Student Marthe from the Netherlands, explains why she started to learn Spanish in South America, how this language experience in Peru and Argentina has given a boost to her life, and about what she loved the most of being immersed in Latin culture.
Spanish Travel Classes gives a look inside a Spanish language adventure. Our study profile series puts the attention on students – asking them about their motivations for learning Spanish in Latin America, how they have experienced living in a Spanish speaking country, what they recommend for fellow students, where they loved to travel in Latin America, and more
Hi Marthe, Why did you decide to learn Spanish in Peru and Argentina?
Since I am young, I have always thought that Spanish was a cool language. I love the passionate sounds and Spanish is one of the world’s widely spoken languages. Like most Dutch people, unfortunately, I never had Spanish lessons. It sparked my interest in learning Spanish. I was also very interested in traveling to South America. Everyone told me that I should visit South America because it is an incredible continent with many highlights. It seemed like the perfect combination: Spanish Lessons & Adventure Travel! So, I started to plan my backpacking trip to South America, by reading many travel blogs online. Other people suggested too that it would be a good idea to learn the basics of Spanish first at the beginning of your South America backpacking route. I think for that reason, I felt it was a good thing to do. I just wanted to get used to Latin American culture and then travel around South America. On top of that. I always find starting a big trip a bit exciting. Therefore, I thought, that it would probably be a good idea to make friends in a safe environment before the start of my South America backpacking. With a solid base of Spanish skills and hopefully with new friends. I thought I would be ready to explore South America!
How did your Spanish go? Did you improve your Spanish level a lot?
I attended each week my Spanish classes with so much pleasure, and I improved a lot my Spanish skills! What helped me the most was my full Spanish immersion program. I believe that it`s really important to learn and speak Spanish in a Spanish-speaking country. You listen the whole day to Spanish speakers around you, and in Latin America is an urgent need for speaking Spanish (they don`t speak English in many places). Being in a Spanish-speaking country helps you to improve a lot. My first Spanish lessons in Peru, and after that my Spanish classes in Argentina went really well. But I think it`s also very much up to you. It`s important to find someone to practice Spanish with. Too many other students get caught up in English-speaking travel buddies. But I practiced my Spanish a lot in my spare time with my fellow students. You really should do this, and you should learn Spanish by being very strict with yourself and practicing it too in real-life situations. As an example. I realized that I improved very fast with my Spanish when I ordered food in a restaurant, went to a social event with Spanish-speaking people, etc. I know from my own experience, that you can have nerves to speak a new language. But Latin people are the most adorable and heartwarming people! They don`t care if you make mistakes. They encourage you if you try to speak Spanish and they love to see that you take initiative. So, stop your anxiety and start to speak Spanish!
What was the highlight of your trip?
Oh wow! I have so many South American highlights. I dreamed of visiting Macchu Picchu, Patagonia, Salar de Uyuni, and many more. And every single one of them was an absolute highlight of my backpacking time in South America. But if I have to choose, what I liked the most about my gap year in South America. Then I pick as a highlight, the time of living in a completely different culture. I can highly recommend this to everyone. It has been a life lesson for me, to adapt to living in Latin American culture. I enjoyed amazing travel experiences, stepped out of my comfort zone and I learned a lot about myself. I almost forgot probably the best part. I made friends for life. It`s a unique experience to share your travels with others as well. That makes it a lot of fun and you find out that it`s really easy to make new friends with strangers. I still look back with a big smile on all of my adventures. Especially when I realize, that I am back again in my daily routine in the Netherlands haha. But I will never forget my South American travel, how cool and unforgettable it was!
What was your day like at the Spanish school?
I was following an intensive Spanish course with Spanish lessons during the morning. But the language program in Cusco and Buenos Aires gave me the possibility to do the best excursions and afternoon activities. I had such a blast! If you want to learn Spanish in Cusco or to study in Buenos Aires. Then you can discover so many beautiful places. Sometimes, I didn`t know exactly what to do or where to go. But then I could always contact the Spanish school, they were there to help me with everything. Many things were also organized by the language schools. Such as a pub crawl and fun activities with all the fellow students. What makes these events so good, is that you can easily get to know other students and make friends right away! I have never been lonely. I always visited the tourist attractions around Cusco together with fellow students, and I even traveled together with someone I met at the school for a few months. We are still friends!
Where did you stay?
I always stayed with the Spanish schools. The ones I took Spanish lessons with have student houses with private rooms or shared apartments with other students. At the Spanish school in Cusco, you can also learn Spanish in a host family where you become part of a Peruvian family. The idea is that you can learn even more Spanish. But I didn’t feel like doing a homestay in Cusco, because I preferred the student houses with fellow students – I thought it`s just a bit nicer and a little bit more party haha!
Why would you recommend to learn Spanish in South America?
I would recommend learning Spanish in Latin America because you broaden your horizons. The whole experience is just amazing! You get to know a new culture in a very enjoyable way. You are still young (at least I was) and it`s not easy to travel around South America without knowing the language. Therefore, I believe it`s a safe way if you start to learn Spanish first with good people around you. In my opinion, you will also learn Spanish the fast in a Spanish-speaking country. You will be surprised how you improve your Spanish level. I still benefit a lot from my Spanish lessons. The real fluency in Spanish will disappear for a while. But if you are back in a Spanish-speaking country, you can make yourself understood in Spanish after a few days. At least, this is my case. I fell in love with the Latin culture, and after that, I went back to South and Central America for more backpacking trips. In any case, I think it`s best to learn Spanish in the country where they also speak Spanish. You can immediately practice it in real-life situations and you have also a lot of spare time – to explore the best destinations and have a lot of fun!