Besides sounding super sexy on your travels, getting a grasp of the Spanish language will help you no end. As the second most spoken language in the world, having even just a basic knowledge means you’ll be able to converse your way across Colombia, chat in Chile and make friends with the local shopkeeper in Nepal – that’s not to mention the joy of speaking in Spain itself.
Many of us learn the basic ‘uno, dos, tres’ in high school and, while this is definitely useful when it comes to ordering the right amount of cervezas (beers), the only way to take your Spanish to the next level is by immersing yourself into a Spanish-speaking location.
Depending on where you go, the accent and dialect may vary. Think of how many ways there are to speak English, and that should give you some idea of the variety we’re dealing with here.
Some places are better to learn Spanish than others. Here are the top places that will give you an authentic language experience with an extra dose of fun on the side.
Let’s start with the obvious: if you want to hit basic, intermediate and even advanced level when it comes to espanol, an obvious place to learn is Spain. Only a few hours away from the UK, travel costs are low and there are many bustling and vibrant places you can head.
Whether it’s the dreamy streets of Seville or the rugged sands of the Costa, you’ll be able to munch on tapas, try flamenco and catch some rays while learning the phonetically spoken language.
However, there are a few things to bear in mind. Aside from Castellan, which is that classroom Spanish you’ve been cramming, Spain also has a few other languages spoken across the regions. Catalan, for one, is spoken in Barcelona and the Catalonia region while Basque is the language spoken in the western Pyrenees. Learning ‘Spanish’ here might not be as straightforward as you’d hoped.
To learn the more universally used Castellan, head to Madrid, Valencia or Salamanca where you can soak up the art, history and nightlife and practice rolling those ‘rr’s.
With a tropical landscape, conservation volunteering and exotic wildlife, a trip to Costa Rica could quite possibly make for the best ‘educational trip’ you’ll ever have.
All jungles and beaches, Costa Rica offers opportunities for those speaking all levels of Spanish. Granted, a stroll through the jungle or surf on the beach may not be like any lesson you’ve had before, but every conversation you have with a local is another opportunity to practice.
Be warned though, as a top Caribbean destination prices can be a little steep here. If you stick to local transport and traditional cuisine you’ll be able to keep your costs down.
San Jose, the country’s capital, has plenty of schools to perfect your pronunciation. Heading to the coast means you can immerse yourself in activity while you learn, too. The east’s Flamingo Beach means diving and parasailing, while Tortuguero provides national parks and endangered species.
Aside from offering the best tamales, Colombia has an extensive list of Spanish learning schools. Speaking relatively slowly and claiming to have little accent, Colombia makes for the perfect spot to pick up the language if you’ve not yet had a chance.
You can reach for the textbooks in the capital of Bogota or head to the ‘city of eternal spring’ and discover the fusion of natural beauty and creative art in Medellin. It was once dubbed ‘the most dangerous city in the world’ but it’s come a long way since then.
For those wanting to take learning outside the classroom, head to Colombia’s beautiful spots of Salento and the Tayrona National Park.
If your ‘imperfect’ is pretty perfect and you know your ‘les’ from your ‘las,’ then Argentina is the place for you. Ideal for those a little more advanced, Argentina’s many cities have different accents, slang and speeds providing a little challenge for the ears.
Testing your comprehension skills makes for the perfect excuse to move around and, with a wine region and a city known for its chocolate, not much encouragement is needed.
Like Costa Rica, it can be on the pricey side. However, the magic of Buenos Aires and beauty of El Calafate make it worth it.
For those still learning, most of the big cities have Spanish schools where you can brush up on those conjugations. If you can party in Buenos Aires while brushing up on your vocab, then why not?
Relatively untouched by tourism, Bolivia remains a glistening jewel among the South American countries and offers the ideal combination of hedonistic escapism and language acquisition.
For those watching the pennies, it’s also a hit as it has South America’s lowest cost of living. So why not make that ‘dos cervezas, por favor’?
Base yourself in sweet Sucre, the country’s capital, and soak up the whitewashed architecture and surrounding valleys while buddying up with a local to learn the language.
Make a note though, that aside from the Spanish you know, Bolivia also has 36 other languages floating around. Things can get a little confusing.
Before you sling on the backpack and head to one of these far flung locations, if learning Spanish is your primary goal it’s better to have a base of knowledge before you go. Apps such as HelloTalk and Coffee Break Spanish can help you acquire some basic skills while hooking you up with native speakers who can correct and advise you. Might as well arrive prepared!