The Spanish language is spoken by over 440 million native speakers worldwide. From Argentina to Ecuador, Costa Rica to Peru, and a whole host of other countries in Latin America, Spanish speakers dominate.
Therefore, choosing to learn Spanish has considerable benefits. But the question is raised as to how to go about learning Spanish. This will largely depend on you, and what suits your budget, availability, and learning methods.
You will more than likely be able to find a Spanish course at a Spanish language school close to you, or you can take private lessons with a Spanish teacher. However, one of the most recommended ways is to opt for a Spanish immersion approach.
Ideally this will involve moving to a Spanish speaking country where you can speak Spanish on a daily basis. If you are able to find accommodation with a host family this will be even better as it will allow you to integrate yourself into their daily lives.
Learning Spanish while travelling has considerable benefits which you will struggle to find in the classroom environment of a language school, one of which is the ability to see how the language that you learn is actually used on a day to day basis.
There are a number of great places to learn Spanish worldwide, but as a student, you can choose this approach to studying Spanish through a university exchange program in Spain. By doing so, you can move to Spain and study in a university there for a semester, or perhaps even longer. If you do so, you'll need to select a city to go to. So which are the best cities to learn Spanish in Spain?
How to Learn Spanish in Madrid
1 out of every 5 Erasmus (the EU exchange student programme) students who go to Spain, choose Madrid. If you wish to study in Madrid or in the surrounding area, you can choose between 19 universities, private or public.
Among the public institutions, you have the Universidad Politécnica of Madrid which trains future engineers, the Universidad Carlos III of Madrid, which is well known for sociology and journalism classes, or the Universidad Complutense of Madrid located in Madrid itself, which counts the most students across a variety of fields, including language courses.
On the private side, you can choose between 12 faculties, including the Universidad Pontificia de Salamanca (University of Madrid), Universidad Antonio de Nebrija (communication, social sciences, architecture), Universidad Francisco de Vitoria (with the restaurant "the blue cordon", languages, international business school).
To find out more about expatriation in Madrid, visit easyexpat.com.
In some universities you will find courses in English, so don't worry about not necessarily having the required Spanish level to study courses in the language. Your Spanish language skills will improve from just living in the country, and every conversation in Spanish can seen as an opportunity to improve your vocabulary and grammar.
What's more, a lot of host families like to organise cultural activities so that the students who stay with them can learn about Spanish culture, and can become extra members of their families.
The Best Way to Learn Spanish in Barcelona
A lot of students who want to have a language immersion experience in Spain are often left choosing between Barcelona and Madrid.
Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia, and it is a bilingual city where you can here Spanish and Catalan in every bar and café. It is located in Northern Spain, in the Basque country, on the seafront which will make many students dream of lounging in the sun after Spanish lessons (unlike spanish lessons london!). It's a jewel in the crown of Spanish architecture thanks to the astonishing works of the architect Antoni Gaudí.
Once you're there, you can chose where to study intensive Spanish in numerous accessible places. Spanish programs are available in places such as EF Centro Internacional de Idiomas Barcelona, located just two stops from the famous Sagrada Familia. It is a place that helps you to become bilingual over a period of 6 to 11 months. As for universities and schools, the city has more than a dozen (non-exhaustive list):
- The Polytechnic University of Catalonia
- The Universitat de Barcelona: biology, fine arts, languages, mathematics, etc.
- The Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona: 50 departments, courses in several languages (including Spanish courses) and participates in the international exchange programs. It also offers scholarships!
- The Higher School of Cinema and Audiovisual of Catalonia
- The Higher School of Architecture in Barcelona (with Antoni Gaudí or Ricardo Bofill, it seems logical!): A public institution under the control of Polytechnic.
- The Higher School of Music of Catalonia
Studying in Valencia, Spain's 3rd Most Populous City
Valencia has almost 800,oo0 inhabitants, and 2000 years of history. It is a city often frequented by students who wish to study in Spain.
The University of Valencia dates back to the 15th century, and is divided into 3 campuses. It is a pioneer in the research of rare diseases and has an impressive geological museum that recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. About 8% of all students at the University of Valencia are foreign students, and it has already welcomed more than 2,000 foreign students through exchange programs.
