A bonus with this homestay set up? Once a week you’ll be able to cook an authentic Mexican meal. Don’t worry, your host family will be there to help you in la cocina (the kitchen). There’s even a recipe guide available to homestayers for cooking inspiration!
Go Abroad features an intensive Spanish summer program for ages 14-17.
Stay in one of Madrid’s suburbs with a family eager to share their home, language, culture and so much more!
Being close to the capital city but in a more relaxed suburb offers the best of both worlds: all the Madrid attractions within reach but in a quieter venue (with less traffic!).
The Go Abroad program requires students to have a minimum of three years of Spanish language study to qualify for the program. It’s not for beginning learners.
If you qualify, you’ll be exposed to loads of Spanish culture, become part of a new family and practice language with native speakers—in other words, exactly what a homestay experience should be!
Academia Caribe is located in Santiago de Cuba, which is the second-largest city in Cuba. While Havana gets most of the press coverage geared toward tourists, this city boasts just as many attractions, including the Museo del ron (Rum Museum).
The Academia Caribe accepts students of all levels, so whether you’re an absolute beginner or someone looking to perfect your fluency, there’s a spot for you in this language program.
An individualized course of study is determined for each student dependent on their existing skills and goals.
All students stay with either language teachers or local families, so if you’re looking for a true taste of Cuban life, this is the place to find it.
Private excursions to local points of interest, salsa lessons and other cultural activities can all be arranged for you. Courses last a minimum of one week and extend out from there so your homestay experience in Cuba could be either brief or extensive—it’s all up to you!
Situated near San Pedro, Costa Rica, this boutique Spanish language school offers programs geared towards students who want an “upscale” homestay experience.
Host families are middle to upper class, so don’t expect hostel accommodations here!
In an effort to make the experience truly authentic, hosts bring students to family gatherings, religious events and cultural activities. Homestayers are encouraged to participate in everyday life and “become one of the family” rather than simply staying as a guest in the home.
The school itself has many Spanish language programs to choose from which can accommodate all levels of learners. They’re all taught by Costa Rican teachers.
They even offer a Survival Spanish program so if you’ve got very limited time paired with an urgent need to become conversant, this course is for you!
Homestays with Personalized Spanish are filled with authentic Costa Rican experiences, including Latin dance lessons and trips to the theater, museums and local marketplaces.
Have you ever consider volunteering while homestaying in a Spanish-speaking country?
If you have, Workaway is looking for learners like you!
Workaway is a unique opportunity. It’s a community designed to facilitate volunteering, working and cultural exchange. For Spanish learners, it’s a chance to participate in language learning while volunteering with their host families.
There’s a huge range of work options available in exchange for living with Spanish families across the globe. If you’ve got a skill, they’ve probably got a situation for you—whether your area of expertise is gardening, plumbing, translating, web design or something else, you could fill a need with a Spanish host family.
Registering with Workaway enables you to communicate with families who are requesting visitors. The process is simple and all the necessary information is easy to find on their website.
Most volunteers integrate with the host family and participate in meal preparation and household tasks as well as cultural and entertainment activities.
Depending on the situation, the length of stay is variable.
The accommodations are authentic so you’ll get to see how a Spanish family actually lives. And as part of a Spanish family (even a borrowed one!) you’ll have every chance to practice your language skills and increase your fluency.
The Center for Cross-Cultural Study offers language programs in Spain, Argentina and Cuba.
Their university-level programs are designed for those enrolled in colleges or universities who’d like to gain some college credits. But they do accept independent study high school students above the age of 16, too.
There’s a strict Spanish-only policy which absolutely facilitates rapid language acquisition. No other language options are open to students during both class and homestay time!
The center places emphasis on cultural understanding as well as language learning. They encourage excursions to cultural and athletic events, have a conversational exchange partnership and even provide volunteer opportunities to their homestay guests!
“Book learning” is great. Many of us have become fluent in languages—and other things!—entirely through book or classroom learning situations.
But truly immersive and authentic experiences offer so much that classrooms just can’t provide.
Spanish homestay programs certainly go way beyond standing on a sidewalk and wondering how the families beyond the brightly lit windows live. Homestays invite you in and include you in what’s going on!
Mark Twain was a wise man. Heed his words and don’t be disappointed by what you didn’t do. Instead, be proud of what did!
Go for the Spanish. Go for the food. Go for the culture.
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