School certifications are a tricky field. Many schools offer certifications that sound good ("Rural University"), but won’t help you at home. It is a good idea to ask your College or University before leaving, what they require in order to acknowledge your studies in Guatemala. The best solution would be to take a test after your return. Don’t worry: With a six week’s course in Guatemala one-on-one you will be better than studying for two years at home. Certifications offered should be no criterion for you to choose a school. Please read this testimonial of a student who did well in University after studying in Guatemala: "I returned to my University to take my proficiency test and I passed Spanish 101, 102, and 103, however must study more for 104 which I did not pass. My dean was so impressed because with no college Spanish on my records, I was able to return passing 3 levels! I hope to return next summer to continue my studies. Thanks!" (Nicole Clark)
Most schools claim to have good programs for children. This has been a disappointment in many cases. Guatemala365.com recommends schools in safe places and with a garden or ample cubicles. This way the children feel free to play while learning. Please use our search help on the Spanish School List.
Beginners: Everyday expressions. You learn nouns by pointing at things or looking at pictures. Articles. The most common verbs. Present tense. By now you can already tell little stories and converse with your teacher about your family and experiences. Irregular verbs. Main and dependent phrases. Present continuous. Always working on enriching your vocabulary.... Past tenses, Future.
Intermediate: Past continuous. Past pluperfect. Future perfect. Conditional. You read newspaper artikles, short stories etc.....
Advanced: Subjunctive Also working on conservational skills, creative writing...
At most Spanish Schools teachers use papers where they put down examples and grammatical rules. Some schools use blackboards. Students receive a notebook for their use. Teachers generally have to acquire their own teaching materials. Most widespread is AMSCO “Spanish Three Years” (Nassi, Levy), a very helpful grammar and exercise book in three levels, written in Spanish and English. Most schools also have dictionaries. A few schools have good libraries, video collections, and many have board games like Scrabble to make teaching more entertaining.
Take some materials to Guatemala: Be sure to have a good (and small?) dictionary with you when you travel to Guatemala. Also, if you know the meaning and grammatical significance of technical terms in Spanish, like "pasado perfecto", "gerundio" etc. that will help. If you are not an English speaker, you should bring grammar- and exercise books in your language. Since most schools do not have any textbooks, it might be wise to bring one in order to have more structure in your learning. See a list of textbooks which were recommended to us by former students.
All schools in Guatemala teach one student on one teacher. You spend your time talking and listening. This is why Guatemalan schools are unmatched in the world. After six weeks, you are sure to be fluent and understand the average person on the street. Go to a good school, and get the grammar right, too. A typical day in school: 8:00 to 10:00 Grammar and exercises 10:00 half an hour coffee break, socialize 10:30 to 12:00 Conversation, pronunciation, reading comprehension Lunch at your family Afternoons: activities and homework. (See your curriculum of learning Spanish)
I am willing to bet that there is no place on this Planet where you can learn Spanish faster or cheaper than in Guatemala. This is due to one-on-one teaching and total immersion: afternoon activities and integration in a Guatemalan family. How to choose a good school? Just rely on our ranking based on hundreds of student’s reports. (See criteria for our school’s ranking). Visit the info on different Guatemalan towns in order to make up your mind. Once you are studying, you can also investigate on your own. If you are advancing well in your school, stay longer. You can pay on a week to week basis, school starts on Mondays.
During high season it is preferable to go for a smaller school in order to avoid being in a crowded place. During low season, you activities and socializing are better in a bigger school.
You should be aware of the following different types of schools: Small Schools: The director and teachers generally go out of their way to make you feel well. Teacher quality may be a bit variable since everybody is friend with the director. You feel like being in family. The director is the slave of the school. These schools may try to fill up just by dumping prices (not the ones recommended here, though). Cooperatives: Despite the poor showing of cooperatives in other fields, these schools are among the best in Guatemala. The main reason is that teachers tend to be stable and thus gain much more experience. These schools were often founded with the idea to make a good school, not putting profits first. They really want to make you know Guatemala. The downside is burn-out teachers who can’t be fired. Big enterprises: These are schools owned by the directors. For a school to grow it needs consistent good work and good connections to overseas offices and universities. And it has to invest in teacher’s training at the risk of loosing them to other schools. Big schools generally pay only modest salaries to teachers. But since these schools always have students, the teachers are happy enough: They don’t run out of work so often. These schools are very well organized. In high season, teacher quality may be a bit variable. New schools: Most new schools are founded by ex-teachers of other schools, who happen to own a house in town. They store away decent furniture and put in plain chairs and tables. They take some of their colleagues with them and paste town with propaganda. Many new schools only exist in high season. Getting a good teacher there is a matter of chance. Private teachers: Taking a private teacher may be a good option because you save about 30%. Look on blackboards in town. There are excellent private teachers like Abesaida Lopez in Huehuetenango. Unfortunately, there are also many black sheep who try to make the student psychologically dependent or even make unwanted advances towards female students.
Options include programs for medical students and nurses, lawyers, missionaries and business people. You study Spanish as any other student, but with emphasis on the vocabulary of your profession or interest. Schools also get you in contact with Guatemalan professionals of your field and organize practical courses upon request. Please use our search help on the Spanish School List.
Spanish language teachers in Guatemala are mostly young people like university students who do the job for very little salary ($25 to $60 per week), trying to pay for their studies. They feel attracted to Spanish students. After 30 years of seclusion because of the civil war Guatemalans want to know more about other countries. Teachers in our recommended schools have undergone a formal training and know how to help students enjoy learning. Cultural experience is a strong emphasis in teaching. Some schools have a list of their best teachers. If you inscribe in time, you are likely to get a better teacher. This holds especially during high season.
If you are not happy with your teacher, don’t hesitate to ask the director for another teacher. A leaving fellow student may recommend you his teacher. (see Tips: How to make most of your time and advance fast in your Spanish speaking abilities)