Ecuador is an amazing country that is becoming more and more popular with international visitors. With super friendly people, amazingly diverse wildlife and scenery, and a compact size that’s great for travellers with time constraints, it’s no wonder that tourism is starting to boom in Ecuador.
But there’s another great reason to visit Ecuador. It’s also a great place to learn some Spanish before tackling the rest of Central and/or South America. The Ecuadorian accent is one of the most neutral in Latin America, making Ecuador an ideal place to learn Spanish without those little confusing differences in pronunciation that you’ll find in countries such as Chile or Argentina.
Immerse yourself in a Spanish-speaking environment.
If you learn Spanish in Ecuador, you’ll get to immerse yourself in the language. After all, it will be all around you every day. While it’s daunting at first, after hearing Spanish being spoken day-in and day-out, you’ll gradually start to pick up words here and there. You’ll begin to understand the gist of what is being said, simply because of the context in which it is being used.
In addition to that, you’ll also be visually immersed in the language. Whether it’s street signs, billboard advertisements, or flyers handed to you in the street, there’ll be no shortage of Spanish for you to read and absorb.
Immerse yourself in the culture of Ecuador
Language and culture are usually intimately tied together and that’s no exception with Spanish in Ecuador. For example, did you know that Spanish has dedicated verbs for eating breakfast, lunch and dinner?!
A great way to learn Spanish is to travel to different regions and see how the Spanish language is used in different contexts. You might even notice how accents change in big cities versus the countryside. You might also learn some slang that’s common in one area but not another.
Ideally, you’d want to find somewhere to study at each point along the way, with teachers to guide you along the way. Sounds tricky right?
The Travelling Classroom program
Well, it turns out that in Ecuador at least, there’s an easy way of doing this, that is offered by Montañita Spanish School. They call it their Travelling Classroom program.
Montañita Spanish School is headquartered in Montañita, a popular coastal town in Ecuador. They have been voted one of the top five Spanish schools in the world! They’re also the only licensed Spanish school in Montañita.
Recently, Montañita Spanish School invited us to try out part of their Travelling Classroom program. This program lets you study Spanish with qualified teachers in different parts of Ecuador. The program is managed by the school. Along the way, they organise a range of interesting cultural and adventure activities. Those activities give you an insight into the Ecuadorian way of life and are also lots of fun.
Learn Spanish with the Travelling Classroom Program
The school has structured a program that lets you learn Spanish in several different cities and towns in Ecuador. There’s Quito, Ecuador’s capital, Cuenca, a popular city for expats, Manta, next door to the “the poor man’s Galapagos”, Montañita (of course!) and finally the Ecuadorian Amazon.
While in Ecuador, we tried out half of the Travelling Classroom circuit. We spent a week in the Ecuadorian Amazon, followed by a week of the Travelling Classroom program in Montañita. We also spent an extra week doing their traditional Spanish program in Montañita.
How does the Travelling Classroom program work?
The travelling classroom is a circuit that usually starts in Quito and finishes in Montañita. However, depending on your travel requirements, there is quite a bit of flexibility. For example, we met people who began their classroom experience in Montañita rather than Quito.
The travelling classroom experience is a four to twelve-week program. However, most people we met were doing a four-week program with a week in each location.
You may have noticed that there are five locations listed above. That’s because you have the option of either studying in Cuenca or the Amazon as part of the classroom, but not both. Lots of students choose to visit the Amazon (read more about our time there) but Cuenca is also a great city to visit. We didn’t study in Cuenca but we did spend a week there exploring the city and we loved it (see our detailed guide to Cuenca).
What do you do other than learn Spanish?
Studying Spanish is a key component of the Travelling Classroom program but you’ll get up to a lot more as well. The program aims to showcase Ecuador’s amazing wildlife and natural wonders, while also exploring the country’s history and culture.
So, in each destination, Montañita Spanish School organises a range of activities. For example, in Quito, you can take the cable car up the surrounding mountainside. You’ll get amazing views out over the city and can brave the swing at the end of the world! In Manta you’ll visit Isla de la Plata, otherwise known as the “the poor man’s Galapagos”. Plus, much more.
To see some of the activities you’ll get up to, read about our time in the Amazon at Gaia Eco-Lodge as part of the Travelling Classroom. We had a blast.
How are your days structured during the Travelling Classroom?
Generally, you’ll learn Spanish in the morning and have the afternoon for the organised activities or some downtime if you prefer.
For example, in the Amazon, we spent three hours each morning learning Spanish, followed by some downtime and lunch. Then mid-afternoon, we headed off for jungle activities, or stayed back and chilled in a hammock at the lodge.
The amount of time you spend having lessons in the morning varies from place to place. In the Amazon, it was three hours a day but in Quito and Manta, it’s four hours. In Cuenca, you’ll have five hours of lessons. While in Montañita, you’ll have a two-hour class in the morning and another two hours in the afternoon. That lets you take surfing lessons in between!
What’s the experience of doing the Travelling Classroom like?
We can only truly speak about our experiences in Montañita and the Amazon as we didn’t study elsewhere. But we talked to some of our fellow students who did the entire program. That gave us a feel for what the whole experience was like.
For many students, Quito is their first stop in their Travelling Classroom circuit. The group that we met in the Amazon had just come from Quito. Those who were starting with zero Spanish there said that it was quite an intense week.
