Top 5 Places To Learn Spanish In Spain

Learning Spanish, or any other language for that matter, is always best done in a country that speaks the language fluently. If you’re immersed by people who only speak Spanish then you’ll find you pick it up a LOT faster than you would back home, even if you find you’re not someone with a natural ear for languages! Using it every day, learning to listen to local accents, and the repetition you are forced to experience when everything is in Spanish will help you come on leaps and bounds. The only question you’ve got to ask yourself now is – where in Spain will you learn?

Some things to be aware of before you pick your Spanish city…

If you’re going to learn Spanish in Spain there’s some things you need to be aware of. The first is that in Catalonia and the Basque Country many local people prefer to speak Catalan or Basque instead of Castilian Spanish. They all tend to speak Spanish fluently too, but due to some political issues (many of the local people believe these areas should be independent of Spain and a different country), there are some people who will not speak Spanish to you in these areas of the country, or who simply choose to converse between one another in their local languages. You therefore won’t here as many people speaking Spanish when you’re out and about, and many things you see written down may be in the local languages too. It’s for this reason, if you want to learn Spanish fluently in Spain I’d recommend basing yourself in other parts of Spain, because the key to learning Spanish fast is to immerse yourself where everyone around you speaks Spanish and you are forced to speak it. That’s not to say you can’t learn Spanish in the Basque country, Catalonia, or some of the other areas in Spain where another language is used. There are many good language schools available, and both areas are definitely worth a visit from a travel perspective. It’s just from a purely Spanish learning perspective, it would be harder, and you may not pick it up as fast as in other parts of Spain.

Above is a map which shows you which areas speak what language. The areas in red indicate parts of Spain where the large majority of people speak Spanish as their first language of choice, and therefore places which may be better for you to learn the Spanish language.

Should you learn where local accents are stronger?

I lived in the beautiful region of Andalusia when I was trying to teach myself a bit of Spanish, right smack bang in city centre Seville. Andalusia has one of, if not the hardest accents to understand. The people there tend to drop the letter ‘S’ from many words, as well as shortening other words too. As a Mexican friend of mind used to say “they speak hill billy Spanish”. His words, not mine.

There was a huge benefit in learning Spanish in Seville from one perspective, and also a slight downside too. On one hand, there was very little English speakers here, which meant it was great for forcing yourself to learn Spanish. The accent being so hard to understand also meant that if you could understand Andalusian Spanish, then you could probably understand any Spanish speaker. The downside however was that it may be harder to understand local people speaking Spanish in the beginning until you got used to it, and you’d have to be careful not to pick up any part of the accent that may make you harder to understand for other Spanish speaking people around the world

It’s therefore up to you whether you want to learn in Andalusia, in the South of Spain. If you have a bit of extra time I’d recommend it, as your understanding of Spanish accents will be better than if you learn somewhere more international.

Big city learning in Madrid

For someone like me who’d go stir crazy living out in the sticks, Madrid is a great city to visit and would be a really fantastic place to learn Spanish. Unlike Barcelona where many people prefer to speak Catalan, people in Madrid speak Castilian Spanish (ordinary European Spanish). They also tend to have more international accents which are easier to understand. You get the big city life while you’re learning the language. The only downside is that you will find English speakers all the time in Madrid. There are a lot of international tourists who even if they don’t speak English as a first language, will usually refer to it in international circumstances. Anyone who works in an area dominated by tourists will also speak some English. This can allow you to become lazy in your learning because you know you’ll always find English speakers. You have to weight up whether you’re going to be motivated enough to force yourself not to use English while you’re there, but certainly where big cities are concerned, Madrid is the best in Spain for learning Spanish when it comes to what the locals speak.

Should you learn in a tourist hot spot?

Spain has a lot of coastal towns that are swamped by English speakers. They’re essentially tourist resorts, and many of them are like mini-England as you’ll find more native English speakers than you will native Spanish speakers. For that reason I wouldn’t necessarily choose to learn Spanish in these places, but you may find yourself living here an an expat already, or an English speaker needing to find work who doesn’t yet speak Spanish, and so you’re forced really to go to these places. How then do you learn Spanish in an area dominated by native English speakers? It requires a lot of motivation to make sure you practice every single day. I also find that the further you go out the town or city, the more Spanish speakers you will find (and les native English speakers). So if you’re in Malaga or Alicante for instance, try find accommodation on the outskirts of the city where most of the people in the streets, shops, bars etc are Spanish, and you can still practice Spanish but be located where you need to be for work or other reasons.

