Situated right on the base of the Andes and just across the border from Chile, Mendoza, Argentina is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, wine lovers, and adventurers -- but it's also an ideal location to learn Spanish abroad.
This small city’s large variety of restaurants, nightlife, museums, and cultural activities make it a welcoming alternative to the much more hectic Buenos Aires, and Spanish learners looking for a more relaxed, less metropolitan setting will feel right at home in Mendoza.
Spanish learners who study Spanish in Mendoza will quickly learn that the city’s version of the language is just as unique, eclectic, and beautiful as Mendoza itself.
Argentine Spanish, called Castellano, refers to its roots in Castilla, Spain and is one of the most difficult Spanish dialects to learn. There are many major differences between Argentine Castellano and the Spanish most U.S. schools teach, such as an accent and vocabulary only used in Argentina.
Each region of Argentina has its own take on Castellano, which usually involves adding in native words and phrases from nearby regions. Despite its difficulty, Argentine Castellano is widely regarded as the most beautiful dialect of Spanish, as it combines Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish words and accents, and there’s no better place to pick it up than Mendoza.Photo credit: Miradas.com.br.
Although Argentine Spanish may prove a bit of a challenge for language learners coming from the U.S., studying Argentine Castellano is a surefire way to become really fluent in Spanish, as most other regional variations of Spanish seem like a piece of cake to understand if you can understand Argentine Spanish.
Citizens of most countries will be able to enter on a tourist visa. If you're studying in Argentina for longer than 90 days, then you must obtain a student visa within 30 days of arrival.
You can only apply for a visa once you are in Argentina, so don’t worry about having to have one before you enter the country.
In terms of qualifications for different programs, there are language programs in Mendoza for all ages and Spanish levels.
In Mendoza, their seasons are the opposite of those in North America and Europe. Keep in mind that because of this, Mendoza’s university schedules are different, with most running from March-July and August-November.
If you're still in college, taking university classes is a fantastic way to learn the language, become immersed in Mendoza's university culture, and make friends with both local and other international students. Additionally, students enrolled at a Mendozian university can participate in extracurricular activities and enjoy discounted tickets to local events and free cultural classes.
Short-Term Language Courses
For university students who don't have a full semester or year to spare as an exchange student at a university, or for adults who have graduated college already, your best bet for a Spanish class is to look into courses at a private language center.
Even though Mendoza is a smaller town compared to Buenos Aires, it has a good amount of options for Spanish learners to choose from. Opt for group classes, one on one tutoring, or pair your Spanish studies with a volunteering project to get a truly unique experience (more on that later!)
Most of these courses are pretty customizable as well -- you can do a combination of group classes and private courses, adjust the amount of time each week that you want to spend learning Spanish, and even sign up for excursions to nearby attractions.
Most will also be able to set you up with a local homestay. While homestays aren’t ideal for everyone, if you are serious about learning the language, you should absolutely consider living with a local family (especially if you are only abroad for a few weeks).
Language Study & Volunteer Combination Programs
This type of program is sort of the best of both worlds, as it strengthens learners’ language skills while providing a means to become culturally involved (all while helping those less fortunate!). Even though Mendoza is among the wealthier cities in this region, there are still many people who are impoverished and plenty of underdeveloped areas.
Mendoza offers several types of volunteer and language programs, such as conservation and community development. Students who choose to do a language study and volunteer program will have endless opportunities to really soak up a lot of the language, as they will be constantly immersed.
- Check out the crowd: About 115,000 residents in Mendoza; with 99% of the population speaking Spanish.
- Did you know? Mendoza has about 300 days of sun per year, making it ideal for outdoor enthusiasts and wine lovers.
- School’s out, let’s have some fun: Take a tour of one of Mendoza’s world-class vineyards (Mr. Hugo’s tours are some of the most popular) or go adventuring in the nearby Andes.
- An idiom: “La verdad de la milanesa”. Literally translating to “the truth of the milanesa”, this idiom refers to one of Argentina’s most popular dishes and means “the real deal”. Argentines do not mess around when it comes to their food, and it is not uncommon to hear other types of food substituted into this phrase.
Cultural Immersion/Extracurricular Activities
One of the major benefits of learning a language on a language immersion program abroad is that the majority are really good about incorporating activities and social outings. These are typically excellent opportunities for students to really learn how to communicate like natives and learn about the culture and history of Mendoza.
These activities can range from horseback riding and whitewater rafting through the Andes to volunteering at a local homeless shelter.
Another great way to learn even more Spanish is to take an extracurricular class or two. Whether it be cooking empanadas and alfajores to learning Argentine tango, any excuse to hear and speak more Spanish outside of the traditional university class will definitely have you learning much faster.
Furthermore, another excellent way to learn outside of a classroom is to travel to different regions of Argentina and neighboring countries. Argentina has a great bus system and since Mendoza is a year-round tourist destination, students can travel to just about anywhere from here. There is no better way to learn about the language and culture than to experience it for yourself.
Generally speaking, Mendoza is fairly inexpensive, and definitely one of the cheaper city options in Argentina. Each program varies in cost (depending on length and location), but most in Mendoza are within a few hundred dollars of each other.
Besides program costs, language learners should budget about $300 / month for rent (if you aren’t living with a host family), $20 / week for food, and $5 / week for public transportation. If you are in Mendoza under a student visa, you usually cannot legally work. However, there are still ways for students to make some money on the side, such as babysitting, tutoring, or bartending (get a good idea of the everyday cost of living on Numbeo).