Spending four hours a day learning any language is a challenge but even more so as a complete beginner; you’ll be trying to absorb a whole lot of new vocabulary and grammar rules. That being said, I was very impressed by the level that these students were at after just one week of Spanish lessons in Quito.
Several of the students we spoke to really enjoyed the activities in Quito, such as the visit to the Cotopaxi National Park, the ride up the cable car and visiting the Middle of the World (the equator line).
In the Amazon, you’ll learn Spanish in incredible surroundings. Our classes at the Gaia Eco Lodge were either upstairs or downstairs in the main communal area. This area is completely open to the surrounding jungle, so you’ll learn Spanish while listening to the wind whistling through the trees, the birds chirping and the monkeys playing nearby.
It’s an incredibly relaxing environment for your Spanish lessons and self-study. You can chill in a hammock on the deck of your cabaña and practice your flashcards.
The Amazon is also a great place for bonding more with your classmates because there are plenty of activities you’ll all be doing together in the jungle. Plus, the lodge is quite isolated so you’ll be spending lots of time together. That being said, it’s easy to get away from everyone for some alone time and self-study if that’s what you’re after.
We didn’t meet any students who’d done Cuenca instead of the Amazon but Cuenca would be a cool city to study Spanish in. There are lots of great bars and restaurants to hang out in, cool street art to discover and its a great city for walking around. Even if you don’t do Cuenca as part of the Travelling Classroom, we recommend checking it out anyway for two or three days. For more information, see our dedicated post on Cuenca.
Manta is a coastal town, further up the coast from Montañita. However, Manta is quite different from Montañita. While Montañita is a party town, Manta is much more laid back and chilled.
Apart from your Spanish lessons, one of the key activities during your time in Manta is a visit to the Isla de la Plata. When we met up in Montañita with our classmates from the Amazon who’d done this activity while in Manta, they raved about it. Some of them had incredible photos of Blue Footed Boobies, Frigate birds and Humpback whales. If you happen to visit (as they did) in whale season, part of the tour includes some whale watching.
As in Quito, in Manta you’ll stay with a host family, giving you another chance to practice you’re Spanish with locals in a variety of scenarios.
Most people doing the Travelling Classroom finish their circuit in Montañita, the home of Montañita Spanish School. Here you’ll be studying Spanish in the main school building, which is just a short five-minute walk from the Montañita Cabañas where you’ll be staying.
We stayed at Montañita Cabañas during our stay and enjoyed it. It’s a nice little quiet (well as quiet as Montañita gets!) oasis to retreat to after class. The other benefit of staying at the cabañas is that the majority of students studying at the school stay there, so it’s a very social environment.
There are plenty of activities included in the Travelling Classroom program in Montañita. While you can also do these activities at Montañita Spanish School outside of the Travelling Classroom program, you’ll be paying extra. In the program, they are included as part of the cost.
Salsa, Yoga, Cooking classes and Surfing!
Activities include salsa or yoga lessons and cooking classes. But the most popular activity in Montañita is the surfing lessons that you do in between your morning and afternoon classes. It’s a whole lot of fun and a great way to give your mind a break from class. I did, however, struggle a bit in afternoon class to stay alert after surfing. But maybe that’s just because I’m getting old!
The Travelling Classroom also includes a surf trip on Saturday, down the coast to another beach. This is also something that’s an extra cost if you’re not doing the Travelling Classroom. We had to leave Montañita a day early and therefore had to miss out on this but other students we talked to said it was a whole lot of fun and a great day out with their classmates.
What’s included in terms of food and accommodation?
Food provisions throughout the Travelling Classroom experience vary depending on the location. For example, in the Amazon, you’ll get full board (three meals a day) because you’re essentially in the jungle, far from the nearest restaurant. In Quito, Cuenca and Manta you get half-board provided by your host family. In Montañita meals aren’t included but never fear, Montañita has a great selection of restaurants as well as plenty of cheap eats.
The accommodation also varies depending on location. In Quito, Cuenca and Manta, you stay with a host family while in the Amazon and Montañita you’ll stay in a shared dorm (with the option to have a private room instead for a small extra cost).
Our final thoughts on the Travelling Classroom
We enjoyed our time in Montañita and our time in the Amazon was one of the highlights of our seven weeks in Ecuador.
The Travelling Classroom is a great way to learn Spanish in different contexts and to learn vocabulary that is relevant to that context. For example, in the Amazon, we learnt the words for “jungle”, “spider!”, “monkey” and many more! But more than that you also get to see more of Ecuador, meet the locals and learn about their customs and traditions.
Learn Spanish while travelling – the best of both worlds
If you don’t have time to travel around Ecuador and spend four weeks in Montañita afterwards, the Travelling Classroom lets you have the best of both worlds. Many students we met were doing the Travelling Classroom in the summer holidays and their time was limited, especially as many also wanted to spend some time in other South American countries such as Peru and Colombia.
The final benefit of the Travelling Classroom is that all of the transfers, activities and accommodation are organised for you by Montañita Spanish School. You just need to arrange your international flight, airport pickup and show up at your first location!
So if you’re looking to learn Spanish in South America, we highly recommend checking out their Travelling Classroom page for more information on itineraries and pricing.
Full disclosure: We were hosted by Montañita Spanish School as part of our Travelling Classroom experience. However, all opinions are our own. We thoroughly enjoyed the experience and think it’s a great idea.