Good Language Classes…

Good Language Classes …

As an “English as a second language” teacher I have learned that not all language classes are created equally. Use the following questions to guide you as you choose your language school:

1. Is the methodology communicative? Back to Study Spanish in Mexico

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Click here to see a description of a practical, funny e-book prepared by the author of this website.

2. During the language classes, who talks more, the students or teachers? (You want the answer to be that the students talk more because they are the ones who need the practice).

3. How long has the school been in operation? (Go for a school with more than 3 years of experience, more if possible. Everybody and his uncle opens a language school in Cuernavaca and they rarely know what it takes to make a business work — let alone know anything about education.)

4. Does the text-book include example dialogs? (You want the answer to this to be “yes” because you will use these as models during class practice and out in the community when the situations are similar.)

5. Does the text-book include readings? (You want the answer to this to be “yes.” See the description of Krashen’s input theory.) Krashen’s Input Hypothesis and Language Classes

6. Does the text-book focus on grammatical explanations? (You want the answer to this to be “no.” As stated in #4 and #5 above you want the focus of your language classes to be on listening and reading input – as well as in-class practice.)

7. What are the teachers’ credentials? (In Mexico, teachers of language classes don’t have to have a masters degree like they do back home. This is ok. For example, I teach and have a bachelors of Science in another field. At the same time, you do want your teachers to be well prepared for what they do. So, ask this question, but take the answer with a grain of salt. When you study Spanish in Mexico, you have to adapt somewhat to the norms of Mexico.)

8. Is the text-book created by a reputable publisher? (Some schools advertise their own text books. These are often prepared by people who don’t know much about language learning and are just a collection of grammar exercises.)

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Read in Spanish

So, you’ve spent time and money to study Spanish in Mexico.
Now you need to read in Spanish.

If you Study Spanish in Mexico as part of your decision-making process, what can you do to make sure you don’t forget everything you’ve learned? Read in Spanish. It’s that simple.

Stephen Krashen (University of Southern California) tells us that we must read in Spanish. His Input Hypothesis (now called the Comprehension Hypothesis) states that second language acquisition is driven by understanding what we read or listen to. What does this mean to you as you try to learn Spanish? It means that if you read Spanish books and articles that are relatively easy for you to understand, you are learning Spanish grammar and vocabulary – effortlessly.

Krashen’s hypothesis tells us why we should read in Spanish . (Be sure to click on the link that says “comprehensible input.”)

You can read about the hypothesis in Krashen’s own words at

Search online using the keywords “graded Spanish readers” to find books at your level. There are many readers listed at,though I haven’t purchased these books, their descriptions make them seem just like the English versions that I have worked with.

Read in Spanish. This is the easiest and most pleasant way to keep up your level before you can work or retire in Mexico.

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Prepare Myself to Live or Retire in Mexico

Q: How Should I Prepare Myself to Live or Retire in Mexico?A: Study Spanish in Mexico.

So you think you want to live or retire in Mexico? Are you an experienced international traveler?

You don’t have to be!

Besides learning to speak Spanish – an invaluable skill if you are to live or retire in Mexico – Studying Spanish in Mexico does you the double favor of helping you to get to know a particular area.

On the page titled “Should I Study Spanish in Mexico?” (where you were before you clicked into this page), I talk a lot about the need for and benefits of speaking Spanish when you live or retire in Mexico. I center this around the necessity of being an active, communicating part of your new community.

“Researching” Before you Live or Retire in Mexico Doesn’t Have to Be Stressful

There is another very important benefit to attending a Spanish language school. It helps you to “break into” a whole new country in a way that keeps the adventure meter from blasting up into the red (i.e. it limits your stress).

Most people in the U.S. and Canada haven’t traveled extensively – particularly not internationally, so getting to know Mexico can feel particularly overwhelming to the average person. This is normal and is no reason for you not to challenge yourself to live or retire in Mexico. You just need to ease yourself into Mexico in a way that feels comfortable to you.

Author and expatriate Douglas Bower, shares how and why studying Spanish is an important step to take previous to making final plans to live or retire in Mexico:

Mexican Living: So You Want To Expatriate? By Douglas Bower

Expatriate wannebees often ask us how we managed our expatriation to Guanajuato, Mexico. They want to know how we overcame the seemingly overwhelming logistics of deciding where to live, if it’s affordable, if there is reasonable medical care, how to find housing, can Americans find work, what about visas, and will the culture shock be too great to handle?

All of these questions are legitimate and answers are obtainable if you are willing to do the homework. If I had to narrow it down to two things that are the most important in your quest to expatriate to Mexico, I would say this: research and make an exploratory visit to the city of your choice.

First, take all the time you need to research the city or cites which you are considering. Read everything you can get your hands on–and more–about the regions in which you might be interested. The second thing is that, once you’ve narrowed your options down to the cities that most interest you, visit as many as you can afford.

