Tag Archives: Spanish schools

Venturing into El Almuerzo

During my first week living in Quito and working in the V!VA Travel Guide office, I was challenged with finding the perfect lunch spot to fit my budget and keep my mental energy high and alert for the remainder of the workday. What better than an almuerzo joint?

”Almuerzos” are generally open during lunch with a pre-determined menu, offering juice, soup, a main dish, and, depending on the quality of the almuerzo joint, a dessert. All this food amounts roughly to $1.50-$3.50.

For my first venture, I shuffled down Diego del Almagro, attempting to find  nice almuerzo while staying loyal to my monthly budget. Within a couple of blocks, I found a sign posted outside a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant with ”ceviche”-a seafood concoction marinated in fresh juices and spices-as the main course.  If you asked, I wouldn’t be able to give you the name or the exact address.

High-quality ceviche (ceviche by powerplantop)

Once I plopped down in my chair, the server immediately presented me with a heaping portion of soup. I tried to identify its contents before I slipped the spoon in my mouth, but couldn’t. Instead I poked and jabbed at the meat until three Ecuadorian men sat down at my table. The tiny restaurant was reaching capacity.

”Do you know what kind of meat this is?” I asked. In Spanish of course.

The three men poked at their own soup and let out a boisterous laugh.

”No se.” One of the men replied.

Apparently for a meal this cheap, the animal origin of its ingredients is hardly a factor. Nonetheless, I forced down the ambiguous soup, and the ceviche was quite tasty. My subsequent ventures to other almuerzos near the office have all been positive. Plus, they’re great for practicing Spanish with locals.

Studying Spanish in Cusco: What you need to know

High-season is kicking off in Peru, and especially in the capital of its tourism industry, Cusco. Among the thousands of visitors packing the streets of town, many will be looking to brush up on their language skills. Before you start your Spanish classes in Cusco, however, keep a few things in mind.

Class Type

Not all Spanish classes are the same. Personal, one-on-one classes give you much more flexibility to decide what you’ll be studying, and give you more opportunity for practice. On the other hand, classes in small groups are a great way to make friends and generally cost 20-40% less.

A group class at the Academia Latinoamericana de Español

Volunteering and other Activities

You’re going to want to do more than just study. Most schools in Cusco have a whole range of activities to choose from. Probably the most popular choice is volunteering; students can volunteer at orphanages and after-school programs, do environmental work, or give back to the community in any number of other ways. Ask your prospective school if they can set something up for you. Many schools also offer excursions to nearby tourist attractions, as well as dance and cooking classes.

Homestays

3-hours of Spanish class per day isn’t going to make you fluent anytime soon. The best way to improve is to practice, practice, practice. If you live with a local family, rather than in a hotel, you’re much more likely to use your Spanish. You’ll also get a better feel for the local culture. On the other hand, hotels and hostels provide much, much more privacy than most homestays. Again, check with your Spanish school about what its various accommodation options are.

Accreditation

Most schools in Cusco are not accredited, which is not a problem in itself. Check to see if the teachers have been trained in Spanish instruction, but for most students, an unaccredited school is fine. However, if you are pursuing the DELE certificate, receiving academic credit from your university, or receiving government funding, you’ll need an accredited school. Ask before you send in your cheque.

For a listing of Cusco’s Spanish schools, click here.

For 316 pages of similar wisdom, check out VIVA’s Guide to Cusco and Machu Picchu.