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Spanish Language Programs in Mexico & Latin America
I wonder if programs in places like San Miguel de Allende or Cuernavaca are still safe for high school students during the summer given all that's going on in Mexico. I have been to both of these places myself in the past - I went to an immersion school in Cuernavaca in the 1990's. However times have changed.
I prefer that he learn Mexican Spanish rather than go to Spain for an immersion program given the large Mexican population where we live. He's in honors Spanish three currently and excels in foreign languages. We'd like to see him go to a really good program so he can make the most out the experience. Some programs are more intensive than others.
IF you are looking for a good immersion program I highly recommend this company. My son loved it and came back with a phenomenal improvement in his Spanish. I loved their organization, their oversight of the kids and everything about it. Their website is http://www.lpiabroad.com/ Linda
It's ultimately up to the parents to decide if they are comfortable with the safety precautions that are in place provided by our Department of State and the government of the visited country.
The DOS says the following about Mexico: Millions of U.S. citizens visit Mexico safely each year. Visitors should remain alert and be aware of their surroundings at all times, particularly when visiting the border region. In its efforts to combat violence, the Government of Mexico has deployed federal police and military troops to various parts of the country. Government checkpoints, often staffed by military personnel, have been erected in many parts of the country, especially, but not exclusively, in the border area. All travelers to Mexico should review the Department of State's Travel Warning for Mexico that provides detailed information about security threats throughout the country.
DOS, travel warning for Mexico: http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/tw/tw_5440.html
Another webpage to take a look at: http://studentsabroad.state.gov/
Hope this helps. Candace
My daughter works in Oaxaca for an organization that provides service-based immersion programs - it's called ProWorld [www.ProWorldVolunteers.org]. Participants can become involved in volunteer projects while taking language lessons and living with a homestay program.
My daughter has participated in projects and lived in Oaxaca for the past 8 months (and we visited her there and had a wonderful time). She feels completely safe, travels throughout the area, and loves the amazing art, food and people. m.
Our 15 year old daughter is interested in a camp of some kind in Mexico. Has anyone participated in either a language camp, or a volunteer-type camp, for teens? Any suggestions or links are appreciated! No more boring summers!
If your child already knows some Spanish... my kids went to Camohmila several times and liked it. It's in Tepoztlan, near Mexico City. Most of the kids are from Mexico City and everything is in Spanish. It's YMCA run, non-religious, hiking, games, campfires...plain old camp fun. They stay overnight for a week, or longer if you want. Good luck. Loraine
We just got back from San Miguel de Allende in Mexico, and can recommend Centro Bilingue very highly for either family Spanish classes while vacationing in San Miguel, or if you have an older teen who wants to spend time in Mexico brushing up on Spanish and staying in a homestay with a family. San Miguel is a very safe community, and the staff at the school really take care of the teenagers. Our 16-year old daughter is there right now and is thoroughly enjoying it. Duncan
Hola! We would like to do a Spanish language intensive program with our 9 year old daughter this summer in Latin America. We have found several places but ideally we would like to find a school on the coast (with great snorkeling). We would like a small to medium sized town/city. Our fantasy is that we would learn Spanish in the morning and then go swimming/snorkeling in the afternoon. Does anyone have any suggestions? We would be happy to go anywhere in Latin America. Gracias! Madeleine
Hello, Can anyone offer a recommendation for traveling for a two-week Spanish Language school, either in Mexico or Guatemala? How recently have you been? How was the instruction, town, weather, costs, time to do other sightseeing, accomodations, etc.? We are considering such a trip, with a 13 year old (who would also be enrolled in school, but probably a different level of class/instruction). Any ideas about how to find a school, any to avoid, best times to go, etc. Our initial thought is to go over Xmas break - would such schools be open then? Any helpful advice (or places to avoid) appreciated. Gracias
I studied in Quetzaltengano, Guatemala (the locals use its nickname, Xela) at a school called El Nahual. It is a somewhat smaller school than most and has a focus on cultural and social awareness. All the profits go to supporting the after school center which is housed in the same building as the language classes. The director is very committed and the teachers are all excellent. The instruction was one-on-one for 4 hours in the morning and there are opportunities to volunteer at the after school center or in the community teaching English in the afternoons. I stayed with a host family which was set-up through the school. My classes and homestay (with room and board) cost about $140 a week.
