I think you should take Spanish lessons during your time in Guatemala in general. It’s very affordable and tends to be considered a more “neutral” area language-wise to learn from (less region-specific slang, any other Spanish speaker would readily understand you). Since I think everyone should also visit Lake Atitlan, here’s how you can combine the two!
The San Marcos Spanish School is the most formal way to get your learn on, and packages range from $144-$188/week with homestay options. It didn’t fit my needs, but you should check it out.
There are several businesses, like hotel Paco Real, that will offer private Spanish lessons. If you pay even the smallest bit of attention you’ll see flyers all over town advertising different tutors. Through a series of miscommunications I ended up with private tutor Juan Marcos, and I am so glad I did! He teaches both Spanish and English, so he has a great understanding of both. He lives in San Pedro and is a local activist for indigenous peoples. I learned so much from him about local indigenous culture, politics, and education. A lot of his style of teaching has to do with having a lesson, then conversations to try and implement the lesson and also so he can correct mistakes or misunderstandings. Especially if you don’t have much time for a more formal program, I would highly recommend scheduling a few hours with Juan Marcos. I spent 2 hours a day with him 5 days a week for 2 weeks. It worked well for me. Obviously, the more time the more learning (as long as your brain isn’t burnt out and can still absorb. I usually found my limit for this was about 4 hours). You do you.
Contact Juan Marcos himself here via his tutoring Facebook page.
Why Should I Take Lessons?
If you’re backpacking long-term, you may be thinking something along the lines of “won’t I just pick up anything I need through immersion?” Maybe. In my experience though, it’s really easy for travelers to gravitate towards other travelers and stick together. Which isn’t awful. And you’ll definitely pick up the necessary traveler’s Spanish. But it doesn’t connect you any deeper to local peoples and places. Which is kind of the point right? You have to be intentional for those connections to happen. Investing a wee bit into actual classes led by local folks will not only support the local economy, but connect you more closely to the people teaching you.
If you’re simply taking a scenic vacation (which you SHOULD do here), your response might be “I only have a week and this is my time off. Why would I sign up for work??” I get it. Maybe don’t sign up for 4 hours every day then. Private tutors especially are usually more than willing to accommodate whatever you want. What is 1 hour a day going to cost you, fun-wise? Not a whole lot. What will you gain? A deeper connection to culture and a useful skill for your future. Win-win.
Ready to get your learn on?
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