When considering where to book a Spanish home stay in Central America a couple of weeks back, I found myself really spoilt for choice, which is only a good thing when it comes to travel plans, I reckon.
I’d heard from friends and other backpackers, that Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua were all great places to learn the language and stay with locals, but I couldn’t decide where to fly to.
To me, throwing myself into a stranger’s house to learn a language wasn’t a scary prospect, so that part would be the same, where-ever I chose to go. If it was going to be awkward, or isolating I was prepared for that to happen in any country.
But I love travelling local and I love travelling authentic so with the money and the fear factored out, I had to look at other elements to help me decide where I wanted to learn.
In the end I chose Nicaragua based on the following;
- the fact that I knew practically nothing about the country (which excited me),
- the clarity of Spanish expression (one thing I had heard was that Nicaraguan Spanish isn’t heavily ‘accented’ – at least not to my untrained English ears, anyway)
- and, the safety element for for solo travellers (Nicaragua has long been considered the safest spot in Central America).
Al these things swayed me into choosing the colourful, colonial city of Leon, as my destination for my home stay and Spanish lessons in Nicaragua.
I booked with Metropolis Spanish School after finding the school online and it was probably the most intensive, worthwhile Spanish learning experience I’ve ever had.
I’ve broken down the costs, best way to book and tips for having a good overall experience below, in case you’re thinking of doing a home stay and Spanish lessons in Nicaragua, at some stage.
With Metropolis Spanish School, I paid $240 / £196 for one week. They accepted dollars and cordobas but as I came from NYC, I paid in dollars and I received:
- four hours of Spanish tuition a day (this often ran on to five hours, as my teacher was really enthusiastic)
- a double bed in a private room, in a spacious Nicaraguan home, with three meals a day
- two sightseeing activities in and around Leon (one trip was to the base of Cierra Negro volcano which was awesome, another to an eerie, abandoned carcel prison, that housed prisoners in the Nicaraguan revolution)
The agreed price for Spanish lessons plus accommodation and three activities was actually $250, but I ran out of time for the third, hence the $240 price. The following week I paid $220.
THE HOME STAY
When I arrived at the Spanish school one evening in September after flying into Managua some hours previously, I was tired and on edge. I was scared I’d be ripped off when I arrived at the school and didn’t know what to expect when Marla (who I’d just corresponded with via email) said she’d show me to my new home.
Some people might be put off at the idea of rocking up to a stranger’s house (that you haven’t even seen photos of online), and just handing over a large amount of cash straight away. I am one of those people.
I was lucky that when I arrived at the school, I was introduced to three other English people who were all taking lessons at the school and who all just happened to be living in the same house as me. Hurrah! Friends!
After a quick 5 minute convo, assured me that my money was going to be well spent, but I still arranged to pay after one night’s stay and a day of lessons, just to be sure.
I had my home stay and Spanish lessons in Nicaragua was with a couple in their 60s called Maria and Nedar who both shared a really cute cat, a wicked sense of humor, and amazing culinary skills.
They prepared delicious, flavour-filled Nicaraguan food for me and my other English roomies, every day and helped us arrange laundry and transfers when we needed them. The couple spoke absolutely no English, so there was plenty of opportunity to practice Spanish because let’s face it, we had zero choice in the matter if we wanted to get stuff done in Leon.
But it was fine. No, better than fine, in fact; I felt at home and at ease at all times and the additional hours of Spanish with Maria and Nedar post-classes definitely helped me improve.
Neither me or anyone else had any complaints about the spacious, double-bed rooms we were placed in.
THE SPANISH LESSONS
At the school, I received one-to-one instruction, for four hours a day, five days a week with my teacher; an ex-lawyer called Francisco who I’d highly recommend. He tailored each lesson to my needs, whilst working through grammar that I didn’t understand. Plus, I learnt a lot about Nicaraguan culture from listening to him speak about laws, customs and traditions in his country which helped with an article I was writing.
On the last night, myself and my other English roommates all took our teachers out for a beer and some food, and we all agreed that our Spanish tuition had been excellent.
The activities as part of the home stay and Spanish lessons in Nicaragua with Metropolis were interesting, but fairly brief. The first trip to Cierra Negro volcano was cool and made for some impressive photos; it was amazing to see the point in which the earth meets the molten lava and sulphur, which causes all this steam to rise from the steaming hot ground.
The other trip to an old abandoned jail involved in the Nicaraguan revolution was pretty harrowing; you see old torture chambers and jail cells, but it’s necessary to go with someone who speaks English and Spanish unless you’ve got good enough reading skills to decipher the information on the walls.
If you’re thinking of signing up for a similar experience in this part of the world – do it, I really feel I’ve improved so much. A home stay and Spanish lessons in Nicaragua is the best place to learn Spanish. But to make your experience great, don’t forget:
- you don’t have to pay for anything up front until you’re happy with what’s on offer, suss it all out first
- you should chat to your home stay hosts as much as possible in the evenings to accelerate your Spanish lessons
- don’t forget to tailor your own experience; if you don’t have any interest in sight-seeing, ask for a package that doesn’t include trips. Similarly, if you want lessons at the weekend instead of during the week (I opted for this because I have remote writing shifts two days a week) just request it.
I’m writing this post from the Caribbean part of the country on the Corn Islands but I plan on returning to Leon before I leave Nicaragua to sign up for another week at Metropolis, it was that good.
Where have you learnt Spanish in Central America? Are you planning to head to Leon? Let me know!