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6 Tips for Learning Spanish Before Moving to Ecuador

Posted in: Language Learning, Living in Ecuador

Editors note: This is a guest post by Michelle, a North American expat living in Quito.

With just English, my life would be 20% of the richness that I have had.” – Tim Ferriss, Best-Selling Author

learn-spanish-moving-ecuadorIf you are thinking about moving abroad to Ecuador (like I did) or to another Spanish speaking country, you might as well as jump into the cultural richness.

However, I highly recommend doing some sessions with an awesome local tutor before you arrive to make that landing even smoother both linguistically and culturally.

Learned By Me is an online language tutoring company that connects top Ecuadorian Spanish teachers with students for $15 one-on-one Spanish lessons over Skype. I am the country director for Learned By Me in Ecuador. Our tutors often put together custom culturally rich curriculums to help new expats have a smoother arrival – both with the language and the culture.

{See the 6 tips below the photo of Quito} 

learn-spanish-quito

6 Tips For Learning Spanish Quickly

learn-spanish-moving-ecuadorHere are my 6 tips about how to get the most out of your tutoring sessions!

  1. Learn the basic phrases: Whether you are a Spanish pro or not, being able to say hello, how are you, I’ll take a canelazo, thanks (that’s a local drink here), etc. will go far in making your new country feel more like home.
  2. Learn about where you want to spend time: Arriving in a new country is an amazing opportunity, but it is also overwhelming trying to start a life with so many service providers and new friends pulling you in different directions. Use your Spanish lessons as an un-intrusive way to learn what you want about your new home from a local friend. Our tutors have repeatedly given me great tips about galleries, restaurants, and hikes I never would have known about otherwise.
  3. Develop the vocabulary you want to use: Just because you studied Spanish in school in academic setting doesn’t mean you are practiced speaking about the topics you really enjoy, especially culturally. I am a big food lover and cook, so it would have been a blessing to spend a few sessions with a tutor learning about the local dishes, styles of cooking, as well as things to avoid. (Otherwise, you’ll learn but it will be the hard way!)
  4. Get your first set of dumb questions out of the way: Part of the fun about being an expat in a new place is the slack you get for being clueless. (I remember repeated failed business lunches with my American coworker who didn’t understand that lunch at restaurants in Quito doesn’t start at noon.) However, being clueless can also be exhausting. Ask your tutor everything you are anxious or curious about – our tutors truly see themselves as local ambassadors and enjoy this process.
  5. Learn the local narrative: Newspapers are great but they often are more focused on news events than understanding the issues and content that are really engaging the people of the country. Your tutor is an incredible resource for getting you ready to speak about everything
  6. Make a lot of mistakes: Speaking a language that you didn’t grow up using is always challenging. The sooner you get comfortable and have fun making mistakes, trying new culturally appropriate words, and being outgoing about all of it – the more fun you’ll have when you get here.

Michelle-Stoler-learn-spanishAuthor Bio: Michelle is a North American expat living in Quito, where she works as the Country Director for Learned By Me.

She enjoys exploring outdoor markets and experimenting with local foods.

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Meet the Author

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).

13 comments… add one
  • Erwin Horton May 15, 2013, 4:07 pm

    This and other similar “language standoffs” between English and Spanish speakers raises the question: Is it really necessary to learn Spanish before moving to Ecuador? Can one get by with just speaking English?

    • Raul Yanez May 24, 2013, 12:58 pm

      I think it is imperative to learn the language spoken in the place you are about to move in. Without it you are going to face a big wall of uncertainties. Let me just make a comparison of what it would be like to be in a foreign place like Ecuador without the knowledge of the language. that would be like driving a car at night without the lights on reaching a speed of 20 miles per hour going on a trip to cover 600 miles. If you got the time and patience it would be ok. at least you are moving but most people would like to move a bit faster than that at leat a 60 miles per hour. I higly recommend to learn the basic expressions on the internet they are free, lots of free internet classes and the best advise as a Spanish teacher I can give is mingle with the community at least as a listener, and use what you know. the same thing that we do with our money we can only use what we have. Best places to do that are markets not supermakets though, be careful with thieves, these are in abundance.
      Then attend local events, people are ususally loud.
      Watch tv and listen to a local radio station they normally repeat the same sentences all day everyday.
      Finally if all those things fail get a girlfriend or boyfriend.

  • Luis May 9, 2013, 3:23 pm

    I am from Cuenca and I read your website from time to time to practice my reading skills and to see what do you think about our country. I am happy to see that you enjoy it! If anyone wants to practice his/her Spanish, tell me… I need to practice my English in a real conversation 🙂

  • Graham May 8, 2013, 5:53 pm

    Wow, shocked when I saw the price for lessons. In both Cuenca and Quito the going rate is between $5 and $8 for private, one-on-one instruction. I’ve only known of one person in Cuenca charging $10 and she comes to your house. One thing is true about Ecuadorian culture, whether it’s a taxi driver or renting an apartment, or getting Spanish lessons, if they think you’ll pay double or triple, there’s no problem in asking for it. It’s been nicknamed the notorious gringo tax.

    • Bryan Haines May 9, 2013, 7:31 am

      This is a service being marketed to travelers and expats before they move or travel.

    • Michelle May 10, 2013, 10:35 am

      Hi Graham,
      Bryan’s right- once you’re in Ecuador, we at Learned By Me definitely expect that you’ll probably want to take advantage of taking in person, one-on-one classes with an awesome local teacher! Our service is aimed at travelers and students who are currently living in a country where it’s hard to take classes with native Spanish speakers.

  • Anthony The Travel Tart Apr 19, 2013, 7:02 am

    I speak a bit a Spanish – the locals don’t care if you butcher their language, they are so happy that you’re making an effort!

  • Lee Apr 17, 2013, 11:28 pm

    …and Michelle is SO pretty! 🙂

  • Shama Apr 17, 2013, 10:04 am

    Thanks for the info and the free language lesson offer. I booked my lesson for tomorrow!

    • Bryan Haines Apr 17, 2013, 10:08 am

      Glad to hear it. I hope you’ll share your feedback after your lesson.

      • Shama Apr 23, 2013, 6:58 pm

        Enjoyed my language lesson! It was very useful. Wishing Michelle all the best!

    • Michelle Apr 17, 2013, 1:56 pm

      I’m glad you found it useful, and enjoy your lesson tomorrow!

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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)
$3.00