Ask anyone who’s had to learn or teach a second language, and they’ll be quick to say that it’s all about immersion. You can learn all the grammar and spelling rules, and even read literature in that language, but if you don’t pit yourself against native speakers, not much of it will stick.
That’s why South America, and especially Peru, is a popular destination for aspiring Spanish speakers. As a former Spanish colony, Peru has ties with the Spanish on more than the linguistic level. In a Peruvian school, you’ll learn more than just the words—you’ll also learn the stories behind these words, and gain a new appreciation for the culture.
Peruvian Spanish schools can be found all over the country, but are more common in touristy areas like Lima, Cusco, and Arequipa. They range from large institutions, sometimes affiliated with national universities, to small private outfits. Teachers can be language professionals, writers, or journalists, or people from unrelated fields who are simply doing it for fun. An intensive full-time course usually involves two or more mentors, allowing you to get used to different accents.
Courses can be designed for absolute beginners, meaning your Spanish is limited to sí, no, and buenos dias, if even that. If you already speak it a little, there are intermediate and low intermediate courses. Advanced courses are for those who are already quite conversational and would like to work on their accents, refine their grammar, or widen their vocabulary. Doing all these levels can take up to a year, after which a typical student can usually get around on his own.
What’s great about learning Spanish in Peru, besides the immersion factor, is that you get to meet people from all over the world as well. Language learners in Peru can come from all walks of life—professionals looking to further their career in Latin America, new immigrants, or tourists learning for the fun of it. If you don’t have a common language and are forced to speak in Spanish all the time, you’ll pick it up even faster.
If you have the time and budget, consider signing up for a cultural Spanish course—a program that teaches you not just the language, but Peruvian culture and history as well. It’s a great way to use your newfound skills beyond introducing yourself and talking to hotel clerks, and you’ll have more than just a new vocabulary to bring home with you.