This article is from the April 2001 The Mexico File newsletter.
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Questions and Answers, Mexico's Spanish Language Schools

by Ron Mader 

Ron Mader is a leading expert in and exponent of ecotourism in Mexico. He is the author of Mexico: Adventures in Nature (Santa Fe: John Muir Publications, 1998. ISBN number: 1562613405). Ron contributed an article on Mexican Ecotourism in the June 2000 issue of Mexico File.  

Traveling to a foreign country where you don’t speak the language can be a scary proposition, but it’s also a great adventure. Many travelers opt to learn Spanish abroad. Here's a quick review of some of the most frequently asked questions about Spanish Language Schools. 

What is a Spanish language school?

There are many schools in Latin America and Spain that not only teach foreigners the Spanish language but they provide an immersion experience as well. Some are run in conjunction with a university. Others are less formal. Reservations can be made ahead of time or at the door. Note that some countries and cities have more schools than others. For example, Spanish language schools play a great role in Mexican cities such as Oaxaca, San Miguel de Allende, San Cristóbal de las Casas and Merida. 

What are some characteristics of a good Spanish language school?

Personal attention. You don’t want to be treated like a number. The better schools offer cultural outings as well as a library or book exchange and bulletin board. In other words, they offer immersion into the local environs as well as the language. 

Some of my favorite schools donate a percentage of their income to social projects and offer the students an opportunity to volunteer or link up with projects in the host country. Another good sign is original study materials, which the student can use to learn as well as brush up on the language after returning home. 

What should I expect to learn?

This depends on your commitment and eagerness to learn the language. At least, you'll be a better prepared for your travels. If you want to devote more time, you’ll have a greater command of the Spanish language. As with other things in life, you'll get out of the experience what you invest. 

What do I need to take with me?

If you are combining education with travel, make sure you cover the bases. Bring the appropriate clothes, travel necessities (camera, guidebooks, medicine) and a bilingual dictionary. 

Where do I live?

Many schools offer home stays with local families. You can also arrange your own lodging or choose to live in an apartment or hotel. Consult a guidebook to get a good idea of what lodging typically costs. 

How do I know if a school is right for me?

The best bet is to select a school on prior recommendations. A school’s word of mouth reputation is worth more than all of the advertising in the world. If you have any doubts, don’t commit yourself to more than a week of classes. If you can, visit the school and talk with the teachers and students. The best advice is to let the director of the school and your teacher know what you’d like to accomplish – whether it’s survival Spanish or if you have more specific goals. They will be happy to accommodate your needs if you let them know what your needs are. 

Can I get university credit for classes taken abroad?

Many schools offer credit transfers. Ask your college first. 

How long are typical language courses?

Courses can last from one day to several months. Most schools encourage students to take at least one week of classes and preferably two or three weeks for maximum benefit. As always, it does depend on your abilities and needs. 

(Ron Mader hosts the website, which features a Directory of Spanish Language Schools and an Education Resources Collection. Details are online at


A Select List of Spanish Language Schools 

Baja California Language College

Ensenada, Baja California


Centro Bilingue Language School

San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas


Instituto Calmecac

Guanajuato, Guanajuato


Instituto Miguel de Cervantes

Guanajuato, Guanajuato


Instituto "Habla Hispana"

San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato


Instituto Mexico Americano de Cultura

Guadalajara, Jalisco


Centro de lenguas y ecoturismo de Patzcuaro (CELEP)

Patzquaro, Michoacan


Experiencia_Centro de Intercambio Bilingue y Cultural

Cuernavaca, Morelos


Cuernavaca Language School

Cuernavaca, Morelos

CETLALIC Escuela Alternativa de Español/ Alternative Language School

Cuernavaca, Morelos



Cuernavaca, Morelos


CICE _ Centro Internacional para la Cultura y Enseñanza de la Lengua

Cuernavaca, Morelos


Amigos del Sol Spanish Language School

Oaxaca, Mexico


O.L.E. _ Organización Linguistica de Espa±ol

Queretaro, Queretaro


K'u_Kuul_Kaan Academy

Merida, Yucatan