Quetzaltenango itself is a safe city, the second biggest in Guatemala. It's in the mountains so it can get a bit chilly, especially during the winter. There's plenty of culture, good food, and lots of local excursions and things to do. The vibe is different from the other popular student destination in Guatemala, Antigua--the students are here to study and the city feels real, not touristy.
I would bet that schools would be open over Christmas break. Winter is definitely the slow season for most language schools so it would be worth checking out to make sure. The website for El Nahual is www.languageselnahual.com Sally
I've heard mixed things lately about safety in Guatemala, so you should consider that, too. My experience was 5 years ago and I felt quite safe then. Becky
Both the Mexican and Guatemalan schools have home-stay options. The families charge the school rent and feed you 3 times a day. Schools will also match you with locals looking to improve their English skills for exchanges.
In Mexico I went Instituto Cultral de Oaxaca. They even have a website www.icomexico.com for more info. Oaxaca is soooo beautiful and very art oriented. At the school I learned weaving and pottery along with Spanish. There are a lot of cute little villages just a short bus trip away from the city and a longer (8 hour) bus ride brings you to the gorgeous oaxacan coast with lovely beaches (check out Puerto Escondido or the more touristy Hualtulco). There are definitely more English speakers around but I still learned a lot.
In either place at any school during christmas break you are likely to be in class with mostly college students on their break from school. Have fun! Stacia
We paid per person last year $90/week school and $70/week for home stay with shared bathroom. The two rooms at our family were very small and simple, the food was surprisingly good. The lady of the house ate with us every meal, but one and made us speak Spanish. She was very giving and caring.
We had a wonderful time in Guatemala, travelled two additional weeks and enjoyed every moment. Contact me, if you want more info. I'll be happy to talk to you.
We took Spanish kids books to Guatemala and that is what I can suggest to every traveller: If every tourist to Guatemala takes one Children's book in Spanish language to Guatemala, we can make a difference! It's easy to give them away. If you have a source for more Spanish books and are willing to haul them, take them, including adult ones. If you need contacts, let me know.
Have fun - wherever you decide to go Claudia
Does anyone have experience with Centro Bilingue de San Miguel, in Mexico? My daughter, currently a sophomore, is interested a study abroad program in a Spanish speaking country. We are also looking into Experiment in International Living ....
My daughters have attended Centro Bilingue de San Miguel http://www.geocities.com/centrobilingue/ and BEGGED to return. They learned a huge amount of Spanish, and have been inspired to learn more.
My older daughter has gone for 4 years in a row, starting at age 14; my younger daughter started last summer at age 15, and plans to return this summer.
We planned our family vacation so we could stop in San Miguel to meet the family that runs the school (Director is Sara Murillo). When we arrived in San Miguel, our daughters begged us to let them attend the school while my husband and I took side trips to the nearby towns.
There are classes for all age groups, activities for everyone, and a great sense of community. The school is a block from the centro (central square) in San Miguel. The teens made field trips to the local markets and to the orphanage, where they played with the young children; they have a fiesta every week, cooking lessons, and all kinds of activities. You can build the program you like (half day, full day, week, part of a week), and your child will learn and enjoy learning Spanish.
