When I first landed in Spain, it had been more than six years since I had studied Spanish in high school, or spoken more than a few Spanish phrases. I thought that I had forgotten everything until I sat on a train traveling from Girona to Barcelona.
At first, I was listening to mostly Spanish speakers around me -- listening to see if I remembered anything. After about 10 minutes, I started to understand a few words here and there. By the end of the 40-minute ride, I could understand bits and pieces of sentences and conversations, and by the time my two weeks in Spain were finished, I felt confident speaking basic sentences again. By surrounding myself with Spanish as much as I could during that trip, part of the language had come back to me.
It might seem overwhelming to jump into the deep end of learning Spanish by surrounding yourself with native speakers, but anyone who is fluent in a second language will tell you that full immersion is the most efficient way to learn it.
Why Learn Spanish By Immersion?
Starting off by learning Spanish vocabulary and verb conjugations in a classroom in your home country could be the first step in discovering a new way to express your thoughts, ideas, and emotions in Spanish. However, to truly learn how native speakers communicate, you need to live the experience of being in a country where Spanish is the native language.
One of the wonderful aspects of an immersion program is that many of them offer a homestay, where you will live with a family -- eating meals together and possibly going on excursions together. With a homestay, you'll truly experience how people live in the country where you are studying.
Immersion is also efficient, which makes it an ideal choice if you want to or need to learn Spanish quickly. I studied Spanish for four years during high school in California and learned enough to get by when I traveled to Spain. However, after only three months of living in Italy, as part of a language immersion program, I felt confident enough to have full conversations. If you want to learn Spanish for work or school or want the experience of learning in a country where it's the native language, an immersion program may be right for you.
What to Consider in Choosing a Spanish Language Program
One of the most exciting aspects of learning Spanish is that if you want to study in a country where it is the national language, you have nearly two dozen countries to choose from across four continents. It may be the hardest aspect of learning Spanish too!
It's important to remember that while the base language will be the same across all of the countries where it is spoken, accents, dialects, and words will vary depending on where you are in the world. If you are planning to use Spanish for work, or have a country or region of the world in mind where you'd like to live or study in the future, it's best to pick an immersion program in that country. Take a look at the globe, and see where you could be studying in Europe, North America, Central America, South America, or The Caribbean!
Immersion programs vary from a few weeks to a few months, and it's important to select a program that fits with your schedule and language goals. While it's unlikely that you'll become fluent in a few weeks, short-term programs can help you decide if you'd like to spend an extended period of time studying Spanish in a particular country. Another factor to consider is whether you want to be in a city, are seeking a more rural setting, or want to add on volunteering or work to your language studies.
Here are the top programs on Go Overseas for learning Spanish abroad, based on reviews:
- Best for All-Around Immersion: LITA
- Best for Luxury Homestay: Agualivar Spanish School
- Best for Budget Conscious Students: Maximo Nivel
- Best for Homestay Benefits: Tico Lingo
- Best for Volunteer & Study: Buenos Aires TEFL institute
- Best for Outdoor Adventure: Habla Ya
- Best for 1-on-1 Instruction: Spanish in Nature
- Best for Immersion Internship: Linguistic Horizons
- Best for Cultural Immersion: Na'atik Language and Culture Institute
Best for All-Around Immersion: LITA
LITA scores high in every category from Go Overseas, meaning it's a great choice if you want to study in Spain. You'll spend about five weeks, including a three-week homestay in Northern or Southern Spain, and participate in an optional internship with a local business, or engage in an independent research project with LITA. You'll also have a chance to explore rural areas of Spain, while learning about food, music, history, and ecology. Past participants have said that living with a family was one of the best parts of their experience with LITA.