Taking all of the above into consideration, if I had to recommend anywhere to study Spanish in Spain it would be Madrid, Seville, Granada, Cadiz, or Zaragoza. All of these cities speak Spanish as their only native language, and although some may be international destinations, they are not the ‘mini England’ that some other places may be in Spain.

If you liked this article you may also like Learning Spanish in South America VS Spain!

10 Responses to “Top 5 Places To Learn Spanish In Spain”

  1. Emma says:

    I think Madrid would be best. More international.

    • Jeffrey says:

      The most pure Spanish you can find its spoken in Salamanca, and is a cheaper option than Madrid. I was enrolled in a Spanish course in the mornings and in a Business Course in english in the afternoon. I could convalidate my Business Course in my University at my return as it was a University Course by Cursos Internacionales from the University of Salamanca. Nice city, Oxford style. And the best of all is that you are at the centre of the country, so you can travel cheaply.

  2. I am with Emma on this. Madrid is the best place to learn Spanish. It already has an eclectic number of people living in it so I don’t see any problem with finding bilinguals out there. The better to translate spanish with.

  3. In the part of Comunidad Valenciana (Valencia, Castellón, Alicante) their “valenciano” is not used as much “catalan” in Catalonia. In fact, there, Spanish language is more neutral and easily understandable than other regions where there is a particular accent.

    An interesting post!

  4. Eva says:

    Well I´m from Spain. And I would never recommend most of these places. I think that Sevilla, Granada and Cádiz aren´t a good place to learn Spanish, not at all, because of the accent.

    I think, Madrid is a good place, nice accent and nice city. But I strongly recommend Salamanca, where you´ll find the best Spanish speakers, is a really beautiful city, cheaper than Madrid and the lifenight is amazing.

    • Desirée says:

      Hi Eva, what a shame I haven´t seen this webside till today, so dissappointed what everything you said. Accents are accents, accents are amazing, are wonderfull, well, I don´t know you level of english, but let´s go to talk about England, most of spanish people go to UK,to lear english, so, many people go to Manchester, Bristol, Liverpool, York….. what do you think? in which city do they speak better? honestly, I can´t believe it, you said in Madrid people speak well, when they use laísmos, and leísmos, aaaawful gramar mistake, the most important is the gramar, and Madrid is not a goos place to learn. Sevilla, is amazing, we have a nice accent, we dont talk with gramar mistakes, we use more “S” and probably many people eat the final letter, like Irish, I have been 2 years living in Ireland, and they do it, but they speak english, so, In my opinión, u are completely wrong, accents are amazing!!!

  5. Raj says:

    Thanks for this. very helpful.

    Any recommendations where to stay for a month or so in Madrid? (which neighborhoods)

    And which school to seek out for learning spanish? (or personal tutors)

    gracias

  6. Julia says:

    As a teacher of Spanish teaching mostly Asian children in Hong Kong, I have been looking for a good place to be able to take students for a while, and have found Salamanca to be the best. For starters, it is very good value for money, with homestays costing only 23 Euros a night for full board, places like Madrid and Barcelona, the costs are much much higher. The students themselves are only 15, and parents here seriously worry about their safety, therefore, staying in a small, very safe little town where they can walk everywhere in under 20 minutes is important, as at times, they may only be in pairs (and school kids are actually fairly lazy as a group, with some very notable exceptions). The language school we use is ISLA which is outstanding, and so far, we have had no complaints about spending 4 hours a day in the classroom. However, I have also discovered that many of the schools offering this service in Salamanca are also very good. As a university town, it is both old in tradition yet modern and dynamic in its population. Overall, I can’t recommend it enough, especially for younger learners who need to be cared for well and feel safe. It is a shame that flight prices make South America so prohibitively expensive (we only have a week we can take them, therefore cost is a major factor). Being in a smaller place also means that the students really soak up the culture as much as they can given the short length of the stay, and the homestays really make this an enormous success.

  7. Jesse says:

    Thanks for this great article dear!! Spain is such a beautiful and joyful country and its people are amazing. I would love to visit top places in Spain. So far I only visited Barcelona, Marbella, and Seville.

  8. Tiama says:

    What about Asturias? I have been there so many times and I love it. But, now I will take my boys 13 & 16 years old for a whole year to valencia and I’m not sure about being the right city.

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