Learning Spanish in Peru has been one of my favourite adventures, so far, and one that has broadened my mind in the most expansive and interesting way.
I think of language as a way to organize the loose conceptual thoughts I hold in my mind. The words are a way to categorize thoughts and the sentences and paragraphs string those words together to express more complicated concepts.
By learning Spanish as my second language and studying language through a 4 week TEFL course in Peru, I feel as if I have given myself new tools by which to think and formulate the world around me.
There are countless benefits to learning a second language (as we will discuss).
But it can be hard to know which language to learn and where. There are roughly 6,500 languages that exist worldwide and Spanish is officially spoken in more than 20 countries with 121 million native speakers.
So why learn Spanish in Peru?
Spanish is Easy to Understand in Peru
Spanish has various forms and is expressed with different accents depending on where you are.
In Spain, for example, they have a whole new subject pronoun “vosotros”, use different words, speak fast and with an accent which can be hard to understand at times.
In Argentina, they speak even faster.
Chile is informally known as the worst place to learn or speak Spanish because their accent is insanely strong, they speak ridiculously fast and they cut the end off of their words. I’ve been told from multiple native Spanish speakers in Peru, that even they struggle to understand people from Chile.
In Peru however, people speak relatively slowly and clearly and they have an accent which is song-like and doesn’t get in the way of your comprehension.
Peruvian Spanish is also relatively ‘by the book’. Although there are some slang words and small differences, if you study or have studied Latin American Spanish or even European Spanish, you will be able to understand and learn relatively easily.
Immersion has been proven to be one of the most effective techniques for learning a language both quickly and profoundly. Language affects all of your senses. It’s not just written or heard or spoken, it’s experienced viscerally. Language can be felt. It is the tool we all use to express our innermost desires and our deepest of thoughts.
Living in Peru or staying in Peru for an extended amount of time is going to allow you to become completely immersed in Spanish. You will be surrounded by it, encompassed by it, you won’t be able to avoid it.
There are not actually many people in Peru who speak English. If you go even slightly off the beaten track and out of the tourism industry, it will be obvious to you. Even people working in tourism often don’t speak very good English.
When you order a coffee you will have to order in Spanish, when you hear the buskers on the street they will sing in Spanish, the annoying lady on the street who wants you to eat at her restaurant will always annoy you in Spanish.
This is an advantage to you, as it will make learning Spanish a necessity. If you are staying here for a while, you will get frustrated with your lack of understanding and ability to connect with locals. Therefore you will have extra motivation and the persistence to learn Spanish to at least a conversational level.
Extra tips to get immersed in Spanish even before you arrive in Peru;
- Listen to a Spanish learning podcast. There is a great one by DuoLingo.
- Watch a movie or series in Spanish with subtitles in English. The Netflix show Narcos is great for this because there are parts both in English and Spanish.
- Put post-it notes around your house labelling things in Spanish.
- Talk to a Spanish speaking friend if you can.
- Listen to music in Spanish. My suggestion would be “Me Gustas Tu”. The chorus will get stuck in your head and it will help you to understand the reflexives in Spanish.
You Will Make Memories in Spanish
Peru being a fascinating and naturally diverse country, you will inevitably make some incredible memories here that you will never forget.
And a lot of those memories will exist and be stuck in your mind, in Spanish. And that alone is a very powerful tool to learn words and phrases that you will never forget.
Perhaps you are canoeing down the Amazon River in Iquitos and your tour guide suddenly yells, “pajaros, pajaros” and you have no idea what “pajaros” means. But as you look up, you see a flock of beautifully coloured birds flying across the dense Amazonian jungle.
And that word “pajaros” is forever etched into your mind to mean “birds”.
Enhance Your Travel Experience in Peru
I have a personal rule when I travel. Always try to learn at least a few basic phrases in the local language of the country you are going to visit.
And this rule has always enhanced my adventures and made them more memorable because I was able to connect more easily with people.
You will find that learning Spanish in Peru will open you up to a whole new world of experiences and possibilities that you didn’t have before.
You could stay in a local Peruvian home and get to know them well, you could get to know the porter who’s carrying your luggage on the trek to Machu Picchu, maybe you could even try flirting with a local girl. Just make sure to use the right words, amigo.
Out of all the Spanish speaking countries, Peru is one of the most affordable. It’s not hard to live very cheaply here (especially if you’re frugal), and you can find very high-quality Spanish schools which offer great programs at a decent price.
Studying at a local school is also a perfect way to meet new people and get further immersed into the local culture and therefore the language.
I’ve been studying for over 6 months at Llama Education in Arequipa and I would highly recommend them.
Learning Spanish in Peru has given me a unique and profound insight into the culture and people of Peru.
I believe that language is inextricably linked to culture and holds the greatest insights into the collective consciousness of its people, the depth of its history and a window into where it’s headed.
“Language is the blood of the soul into which thoughts run, and out of which they grow.”Oliver Wendell Holmes