Alumni, who loved the program, said:
- "I remember being terrified to ask for a cup of water without ice in Spanish while on the plane to Spain, but now I feel comfortable with my speaking ability enough to hold a conversation with anyone." --Karlton
- "LITA was by far one of the most amazing things I have ever done. I left Spain with a high level of confidence not only with my ability to speak Spanish but also with myself." --Bonner
Best for Luxury Homestay: Agualivar Spanish School
With a perfect score of 10 for fun, and a score of more than 9.8 in the four other GoOverseas rating categories, Agualivar Spanish School is the place to be to learn Spanish while experiencing some of the best parts of Spain. You'll live on a beachfront villa in a homestay in Andalusia, where you'll practice Spanish for 12 hours a day and travel to see and experience the beautiful sites surrounding you. Flexible start dates and class levels make it easy for anyone to make the program fit with their goals.
Alumni love Agulaivar Spanish School, and have said:
- "The program at Agualivar Spanish School far, far exceeded all expectations. I was able to "jump start" my Spanish studies with excellent teachers in a warm, lovely environment. The accommodations were luxurious, the food delicious, and the setting (the farm and the sea) breathtaking." -- Emily
- "The reviews are spot on: The hospitality of the family, the food, the surroundings, all true. It felt as much like a retreat from the busy world as a school. A place to slow down, take a deep breath, and look out over the Mediterranean sea before you. And of course, learn Spanish." -- Kristin
Best for Budget Conscious Students: Maximo Nivel
If you aren't sure where you want to study, Maximo Nivel may have you covered with its intensive and professional Spanish immersion programs in Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Peru. Alumni give it a 98 percent review score, loving the program's university credit option, homestays, and free tandem conversation groups. Maximo Nivel is also an affordable option with classes starting at $55 a week.
Alumni across the world shared their favorite parts of the Maximo Nivel program:
- "I really appreciated how personalized the course was. There were only two students in my classes, so the course was 100% personalized. Outside of class I was staying with a host family, so I was speaking Spanish most of the day. This is really the best way to learn. I am going home from this program speaking Spanish much more fluently and correctly than I did when I showed up only a month ago." -- Rachael
- "I thought the price, compared to other programs that I researched in the area, was great, especially considering the caliber and experience of my professor, the free activities that were offered on various days, and the comfort of my homestay." -- Josef
Best for Homestay Benefits: Tico Lingo
At Tico Lingo's intensive Spanish immersion program in Heredia, Costa Rica, students enjoy small classrooms, free coffee, and good vibes, with Go Overseas users ranking the program 9.8 for its support for students.
Students stay with a local family and will have breakfast and dinner included, free laundry service, and a key to the house to come and go. All homestay locations have free wifi. Students have enjoyed great relationships with host families and found it increased their Spanish level exponentially.
Here's what Tico Lingo alumni have to say:
- "My homestay mother, Roxy, was one of the kindest people I've ever met. She truly treated me as a part of her family. Heredia is a small, quiet, and safe city. At first I found it hard to adjust to the slow, even sleepy pace of life, but soon I came to appreciate how peaceful and relaxing it was." -- Sharon
- "If you want a low-key, relaxed but thorough Spanish immersion experience this is for you. The best thing I can say about Tico Lingo is that the school is run in such a chill way that you don't ever feel like a tourist. At the same time the teachers are high-quality and you will learn fast. I recommend staying with a family, who cooked me two delicious meals a day and were great company." -- John
Best for Volunteer & Study: Buenos Aires TEFL institute
If you want to study Spanish in Argentina, the Buenos Aires TEFL institute offers intensive Spanish immersion courses, and an option to combine your studies with volunteering. It's a top choice, with Go Overseas users rating it as a perfect 10 across all categories!
TEFL Spanish classes are divided into different levels and small classes are customizable based on students' background and goals. Volunteer options include microfinance, tourism, natural reserves, and schools.
