In general the following distinction in programs offered by language schools can be made:
- Intensive Group Courses
- Part-time Group Courses
- One-on-one Courses
- Study and Travel programs
First you need to decide what your aim is when learning Spanish. Do you want to obtain a basic level of understanding and speaking or do you intend to continue studying at a Spanish spoken university? Maybe you want to learn Spanish to do business in Spanish. Most language schools, universities and private teachers in Costa Rica have their specialities and offer special courses to reach your objectives. Many language courses in Costa Rica are also offered in combination with (eco) tourism, culinary courses, as well as in combination with work/ professional visits in the health sector or in business.
Another issue to take into consideration is the different levels on offer. If you already have a basic knowledge of Spanish you might prefer a more advanced course. If you have little or no previous knowledge, you may learn more or be more comfortable with fellow students at the same level. Some language schools also offer specialised language courses for specific professions, such as medical care.
When choosing group courses, look at the class size, as there can be large differences between language schools. Small groups tend to make more progress than larger groups. Starting dates vary per language school and program. Universities tend to offer less starting dates than language schools.
The average age of classes might also affect your choice. Several language schools set up their classes according to the age of their students. If you prefer to study with people of your own age group, ask about the average age of the class(es). Also, take into account the nationalities of your fellow students. You might want to study at an institution where little or none of your compatriots study or prefer a language school with a large community of students from your home country.
The prices charged for studying at a language school dependent on many variable; intensity, group size, reputation, city, location within city, extra facilities, housing, etc. Don’t forget that registration fees and costs for materials are also normally charged as extras (ask in advance if there are other charges). International language school networks tend to charge in US$, whereas a Costa Rican school may charge in local currency and you may pay less.
Students participating in a student exchange program often have the opportunity to receive student credits and/or a scholarship from their home institution when taking a language course prior to the start of their classes at their guest institution. Other students come down to Costa Rica just to study Spanish and receive credits directly at their institution back home. Not every language school qualifies for university credits or a scholarship, so make you ask at your home institutions for the exact requirements in advance.
If you prefer one-on-one classes but do not have the budget for it, or just want extra practice, you should consider looking for ads in newspapers, at message boards at universities, but also at calling centres and internet cafés. Also consider posting a message at the Language Forum here at Just Landed for language exchange.