If you were to do the math, you would probably find there are more Spanish schools per capita in Guatemala than in any other Spanish speaking country — including Spain!
That aside, why would you want to learn Spanish in Guatemala? I can think of at least 6 reasons:
1. Antigua, the “capital” of Guatemalan Spanish-language schools (at any given time there are between 30 and 40 operating here), is a wonderful setting in which to study. An old colonial city, it is full of charming architecture, fascinating historical sites, and wonderfully eclectic restaurants.
2. Guatemalans speak the language with one of the clearest accents and most careful pronunciations to be found anywhere. Your comprehension is greatly enhanced because you hear every word completely sounded out. (In this it is similar to Ecuador, another great place to learn the language.)
3. Guatemala has mountains, volcanoes (some of them quite active!), jungles, and one of the most beautiful lakes in the world, Lake Atitlan. When you need a break from your studies you won’t have to go far to find something fun or exciting to do.
4. People from all over the world come here for the scenery and the culture as well as and to study Spanish. It’s an easy place to make international friends.
5. Homestays are a tradition with many of the language schools in Guatemala. This means that you can be placed in a local home with a Guatemalan family where only Spanish is spoken. This type of immersion experience will speed your acquisition of the tongue more than any other single factor.
6. If languages in general intrigues you, you can find a number of towns where the predominant tongue is Mayan. Even though you probably won’t understand it, it’s an interesting experience to hear this ancient language, with its many “K” and “X” sounds, being spoken all around you.
The best way to prepare to study Spanish in Guatemala is to learn as much as you can before you leave home, so you can skip the beginner’s basics after you arrive at your school.
I’m a strong proponent of seeking out the excellent language learning resources available on the Web these days. Best of all is the inexpensive courses that can be downloaded to follow at your own pace, and that typically incorporate video and audio as well as interactive software to help you learn Spanish quickly.
Spanish can be easy to learn. It doesn’t matter if you flunked it in high school, or you think you have no language aptitude, you can learn to speak Spanish.
Learning to speak Spanish opens a whole new world of adventure to you. You will have more exciting and intimate travel experiences when you can carry on real conversations with the native Spanish speakers you encounter. And if you’re single, picture the fun of dating or having a romantic relationship with someone you meet because you can approach them in their language!