Alumni of the Buenos Aires TEFL institute said:
- "My teacher has made the classes lots of fun and never boring. Buenos Aires has been loads of fun and my first stay in a huge city, there is a plethora of entertainment choices, countless bars, cafes, and restaurants, and it's a terrific city to explore on foot. The school can really help you to get in it with the activities which are offered. I really liked the atmosphere at school." -- Hugh
- "The city has a charming breath and immersed me in its atmosphere instantly. I really enjoyed the fact that the Ibero teachers are ready to help you out with whatever might worry you. No grammar problems are left behind, neither any casual everyday questions unanswered. I feel like thanks to the teachers and the extracurricular activities I have gotten to know this language and culture much better." -- Jean
Best for Outdoor Adventure: Habla Ya
Habla Ya has something for everyone, with its Spanish courses in Panama City for business, travelers, groups, or private lessons. With that type of flexibility, Habla Ya gets a Go Overseas rating of 9.8 for support — meaning past participants felt it was easy to align the program with their goals. Students choose Habla Ya to experience the art, culture, history, and buzz of Panama City, while learning Spanish, and participating in outdoor activities like horseback riding, rock climbing, and surfing.
Habla Ya alumni shared why they love it:
- "Every day of class was so much fun! I stayed with a very awesome host family where I got to practice my Spanish even more. I can’t wait to return to Habla Ya and continue learning!" -- Annissa
- "The staff is very friendly, helpful, and determined to make your experience there the best possible. My teacher found the perfect way for me to improve my skills and I had a lot of fun learning from him. The teachers try to adapt the learning method based on the individuals. I really liked this personal touch." -- Elena
Best for 1-on-1 Instruction: Spanish in Nature
Spanish in Nature is a program that is fully immersive, with students living with a teacher in Madrid for one-on-one (or one teacher for a family or small group) language instruction. Past participants have shared their course with their children or extended family, for a cross-generational learning experience. GoOverseas users rated the program 9.7 or more, with a 9.9 for support, due to the program's focus on personal attention.
People who loved their time with Spanish in Nature, said:
- "As any family would be, we were really apprehensive, before we went, wondering and worrying about what it would be like to stay with complete strangers in their home but our worries vanished instantly on arrival because we were made to feel so welcome and by the end of the week, we felt that we had known the family for years. No family could be more friendly and hospitable." -- Wendy
- "The program was full of interesting activities and my daughter loved every minute of her time there. It's obvious that after coming back to Poland, she is now top of her class in Spanish. Highly recommended!" -- Adam
Best for Immersion Internship: Linguistic Horizons
Alumni of Linguistic Horizons rate the intensive internship and language program as a 9.9 on GoOverseas for growth and support, because they love it as a way to learn Spanish in Peru. Its customized language programs — that are paired with internships in the Sacred Valley, working with local communities — can run from two weeks to two months.
Past participants of Linguistic Horizons said:
- "This program was by far my favorite travel experience. It gave me full immersion into the culture, let me gain experience in my field, and explore the beautiful landscape of Peru." -- Sarah
- "The program and experience was indeed a trip of a lifetime, and it will forever change me as a person. The hardest part was leaving this incredible place, as three weeks was just not enough time!" -- Alex
Best for Cultural Immersion: Na'atik Language and Culture Institute
With Na'atik Language and Culture Institute, helping students learn Spanish is as important as being immersed in Mexican and indigenous Maya culture. Go Overseas users give the program a near-perfect 10 for support and safety, making it a great option for first-time travelers. The program includes cross-cultural exchanges with locals to learn about modern Maya traditions and lifestyle.
The best part? Your program fees subsidize English lessons for local students. Exploring the beauty of the Yucatan Peninsula while helping fellow language learners: it's a win-win!
Na'atik Language and Culture Institute alumni love the program:
- "My week of study at Na’atik and living with a host family was amazing, actually transformational. The small (3) class size, the experience of the teacher (Pedro) and the overall Na’atik experience exceeded my expectations in every regard." -- Deborah
- "From the information we received prior to the trip to the communication and support we received as we were traveling to the program to the wonderful staff and students, it was a thoroughly delightful and enriching experience. I could not have imagined how comfortable I would be bicycling around a small city, visiting local shops and restaurants and using my Spanish as I acquired it." -- Karen
Immerse Yourself in Spanish!
Wherever you decide to learn Spanish, you're sure to have an experience that will improve your language skills and show you a new part of the world. So spin the globe, and go!
This post was originally published in March 2014, and was updated in August 2021.