Everything You Need To Know About Choosing A Spanish School in San Pedro, Guatemala


Thinking about pushing pause on your Latin American adventure so you can kickstart your Spanish skills? Great idea. Learning the local language will not only make travel easier, but will also allow you to have a more authentic experience. And what better place to learn than San Pedro, Guatemala? Guatemala is an ideal country to learn Spanish because the accent is mild and locals speak relatively slow. San Pedro is a small town situated on the shore of Lake Atitlan. It’s a popular spot to take Spanish classes as there are plenty of schools to choose from and it’s known for being one of the cheapest places to do it. And on a warm, clear morning you can’t beat the view from your school’s palapa overlooking the entire lake. Convinced? Great. Now here’s everything you need to know.

 

choosing a spanish school in san pedro

 

Don’t Book Ahead

Unless you’re on a strict schedule and are booking a spot at one of the most popular schools during the peak of high season, skip making a reservation. Some schools pressure you into handing over a non-refundable deposit, insisting they could be booked out. The problem with paying a deposit is that travel plans rarely stay on a schedule and you don’t want to lose money because your plans change. There are so many schools in San Pedro that you’ll always be able to find somewhere to study.

 

Do Your Research

Since there are plenty of Spanish schools in San Pedro, it can be a bit overwhelming to just rock up without having an idea of where you’re headed. There are signs all over the winding streets that point to different schools in different directions. Do some research beforehand and read reviews of each school. Every school will offer basic 1 on 1 classes, but some will have more social events planned like movie nights or hikes. The more well known schools tend to be a bit more expensive, so do your research to see if they’re worth it.

 

choosing a spanish school in san pedro

 

Pay a Week at  a Time

Once you’ve decided on your school of choice, pay per week. You never know what might happen to make you cancel your week. You may realize that the school isn’t for you, or you need to move to your next destination sooner than expected. Paying weeks ahead of time could mean forfeiting that money if your plans change. And don’t worry about the school ‘running out of room’, they’ll find a way to keep you on board.

 

Switch Teachers If You’re Not Comfortable

This is a big one. If you’re not satisfied or comfortable with your teacher for any reason, ask to change. If your teacher talks too much or too fast or even just has a funny accent that completely distracts you from learning, switch. You are paying the school from your tight backpacker budget and it’s up to you to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth. Don’t feel embarrassed; students ask to switch all the time. And don’t feel bad for your teacher, they’ll be able to find another student. Make your learning the priority.

 

choosing a spanish school in san pedro

 

choosing a spanish school in san pedro

 

Do a Homestay

My first time in San Pedro, I booked a homestay but chickened out at the last minute and ended up at a hostel. I was too scared to do it alone, but was resolute to try it out the second time around when I had Jules. I’ll admit our homestay wasn’t exactly the warm family welcome I was hoping for (we stayed at the school with the directors family which felt more like a boarding school than anything), but all of our other friends had amazing experiences. They were invited to experience aspects of local life that you wouldn’t have access to as a regular backpacker. They were taken to church, taught to sew, invited to cook with their families and really got a taste of traditional Mayan customs. Just like if you’re dissatisfied with your teacher, I recommend asking to change. There are many loving families who would welcome a traveler into their home.

 

Get Involved with the Local Community

San Pedro has an active backpacker community full of trivia Tuesdays and theme parties. But you can get all that at home. The best way to learn Spanish, and really get a sense for Guatemala, is to get involved with the locals. The easiest way to do this is by building a friendship with your homestay family. You can also find volunteer opportunities in town through most of the Spanish schools. I volunteered at a local kindergarten and enjoyed getting out of the backpacker side of town (also known as “Gringolandia”).

And when you get there, make sure to take advantage of the unbelievably cheap avocados to make one of our favorite traveling snacks!

For more information on schools, this article does a good job of comparing the different options. If you hop on Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree Forum you can also find many posts with first hand testimonies on different schools.

Buena suerte!

Have you studied Spanish in San Pedro? Leave us a comment detailing your experience so other travelers can check it out! Thanks for stopping by!

choosing a spanish school in san pedro

 

choosing a spanish school in san pedro

 

choosing a spanish school in san pedro

 

choosing a spanish school in san pedro

 

choosing a spanish school in san pedro

 

13 Comments

  • Great informative post :)! I once looked for Spanish classes in Argentina, but those were all quite expensive. Will definitely keep Guatemala in mind!

  • Jazza - NOMADasaurus says:

    Great article! We studied for one week in Antigua and two weeks in San Pedro. We definitely preferred studying in San Pedro, and ended up choosing La Cooporativa school. My teacher there was awesome, but Lesh’s first one I think was better suited to advanced students. She asked to change after one week and the school was more than happy to oblige. Her next teacher was fantastic and her language skills soared!

    Glad you guys enjoyed studying there too. Such a beautiful spot.

  • Jen says:

    Very good advice! You’re right on the money with, “if you want to have a more authentic travel experience, learn the language”. Being able to interact with the locals is so much more fun and informative.

  • Nice idea! I wonder why I never come up with these things. Learning Spanish in Guatemala seems so appealing… So what if I can’t speak a word of Spanish already, right? Gracias 😉

  • That’s a really useful article. I need to brush up my Spanish, now I know where to go. The little girl in the pic is so cute! I would love the idea of a homestay.

  • Very Informative post, specially i love the pictures they are so WOAW. I need to learn Spanish Fast, learning Spanish in Gautemala is very appealing.

  • Charlie says:

    Super! We’re actually thinking about pitching up for a month somewhere north in Guatemala or Nicaragua somewhere to attend a Spanish school. You didn’t mention much about the school you went to? Would you recommend it?

    • Hey Charlie, that’s awesome! Don’t know much about the schools in Nica, but Guatemala is awesome. I didn’t mention our specific school on purpose because it wasn’t a place we would necessarily recommend or warn away from. A lot of the schools are pretty similar, some offering more social activities than others. The big thing is your individual relationship with the teacher/host family. Within our school, we had some students who loved their teachers and others not so much. The family we were put with was kind of “meh” but other students at our school had very hospitable, friendly families. I would walk around and talk to different schools when you first arrive to get a feel for them. Most importantly, if you don’t feel like your getting enough from your teacher or host family, don’t be scared to change. Don’t worry about hurting their feelings- you’re spending your valuable backpacking money and you want to make sure it’s worth it. Have fun!

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