From the panoramic peaks of Cerro Catedral, to the hustle and bustle of Montevideo’s eclectic cultural hubs, South America’s best kept secret is well and truly open for business! Bordering Argentina to its west and Brazil to the north, Uruguay is a melting-pot of diversity and opportunity for any prospective Spanish student. With over 400 million native speakers worldwide (a figure that continues to grow), Uruguay offers an unparalleled opportunity to master monolingualism deep in the heart of Latin America.
Literally translating to ‘river of the colourful birds’, Uruguay is a mélange of modern culture and historical wealth. Combining picturesque scenery and esteemed academic institutions with Portuguese, Spanish and post-colonial heritage, it’s no surprise this hidden gem has undergone a decade of strong economic expansion.
Be it costs, duration or language prerequisites - a trip abroad will inexorably present a multitude of challenges for travelers. Tab through our handy guide and explore the programs below to kick start your Spanish language learning adventure!Photo credits: priscillajp.
Although resources for those looking to try their hand in español are vast and varied, program levels, durations and locations will be contingent on personal language goals. While cultural immersions and study abroad semesters will have you moving from gringo to knowing-the-lingo in no time at all, short-stay crash courses, casual group classes and even Spanish carnival programs are on offer!
While traveling, be aware that Portuñol and Brazilero - a Portuguese/Spanish mix on the Brazilian frontier - are widely spoken in Rivera and the northern cities of Uruguay.
- University Courses: University courses provide the most structured option for participants, with a multitude of institutions across the country offering international study abroad and academic exchange programs. Please note — an intermediate level of Spanish will be required before arrival, and concrete requirements and accreditations differ between institutions. Such programs are not predominantly offered to those without a university enrollment.
- Group Programs: From intensive courses and day classes, to a one week immersion in the "desfile de llamadas” Spanish carnival, group programs provide a wealth of opportunities for the money conscious traveller. Although an oral and written test are required before entry, a variety of programs with pragmatic objectives for new and advanced learners are available. Courses will differ in length and cost between institutions. Consider the number of course hours offered each day and your language goals to determine if a program is right for you.
- Private Tutoring: Private tuition offers the most flexibility to travelers looking to combine education with fun, with classes offered alongside or independent of other classes. Although lessons are tailored to meet specific communicative objectives, prices may run anywhere between $30 - $60 USD per hour.
Montevideo, Uruguay: Home to some of the most esteemed universities in Latin America (including the Universidad de Montevideo and Universidad de la República), Uruguay’s commercial and political hub boasts an eclectic cultural life, rife with opportunities. From the Feria de Tristán Narvaja - a weekly street market renown for attracting treasure hunters - to the Juan Manuel Blanes Museum, Montevideo lives up to its reputation as a hidden gem.
Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay: Formerly the Portuguese Colónia do Sacramento (conquered twice by the Spanish!), Colonia del Sacramento is a stronghold of history, offering an unparalleled look into epochs bygone. A designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, the cities Barrio Histórico (historic quarter) is ideal for students looking to explore Uruguay’s rich history, language and culture.
Punta del Este: Oft dubbed the “Saint Tropez of South America”, Punta del Este’s seductive cycle of schmoozing and carousing has secured its reputation as Uruguay’s go-to destination. Alas, behind its extrinsic chic-allure lies a diverse culture, built upon a rich historical background. From the Fundación Pablo Atchugarry art precinct to Gorriti Island, Punta del Este is a powerhouse of fun, flair and everything in between!
Whether you’re just starting out or a monolingual master, Uruguay offers an abundance of language programs for prospective students. Though individual and group-based programs will require a proficiency test before entry, a variety of classes tailored to new and advanced learners are available. University and accreditation courses principally require an intermediate level of Spanish — for additional details, contact your home institution.
Cultural Immersion/Extracurricular Activities
Drawing influences from Brazil, Argentina and everywhere in between, Uruguay is an inimitable melting pot of culture - a significant coup for language learners! With native celebrations such as Las Llamadas (Mardi Gras), La Fiesta Patria Gaucha (Cowboy culture) and the Tango Festival running regularly throughout the year, travellers are never short an opportunity to immerse themselves in Uruguay’s unique and abundant lifestyle.
A far cry from South America’s bargain-basement destinations, Uruguay is nonetheless a pragmatic destination for the money conscious traveller. Although the metropolitan regions of Montevideo, Rio Plata and Punta del Este will run higher than their regional counterparts, language programs are offered in abundance. Consider your costs and language goals before departure —you don’t want to be the only gringo in town!
Learning a language abroad doesn’t need to drain your bank account! Check out the following scholarships for learning Spanish in Uruguay:
- International Scholar Award: awarded to students who have achieved a record of academic excellence and demonstrate a history of volunteer service, extra-curricular activities, or leadership. Find more information on the International Scholar Award website.
- US based study abroad scholarships can be found on College Scholarships Uruguay page.
Why Learn Spanish in Uruguay?
With roots across Latin America, Uruguay is a medley of culture, cuisine and everything in between! Teaming esteemed language programs with an abundance of local flavour, students are offered an affordable opportunity to master Spanish at its very source!