Say hello to Sara Murillo from us! Merry
Great program, lovely people, wonderful town. Highly recommended! Here's the website: http://www.geocities.com/centrobilingue =Natasha
I'm looking for a Spanish language program in Mexico for myself, my partner and my two kids, ages 4 and 5. I've searched for programs on this list and the last posting was in 2005. We're especially interested in a summer program that will be fun for our kids but will also immerse them in Spanish. They are Guatemalan born so we're especially interested in a program in which they will be with other Mexican kids. However, our most important criteria is that they learn as much Spanish as possible. Thanks in advance for any advice. Carol
We plan to take our family (including 2 daughters, ages 5 and 9) to Mexico for a few weeks this July. Checked the archive but wanted to see if anyone might have some more recent experiences with family friendly language schools in small Mexican towns. We have been looking mainly at Oaxaca, Guanajuato, and Cuernavaca and plan to study (though vacation style) and probably stay with a homestay family. We are open to having the kids either take fun spanish language classes and/or attend municipal camps. If anyone has had a particularly good (or bad) experience with any of the language schools, I would really love hearing about it. They all sound so good and it's hard to get a realistic idea from the websites. -- Mom dreaming in spanish
Centro Bilingue can take children as young as 4, on up through teens, who are put in small groups with children of the same age. The children's teachers were all warm, and kind, and spoke only Spanish to the kids. The days began gently, with warm up games such as ''loteria'' (bingo), and moved on to learning vocabulary, going out on walking field trips to the local mercado, coming back to a delicious lunch prepared on site (the kids also had cooking classes), some craft projects (all conducted in Spanish), more vocabulary and games. The kids had a great time and particularly enjoyed the expedition every Friday to a different local ''rancho'' where they would enjoy good food, meet some interesting animals, have a piqata, and come back to the Centro Bilingue for an end of week party, often with an amazing music or dance performance attended by the whole family, again accompanied by some great food. Other field trips included going to a paper machi factory where they painted maracas, a glass factory, a local restaurant, all of which they found very engaging.
The director, Sara, is an amazing woman who runs this place very well - in addition to the kids' summer camp which ran 8:30-1:00 every day, there were optional adult classes, also in small groups, run at many levels, including language, history, culture, cooking. I finally managed a much more sophisticated use of the subjunctive, while my husband stopped thinking Spanish was Italian with a different accent and also learned to make great tamales with complex salsas! We both became aficionados of
In the afternoon Sara also ran classes in English for local people, including free English classes to a group of girls from a local orphanage and a battered women's shelter to give them options to work in the local tourist industry.
Not only can we highly recommend Centro Bilingue, but the town of San Miguel is an easy introduction to Mexico. We were a little afraid that it would be too gringo-ized, but at least in late June it was not too overrun. Apparently Texans descend en masse to flee the heat of Houston or wherever after the 4th of July. The town is turned over to Canadians in the winter, which might be preferable to the Texan diaspora, depending on your point of view.
The walk from Centrol Bilingue to the ''Jardin'', the downtown plaza, is a matter of a few blocks. There are many great restaurants, it's easy to find rentals, or homestays. By the way, it may be a good idea to try to find a place with a pool, or get access to one, as even up in the highlands it can be hot in summer. The rainy season was supposed to begin in June but they were in the middle of a drought...There is a ''grotto'' out of town where you can swim, and a swimming club in town we didn't get to check out.
From a kid's perspective, the possibility of frequent visits to Cafe San Augustin, which specializes in three kinds of hot chocolate (Mexican, French and Spanish style) accompanied by delicious churros, is enough to justify any amount of time in language school. The frequent parades, fiestas, and other celebrations which seem to take over the town at frequent intervals can make things a bit noisy at times, but also very interesting (we opted to stay walking distance from the school but up the hill in a relatively quiet neighborhood).
The Centro also operates optional field trips for adults and/or families in the afternoons and weekends to places of local interest. Also highly recommended. There is no need to rent a car since you can walk or taxi cheaply everywhere in SMA, and either use Centro Bilingue or one of the other local tour companies to explore other areas - we loved our trip to Queretaro - the regional museum was great and we had an unforgettable meal there. Also loved our 3 day stay in the city of Guanajuato, or more precisely, in Valenciana at a lovely B&B, Estrella de la Valenciana, which the kids wanted to move in to. There's a lot to explore in the area! The historic importance of the region (where the ''Grito'' for Independencia began) gives you a lot of insight into a complex culture with a rich history.
Feel free to contact me with questions about San Miguel or Centro Bilingue...it's a great way to begin to become better acquainted with our neighbors to the south.
Here's the website: http://www.geocities.com/centrobilingue/summer.html
Buena suerte, y buen provecho! Natasha
I am looking for a language school in Mexico that offers an excellent program for young children (as young as 6). Does anyone have any recommendations?? ellie
We are thinking about going to Oaxaca and attending language school. Has anyone done this, and do you have any advice? My husband speaks Spanish pretty well and may not really need classes, but I am a true novice. I have heard that it is possible to live with families (who help you to practice), but don't know if that would work if we were two people and my 1 1/2 year old daughter. Any thoughts? Stevie
They do arrange home stays, which most of the college and graduate school age students elected to take advantage of. The other students were from many countries, which added to the experience for us. We stayed in a hotel because we wanted our kids to be able to swim at a pool after class and we wanted to try and avoid getting sick (we didn't).
