Which are the best places to learn Spanish abroad?

In this article, we will explore our top destinations to learn Spanish abroad for adults. The way to learn Spanish is by immersing yourself in the language, culture, and lifestyle of Spanish-speaking countries. 

Whether you are a beginner who is dipping your toes into Spanish for the first time or a proficient speaker taking the deep plunge into advanced Spanish, choosing the right destination for Spanish immersion can make all the difference between sinking or swimming.

Is Argentina a good place to study Spanish?

Shall we tango? For those seeking a unique cultural experience, Argentina is an enticing option. Buenos Aires, the country’s capital, is renowned for its vibrant arts scene, tango, and European-inspired architecture. Language schools in Argentina often incorporate cultural activities into their programs, allowing students to immerse themselves fully in the language and local customs.

Is Costa Rica a good place to study Spanish?

a building with a tree and a picnic table
ILI’s partner school in Costa Rica.

Ticket to paradise?  Known for its natural beauty, friendly locals, and clear accent, tropical Costa Rica is an excellent destination for studying Spanish. The country’s commitment to sustainability and ecotourism make it an attractive choice for those who want to combine language learning with outdoor adventures. Cities like Sámara and Heredia offer excellent language schools and cultural activities. Costa Rican Spanish is considered one of the clearest and easiest to understand, making it an ideal place for beginners. 

Why should someone learn Spanish in Colombia?

A dynamic cultural hub, Colombia has emerged as a popular destination for learning Spanish due to its diverse culture, warm climate, and welcoming vibe. By choosing to study Spanish in Colombia, you expose yourself to a wide range of regional accents and dialects, which can deepen your understanding of the language. Additionally, Colombia’s rich history and vibrant cities like Medellín and Cartagena provide ample opportunities to practice Spanish in real-life situations while immersing yourself in the country’s fascinating heritage.

What is the ideal place to study Spanish in Spain?

Spain, the birthplace of the Spanish language, is an obvious choice for those seeking an authentic immersion experience. 

  • Madrid: As the capital of Spain, Madrid is a prime location for studying Spanish. The city is known for its vibrant culture, bustling streets, and rich history. Madrid is home to prestigious language schools and universities, offering a wide range of Spanish language programs for all levels. Students studying in Madrid have the advantage of being exposed to Standard Spanish, which is considered the most widely understood and accepted version of the language. Additionally, the city’s central location provides easy access to other regions of Spain, allowing students to explore different regional cultures.
  • Sevilla: Nestled in the region of Andalusia, Sevilla offers a unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty. The city is famous for its stunning Moorish architecture,  vibrant Flamenco scene,  historical landmarks, and traditional
a group of people sitting around a table
Language travel student, Kathy, at a partner school in Spain.

festivals. Sevilla is home to the University of Sevilla, one of Spain’s oldest universities, dating back to the 16th century. Sevilla is also renowned for its tapas scene. Exploring the tapas bars, streets and neighborhoods in this city not only allows you to appreciate the historical charm of Sevilla, but also provides opportunities to practice your language skills. You can interact with locals, ask for directions, order food in Spanish, and engage in conversations, which can greatly enhance your language learning experience.

But those are just two examples. The list of great travel destinations to learn Spanish in Spain includes Barcelona, Cadiz, Granada, Málaga, Nerja, Valencia, and San Sebastián, each of which offers its own unique big city excitement or small town charm.

a person standing between 2 orange trees in front of a historic building
Language Travel Volunteer Advisor, Kathy Felton, at the Casa de Pilatos in Sevilla, Spain.

Which version of Spanish should I learn?

