Review; Learning Spanish with ‘Expanish’ in Buenos Aires (Part 1)

Logo-Expanish-Spanish-School

On Monday (9th September 2013) I started a 4 week long Spanish course in Buenos Aires with a private language school called Expanish. I’m currently into week 2. Prior to this I had briefly been using an online course 2 or 3 hours a week for a few months which I was fitting around work and my travels through Europe before I came to South America. For the most part in this review I will be comparing the ‘in the classroom’ experience of the first 2 weeks that I have had with Expanish compared to my previous online endeavours to learn Spanish. I want to explore the pros/cons and detail which course I feel has ultimately been better so far.

Which is the better learning experience?

So I guess the first question is how did I find the learning experience during week 1 and 2 with Expanish? Did I learn more in the classroom with Expanish versus my online course? Did having a teacher on hand and/or classmates around me help in my learning? Did I enjoy the classes more than my online studies? The answer for me so far is yes to all of these questions. I feel very fortunate to be learning Spanish at Expanish as it is genuinely an excellent private language school.

To answer more in detail, I’ve found that I remember things first time (or much more quickly) when I’m learning in the classroom versus when I was trying to learn myself online. In fact, immeasurably so. The main reason for this I believe is because the ‘in the classroom’ style of learning is just so much more engaging. Learning face to face with a teacher was always going to be in comparison to learning online, but I also think the quality of our teacher, her fun upbeat nature, and the variety of learning techniques that she uses has greatly helped us (the other students and I) progress much more quickly. On top of this, in a classroom environment with other students involved you also have more opportunities to combine kinetic, audio, and visual ways of learning through group activities. Combining all methods of learning like this has for me always been the easiest and quickest way to learn, and is much easier (and more fun) to do in a group of people than on your own.

Additionally, learning as I live here (temporarily) in Buenos Aires forces me to use my Spanish much more outside of class than I would at home, so you learn and pick things up much quicker because you have to. This I suppose is one of the major benefits of actually going to a Spanish speaking country to learn rather than trying to learn entirely from home.

Resources

The textbook system at Expanish is particularly well organised. Every week (as you progress in the course) you are given a small mini-textbook that you will use that week in class. The next week when you move onto different topics and progress in your course you will be given a new book. Each book is tailored specifically to the Expanish course. The beauty of this is that if you are (for example) only studying for 1 or 2 weeks at Expanish, you don’t need to cart around a textbook full of pages that you won’t be using in future weeks. Equally, if you are someone who wants to study at the school for several weeks or months then you will just be given your new book at the beginning of each week so you still have all the resources that you need at each given time. They also use a lot of worksheets.

In the classroom itself you can expect to find the usual things you would find in such an environment, e.g. white board, study chairs etc. The good thing is that the classrooms are quite small and set up for learning in small groups which means you will get a decent amount of attention throughout each class to aid your learning. In the small groups it’s also less intimidating to ask questions in my opinion, which ultimately I think creates a much more relaxed (and therefore better) environment for learning.

Organisation

The time table at Expanish tends to be that everybody has their group classes in the morning from 9am until 1pm (Monday to Friday), and then if you have booked a more intensive course you’ll get your extra classes or one to one attention in the afternoon (usually 2pm until 4pm.) My course, the Intensive 20, is just 9am until 1pm. This works well for both allowing me a good period of learning, but also leaving me free time to explore Buenos Aires or get on with some work in the afternoons. That said, if you’re only in Buenos Aires for a short period of time it may be best to pick a course with classes in the afternoons also as it will make best use of what time you have for learning. Either that or you’ll need to make sure you force yourself to practice outside of class and don’t get stuck in the bubbles of English speaking people outside! 🙂

Fun / Community Aspect

Possibly the best thing about studying at Expanish is actually the amount of fun extra-curricular activities on offer. There are several activities (some free and some you have to pay for) that are available for you to take part in every week. Each day there is usually 2 or 3 activities to choose from. Already I have taken part in a free Argentine Tango class, a Friday night Pub Crawl, and tonight I’m off to a free language interchange meet up. Most activities and events that the school arranges are aimed at giving you an Argentine experience or an insight into Buenos Aires which is great seeing as most people come here not just to learn the language, but also for the destination. For example, there are opportunities to see Argentina Tango shows, watch a local football match, go to a Milonga, take a free welcome tour of Buenos Aires, go to a local Mate tasting session etc. All of these things are ideal for people travelling solo such as myself or travelling in small groups or as a pair, and who would like to meet other people.

Price

For the course I am on (Intensive Spanish 20) the cost is typically 210 USD per week (132 GBP / 157 EUR). However, this weekly price reduces for those studying 5+ weeks, and is further discounted again for those booking 10+ weeks. For more information and a full price list you can visit the official website at http://www.expanish.com/price-list.

Location

expanish map

The location of the Expanish school is right in the heart of the downtown area on Tte. Gral. Juan Domingo Perón 698, just a few minutes walk from Plaza de Mayo. The school is also very close to 3 main subway stations on 3 separate lines, and is a stone’s throw away from a variety of shops, cafes, and restaurants.

Facilities

The main facilities available in the Expanish building include free computers for you to use (in the common room), free wifi (good connection), a study room, drinks machines, and drinking water on every floor.

Flexibility

Possibly the only thing that an ‘in the classroom’ style class can’t do in comparison to online learning is fit around any schedule. This was the only thing where I felt the online course scored better because I could fit it around all my work, travels, and whatever else I was doing during what would be typical class time. Conversely though, having total flexibility of your schedule can also have its downsides. I think being able to fit a course, i.e. an online course, around whatever you’re doing sometimes means that you’re not committing yourself enough, and you end up not learning as quickly as you could. For me, actually taking the time out to make a commitment to a class in a classroom with a teacher setting me deadlines etc is preventing me from procrastinating greatly. This was often the one drawback of online learning in that as motivated as I was to learn, sometimes I would just get distracted by things like youtube or other commitments that popped up. In the classroom you don’t have so many distractions like that, and also you’re teacher is there to keep you focused or change things up a bit depending on how your concentration levels are going. I suppose therefore there are upsides and downsides to both in this sense.

Was there anything I really didn’t like?

I always try to balance these reviews out with the upsides as well as the downsides, but I think it would be unfair to list anything here in this case because I’ve genuinely had a very positive experience so far at Expanish. There have been no major downsides and if I wrote any I’d really be nit-picking just for the sake of it to fill a space on an article. It’s genuinely a really good private language school in Buenos Aires, and from my experiences so far I’d definitely recommend it as a place to learn Spanish.

 

– Additionally, if you’re looking for a language school (in any language – not just Spanish) and you’re unsure where or how to find the best school, I recommend using my friend Jeanette Kramer as your agent. She runs a company called Latitude International Educationl and it was her company that helped me find Expanish. She is highly experienced at seeking out and setting up study abroad placements for students all over the world.

 

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10 Responses to “Review; Learning Spanish with ‘Expanish’ in Buenos Aires (Part 1)”

  1. Mark says:

    Great review Jane! The school sounds awesome! Buenos Aires as a destination is also somewhere that appeals to me although I was wondering is the local accent easy to understand? I’ve heard the Argentine accent is quite different to others in Spanish speaking countries?

    • Jane Meighan says:

      Hi Mark, the accent is fairly easy to understand once you know that a double L is pronounced as “sh” instead of “y” and that words like ayer are pronounced like “asher”.

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