Note: This is a sister post to a case study I did on rapid language learning found here.
This is everything you’ll need to prepare for your language learning journey. I recommend starting a month in advance.
Arguably the biggest piece of learning a language as quickly as possible is immersion. This is why relocation is mandatory to learn the most Spanish in the shortest period of time.
You’ll learn more with a week of hanging out with natives everyday than you would with months of classes in the states.
Below are some logistics you’ll need to know.
I recommend going to a country where you can leverage currency differences to get the best value. Latin America has the best options.
I moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina for 45 days therefore all of my recommendations will be specific to Buenos Aires. Phenomenal experience, gorgeous country, the most welcoming people I’ve ever met. More so than the US (if you can believe it).
Finding an apartment:
For 1 month you can find apartments on Airbnb in Palermo (one of the best neighborhoods) for ~ $600-$750 USD/month.
Note: most hosts will offer you a bigger discount if you reach out to them and ask for a “special discount” on your stay. I got my Airbnb reduced from $1250 USD for 45 days to $990USD using this trick.
Staying with a host family:
This is the best option for complete immersion. You can find private rooms with a host family for $5-$15 USD/night ($150-$450/month) with Homestay and Couchsurfing. If I did it over again I would pick this option over Airbnb.
Round trip flights from NYC (JFK) to Buenos Aires cost around $900-$1000 USD. However if you leverage credit card rewards you’ll only need to buy one way ($375-$500 USD).
Note: I used the Capital One Venture Card and got 50,000 bonus miles when I spent $3000 in the first 3 months. This should be plenty to get a return flight from wherever you came. There are many similar rewards programs, this is just the best one I found.
Get a travel card that gives you good rewards and has zero international transaction fees.
You’re going to need a program and lessons to ground your learning, though this isn’t the ~best~ way I found for learning, it’s a piece of the puzzle. I recommend that you get 1v1 lessons.
The fixed courses with groups are created with the lowest common denominator in mind, since they need to make the course as widely accessible to everyone it will move at a much slower pace.
You however, will be able to move much faster because your learning system is going to be lights-out efficient.
There are many language schools in Buenos Aires appropriated for English speakers that have well designed websites and rank high on English searches, however they are essentially just brokers and will charge travelers/tourists between $25–35 USD/hour for 1v1 lessons.
I suggest using Proyecto San Telmo. You won’t find this site with a “Spanish lessons in Buenos Aires” search from the US or UK. It’s not configured with SEO or keywords and it’s very antiquated.
These are the gems we’re looking for. The hourly 1v1 lesson rate is $5.00-$7.50 USD depending on how many hours you book.
The next best resource is called International House. Their office in Belgrano (nice neighborhood in Buenos Aires) offers free group classes for 2 hours/day, a free baseline test, and 1v1 lessons for $14 USD/hour.
You’ll want to start reaching out to these services a week or two before you plan on leaving. 10–20 hours/week of lessons is recommended. Only book 1 week at a time as your learning needs may change and you may find other options in the “Framework” section more useful.
$70 Argentine Pesos (ARS) = $1USD with a credit/debit card (As of May 2020). However if you bring cash you can likely get a better rate. On the street about $100 ARS = $1USD. However don’t go looking on the street you’ll just attract negative attention. Start by using a traditional casa de cambio (exchange house) with ~$200USD until you meet native friends and can exchange with them for a better rate.
Cost of living is extremely cheap. A 15 minute uber is about $1.66 USD ($100ARS) and bus/subway fare on the SUBE is ~$0.33 USD ($20ARS) per ride. A steak dinner at a parilla (steakhouse) is $3.75–5.00 USD ($210–300ARS) and 1 week of groceries for 1 can be done for $10-$20 USD. Also if you’re a huge wine lover like me, a bottle of phenomenal Malbec from Mendoza* costs $5-$9 USD/bottle. These wines typically cost $20-$40/bottle in the US. Extremely high-end wine costs about $15-$20 here. The type that you can’t find in the US.
*Mendoza, Argentina is known for producing the best Malbec in the world
For 1–3 months you can expect to budget from $2000-$6000 USD. That includes food, classes, rent, entertainment, flight, everything for the entire time.
You can get the whole package done for less than a semester of college and you’ll actually be able to speak Spanish after.
I was there for 1.5 months and kept it all around $3000 (just enough to get the free flight home with my credit card rewards 😉 ). For convenience I’ve created a simple “conservative to lavish” budget you can check out here.
Note that this budget doesn’t include things like credit card rewards utilization or the free meal/Spanish lesson combo that I mentioned in the original post.
If you have any questions feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!