Choose Your Perfect School To Learn Spanish In Buenos Aires
Article by Brendan Knobel.
With a quick Google search one can easily find over 20 different Spanish schools in Buenos Aires. A tourism boom after the 2001 economic crisis encouraged Spanish schools to pop up everywhere. Due to inflation and currency restrictions over the last few years, however, tourism has gone down and with it, the crazy number of options to learn Porteño Spanish. Still with so many different schools to choose from, what makes one Spanish school better than another? Since I have worked at multiple schools over the past decade, know many staff members and visited almost all of them, I thought I would put together a comprehensive list of Spanish schools in Buenos Aires as well as a mini-guide to how to pick the right school for you needs and interests.
There is no perfect option for Spanish school. A school where one student has the best time of their life might be the opposite for someone else. In my opinion, there are three important elements when considering Spanish schools:
One – Location
Location, location, location! The location of a school and its relationship to where you live should be a big factor when deciding. You need to define how long you are willing to travel to get to school each day. If you are in Buenos Aires for just one to two weeks maybe you do not want a 30-minute commute. After being in the city just a few days, anyone can realize what a headache that commuting can be.
Two – Price
Surprised by this one? Price will always be a huge factor when looking at schools. You will notice, however, that the price of Spanish classes is pretty standard throughout the city. There are a few outliers with lower or higher prices but most of the time the difference is 5 or 10 USD per week between schools. One big difference, however, is what schools charge in Argentine pesos. Most schools publish their prices in US dollars and the exchange rate for paying in pesos varies by school. I would always recommend a school that uses the official exchange rate in pesos and not a higher “tourist” rate.
Three – Customer Service
After 5 minutes in Buenos Aires you will learn that customer service quality here is not what you would expect when coming from the US. From waiters to bank tellers and from cable companies to cashiers, everyone seems to have a “cara de culo” (or butt face). This goes the same for Spanish schools. Some answer all your questions quickly and thoroughly while others send template-style emails. How schools answer your emails and/or phone calls is a pretty good indicator of how they will handle any future issues regarding your Spanish program.
How Do I Know If a School Is Good or Not?
I always recommend contacting multiple schools and ask the same questions to see how their answers compare. Here are good questions to ask if you are in your home country:
What is included in the course? Activities? Welcome Pack? Textbooks?
Can I arrange a phone call to talk to someone in person about the program?
If you are already in Buenos Aires
Can I visit the school and observe a class before booking a program?
Can I pay in Argentine pesos in cash? At what exchange rate?
I have created a couple of categories of schools to help differentiate between options:
When the Biggest Factor Is the Bottom Line
There are a few schools that offer low prices for Spanish classes – sometimes 50% less than other schools. How they do this? It comes down to not having a lot of costs – photocopied books, smaller facilities, limited support staff, etc. These will always be smaller schools that just have a few classrooms and most of the time they offer good quality services without a lot of extras. Just keep in mind the old saying “you get what you pay for”. The popular Ibero Spanish School used to be the most well-known of these options, but in 2013 they closed their doors. Since then, a few more schools have been stepping in and offering classes at dirt cheap prices. When the most important factor for you is the price, then here are a few options:
El Pasaje Spanish School – This school was started by young Spanish teachers and they pride themselves on not being a commercially-oriented school (and will also bash other schools on their website). It is a small school with limited facilities, but if you are looking for classes and nothing else it is a great cheaper option.
Mundo Español – This is one of the few Spanish schools in the neighborhood of San Telmo.
The Big Three
I call Coined, Ecela and Expanish “the Big Three” because they are the three biggest and most well-known schools in the city. They have the most impressive facilities, the best infrastructure and usually provide more services than smaller schools. The positive about bigger schools? They tend to have more structured classes and can offer all levels of classes at any time as they have bigger student populations to form groups. The negative? Naturally, it also means students can get lost in the crowd and may not be on a first-name basis with staff members other than their teacher.
COINED – COINED is a large network of Spanish schools in Latin America. I think they officially own 4 or 5 and then they sell 10 to 15 other Spanish schools in other locations as a third party. It is a popular option with Brazilians as everyone in Brazil tends to consider COINED the premier Spanish school in Buenos Aires. I have been there and the school was nice, but I was not impressed by their customer service. They seemed to be annoyed that I was there asking questions.
ECELA – ECELA is a network of six Spanish schools in Latin America, with two in Argentina. If you are looking for a big school in Recoleta, this is your gal. Students can also change from school to school free of charge so if you are looking to visit Chile or Peru it is a good option. With many options for locations, I dare you to try to figure out the pricing scheme that is published on their website.
