If you want to learn Spanish … and learn it inexpensively, go to Guatemala.

Spanish language learning has grown tremendously in popularity over the last 20 years or so. And the concept that is the most talked about, that seems to be the most effective, is called “Spanish immersion.” In other words, go somewhere to eat, sleep, hear, speak, and study Spanish all day, all the time.

There are literally dozens of language learning programs in each of the Latin American countries (and in Spain as well), in all of the biggest cities within each country. Peru, Argentina, Mexico, Costa Rica, Chile, Honduras, etc. – wherever you want to go, you can find a school that will teach you Spanish.

There is a web site that allows you to select a country, and then a city within the country to learn how different language learning schools rate. I believe that the ratings are based solely on student feedback.

The schools in Guatemala are prized for some of the following reasons: (1) They tend to be less expensive than schools in other countries, (2) Guatemalans tend to speak Spanish more slowly, thus it is more palatable to gringos, and (3) the Mayan culture in Guatemala is very interesting.

In Guatemala, the 3 most popular areas for Spanish language study are Antigua, the LakeAtitlán area, and Quetzaltenango (the official name, but locals call this city by its Mayan name Xela).

From what I have read, Xela is the best place to go to learn Spanish. It is the least expensive of the 3 most popular areas in Guatemala, and there is very little English spoken in Xela. Thus, the opportunity to cheat and speak English is very limited. You are literally forced to speak Spanish. It is a large city, the second biggest in Guatemala. Twenty hours of language learning 1-on-1 with your own private tutor, including room and board with a Guatemalan host family, will run you about $160 per week.

The Lake Atitlán area is the medium priced option. Some friends of ours told us that this area is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Lake Atitlán is a large endorheic lake (one that does not flow to the sea) that was formed by volcanic activity thousands of years ago. There are various villages around the lake, the biggest of which is probably Panajachel. There is a lot to see and do in this area besides learning Spanish, such as the twice-weekly market in Chichicastenango where there are many Mayan vendors selling their beautiful and colorful handmade items. Check out the market by going to, click on Chichicastenango, and then page through the photos taken at this Mayan market.

Antigua is the most expensive, and the most tourist friendly area in Guatemala for Spanish language learning. It is a small town, but one with lots of gringo conveniences, lots of English speakers, lots of restaurants and boutiques, but still Guatemala … in other words, a poor city by comparison to most U.S. cities. Twenty hours with a private tutor including room and board with a Guatemalan host family is about $250 per week in Antigua.

Let’s go to Guatemala and … aprender a hablar Español!