This last suggestion, we have found, intimidates many with whom we’ve spoken about their expatriating dreams. If they aren’t well traveled, fluent in the language, or gutsy enough, this thought is a little overwhelming. We found ourselves in the same boat when we reached the point of research overload and it was time to go and have a look around. We were scared but determined.

What we decided to do is what we highly recommend to potential expats–go to language school. This is the perfect way in which to experience the culture, learn some of the language, and see what the country is really like in a safe and controlled environment in the city in which you may want live.

Attending a language school and staying with a local family, in the cities you are considering as your new home, will have the following advantages:

1) You will get “three hots and a cot.”

2) You will stay with a family, carefully screened by most reputable schools, who knows the city from the inside out.

3) You will have the support of the local family and school in case you get into a jam.

4) You will be able to see and experience genuine Mexican living in a worry-free environment.

You will get “three hots and a cot”. We made our exploratory trip to Guanajuato in February, 2003. In the school we attended, we arranged for a home stay with a local family. We had fine accommodations with an upper middle-class family. The family maid took care of cleaning our room and making the bed just as in a hotel.

In some cases, you can get them to do your laundry–for a small tip. All of our meals were provided so we didn’t have to worry about finding restaurants three times a day. You have the option of eating out if you warn the host family ahead of time. The point is that all the arrangements for your needs are made through the school before you arrive. Most schools arrange to have you picked up at the airport when you arrive.

This is, in my opinion, a worry-free proposition. All we had to do is show up at the Guanajuato airport and there was someone to take care of us in a country we knew little about and with our having little to no travel abroad experience. You will stay with a family, carefully screened by most reputable schools, who knows the city from the inside out. This is the perfect setup! If you are thinking of expatriating to Mexico, what better situation can you find but to be in the care of a Mexican family who knows the city–where to find a place to live, how to set up your utilities, which banks are the best, all the bus routes, moving services, handymen, maids to hire, etc. You can’t beat this!

We stayed with a host family when we came to language school in which the man was an influential lawyer in Guanajuato who knew everyone and anything you could conceive of needing in your expatriating adventure. This was perfect for us and this could work for you too. Networking with the locals is what will smooth your way in your desire to expatriate.

You will have the support of the local family and school in case you get into a jam. I was a nervous ninny at the thought of just booking a hotel and showing up in Guanajuato to do our exploratory mission. I mean, what did I know about traveling or living abroad? Nothing! So having this support system set up through a local language school who found us a wonderful family with whom to stay solved my anxiety.

You will be able to see and experience genuine Mexican living in a worry-free environment. What better way to see what life is like in Mexico but to live with a Mexican family? You have virtually all your needs to taken care of, freeing you to explore with almost nothing to worry about. It truly was the most relaxing trip we’ve ever taken.

A final tip is to be sure and write some former students, listed on the school’s web sites, to see what their experiences were at the school. Get a consensus, if you can, from the former students. We did this and were surprised that some listed on the reference page of the school’s web sites were honest enough to mention deficiencies.

Check out the web site,, to get you started.

A good search-engine term to use to find additional sites is “Spanish schools Mexico”. Type that in the search term box of any Internet Search Engine.

Doug Bower is a freelance writer and book author. His most recent writing credits include The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Houston Chronicle, and The Philadelphia Inquirer, and Transitions Abroad. He lives with his wife in Guanajuato, Mexico.

His new book, Mexican Living: Blogging it from a Third World Country, can be seen at

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Mr. Bower’s personal experience is invaluable, not only as a “how to” type guide, but also to affirm any doubts you may have. Just because you think you want to live or retire in Mexico doesn’t mean that you are an expert in being in Mexico. It’s ok to get to know Mexico by taking small, comfortable steps.

You Don’t Have to Suffer to Ready Yourself to Live or Retire in Mexico


Before you study Spanish in Mexico, read this humorous, practical e-book.

What better way to do this than under the wing of a Mexican family? Before you live or retire in Mexico, your goal is to GET A FEEL FOR THE AREA, LEARN ABOUT MEXICAN CULTURE, and LEARN SOME SPANISH, not focus on making hotel reservations, finding restaurants that won’t make you sick, figuring out every minute detail of where to go and how to get there, etc., etc. There is no reason to be a martyr and handle the uncertainty of not knowing how or where to find a doctor, which taxi company to call, etc. when you could relax in the knowledge that the staff at the Spanish language school and the host family can give you this information if needed.

When you let the Spanish language school make arrangements for you and you live with a host family, you have a built-in network that will make getting around much simpler. You can’t underestimate the value of a network in Mexico, either, because they are more important here than back home. People who wouldn’t normally reach out to help you, will be much more willing because of their relationships to your host family.

Practice Makes Perfect Before You Live or Retire in Mexico

Another advantage of living with a host family before you live or retire in Mexico that Mr. Bower doesn’t mention is that it gives you a chance to listen to and practice the very Spanish you are studying. If you just hang out with your English speaking companions, guess what language you will end up speaking?

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