If you are thinking of honing your Spanish speaking skills or if your job encourages (or requires) you to speak Spanish, you can find language schools throughout Mexico that offer great packages including accommodations, language instruction and extracurricular activities. Studying a language in its native country and participating in a full immersion experience is not only recommended to enhance learning but can also be a financial employment advantage.
Instituto Cultura Oaxaca (ICO), located in the city of Oaxaca, in the Mexican state of the same name, offers specialized Spanish classes for teachers and those in business and the medical profession.
"The demand for specialized Spanish is growing, especially for the medical Spanish," said Oaxacan-born Lucero Topete, director of ICO. " I think this is due to the number of Spanish speakers in the U.S. and the doctors and nurses who want to be able to understand and communicate more with their patients."
The language school also offers individual instruction and classes for children ages six and up, which is ideal if you are traveling with your family.
According to Topete, the children's program started because the parents who came to study at ICO would bring their children and had to find something for them to do while they were in class. The solution was a children's Spanish program, one that allowed the children to learn Spanish and have fun in a safe environment while their parents were in class.
"I am actually quite surprised that so many people travel with their children to Oaxaca," said Topete. "Many of these children are really fast learners and it is amazing to see their growth after the program. Something that I see more frequently now is that many of the children who come to study Spanish in Oaxaca study at bilingual schools in the U.S. and this helps them tremendously."
I decided to study Spanish in Oaxaca because of the natural beauty of the land and the affordable prices at ICO. I had never been to the area before and the school offered many extra activities to complement the overall experience such as cultural workshops (cooking, painting, mask-making, etc.), eco-tours, intercambios (native friend exchange) and daily excursions to local attractions.
Oaxaca offers some of the most spectacular historical sites in Mexico including the impressive ancient pyramids of Monte Alban, Mitla, Yagul among others. Oaxaca offers daily marketplaces in surrounding towns and is home to the colorful alebrijes, black pottery, sweet chocolate factories and abundant supply of chapulines (grasshoppers) which are considered a delicacy for the locals. Oaxacan food is also some of the best food you will ever taste.
Since I was traveling alone at the time, I opted to stay with an Oaxacan family (homestay) rather than on my own. The option I chose included a private room and daily breakfast. However, if you are traveling with a family, the school will help you locate a comfortable apartment, hotel or posada within walking distance to the school.
The classes are taught by native Spanish speakers and are conducted entirely in Spanish in order for the students to develop their language abilities to the fullest, creating proficiency in communication. Regular classes run four weeks in the main program throughout the year and one-on-one classes can also be arranged. To view an overview of the program, click here.
Director Lucero Topete started the school in 1984 and has been running it ever since. The gated, 19th century-style family estate house was previously owned by her grandparents and was home to her mother.
"I adore working as the director of the Institute, not only because it is a project that I started, but I love to share the Spanish language and Oaxacan culture with everyone," said Topete. "We receive students from all over the world and I hope that everyone can come to visit Oaxaca as well as the Institute at least once in their lifetime. It really is a truly wonderful place."