I’ve studied Spanish since the 7th grade, but because I wasn’t required to speak the language on a daily basis, I never became fully fluent. This has been a perpetual thorn in my side since college, so when we left the States to travel through South America I vowed that I would not leave the continent until I was completely bilingual.
When we arrived, I looked into Ibero Spanish School, which the fellow Spanish learners of Never Ending Voyage had recommended. It was everything I wanted: cheap, relaxed, self-paced and conveniently located within walking distance from our apartment.
Ibero’s classes are offered in week-long increments and all begin on Monday. They offer group or private lessons, morning or afternoon classes, and the option to reserve one to six weeks online. I chose to do group classes for one week and it cost $500 AR ($125 USD) which included 4 hours of Spanish lessons each day and the book.
Since they do not accept online payments for classes, I just filled out the reservation form with all the pertinent info and then showed up at 8:45am Monday morning to pay, get a book and find my class.
*NOTE: This place, like many others in Buenos Aires, has NO sign. It’s in a building that Carlos Gardel briefly lived in as a child and is only identifiable by the address on the side of the building. Hopefully this saves you the miles and minutes it took us to figure out where to go.
When we finally found the school on Monday morning, I met with Jenni, who manages the school, and she gave me a quick assessment test before letting me sit in on a class to see if it was at my current level. After 15 minutes, she checked back and we decided I would attend a more advanced class that afternoon.
Alejandro was my teacher for the afternoon class and he was fantastic. He emphasized spontaneous conversation rather than rigid book work and we chatted about everything from movies to politics to transvestites.
Not only was class interesting, but for me, speaking is the toughest and most important part of learning another language so I thought it was a great approach. You can’t get away from Spanish syntax though, so he did weave in grammar and vocab when necessary.
On our 20 minute break one afternoon I discovered one of the best kept vegetarian secrets in Buenos Aires: La Primavera. Located about a block and a half south of the school, it’s a fabulous, inexpensive vegetarian hole-in-the-wall with a loaded salad bar and fresh Asian inspired favorites. They charge by the kilo, so you can get a carton of salad and a carton of mixed hot food for just about 15 pesos total.
While I’m thinking about food, there’s another noteworthy café directly north of Ibero with the best croissants I have ever eaten. I ordered the café cortado (coffee with milk) with two medialunas (croissants) and was in a carbohydrate/caffeine heaven for the remainder of the morning. I can’t remember the name, but its right next door and definitely worth a visit.
I mean, what’s not to love about this place: great Spanish lessons and delicious food within a few blocks!
All in all, I ended up taking two weeks of group classes at Ibero and after 40 hours of intriguing conversations, present, imperfect and past subjunctive, vocab and Parilla survival tips, I felt comfortable speaking on the street and handling day-to-day business in Spanish. While I’m still not completely fluent, we still have a lot more time in South America and I am off to a good start!