Studying Spanish in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

After spending some time in Cancun, it was time to take the short journey southward to Playa del Carmen.  Locals usually shorten the name of this coastal city to simply Playa, which makes one thing clear from the start – this town is all about the beach!  The main drag, Avenida 5 runs parallel to the beach and seems to be an endless stretch of restaurants, bars, and shops. The shops and stalls sell everything from sunglasses and beach towels to Mayan-inspired wood carvings and tourist trinkets.  The avenue is packed with hawkers and tourists from sunrise until the bars and clubs start to pick up around 11pm.  Don’t expect the wild, Spring Break craziness of the resort hotels in Cancun though, Playa gives off a decidedly classier vibe.  But that’s not to say the parties are hard to find in Playa. This is where Latin Americans come come to party. The club zone has at least 5 massive venues with open air dance floors and thumping tunes.

But remember, friends – I’m not here to party (well, maybe a little) – I’m here to learn Spanish!  Ever since my article for Student Traveler Magazine about studying Spanish in Spain, I knew that the only way to really learn a langue is with a full immersion, intensive course. So, when International House in Playa del Carmen invited me down to check out their classes, I jumped at the chance to extend my stay in Mexico.

I started my classes this week, and we’re off to a great start!

You never realize just how reassuring it is to have someone smiling and nodding at you until you’re fumbling your way through the mire of an unfamiliar language. 

I was admittedly nervous to start class.  With the exception of my TEFL Certification, it’s been a long time since I was last in school – and an even longer time since I studied Spanish!  I was afraid I’d say something wrong and make myself look stupid. I was afraid that I just wouldn’t be good at learning Spanish.  But I put my silly fears behind me and walked boldly into class.

Right off the bat, I was given a quick entrance exam to determine what level of Spanish class would suit me best.  It was a simple, multiple choice test, with questions that got progressively more difficult.  But before I could finish, Rocío Delmot, the head of the Spanish department at IH pulled me away to have a quick chat in Spanish.  I stumbled over most of my words, but she was kind and made me feel comfortable and managed to coax a few coherent sentences out of me. Rocio is a master of the smile-and-nod. You never realize just how reassuring it is to have someone smiling and nodding at you until you’re fumbling your way through the mire of an unfamiliar language.

She told me that I didn’t need to complete the test and she could tell what level to put me in. I was a beginner, obviously, but not a complete beginner.  I was placed with a small group of students who I believe were in their second week of intensive Spanish.  The classes are always small, usually only 5 or 6 students, which gives you ample one-on-one time with your teacher, and the teachers are always fully trained locals.

The lesson on the first day consisted of learning words and phrases for shopping, and then practicing usage by role playing with the other students.  After class, I put my new verbal skills to use to successfully buy a new pair of sun glasses (lentes del sol) from a vendor down the road.

All in all, I really enjoyed my first day of Spanish Lessons!  It was fun to be reminded that there is still so much to learn in this world, and that if you’re not afraid to make a mistake or look silly, you just might learn something!

If you’re interested in learning Spanish in Mexico, you can check out International House in Playa del Carmen here.  

Stay tuned for my next post about what IH has to offer!

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