After years of whizzing through Spanish classes in school, acing quizzes and learning vocabulary like a pro, you feel confident in your skills. Except when that person who stopped to ask you a couple of questions (in Spanish) on the street, you freeze. All of those vocab words seem useless now because you’re forgetting how to string together a sentence or conjugate the correct tense of the verb (preterite or imperfect? Do I need to use subjunctive…ahhh). When you get home, you open your laptop and quickly google “Where is the best place to learn Spanish?”
The first thing you’re sure to find is lists of countries or cities where we’re promised to learn “the most authentic Spanish”, or “the Spanish that does not have an accent”. However, after having accompanied first hand the learning process of many students who have become fluent in Spanish, I have a confession. The best place to learn a language is not necessarily a place. It is, first of all, an environment.
What’s the best environment for learning Spanish?
The best environment for learning Spanish is one that gives you the opportunity to learn and practice in a classroom environment, and then practice what you learned with the local people — in the same day. This structure gives you the possibility “to learn how to learn” from a local point of view. That is to say, an environment in which, through the cultivation of deep and respectful relationships with the communities you visit, the doors are opened for you to critically reflect on your learning process. Thus, stop being docile receivers of information and become co-protagonists in the production of knowledge.
How does Dragons structure language learning?
And it is precisely this type of environment that we seek to promote (foster) in our Dragons programs in Peru, Guatemala and Bolivia, the three most indigenous countries in Latin America. Whether in semesters such as Andes & Amazon or Guatemala Language Immersion, or in the summer programs, we seek to combine personalized Spanish instruction with extended homestay and community engagement in which you have the opportunity not only to learn Spanish in an abstract way but from the ways of existence of the place that welcomes you.
It is through these experiences that you will develop better understanding of how to respond to your environment. It will also deepen your comprehension of why people use the words they use, or why they chose to say things the way they do.
Whether it is talking in a market with the lady who sells fruit, at home with your homestay father, or in an indigenous community learning about the use of medicinal plants, you’ll be learning Spanish. You will be encouraged from the moment you land to the last day of the trip (and beyond!) to learn and to question what we have learned, in a profound way.
This will not be a trip to learn Spanish in Peru, Guatemala or Bolivia, but a journey through which you will learn how to learn Spanish through the profound and meaningful relationship you will establish with Peruvians, Guatemalans, and Bolivians, and the breathtaking landscapes they inhabit.
Click here to learn more about our immersive language learning programs in Latin America.