Learning Spanish is both rewarding and a ton of fun. One way to learn is to really immerse yourself in Spanish culture. By surrounding yourself with people who speak the language and live the culture you ensure that you soak up as much information as possible. If you're able to get away for a while, a great way to learn is to travel to Spain, but there are lots of considerations to be made.
One consideration is the type of environment in which you want to learn. It's important in the learning process to enjoy where you are, so make sure to do a little research ahead of time to make sure you choose an area where you'll have fun. For those of you who like the busy atmosphere of city life, Madrid or Barcelona would be a fantastic choice. For all you beach bums our there, maybe the Canary Islands would be more suited to your tastes.
Another consideration is that there are lots of different languages spoken in Spain, and even a ton of different dialects within the language itself. Most schools will take this into consideration but the longer you stay in a particular area the more likely you are to pick up these little idiosyncrasies from locals. While this may not make a ton of difference when it comes to others being able to understand you, it's important to note before you pick a school. For example, in Catalonia, the primary language is
Catalan so you might want to pick a region that is mostly Spanish speaking for maximum effect.
There are many decisions to be made when planning such a large and important trip, but for me – it's all about the food! I have to be able to immerse myself in the local culture, but also immerse my palate. I think learning about a country's food is essential to understanding its people and traditions. So, the following is a list of some of the best places in Spain to study Spanish while giving yourself a fantastic culinary journey.
Salamanca is a city that radiates youth. While it's not a young city in itself, the populace is largely college age. The arid dryness and cool environment are great for livestock and game, so expect to see lots of fantastic cheeses, wild birds, and wonderful local flavors like chorizo.
Don Quijote Language School. This school oozes old school charm in its restored monastery from the 1500s. And it even offers cooking classes for those with a moderate understanding of Spanish! They help to arrange for accommodations and offer courses in local history and art from college instructors.
This is an extraordinary spot to take a Spanish course, particularly if you're a foodie like me. The city radiates a laid-back vibe. If you travel from late spring to late summer, the long afternoons will leave you plenty of time to explore the local cuisine after a morning class. Make sure to check out Zeruko and Borda Berri, two of my favorite places to eat.
El Aula Azul is a great place to take classes in San Sebastian as it offers a wide scope of classes and houses its understudies in local lodgings. They sort out exercises to immerse students in local life from delicious cuisine to open-air activities. They offer a one of a kind chance to attend both of their schools, in San Sebastian and Cádiz.
Tenerife, Canary Islands
For those of us who don't have all the time in the world to devote weeks or months to travel abroad, Tenerife is a fantastic choice of destination. The Lialola Language School gives you the option of one week, three-day or even a one-day class. They are intense while maintaining a fun atmosphere. Lialola focuses on immersion through things like short excursions around the island and complimentary meals.
An absolute must on a visit to the Canaries is to sample as many mojo sauces as possible. While it's possible to get this sauce elsewhere, it was created in the Canaries and no one does it like the original. The base for this sauce is olive oil, garlic, paprika, cumin, and some other spices, but it gets most of its flavor from local peppers which range anywhere from green to red or orange, depending on the ingredients. There are also over 100 vineyards on the island, so pick up a bottle or two to have with your dinner.
What better place to immerse yourself in all things Spanish than Barcelona? While the official language is Catalan, Spanish is so prevalent there that it makes little difference. Situate yourself at Lingua Barcelona – it's just a quick walk away from the city's center and features several lovely antique dwellings.
Best of all, there are TONS of different types of food on offer here. Maybe you find out that Spanish cuisine isn't to your liking – Grab some more familiar Mexican or Thai eats. The city is on the sea, so there's always lots of the freshest seafood you can find. But make sure you at least sample some local fare like Pa amb Tomàquet – it's one of my favorites!
Learning a new language opens so many doors of opportunity. My time is Spain is a cherished experience that's allowed me to come to a better understanding of culture and a world of new opportunities. I know not everyone can commit the time that I have to travel, so there are other ways to make sure you can open yourself up to these possibilities. To me, other than travel, the best way to learn Spanish is with Verbalicity – it has all you need to go from complete novice to a fluent conversationalist. But make sure to try out some new Spanish foods or wine while you work – it makes the experience much more enjoyable!