Readers of my books and visitors to my web site have asked me for years to recommend a school in Mexico where they could go to learn Spanish by immersion, at a reasonable cost. While the imprimatur of "Mexico" Mike might not send so many Spanish school students that they would need to hire extra Spanish language teachers, I have developed a reputation for honesty over the past 40 years. If a school that offers Spanish immersion is worthy of a UNESCO award for excellence and its credits are recognized by the Foreign Service Institute in Arlington, VA, I guess I can stick my scrawny neck out and recommend the Spanish Institute of Puebla. If you can invest in yourself for four weeks in Mexico, you can change your life. CD Spanish lessons are one thing. Immersion Spanish is worlds apart.
Students at the Institute
I've always avoided recommending a Spanish language immersion school in Mexico because, frankly, I did not have any evidence that one Spanish language immersion school was any better than another Spanish immersion school. All I knew for a fact was that very few people learned to speak Spanish in San Miguel de Allende, or in any town that has a sizeable gringo population. I do not think that is fair to blame that on the school, since ultimately, the student is responsible for what he or she learns. Still, I think San Miguel is overpriced and not conducive to really learning Spanish. The Spanish Institute of Puebla says to come to them, "If you are serious about learning Spanish ...." That means a lot. This is not a party school. If you want to party, go to Party Vallarta. If you want to learn Spanish, go to Puebla.
Recently, my reluctance to recommend a school to learn Spanish in Mexico was overcome. A consultation client recommended the Spanish Institute of Puebla. A friend of his had gone there and stated that he unequivocally learned the language. This was a guy who was smart enough to ask me about traveling in Mexico in general and he volunteered the recommendation. Now, I am leery of 'personal testimonials' on web sites. Anybody can write one. But the Spanish Institute provides (on request) the names and emails of former students, so there is no question about their authenticity. They arrange home stays, saying this helps to understand the culture of Mexico. This is so true. This appeals to me a lot, since I am currently writing a book about modern Mexican society. Understanding the culture is crucial to appreciating Mexico and to learning the language beyond being able to order from the menu.
I checked this Spanish school out and found the Spanish Institute of Puebla to be responsive, intelligent in their responses and to have excellent credentials. Moreover, I believe that the the Spanish Institute of Puebla location, Puebla, capitol of the state of Puebla, is in their favor. Puebla is a big city, but hardly a tourist mecca (although I like it a lot - the colonial architecture, history and atmosphere make it worth a visit by anyone interested in Mexico's past).
The list of US universities that give credit for completing their courses is incredible. It also includes the Foreign Service Institute in Arlington, VA. I don't think it gets any more professional than that.
Here's just a little of what the Spanish Institute of Puebla says about themselves:
Founded in 1954 with over 20 years experience.
The Spanish Institute of Puebla is a highly regarded Spanish Language School in Mexico. Just received the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) Education 2007 award of Educational Excellence, has been nominated to receive the 2008 Latin American Educational Board Award of Educational Excellence, has been named the best Spanish Immersion program in Mexico by “Language Learning Magazine”, it is recommended by “Let’s Go, Mexico Travel Guide”, by the book “When in Mexico, Do as the Mexicans do”, by the International Herald Tribune newspaper, is the Top-Pick Language School by Student Traveler, received the "Excelsis Award 2006-2007" for Excellence in Education from the New York based Global Quality foundation (only language school to ever receive this award), and more.
Communicative Focus: Our functional approach to language acquisition emphasizes in using Spanish in authentic and diverse circumstances. We have a "communicative" focus, concentrating on verbal interaction in Spanish. This is the reason our program includes two hours daily of individual conversation. The regular classes are dedicated to learning
the structure of the language (comprehension, grammar, reading and writing) and the afternoon classes to using it - the key to really mastering it! Because the conversation portion of the program is one-on-one we can tailor it to meet the needs of the participants (i.e. medical Spanish, business Spanish, legal Spanish courses, Spanish for law enforcement, Spanish for social workers, Spanish for teachers and Administrators, Spanish for ministry, Spanish for travel, etc.).
Housing: We will ask you about your interests and pastimes to find an appropriate stay with a Mexican family. We only place one student per host family, unless requested otherwise (in contrast to most other language programs). We want you to integrate into the family and really live the Mexico Culture. [This appeals to me a lot, since I am currently writing a book about modern Mexican society. Understanding the culture is crucial to appreciating Mexico and to learning the language beyond being able to order from the menu].