Learning any language can be an invaluable asset that opens the door to a new culture. Consequently, many travellers to South America, particularly those on extended overland trips, spend some time studying in language schools. The aim here is to compare and contrast my experiences in Buenos Aires (Argentina) and Sucre (Bolivia). This should give prospective students/ travellers an idea of what to be aware of and to expect.
Vamos, Buenos Aires: Originally, I paid for a group class in the morning and a private class in the afternoon. However, the only other student in the morning class hurt his leg, so I ended up doing a morning private class. Also, they arranged a homestay close to the school (breakfast and evening meals were included).
Pro: The school had a very social vibe and they arranged evening activities on Wednesday.
Con: Buenos Aires is a lot more expensive than Bolivia.
Academia Andina, Sucre: Due to cheaper cost, I only booked individual private lessons. The experienced teachers focused on providing comprehensive one to one tuition. The school arranged a homestay that included all meals. When one teacher became ill there was no difficulty finding an equally competent replacement.
Pro: The school is small and provides individualized tuition at excellent prices.
Con: Although there were activities on Fridays, it was quiet and did not really have a social vibe.
Vamos, Buenos Aires: Buenos Aires is a popular destination for learning Spanish for a number of reasons. However, Argentinian Spanish is quite distinctive and it has an almost Italian lilt and pronunciation. It can be hard to understand and it is easy to tell foreigners who have learned their Spanish in Argentina, particularly when they use Argentine ‘vos’ forms instead of ‘tú’.
Academia Andina, Sucre: Sucre is increasingly a popular destination to learn Spanish for those who can spend 6+ months in South America. As in Argentina, many speakers use ‘vos’ forms. The pronunciation can be clear, although those who speak Quechua may speak a staccato Spanish that takes getting used to.
Buenos Aires: Buenos Aires could lay claim to being one of the great cities of the world. Apart from its vibrant nightlife and impressive architecture, it is also a great introduction to South America.
Sucre: Sucre claims to be the capital of Bolivia, but it has a far more provincial feel than even La Paz. On the other hand, it is a city of beautiful white buildings with a laid back charm and friendly locals.
Buenos Aires may be a better place to spend a few weeks in order to get started with Spanish at the beginning of a trip. However, Sucre is far better value for money and due to its small size, you will perhaps get to know locals more quickly. For longer periods, Sucre will probably win because of its cheaper costs.
Vamos Spanish, BA, Av. Cnel. Díaz 1736, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Telephone: (+54) 11-5984-2201
Academia Andina, Sucre, 756 Junin, Sucre, Bolivia
Telephone: 591 4 6458688
Note: Things change rapidly in Bolivia and Academia Andina appears to have closed. However, there are many other options to learn Spanish in Sucre such as Sucre Spanish School or Me Gusta Spanish School.