The best place to learn Spanish

There’s a lot of questionable advice out there about the best immersion program for learning Spanish. Here are some ‘tips’ I’ve heard:

Wanted: dry eggshells, Mexico City

Wanted: dry eggshells, Mexico City

  1. Go to Colombia — they speak well and have a neutral accent;
  2. Go to Spain — they speak the real version;
  3. Go to Chile — learn their accent first, since it it the most difficult;
  4. Go to Guatemala — language schools there are cheap.

I’ve also heard ‘tips’ about the places to avoid:

  1. Avoid Argentina — their accent sounds ridiculous;
  2. Avoid Mexico — they use Spanglish.

In most cases, such comments simply reveal the preferences and prejudices of the speaker. To figure out the best place for you to study Spanish, first answer these questions:

Why are you learning Spanish?

If you just think it would be cool to speak another language, it doesn’t really matter where you study. Learning a language is challenging. Without sufficient motivation, you’ll probably give up before you get very far.

Who do you need to speak Spanish with?

  • Are you marrying a Guatemalan? → Go to Guatemala.
  • Are you traveling to Venezuela? → Go to Venezuela.
  • Are you moving to Spain?? → Go to Spain.
  • Do you work with Mexicans? → Go to Mexico.

In each case, you’ll be exposed to your target dialect. Although grammar is largely constant from place to place, vocabulary and pronunciation can differ quite a bit. Simultaneous exposure to multiple dialects retards learning. If you need to communicate with speakers of various dialects, pick the most common one. If you don’t have a specific dialect in mind, then ask yourself again: Why are you learning Spanish? Are you sure you know?

Don’t be the guy I met who studied Spanish in Costa Rica in order to travel around Mexico.