Other options include the CEU Cardenal Herrera University, which offers courses in veterinary medicine, general medicine, physiotherapy, dental surgery, and architecture. 800 foreign students have already chosen the first private Catholic university in the Valencian Community.
Languages are a big part of all programs, and you have to choose between English, Chinese, Spanish and German. This establishment can be summed up in one word: excellence.
Did you know that the city of Valencia is known for its City of Arts and Sciences which has a futuristic architecture? Don't miss out on it! Especially since it counts no less than 320 days of sunshine per year, and it only takes one and a half hours to reach Madrid by train.
Other important arguments, Valencia has 1,700 restaurants, 300 historical monuments, 40 museums and 7 km of beach. So, have you been seduced yet?
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What are the Best Ways to Learn Spanish in Seville?
Seville is the destination in Andalusia for those who love the heat and warm weather. While studying in Seville, you will be able to discover the city's history, and its many treasures inherited from the Arab period (like the cathedral of Seville and the Torre del Oro, to name just those two).
The University of Seville, also known as The Hispalense, is the most important student community in Andalusia, and the second after that of Madrid on a national scale.
From Seville, you can make a short detour to Marabella, Malaga, or even drive to British territory of Gibraltar.
As for events, try not to miss Holy Week which is one of the most important religious festivals in Spain, if not in the world. Between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, the city breathes the rhythm of the processions of the 60 brotherhoods and festivities. A kind of Rio Carnival in Seville!
Salamanca: A UNESCO World Heritage Site
Salamanca is home to the oldest university in Spain, which was founded in 1218. In the golden city, you will never stop being amazed by the architecture and charm of the streets and monuments.
The Colegio de España is a university specially designed for foreigners who want to learn Castilian and Spanish culture in general (Spanish and Latin American literature, architecture, art history, etc.).
Students say that the pace of life is very relaxing and the atmosphere is friendly. You will feel at home in no time!
Life has an enjoyable feel to it, from the Spanish classes and afternoon coffees with friends, to the many nightclubs on offer in this young and vibrant city.
Students come from all corners of the globe, but we would recommend that you learn Spanish before travelling to Salamanca, at least a few key words and phrases to help yourself immerse into the local culture.
The city is full of treasures with a historical center classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site, its house of shells (the casa de las conchas), the Plaza Mayor, or the Convent of the Dueñas.
It is a very good starting point to visit points of interest not to be missed, such as Ledesma, Ciudad de Rodrigo, Avila or La Pucelle (Valladolid) with its convents, palaces and the house of Cervantes.
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Bonus City: Grenada
The Spanish university in Granada, Andalusia, is the one that receives the most foreign students from the Erasmus program in the city.
Founded by Charles V in the 16th century, it remains in the top 10 best universities on the Iberian Peninsula.
Each year, there are 2,000 foreign students enrolling there, making it a favourite destination for European students!
The Center for Modern Languages in Granada organizes Spanish courses for foreigners, including DELE (Diploma of Spanish as a Foreign Language) classes in order to help prepare you to take a proficiency test in the Spanish language. The University of Granada is well known for its training in translation and interpretation.
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Practical Information For Studying at a Spanish University
Learning Spanish abroad is a great idea, and it is one that will give you a wide range of experiences and skills.
To study in Spain, you must apply for a diploma equivalent with the Universidad Nacional de Educacion a Distancia (UNED) to apply for the Credencial. Your university will have dealt with this in your abroad program. But if you wish to do your entire degree in Spain, you'll need to learn more about it.
You will be asked for an academic certificate. It is up to you to compile a document that includes all of your high school grades (translating the professors' assessments).
Then, you will be able to make a selection of the Spanish universities that interest you, examining each course and looking at Nota de Corte (a minimum mark set by the university which acts as a basic entry requirement).
Remember to pre-register between the end of May and the beginning of June to guarantee yourself a place, provided that you're accepted. Choose wisely accordingly to your subject preferences (humanities, language and culture,...). You can also find out if it's possible to get financial help from the university, or maybe even the EU.
Now you know which are the 5 best student cities in Spain (plus Granada), it is time to take some spanish lessons. All you have to do is make your choice and submit your application to the Spanish faculty that you hope to study with. So what are you waiting for? Get started today!
As well as taking lessons in these cities, you can learn spanish online.