Clearly each Spanish speaking country would proudly argue the point that the Spanish spoken in their homeland is the best! And who would expect otherwise? Culture and language are intricately linked and each country has much to offer visitors from a culinary, historic, artistic and linguistic perspective.
With that stated, a strong case when choosing a country for an experience beyond a sightseeing visit, but rather to learn Spanish and delve into cultural subtleties, is to investigate which country is best for your linguistic acquisition. Spanish can be classified into countries with clear diction and a certain level of linguistic standardization.
Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru, for example, with a rich tapestry of indigenous cultures and languages, demonstrate dialectical influences in their locally spoken Spanish; while the opportunities to hear firsthand indigenous languages is a special experience, if your goal is to learn Spanish, it could be that your Spanish learning opportunities are reduced. Turning our attention to Europe, in Spain you can easily encounter various other languages during your travels as you explore the country, (the primary secondary languages being: Catalan, Galician, Basque, and Valencian), a reality sometimes confusing for the newer Spanish learner who might wonder if they are getting worse - versus better - in their Spanish capacity when the scenario is that they are hearing a different language!
Two countries which are recognized for a clearly spoken, standardized accent are Colombia and Costa Rica; while there are indigenous languages spoken by some citizens, the primary language is Spanish. Curiously, both these countries have a similar accent and common manners of expression, along with a warm, friendly citizenry; in fact, visitors list the feeling of being welcomed as one of their top favorite reasons for loving their time in these countries. Of the two, Costa Rica is more experienced in receiving tourists of all budgets, from backpackers to luxury accommodations, at the most popular in-country nature destinations. Costa Rica also has experienced hospitality staff to receive visitors from North American and Europe; and, while the preference is a Spanish only environment for Spanish students, in a pinch most Ticos (Costa Ricans) can speak some English. In terms of established Spanish immersion institutes, Costa Rica is an industry leader with almost 40 years since the first immersion school opened, and currently there is a plethora of options for all travel styles and linguistic goals. When seeking out the best option for you, most certainly take into consideration:
- Years of experience: this provides an indication of industry knowledge.
- Maximum class size: smaller is better, of course, with fewer students translating to increased personalized attention and support in achieving individual goals.
- Is the institute a locally owned company? Schools with local roots have a comprehensive understanding of the culture, along with a greater level of interest in community and sustainable development.
- Supplementary services: is the ambience welcoming and set up for a successful student experience?
- Are there support staff available to assist with any & all questions? Does the school help with logistical planning for in-country transportation and tours?
- A quick tip: be cognizant of the pre-travel experience; is engagement with the Admission’s staff positive? Are your questions being answered in a timely fashion & are you being well prepared for this experience?
If Costa Rica is on your radar as a study travel destination, do not hesitate for a minute – it does not disappoint!