Studying Spanish at a Language School in Spain

Se habla español.

Dear Karen,

When you are preparing to live abroad, thinking about how you are going to learn the language can be a heavy question on your mind. As you probably know, the path I took to get to where I am is not totally typical. My first year abroad in Spain I worked as a nanny/English teacher (not learning very much Spanish at all) and my second year I went to a Spanish school while taking online courses back home. My time at Spanish school was both very positive and totally different from the Spanish reality that I currently live.

My Spanish language school* wasn’t the cheapest school in Granada, but the quality of the education (in my opinion) made it totally worth it―and is still way cheaper than a year at school in the States. I had wonderful teachers and activities almost every afternoon to help improve my Spanish. In addition, I met lots of really cool people, some of whom continue to be my friends to this day.

Time to study Spanish!  

Time to study Spanish!  

When choosing a school it is important to think about what kind of schedule and teacher rotation works best for you. I have talked to different people about learning a language and some people seem to favor one teacher who gives all the classes, whereas having a different teacher (and subject) every hour really worked well for me. At the same time, it might not be the best way for everyone, and I know people who switched schools and had a much better time studying elsewhere.

During that first year of Spanish classes I went from an A1 level to a B2 level of Spanish (check out this website for information about the DELE Spanish examinations). My teachers gave me confidence, but were also strict enough to make me work hard. I honestly think that learning a language is really hard―almost like being on a roller coaster―, so having such a great support team the first year was a deal-breaker for me.

However, going to Spanish school is not the same as living as an integrated person within the community. During this year the only Spanish people I really got to know worked at the school (with the exception of my one-on-one intercambio partner). This means that even though I had lots of fun, ate lots of tapas, and went to some really good parties, the majority of time I spent outside of class I spoke English and was with other foreigners.

While this might not be a big deal for everyone, when I was able to integrate myself into the Spanish community (studying, working, and volunteering with Spanish people), my experience changed. That is not to say that it was better, nor was it easier, but it felt more ‘authentic.’ And while I understand that it is very presumptuous to assume that everyone can take as much time as I did to learn a language and adapt to a new place, I think it is important to know that Spanish school is like a bubble―it is a wonderful experience, but if you are not getting out and meeting Spanish people, it is not what living in the city is really like.

If I were to do it all over again, I would not miss the opportunity to go to a Spanish language school again. I had a great experience, learned loads, and met some really incredible people. However, I would probably try to convince myself that meeting people outside of school is a good idea too (even though I am pretty socially awkward and it would be hard for me). Volunteering or joining a sports team are both really good ways to meet people in the city outside of school, so my recommendation would be to pick something that interests you and see what the city looks like outside your bubble.


*If you are moving to Granada and looking for schools, I would be more than happy to privately send you the information about my school.