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A School of Friends: Learning Spanish in South America

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By Mary Joy. Feb 2019

Friendship.  Not the brief moments shared laughing with a stranger on a bus, or a chance encounter with another person from the same country – real, fostered friendship is hard to find when you’re traveling.  In the Patagonian Andes, people are here for different goals; whether backpacking, urban traveling, or simply vacationing, it is easy to make brief connections with other travelers, and then never see them again.

But what about being here for the same, short-term goal?  In Bariloche, Argentina, situated in the heart of the legendary Patagonia region, La Montaña Spanish School offers travelers and locals alike the opportunity to better their Spanish – or begin learning it – in an immersive environment.  The appeal is twofold: a classroom setting, where students can be exposed to the academic structure of the language, and after-school activities to allow people to become more comfortable using their Spanish in a real-world setting.

In the classroom, students are placed in groups based on their previous Spanish background.  They spend 2-4 hours in a discussion-style classroom, talking with a professor about everything from verb tenses to typical Argentine food slang.  But even though this is a classroom, it is not a space for long lectures and endless notes about subjunctive conjugations. It is a dynamic room, where students converse with the professor about their days, ask each other about restaurant recommendations, and laugh along at their classmates’ stories of cultural mishaps and misadventures.  It is a room where cultural misperceptions are corrected, where people of different backgrounds come together to share the confluence of their home cultures with Argentine life, where real friendships are formed.



But Spanish learning does not end there.  Three times a week, the students head out on planned activities.  Going on local hikes, taking tours of the city, and spending time in cervecerías, a city staple, are typical activities that simultaneously allow students to enjoy the city and practice their newfound Spanish.  People often bring their spouses, children, and friends, fully completing the experience of community that La Montaña fosters. And this experience with the Spanish-speaking world in a group environment allows students to use their language skills and social practices in later, more independent interactions, like family dinners or late nights at the climbing gym.

Spanish is a language that fosters friendship, and a language best learned with friends.  And there really is no better way to do it than in the company of native Argentinians, international travelers, and friendly professors.  Come for a few days, a week, or a month, and learn Spanish with La Montaña – the learning you do and the friendships you make will be unforgettable.

Gabrielle, from the US


Rachel, from Canada

Penny y Roberto de UK

Jesse and Leslie, from Seattle

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