Why Learning Spanish in Bolivia is Easier Than Anywhere Else
Learning Spanish in South America is a fantastic way of picking up the language while having fun getting to know the local culture.
Some places are more popular than others with language students – for example, Quito in Ecuador and Buenos Aires in Argentina offer great places to learn the tongue. Bolivia, however, is better. This is why:
1. A Neutral Accent
If you are planning on studying Spanish in South America you might assume that everyone uses the same accent. In fact, accents vary widely from one country to another. The worst (in my opinion) is in Chile, where people speak really quickly and don’t finish their words. The Argentine and Uruguayan accents are also quite difficult because they pronounce Y and LL as Sh. This doesn’t sound like a big deal but it can get really confusing when you aren’t used to it, especially when you consider the fast delivery and local slang. As far as the easiest accents go, I would suggest that Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador are the most neutral sounding ones. If I had to guess why, I would say it has to do with the strong presence of indigenous languages in those countries in addition to Spanish.
2. Friendly People
One thing you are sure to come across in South America is friendly people. They love to meet foreigners here and don’t get at all impatient with gringos spluttering their way through tortured phrases in Spanish. While this applies everywhere, the country where I felt most at ease with the locals was Bolivia. Maybe you will have a wonderful experience elsewhere but personally, the laid back attitude of Bolivians was a huge factor in helping me learn Spanish.
3. Fairly Limited Vocabulary
Without meaning to offend, I believe that the relatively limited vocabulary they use really helps foreigners learn the language. Even after a few lessons I kept hearing the same phrases cropping up over and over again out on the street. The only downside to this is that when I traveled to other parts of South America and to Spain, I came across lots of words and phrases that were new to me. However, by then my lessons in Bolivia had given me the confidence to pick up new phrases along the way. Knowing your Spanish level before you leave home is a good way of seeing whether you are likely to hit the ground running when you go to South America for lessons.
4. Cheap to Live
Of course, quitting work and taking time off from normal life to study in a foreign country isn’t cheap. The good news in this respect is that Bolivia is an incredibly cheap place to live. There are expensive hotels and restaurants in the big cities like La Paz and Santa Cruz but you can also survive quite easily here. By eating in the local food markets and staying in budget accommodation you can get by on a shoestring while studying.
5. Great Cities
I studied partly in Tarija and partly in La Paz and loved them both. One of the best things about Bolivia is that it is so big and diverse that no two cities feel the same. For instance, Sucre is an elegant, culturally rich place, while Santa Cruz is brash and thriving, and Cochabamba has a terrific climate. You could choose one to base yourself in, or just move around the country as you go – your options are endless!
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