Maybe you’re planning a trip to Spain just to learn the language or you started a new chapter of your life here and you need to be proficient. Sooner or later, you realize that learning Spanish from YouTube or free websites alone might not be enough. If you want to commit yourself to learn this language beyond reading a grammar book or listening to podcasts, I’m here to help you choose a language school in Spain.
1. Is it Cervantes Institute Certified?
Outside of Spain, one can learn Spanish either from local schools or from Cervantes Institute, the soft powerhouse of the country run by the Ministry of Education and Culture. If you choose to learn Spanish from one of the Cervantes Institutes around the world, chances are you’ll pay more than what you would to a local school, but you would get the best teachers, and expose yourself to frequent free cultural offerings. But what do you do when you want to learn Spanish once you’re already in Spain? In this country, Cervantes Institute handles DELE exams (Diplomas de Español como Lengua Extranjera) but doesn’t offer courses. What it does is it provides lists of language schools it certifies throughout Spain. For example, HERE is the link to find 12 Cervantes-guaranteed language schools in Barcelona.
I highly recommend you rely exclusively on these lists because that is the only way to ensure that the teaching material, courses, and instructors provided by your school will be good enough for Cervantes. If it is not good enough for this institution, it shouldn’t be good enough for you.
2. Is it ridiculously expensive?
I visited most of the schools in Barcelona listed under Cervantes’ link to find the right one for me. Some of them were so expensive that their prices blew my mind. I asked their representatives what made their schools so much better than the others that were also Cervantes certified. Their answers were within the range of:
- We use the latest technology in our classrooms.
- We offer this facility and that facility (i.e. a terrace to sunbathe and a cozy library)
- Regular and frequent visits to touristic places and cultural activities
No question, the expensive schools I visited had spent a ton of money to make their classrooms look fancier. But I am inclined to think that human brains aren’t necessarily wired to learn faster and better in luxurious settings. Neither do they process information better when they click on applications than when they write on a notebook. In cases of remote learning, high tech’s ability to establish a user-friendly virtual environment to resonate a physical surrounding is beyond question. But once you bother to go to school rather than learn from home, why would you pay thousands of euros more just to look fancy? Does it really worth it?
3. How many students are going to be in your class?
I ended up in an intensive course in Barcelona, run by a humble school that doesn’t invest too much on its infrastructure but ensures getting the best teachers. On my first day, I realized that the class was made up of me, a Brazilian master’s student, and the professor. Because we were so few, our teacher Anna was able to teach not just Spanish, but “a Spanish lesson geared towards Meltem and Marco’s needs”. She was able to catch our mistakes, write them down and correct them before they were registered in our minds for a lifetime and get much harder to eliminate. We determined our speed based on our individual preferences and circumstances, and based on our teachers’ careful evaluation of us. In short, if one of the major reasons why you want to enroll to a language school is not to make friends, but only to gain fluency and better your Spanish, I recommend you find out the maximum number of students that will be registered in your class. I would say the fewer people, the better.
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