When it comes to choosing a version of Spanish to learn, it’s important to know that there are many variations of the language spoken across the globe, although, the basic core aspects of Spanish (grammar and vocabulary) remain the same within the variations. Developing proficiency in one variant provides a strong foundation and makes it easier to adapt to other regional variations as you progress in your language learning journey. Here are some points to help you make an informed decision:

  • European Spanish (Castilian): This is the standard form of Spanish spoken throughout Spain and also known as Castilian. It is the official language of Spain and serves as the basis for most Spanish language instruction, literature, media, and official communication in the country. Castilian Spanish has distinctive pronunciation and grammar compared to other variants.  The letters ‘c’ and ‘z’ are pronounced as the ‘th’ sound. Castilian Spanish also uses the pronoun and grammar forms of ‘vosotros’  for ‘you all” and uses the second person plural.
  • Latin American Spanish: This encompasses the language that is spoken throughout Latin American countries such as, Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Mexico, Perú, Venezuela, and many others. Castilian Spanish has had a significant impact on Latin American Spanish due to historical and cultural factors. During the colonial period, Spanish colonizers brought their language and dialects to the Americas, and the influence of Castilian Spanish can still be seen in the language spoken across Latin America. Latin American Spanish also has its own distinct characteristics in terms of pronunciation and grammar. In Latin American Spanish, the “c” and “z” sounds are generally pronounced like an “s” sound and ‘vosotros’ is generally not used, and “ustedes” is used to address both formal and informal groups.
  • Target Destination: If you have a specific Spanish-speaking country in mind that you plan to visit, work in, or have a strong interest in, it may be beneficial to learn the regional variation of Spanish spoken in that country. This will help you better adapt to the local language and culture, and you can fine-tune your language skills to match the specific dialect and vocabulary of that region.
  • Personal Preference: Consider your personal preferences and interests. If you have a particular affinity for a specific Spanish-speaking country or region, or if you enjoy a particular accent, you may choose to focus on learning that variation of Spanish. Learning the version of Spanish that resonates with you personally can make the learning process more enjoyable and motivating. 
A circle with the words: how to roll your R's with Spanish words radiating out from it.

Ultimately, European Spanish and Latin American Spanish are mutually intelligible, meaning speakers of one can generally understand speakers of the other. Therefore, while there are differences in accent, vocabulary, and pronunciation, learning either Spanish from Spain or Latin America will still provide you with a solid foundation in the language. You can always adapt and learn specific regional nuances as you progress in your language learning journey.

How long does it take to learn Spanish fluently?

The time required to become fluent in Spanish varies depending on various factors, including your previous language learning experience, dedication, immersion, and learning methods. Generally, it takes around 600 to 750 hours of focused study and practice to achieve a solid intermediate level of proficiency. With consistent effort and immersive experiences, you can expect to become fluent in Spanish within a couple of years. Remember that language learning is a continuous process, and regular practice is key to maintaining and improving your skills.

What is one way to practice Spanish abroad successfully?

While studying abroad, one effective way to practice Spanish is by immersing yourself in the local community and engaging in meaningful interactions with native speakers. Here are a few practical tips to enhance your language practice:

  1. Conversation Exchanges: Look for language exchange programs or conversation groups where you can meet local Spanish speakers who are interested in learning your native language. This provides an opportunity for cultural exchange and language practice.
  2. Homestays: Consider staying with a local host family. Living with native speakers allows you to practice Spanish in a real-life setting and gain insights into the local culture and customs.
  3. Cultural Activities: Participate in cultural activities, such as attending local festivals, joining clubs or sports teams, or taking cooking or dance classes. Engaging in these activities provides opportunities to interact with locals and practice your language skills in a natural and enjoyable way. It’s always a good idea to expose yourself to a variety of Spanish resources, such as books, movies, music, and conversations with native speakers from different regions, to broaden your understanding and appreciation of the language in its various forms.

Conclusion: Studying Spanish Abroad Can be a Game-Changer

Whether you opt for the tropical charm of Costa Rica, the cultural dynamism of Colombia, or the historical richness of Spain, each destination offers unique advantages and opportunities for language learners. Remember to choose the version of Spanish that aligns with your goals, dedicate sufficient time to study and practice, and actively immerse yourself in the local community to make the most of your language learning journey. ¡Buena suerte! (Good luck!)

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