An Expat Review of Language School, Spanish Uruguay
When my husband and I started toying with the idea of a permanent move to Uruguay, I brought up a significant problem. Despite a working knowledge of French and Italian, I did not speak one word of Spanish. Mark came up with a kooky, albeit logical idea: I would spend two months on a solo test drive of the country. If I survived the trial run, we would take a serious look into the expat idea.
Unlike other South and Central American countries where many people speak English, Spanish language skills are an absolute necessity in Uruguay. Learning Spanish was a necessity, not a choice. A Google search delivered me to Spanish Uruguay.
This father-son operation has an interesting business model. They arrange for Spanish lessons, as well as temporary housing while you are in Uruguay. If you have some knowledge of Spanish, their website offers an online placement test to determine your appropriate level. Spanish Uruguay holds classes in Atlantida and Montevideo. Having spent a good portion of my life in large cities like New York and Boston, I yearned for the tranquility of a small, seaside resort. I chose Atlantida.
For an extra fee, they will pick you up at the airport and drive you to your destination. If you do not speak any Spanish, this is an invaluable service. The real estate office is your first stop, before you go to your apartment. There are many papers to sign, and having someone act as a translator helps you avoid unnecessary confusion.
Spanish Uruguay holds its classes at the Atlantida Country Club, a throwback to the suburban resorts of the 1950s. Upon entering the building with its old-fashioned ballroom, you understand why people compare Uruguay to “Eisenhower’s America.” Classes are small, personable, and the most fun you will ever have studying a language. For example, one day the professor, Juan Polito, came in after watching a video of the TV series In Plain Sight. Juan is fluent in English, but he could not understand the meaning of this term. We spent part of the class trying to use our limited Spanish to explain the concept.
Spanish Uruguay values practical experience as well as in-class study. After learning about foods, we went to the supermarket to identify certain products. Field trips to local sites around the city are another aspect of the program.
While some language schools require you to purchase a language textbook, Juan copies material from a variety of language books and prints them out for his students. For the most part, he uses texts that emphasize Uruguayan Spanish, but he often explains the different pronunciations and word usages found in other Latin American countries.
The ability to speak the local language is an invaluable benefit in any country, but especially in Uruguay. To get the most out of your experience, I recommend taking the time to study the language.