Being able to speak the language in a foreign country allows you to interact with locals and experience their culture on a deeper level. If you're looking to beef up your espanol, try turning your next vacation into a learning experience by enrolling in a full-immersion program at one of these Spanish-speaking countries around the world.
Alternative program: The Cooperativa Spanish School in San Pedro La Laguna overlooks Lake Atitlan. But even better than the view, your tuition goes to help local families in need.
Oaxaca International (Oaxaca, Mexico)
This well-known program in Oaxaca, roughly 300 miles south of Mexico City, caps its class size at four students for optimal personalized instruction. Programs are divided into four levels: beginner, intermediate, advanced, and superior. You have the option of studying for 10 hours per week ($90) up to 20 hours ($180) and of staying with a host family (additional cost). What really sets Oaxaca International apart, though, are how culturally immersive the two free weekly excursions are, too. Students don’t just visit the market, for example; they travel to an artist’s studio to see him at work or try the craft themselves. The school also offers the chance to practice Spanish with a local student, in exchange for helping them with a little English.
Centro de Lenguas e Intercambio Cultural (Seville, Spain)
Where better to go to learn Spanish than Spain? The Centro de Lenguas e Intercambia Cultural has a variety of courses ranging from teen programs to a combination photography and Spanish class, but we like the two-week courses designed specifically for travelers over 50 years of age. The courses take a more leisurely pace and focus on themes such as flamenco, local food, and wine. At around $600, the classes do cost more than the equivalent basic instruction ($390), but the difference in price is made up for with exclusive cultural activities, like food and wine pairings.
Granada Spanish Lingua (Granada, Nicaragua)
The full-immersion Granada Spanish Lingua school offers one-on-one instruction for four hours every morning, Monday through Friday, for a total of 20 hours per week. And that's just the beginning to all the learning. In the afternoon, students enjoy excursions conducted in Spanish to museums, markets, and other destinations. The school also holds afternoon courses, in Spanish, on Nicaraguan history, art, culture, and more. In the evening, you’ll stay with a Nicaraguan family, where you’ll have even more opportunities to practice Spanish. Hosts provide a private room for more studying and three meals a day. (Contact for pricing.)
Simon Bolivar Spanish School (Quito, Ecuador)
Residents of Quito, Ecuador -- like their counterparts in Antigua, Guatemala -- speak a very pure form of Spanish. Here, the Simon Bolivar Spanish School is the place to go for a deep dive into language learning. Courses are available by the hour ($9 per hour), but we recommend the intensive one-on-one program consisting of four hours in the classroom, followed by two hours with the instructor at a grocery store, library, or other public location ($265 per week). Discounts are available if you share an instructor with a friend or spouse.
Expanish (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
An award-winning program, Expanish incorporates day-to-day -- newspapers, CDs, movies, and what's on the internet -- into its curriculum, with an emphasis on reading, writing, and listening in addition to speaking. The average class size is six students. Pricing vary depending on how many group lessons and private lessons you decide to take, but the most popular option of 20 group lessons runs $210. There are some add-on options, like a homestay program (from $295 per week) and activities like group tango lessons ($15).
Also in Buenos Aires: Vamos Spanish Academy limits its classes to six students ($200 for 20 hours of instruction) and is located close to Subway Line D and more than a dozen bus routes.
Coined (Cusco, Peru)
Although Coined teaches Spanish at schools in 47 cities throughout Latin America and Spain, our favorite is the Cusco location -- and not just because it offers excursions to Machu Picchu. For starters, the school is housed in a historic 19th century home that's a short walk from the city’s main plaza, the Plaza de Armas. We also like that, in addition to homestays and outings, the school allows you to practice your Spanish while volunteering in the community. Classes max out at eight students and are reasonably priced ($140 for the one-week, 20-hour program).