Language and Language Schools                                         <home>

English is rarely spoken in Central America except in the tourist areas. Belize is the main exception where English is the standard language. English is also spoken in the Garifuna villages dotted along the Caribbean coast. In some of the remote Indian villages from Panama to Guatemala neither English nor Spanish is spoken well. We are not fluent in Spanish, but from a combination of living near the Mexican border for many years, some high school Spanish (in John’s case), many vacations in Latin America and a few weeks of “total immersion”, we managed to communicate just fine. Being able to meet and communicate with the locals made the trip immeasurably more enjoyable and less stressful. We know others who have made a similar journey with far less conversational skills in Spanish, and they enjoyed themselves also. If you are planning an extensive trip through Latin America and have no Spanish skills, we would recommend that you consider flying down to Costa Rica or Guatemala for 3-4 weeks of “total immersion” first.


Below are some of the Spanish language schools that we know of, and about which we have heard good reports. We have experienced “total immersion” training in both Costa Rica and Guatemala. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Costa Rica has a well-developed ecotourism industry, although there is no indigenous culture. You will find it more comfortable and familiar, but more expensive and less of a “total immersion”. Guatemala is rich in the Maya culture, but the tourism industry is less developed.

For a complete list of Spanish schools by country check out, or for schools in Guatemala


Quetzaltenango, Guatemala (also known as Xela), has few gringo tourists and very little English is spoken, which presents a good total immersion environment. The schools are in the quaint old section but there is also a modern area with malls and McDonalds a bus ride away. Nora and Rolando Herrera at the Guatemalensis Spanish School ( or,  +502-7765-1384, were most helpful and promptly found us a family that would take us and the dog; and they knew a secure place we could park our motorhome.The tuition was $135 person per week but as a couple we doubled up and came down to $120.00 each. This included five hours of one-on-one instruction, lodging and three meals a day with our family. Guatemalensis used Primer Libro, Spanish First Year (by Robert J. Nassi and Bernardo Bernstein Amsco School Publications, Inc) as their workbook. They made photo copies of various pages for me, but I wished I’d brought the copy sitting on my shelf at home.  Other information on Xela and language schools  there may be found on


Antigua, Guatemala, is noted for its culture and total immersion Spanish schools. Our friends there recommended the Christian Spanish Academy ( It runs $195.00 per week for five hours of private instruction per day, and a home stay with a local family including three meals per day. Antigua is charming and clean, and in the middle of very interesting places to see. Most of the people you will meet in town speak some English which may, or may not, be a good thing if you want total immersion.


Panajachel on Lake Atitlan, also in Guatemala, is beautifully situated and has numerous schools but we don’t have first hand information about them. The location is hard to beat though.

As a family we had done some total immersion in Costa Rica a couple of times on previous trips at
Centro Panamericano de Idiomas (,, phone 506-265-6866, fax 506-265-6213). They provide four hours of instruction a day with a maximum of four students in a class for $340.00 a week. Five hours of instruction are $420.00.This was about the norm for Costa Rica. CPI provides written materials and airport transfers. Their branch in Monteverde is in some of the most fascinating tropical jungle in Central America.They also have campuses in Heredia, near San Jose, and Playa Flamingo, on the Guanacaste coast. Our daughter spent nine weeks at these venues and managed to get her study with them turned into university credits.


There are hundreds of other schools, and many in the same cities we have mentioned. Be sure to ask how many people will be in the class with you, and how many meals are included, as it does vary from school to school. Of course the prices we quoted may have changed as well.


You should also be aware that the Spanish spoken in Central America is not Castilian, or European Spanish. Spanish here is as different as English in the U.S. is from that of Great Britain. For example, when conjugating verbs they don’t teach the second person, familiar plural in Central America. There are also discernable differences in the Spanish spoken in the Central American countries. Vocabulary varies from country to country. Also, we find the Spanish spoken in Central America much easier to understand than that spoken in Mexico. Mexicans seem to speak much faster and  use much more slang. Thus, when selecting where to do your Spanish immersion you might want to consider where you are going to use it. The experience you have will very much depend on the individual teacher and the family you live with. If you are not happy with either immediately contact the school administration and request a change.


Take your own notebooks, pens and dictionaries. We also recommend 501 Spanish Verbs by Christopher Kendris Published by Barrons as an invaluable resource. We found each time we have gone it has been an educational experience in understanding the culture of another land as well as helping us learn the language. You can’t beat the price for an all inclusive vacation. 314

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