How To Learn Spanish in Ecuador

Posted in: Language Learning, Living in Ecuador

For many travelers, the main reason for being in Cuenca is to learn Spanish. Noted by many as one of the better areas to learn Spanish – in part because of the locals slower pace of speaking (especially when compared to other Latin American countries) Cuenca is a hub for foreigners studying Spanish.

The city has dozens of great schools, including:

We studied at Simon Bolivar Spanish School, and found that one teacher to 2 students was a great format for learning. The classes moved along at our pace, with the teacher able to spend more time on things we needed and skipped over other parts we knew, which is something that’s impossible in a larger class format.

Costs were surprisingly low – just $180 for the week for two adult, at 4 hrs per afternoon (our daughter sat in on the classes for no charge). This works out to just $4.50 per hour, per person. This is fairly typical, although the costs will be significantly higher if your teacher travels to your home. Located just off Parque Calderon, you can skip out to one of the many cafes/bakeries on one of the afternoon breaks, or simply take a quick stroll through the Parque.

We brought a few books with us – but not enough – its nearly impossible to get English books here in Ecuador. Well, truth be told, there are a few book stores – here in Cuenca, and a few both in Guayaquil and Quito, but the selection certainly isn’t what I’m used to.

Also we were using Rosetta Stone before moving to Ecuador, and continue to use the course. Although much of the vocabulary didn’t stick (like we hoped) it really helped us to get a “feel” for the language – its flow and general sounds.

This really helped us on our arrival and in the Spanish classes. That being said, it might have helped us more, if we weren’t so busy with preparing to move abroad – selling everything we owned including our home, business, and all of our stuff, with the exception of 6 bags of checked luggage and our carry-on electronics. Given more time, I think we could have come with much more Spanish – the Rosetta Stone format is very good. It works on the premise of complete immersion. There is no English in the course – you learn everything in Spanish. And although it sounds overwhelming and quite possibly impossible – it really isn’t. The one point of note – be sure to order Latin American Spanish – otherwise you’ll arrive talking like you’re from the “old country” (Spain) and although you might be understood, you’ll also raise a few eyebrows.

Here is the complete list of books and courses we used to learn Spanish.

We’ve arranged for you to receive a free trial of Pimsleurs with Audible, to see if this is a good learning format for you. Might be worth a try – its free after all!

Madrigals Magic Key to SpanishAfter we arrived, an Ecuadorian friend recommended Madrigals Magic Key to Spanish and loaned us a copy. Since then, everyone (every gringo at least) tells us how much that book has helped them. So its been ordered from Amazon.com and is coming with Canadian friends in February. There really is nothing like a personal copy that can be truly studied.

Along with all these different ways of learning, immersion has been our best teacher. We have been involved in a significant amount of volunteer work and this has improved our Spanish more than anything else. After just over 4 months, we are really surprised with our level of comprehension and ability to communicate. Still a long way to go, but we aren’t nearly as mute as when we first arrived.

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Meet the Author

Bryan Haines

Bryan Haines is editor of GringosAbroad - one of the largest English language sites about Ecuador. Work with GringosAbroad. He is a travel blogger, photographer and content marketer. He is also co-founder of ClickLikeThis (GoPro tutorial blog) and Storyteller Media (content marketing for travel brands).

26 comments… add one
  • Sky Jan 13, 2015, 12:08 am

    Hi Bryan, thanks for the great info. My wife and I are thinking of living in Cuenca with our 6 year old just for the summer, say 4-8 weeks. My wife and I both speak intermediate Spanish. Do you think we might be able to find a summer camp or other fun activity for our daughter that would be immersion so we could all immerse ourselves in the language while we are there?

    • Bryan Haines Jan 13, 2015, 5:49 am

      Good question. I don’t really know what activities are available for young children. I heard that there is a Facebook group for families with young kids, but I don’t know much about it. Our daughter is a teenager now…

  • kathleen bell Jul 19, 2014, 4:13 pm

    This is a great blog. Have enjoyed reading it very much. What is the best area in Cuenca to live for two single older women.

  • Kym Sep 18, 2013, 9:39 am

    Bryan-

    What is the cost for the Spanish lessons? I don’t see that posted and would love to know.

    Thank you

    Kym

    • Julieta Sep 29, 2013, 2:41 pm

      Hi Kym, I am Spanish teacher and I give private lessons. If you are interested you can write me to me e mail sand.juli@yahoo.com

  • gabriela Jun 12, 2013, 11:15 am

    Dear Brian..

    Thanks for the great information about CUenca and Ecuador,, Im a CUENCANA!! owner of a Tourist Operator and Spanish School Cazhumaspanishschool,,, we are locate only 1 block from Calderon Park in a beutifull Colonial House, our programs are mixed! with Travel Tours to differents areas of Cuenca, while you are learning! spanish,, please i like to invite you !! to visit us..

