Study Spanish in Cuenca, Ecuador
“To have another language is to possess a second soul.” Charlemagne
There is only so much improvement that can happen when you’re studying language in a classroom, rather than living it every moment of every day. For many who choose to major in Spanish, the second most-spoken language in the United States and arguably one of the most important languages to learn, there is a fear of speaking aloud. Many students can do well memorizing vocabulary or reading and answering questions or writing essays, but to have a conversation in Spanish, without vocabulary cards or a specific theme, can be intimidating. One of the best ways to overcome this fear, and to take your Spanish to the level of confidence, is by studying abroad in a Spanish-speaking country and living with a host family.
Why live with a host family?
First thing in the morning, you walk downstairs for the ritual coffee and bread, and you have to speak Spanish to your host mom. During the day, you are learning Spanish with your professors and practicing. With Ecuadorian friends, you’re piecing together parts of a conversation in Spanish over coffee or ice cream. At night, you can tell your host family about your day and classes. To live a language is very different than to study one. With time, your mind will start to think in Spanish words. Words in Spanish might even begin to make more sense than English words. You’ll find yourself speaking Spanglish to your friends and family back in the States or your home country because there are just some expressions that are unique to Spanish.
Practicing is the only way to overcome the fear of saying the wrong thing. One of the best parts of Ecuadorian culture is how friendly Ecuadorians are; they truly want to learn about you, where you’re from, and what you think of their country. They will be patient as you format sentences and get caught up on the conjugation of preterite or imperfect verbs. And moreover, Ecuadorians have a Spanish accent that is often called one of the easiest to understand in South America. Learning and practicing Spanish in Ecuador will give you an accent that is translatable into many other Latino cultures.
What types of Spanish courses should I take?
Students are required to take at least one Spanish course during their study. For Spanish Language courses, the class size is very small, sometimes 1-to-1 or 1-to-2. It’s like having a private tutor who corrects the engrained mistakes you’ve been making for years. The Content courses in Spanish, though potentially daunting at first, are an incredible way to immerse yourself in learning a new topic. It may take a week, or two, or even three before you’re picking up on new phrases and really learning how to express your opinions in Spanish, but all the time, you’re improving. You improve with your host family, with your friends, and with your professors.
CEDEI has both Language and Content courses. Some of the Content courses are: Intro to Hispanic Literature, Early Spanish Literature, Modern Latin America, Indigenous Literature and Culture of the Andes, and Mujeres Escritores (Women Authors). There are Language courses for every level, in writing, grammar and conversation. There are levels for: Beginning Spanish 1-2, Intermediate Spanish 1, Intermediate Spanish 2, and Advanced Spanish Grammar and Syntax. There are also specialized courses, like Spanish for Business or Advanced Spanish Conversation.
Why is experiential learning important for language?
One of the best parts of CEDEI is the calendar of excursions and weekend trips (read more on our Fall Semester or Spring Semester pages). Exposure to new communities and people in Ecuador provide opportunities to have different conversations; you don’t need to repeat the same types of words and phrases you use every day in Cuenca. You can learn from someone different and new. These excursions often involve talks and seminars with locals about a variety of topics–instruments, traditional medicine, Andean folklore. You’ll learn new vocabulary in the context of reality, which helps vocabulary words become incorporated into your longterm memory.
Studying a language abroad really helps the language come to life. That’s when you are exposed to the daily expressions, the way of saying things, the correct way to show you’re angry or excited. In Cuenca, at CEDEI, the teachers, program coordinators and staff all work to ensure that you will leave with a significantly improved level of Spanish, no matter where you are with your Spanish level when you initially arrive.