by Steve Sutherland
There is no better way to learn Spanish then to spend time studying at a language school in Spain. This way you can learn the technical aspects of the language in an academic setting and reinforce your understanding of it by getting out to meet the people and learn about the culture.
When it comes to choosing a school you should remember that language schools are typically run as businesses and thus aim to maximize profits. Most school owners are smart and realize that the best way to succeed is to offer students amazing value in order to build a solid reputation. However, there are also school owners who will try to squeeze as much money as they can out of a school by skimping on what they provide to their students.
The language school market in Spain is fairly competitive and endless options are available to prospective students. There are the large chains like Enforex, Don Quijote and Babylon Idiomas as well as numerous small independent schools.
With the market being so crowded, how can you find out which schools are reliable and which ones are to be avoided? You will undoubtedly be spending a fair bit of money to go abroad and study so its worth doing a little research to ensure that you make a good decision. Below I have outlined three different ways that you can check out Spanish schools in advance, even before you set foot in Spain.
The best way to find out about a schools track record is to hear what some of their past students have to say about them. If you don't have any friends or connections to give you a personal recommendation then you can jump online and start searching for reviews and complaints. There are many sites where students can review language schools although it is hard to take these reviews too seriously as they could be biased or false.
Some schools push their students to write reviews and testimonials, for their own marketing materials as well as on various independent websites. If your desired school has had complaints posted online this should raise red flags and you should address these issues directly with the registrar before you enroll. However I wouldn't let a lack of good online reviews deter you from enrolling in a school that otherwise looked great.
Another way of separating the more established and reputable Spanish schools from the pack is to check to see if they are members of any associations. For Spain you will want to check out the FEDELE website. FEDELE is a federation of six smaller associations in Spain and it includes around 90 schools altogether. To be accredited by FEDELE schools have to comply to a high set of standards relating to their teaching standards, facilities, accommodation and other areas. Member schools are regularly inspected and students are able to lodge any complaints that they have directly with FEDELE.
Association membership does, to some extent, give students a 'quality guarantee' that removes some of the risk that they take on when they enroll at 'any old school'.
Every year there is a series of awards given out to the best language schools in the world. This ceremony is held in London and hosted by Hot House Media, the publishers of Study Travel Magazine. They have a Spanish category and there are usually five or six nominees as well as one winner. Click here to check out the latest winners as well as past winners.
The nominees and winners are determined by votes from the magazine's readers around the world. The magazine is mostly read by language travel agents that book students into language schools. These agents have a pretty good idea of which schools are performing at the top of their game in terms of quality teaching, good management and student satisfaction.
By booking a course with one of the nominees or winners of this award you could rest assured that you would be enrolling with one of Spain's best schools.
Steve Sutherland provides a free PDF guide for prospective language school students at LanguageSchoolSecrets.com. He has many years of experience in the language travel industry and has compiled a selection of tips on how you can choose the best school for your needs and how to save money on your booking.