If you can get a head start learning Spanish before you come to Ecuador, even better. If not, don’t worry: you’ve come to the right place to start learning. Bear in mind however that the Spanish spoken along the coast, especially in Guayaquil, is more difficult to understand than in the highlands.
If practice is what you’re looking for, it’s a good idea to think about arranging an intercambio. This is an arrangement whereby you regularly meet a Spanish speaker looking to improve their English, speaking for equal periods in each language and helping each other with both. Try posting in our Ecuador community forums to find someone to practice with.
You could also consider a homestay with an Ecuadorian family. This is one of the best ways to learn, as you’ll be totally immersed. If you can, look for a family that little or no English so you’re forced to learn fast. Try websites like HomestayBooking or AirbnB. If you’re sharing a flat, use your flatmates to practice Spanish - you’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll be able to have even a basic conversation with them.
Quito has the lion’s share of Spanish schools in the country and is where you’ll get most for your money. Outside the capital, Cuenca is also something of a hub for Spanish learners owing to its popularity among tourists and expats. Here are some of the best regarded language schools around the country:
Amazonas Spanish School, Quito (tel. 02/2504-654; www.eduamazonas.com). An academy with a host of very experienced teachers that puts an emphasis on language learning combined with travel and homestays around the country, which they can arrange.
Bipo & Toni's, Quito (tel. 02/2556-614 or 02/2500-732; www.bipo.net). A Spanish academy with small-group and private classes.
Simón Bolívar, Quito (tel. 02/2234-708; www.simon-bolivar.com) is rated very highly by former students. They also have a school in Cuenca, on the Pacific coast and offer week-long learning excursions to the Amazon.
Estudio Sampere, Cuenca (tel. 07 282-3960; www.sampere.com) is busy and popular. It’s got a friendly atmosphere and all teachers are Ecuadorian native speakers.
Sí Centro de Español e Inglés, Cuenca (07 282-0429; www.sicentrospanishschool.com). Well established school on one of Cuenca’s prettiest streets. They have another centre in Baños.
Not too many language schools offer Kichwa, though EIL in Quito (eilecuador.org, tel. 2551937) provide one-to-one classes and homestays with Kichwa speaking families.