I have taken group Spanish classes in England and Buenos Aires and had a number of private teachers but my best experience so far has been taking classes at Sucre Spanish School. I had heard that Sucre is a good place to learn Spanish, and although I was already confident with grammar, I decided to take a week of conversation classes to take my Spanish to the next level. I didn’t regret my decision and in just ten hours of classes I felt a dramatic improvement in my confidence and fluency.
Sucre is a lovely place to study Spanish, and in fact long-termers talk about the “Sucre effect” – many people end up staying much longer than they expected. It is a compact city that’s easy to walk around, but still has everything you need – lots of restaurants, excellent markets and plenty of museums and churches. It’s a university town so it’s full of young, progressive people with a vibrant nightlife. The white colonial buildings are beautiful and just wandering around in the perfect climate is a pleasure.
I chose Sucre Spanish School at random, because it was near our guesthouse and I was impressed by the friendly welcome I got from the German owner Claus, who met his Bolivian wife here and never left. It’s a small, friendly school with an excellent team of four Bolivian teachers, including lovely Elizabeth (my teacher) and her husband and school director Fernando.
All classes are private, as they believe one-to-one tuition is the quickest way to learn (I agree), and at only US$5.50 an hour there’s really no need to choose group classes. This way classes can be tailored to what you need. I have had private classes before, and although I requested the focus to be on conversation (the area I need most practice in) grammar study would often take over.
But at Sucre Spanish Scool my request was listened to and my lessons focused exclusively on speaking for two hours a day. Elizabeth and I got on well so had lots to discuss – we covered philosophy, death, religion, politics and other subjects that pushed my speaking skills to the limit. We also chatted about Sucre and I got lots of great restaurant tips! If conversation ever dried up Elizabeth was ready with exercises to spark discussion, and we also watched part of a film and chatted about it.
If you are a beginner the school usually recommends four hours a day – two hours of grammar and two hours of practice, but everything is very flexible. One of the things I liked most about this relaxed school were the excursions during class – the beginners were taken to the market to put what they learned into practice, while Elizabeth took me to the cemetery and we discussed Sucre’s tumultuous history.
The school also organises a number of activities in the evenings – a good chance to get to know the other students and teachers. Although Simon wasn’t taking classes (he had to work) they were happy for him to come along and we attended a party where we met locals from the couchsurfing group, and best of all a cooking class where we learnt to make delicious papas rellenas (see top photo). We quickly became hooked on these mashed potato balls stuffed with cheese, fried in batter and served with a spicy sauce.
Many students who were staying for longer got involved in volunteer projects that the school is happy to arrange in surrounding villages – an excellent way to practice your new skills.
If you need to improve your Spanish I highly recommend Sucre Spanish School. Although we loved our time in Buenos Aires, Sucre is a cheaper, more relaxed and friendlier alternative, and you don’t end up getting laughed at for your ‘sh’ Argentine accent and use of vos!
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