Expanish – Expanish is currently the biggest school in the city with the nicest facilities. They probably have the best customer service as well – in terms of responding to emails quickly and being super friendly. I have met a lot of people who took classes here and have not heard any complaints.
The “I don’t want to go to a tourist school” Schools
I sometimes see on forums that users post they do not want to go to a “tourist school”. I always wondered what they meant by that. Does any Spanish school for foreigners not cater to “tourists”? The only exception I can think of are long-term courses at a university or similar institution. Putting that negativity aside, here are the “non-tourist” schools:
UBA – Laboratorio de Idiomas – This is probably the most well know university Spanish course. It is part of the linguistic and literature department of UBA. The classes tend to be pretty economical as well but maximum class size is higher than private Spanish schools in the city. Their courses usually are less intensive in terms of hours per week and last longer (minimum of one month) so it is not as flexible as other schools.
CUI – Centro Universitario de Idiomas – CUI claims to be the official language school of UBA but I am not sure this is entirely true. CUI is a private language school that offers dozens of different languages from Spanish to Hebrew and Quechua to Japanese. It has multiple locations in the city and has a special arrangement with two different departments of UBA – Agronomia and Ciencias economicas. You can take a course at CUI and get official UBA credit but it will be from one of the above two departments, which is a bit odd considering the Letras Department (Literature and Linguistics) has nothing to do with CUI.
A Few Smaller Gems
There is a spattering of small schools throughout the city that I think do a great job. They have small class sizes, personalized customer service and it will feel like a tighter community. Keep in mind that small schools may be lacking groups for certain language levels, so beware of this when booking.
Vamos Spanish Academy – A small school in Palermo with a great location and quality customer service. I know of people who have not been able to participate in group classes due to lack of levels and others who have had no problems and loved the school.
Vos Culture Club – When I visited Vos Culture Club I really loved it. The staff had great customer service and I saw that they really try to create a community. When I was taking a tour with a staff member she was saying hello and greeting each student by name, something that is really hard to do. They tend to be a bit pricier than other schools but everything is included as a package.
Other Spanish Schools
IBL – I have been to this school to ask some questions and was not blown away by their customer service. They have many websites as part of their marketing campaigns with different names for their schools. I remember emailing a couple of schools once and then realized they were all IBL but with different names.
DWS – I spoke to one student at DWS who said they choose this school because it was the gay-friendly Spanish school of the city. Other than a small rainbow flag on their website, I am not sure what makes them more gay-friendly than other schools. What I do know is that it has a cool location in Palermo, so great if you live within walking distance. It is far from a subway line so one big downside is accessibility to subway, which is usually the go-to public transport of foreigners.
LV Studio – I am not sure what is going on with LV Studio. They were a small Spanish school in Palermo, quite near Plaza Italia – so a fantastic location for all you Palermo-ites out there. I know see that they have moved to the Abasto neighborhood, in the Abasto area. They also conduct English and Portuguese classes so they have local Argentine students as well. I have personally only met students taking individual lessons at LV and they have all been pleased with the school. I have also met a few staff members and they were all very professional. I am not sure what the status of the school is since their location change.
Bridge Argentina – Bridge is an international company and this is their local branch. They are well-known for their TEFL course, which is a quality program, and they offer Spanish classes to supplement this.
Academia Buenos Aires – Academia is a very academic-oriented school with high-quality professors. This is a medium-sized school and just recently updated their website (which used to look like it was from 1992) to a very modern layout and feel.
Verbum – A small school in the neighborhood of Almagro.
Elebaires / Amauta Spanish School – Amauta used to be located in Belgrano but a few months ago I saw on their website that they now have the same address as Elebaries. It seems that the two schools have now merged but kept their respective websites up for branding purposes. Amauta has very popular schools in Peru as well. Elebaires has been around for years and is in Palacio Barolo, a great building near the National Congress.
Che Buenos Aires – A small Spanish school in San Telmo founded by a couple of Swiss people. Since they do a lot of promotions in Switzerland, they naturally have a lot of Swiss students.
AILS / Join Us! – The Spanish school AILS has joined forces with Join Us!, an English school. I assume it was to save on costs.
There are more Spanish schools in the city and the list continues to grow each year. Some other websites that appear to have their own school, like Don Quijote or Enforex, actually are third party companies and sell programs in Buenos Aires. If you have any other schools to add, feel free to leave a comment!