My son and husband ended up in a private tutorial for the week with an absolutely lovely indian woman who had a doctorate. They played games in Spanish and decided to have a lot of their classes outdoors in the beautiful garden at the Institute. My son cried when the week was over and he had to say goodbye to her. My daughter and I were in a larger class of about 8 students with a rather formal teacher. The instruction method was quite different from what my daughter was used to - her school was using TPR. Instead, this was grammar based. Less interesting, but she still enjoyed it and learned a lot. The daily schedule involved classes from around 9:00-12:00 followed by one hour of discussion outdoors. Then home for siesta, and return at 4:00 for two more hours of a cultutal enrichment activity (in Spanish of course). My son and I did cooking - again a private tutorial with a woman who took us to the market to buy ingredients then we cooked together in the Institute's kitchen. My husband and daughter did weaving with a woman who brought her three year old daughter each afternoon. They also offer a program where you are matched with a local who wants to improve his or her english for an hour of additional discussion each day.
We had great fun exploring the town of Oaxaca (stunningly beautiful), Monte Alban, and the restaurants. Everything is walkable. There were very few Americans there, so we felt as if we were truly in another land Not at all touristy. Definitely look into it! Debbie
The school can place you with a family or in an apartment (we opted for the apartment.) Most people I knew who stayed with families found it to be fine, although I don't know that they stayed there long enough to really build a relationship with them. But it would of course be a great way to reinforce the language practice.
The Insituto is a 10 or 15 minute walk from the Zocalo (main plaza) and most of the housing placements were quite close to the center of town. Good luck! And if you'd like to know more about it, please feel welcome to email me. Kathleen
The language schools seemed fine but, perhaps again because there weren't many kids enrolled when we were there, they felt it was too much like school. The school we went to (ICC), spoke ONLY in Spanish, which they (9 and 6 yrs old) found confusing and alienating. Kevin
I am looking for advice about Spanish language programs in Mexico (or Guatemala) that would be good for families. I am hoping to take a group of families (with kids ages 7-16) over winter holiday break. Thanks for any advice (or experiences). I am especially interested in hearing about programs in Cuernavaca, but tell me about anything you know about! Thanks. ellie
Check out Language Link, a broker for many Spanish immersion programs.
The teens aren't necessarily together, and most often when parent and
child go together, they live in the same house. The teen program is
basically the same format, just with a little more attention and
guidance. They will group teens together in a class so that they are
with their own age group. Also, this year the school plans to have a
faculty buddy-mentor type for each teen and to organize some social
events just for them. It still is a program which requires maturity
and independence for the teens, as it is not extremely closely
The website explains that the program offers lots of side trips on the
weekends, very inexpensive.
But there are many other programs at Language Link that you could
discuss with Kay.
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Reply to person interested in summer Spanish programs in Mexico... Two years ago I took my daughter to Guanajuato, Mexico for Spanish language school. While there weren't other teens there, she did meet and hang out with some of the college-age kids, and teachers. You can check out language schools in general through the internet. I am going agaiin this year with my other daughter and am considering schools in Oaxaco and Cuernavaca also. I've read there is one in Cuernavaca that has had good success with teens but unfortunately, I don't know the name. I think it is hit-or-miss with whoever else ends up there. It was a great experience in any event. karen
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The teens aren't necessarily together, and most often when parent and child go together, they live in the same house. The teen program is basically the same format, just with a little more attention and guidance. They will group teens together in a class so that they are with their own age group. Also, this year the school plans to have a faculty buddy-mentor type for each teen and to organize some social events just for them. It still is a program which requires maturity and independence for the teens, as it is not extremely closely supervised.
The website explains that the program offers lots of side trips on the weekends, very inexpensive.
But there are many other programs at Language Link that you could discuss with Kay.
BPN is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit and we are building a new website! Read more, and see how you can help: BerkeleyParentsNetwork.org