    • Bryan Haines Jun 14, 2013, 5:03 pm

      Great to meet you Gabriela. We’ll drop in one of these days.

      Thanks!

      Bryan

  • Carol Saenz May 28, 2013, 11:16 am

    Learn Spanish in Ecuador is very easy. The fact of being in a Spanish-speaking country will allow you to live a true immersion experience, because only few people speak English – therefore, you only hear people speaking Spanish!
    In addition Spanish pronunciation, primarily in the Ecuadorian highlands (la Sierra), is very clear and quite slow. This helps in the learning process.
    Also there is wide range of fun and interesting activities (some of them free and some at low cost) that you can enjoy while you know the culture and learn the language.
    Another great advantage of learning Spanish in Ecuador is that there are very good schools that will help you to learn Spanish in very short time. We invite you to know our Spanish School: http://www.andeslingua.com
    You can also follow us on Facebook and enjoy some free resources: https://www.facebook.com/AndesLingua
    You are always welcome to our community!

  • Carol Saenz May 21, 2013, 3:05 pm

    Hi Bryan & Dena,
    We request include our Spanish School in the current list. We invite you to visit us!
    http://www.andeslingua.com
    Greetings!

  • Anna May 17, 2013, 10:43 pm

    Hola!

    Puede Usted poner un link a la pagina http://spanish.ec en la hoja http://gringosabroad.com/ecuador/how-to-learn-spanish-in-ecuador/

    Gracias!

  • Gloria May 17, 2013, 6:41 pm

    Hi I am Gloria. I`m spanish teacher for 20 years. I can teach in private classes( it`s includes my book). my email is: llactaecuador@gmail.com.

  • Juan F. Mejillones Apr 1, 2013, 7:40 pm

    Saludos Bryan, realmente es grato saber que ayudas a otras personas para que puedan conocer un poco más sobre Ecuador, en este caso de Cuenca..

  • Maura Mar 22, 2013, 7:21 pm

    Hi I am Spanish Teacher for 10 years, and tourist guide as well I can teach in privater classes, Write me If you want learn good English morenapink81@yahoo.com

  • Michelle Birch Mar 9, 2012, 12:21 am

    Just to let you know your blog appears a little bit different on my galaxy tab.

  • Edward Cyr Jul 31, 2011, 4:05 pm

    Thank you so much for the wealth of information you provide on you site. My wife and I have our house for sale and are headed down as soon as it sells. I have a sister who has lived in the cotacatchi area for nearly 3 years and loves it. Although we havent visited, we decided all or nothing, and are making plans to be there before it snows here. We expect the culture shock, but hope to locate near other english speaking families. My retirement just isnt cuttimg it in the US any more, and my wife who works fulltime would like to retire with me and ecuador seemed like a good choice given the mild weather and cost of living. Hope to see you soon. The Cyr family, usa

  • carol Jun 17, 2011, 2:04 pm

    Hi:
    I have about 500 English books I want to sell, as I am moving back to Canada.
    I miss my family too much.
    I live in Manta If interested or someone else you know please let me know. Thanks Carol

    • Bryan Haines Jun 19, 2011, 6:39 pm

      Hi Carol,

      What type of books do you have? I’ll certainly pass it on. You know, there is a bookstore in Cuenca that sells used English books. Its called Carolina Bookstore. Might be worth a call – maybe they’ll buy the whole lot.

      Bryan

  • Rance Mar 8, 2011, 11:13 am

    With the inability to find english books in Cuenca, have you considered buying a Kindle from amazon.com? We were always concerned with the strain on your eyes, but my wife just bought one with the new E Ink Pearl technology. It doesn't put any more strain on your eyes than a newspaper would. They have the Kindle now equipped with global 3g (which the map shows Cuenca would give you EDGE, which is 2g) so that you can dowload any book anywhere you may be, even in Cuenca. The best part is that you don't have to pay a monthly subscription fee, or any fee at all, for the wireless service. Or, you could always use the good ol' wifi.

    Just thought you might like to know.

    P.S. Thanks for the blog. My wife and I are looking at moving to Cuenca and your blog has been an IMMENSE help in our research!

    • Bryan Haines Mar 15, 2011, 5:23 pm

      Hi Rance,We have used Kindle from Amazon. They have a PC app so we can just read it on screen – not a nice as a read book (or even a kindle) but gets the job done. When friends visit, they come loaded with our orders from Amazon – print copies. Thanks for the feedback – really appreciate it!Bryan

  • Ken Jan 8, 2011, 11:00 am

    What a great blog. Thanks for the time and information.

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What Other Expats Are Buying (Before Moving to Ecuador)


Easy Spanish Phrase Book NEW EDITION: Over 700 Phrases for Everyday Use (Dover Language Guides Spanish)
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