By Jessica Thiefels
Research indicates that Spanish is the most widely used language throughout North, Central and South America, spanning 427,000,000 native speakers across 21 countries, making it one of the best second languages to learn, according to this interactive Languages of the World Map.
While there are plenty of online programs and local college courses you can take to learn or brush up on your Spanish, you may find it more effective to have a real-life, immersive experience instead. Conversing with Hispanic people, discovering their regional customs and embracing another worldview will all make the language come to life for you.
The following cities offer an Español education you will not soon forget; if you want to learn or improve your Spanish skills, these are the places to go.
With a cosmopolitan atmosphere, artistic culture, and direct access to Spanish speakers on every street corner, Spain’s capital is excellent for honing your linguistic skills. Given the international character of Madrid, the accents you will encounter are often globally inspired, which makes them easier for novice Spanish learners to grasp.
However, that worldwide influence also makes Madrid a tourist hotspot, drawing a constant influx of English speakers. This temptation to lapse into your own language can damper the experience, so motivation is crucial when studying in Madrid.
Although many locals here consider Catalan—a fusion of French and Spanish—their native language, the majority of Barcelona’s population speaks Castilian, or traditional Spanish. Traffic signs, advertisements, newspapers, television broadcasts, radio stations and other media accommodate both language preferences, and most residents are bilingual, so communication barriers are a little easier to overcome.
While Catalan and Spanish are not interchangeable, with a sufficient understanding of the latter, you can still converse effectively, continue sharpening your abilities and even begin the process of learning yet another language.
Located in the epicenter of Costa Rica’s renowned surfing district, this beachside destination also attracts prospective Spanish speakers from across the globe. Whether you’re an amateur, intermediate or advanced student, Playa Tamarindo is ideal for expanding your proficiency while absorbing the social vibrancy of Latin America firsthand.
This region’s energetic nightlife, adventurous environment, and unsurpassed wave-riding conditions offer the unique opportunity to learn how foreign cultures and languages intersect. Some educational programs in Playa Tamarindo even combine Spanish and surfing as part of the curriculum.
Known for eclectic tapas and historical monuments, this municipality in the sovereign state of Andalusia makes integrating Spanish into your day-to-day routine both simple and enjoyable. Test your linguistic progress en la calle—on the street—at Malaga’s outdoor market, the Mercado Atarazanas, which will encourage you to converse with local merchants in their native tongue.
You can take a more traditional route instead, thanks to a variety of language exchange programs throughout Malaga where you can interact with another person who speaks fluent Spanish, but is now studying English.
Ranked among the most economical areas in Central America, this colonial community is geared toward budget travelers seeking to maximize both their Spanish knowledge and financial investment. The affordable cost of living, combined with a large student population, thriving entertainment district and Spanish Baroque landmarks, has established Antigua as a recognized language-learning destination for Europeans, Asians and North Americans.
In your time outside the classroom, the country of Guatemala allows for plenty of recreation including nature preserves, archaeological sites and water excursions.
Those who are new to to this bilingual region will appreciate the coherent tone, measured pace and clear enunciation that Spanish speakers in this Colombian capital use when talking. Whether you’re practicing vocabulary or verb conjugation, the accommodating residents of Bogota are often eager to assist in the process, so the lexical nuances no longer seem intimidating.
In fact, Columbia at large has become such a sought-after mecca for Spanish education, that government sponsored tourism campaigns are re-branding the nation to reflect this trend with language institutes cropping up throughout various major cities.
BIO: Jessica Thiefels has been writing for more than ten years and is currently a lifestyle blogger. She’s written for Lifehack, Reader’s Digest, Tripping and more. When she’s not writing she’s traveling around the Southwest and planning her next great adventure. Follow her on Twitter @Jlsander07.
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