At the beginning of 2010, I received an invitation from the Peace Corps to serve as an Economic Development Facilitator in Costa Rica. I was absolutely thrilled! I knew that this was going to be one of the best experiences in my life, and it effectively was. One of the most precious parts of my experience was being able to volunteer abroad and dedicate a part of my life towards helping others. But one of the most useful accomplishments of my service was being able to become fluent in Spanish in 3 months with limited effort.
When my friends and family came to visit me in Costa Rica, they were amazed by how quickly and well I had learned Spanish. It had only been a matter of months since we last saw each other yet I was already speaking like a native! The reason why I and other volunteers became fluent in Spanish so quickly was because of the Spanish immersion process that the Peace Corps put us through.
Before swearing in, aspiring volunteers must go through the pre-service training (PST) which, in addition to teaching participants about the Peace Corps’ goals and related matters, was also very focused on teaching students how to speak Spanish through cultural and language immersion. In fact, the Peace Corps’ PST is one of the world’s most revered language programs.
Spanish immersion and eventual fluency were achieved by using three principal teaching methods:
1. Deep cultural immersion: We all lived in homestays with adoptive Tico (local expression for Costa Rican) families that treated us like one of their own. Most Tico families dragged volunteers around the country and only spoke in Spanish! Also, we received a very modest stipend (even the Ticos were surprised to hear how little we were getting paid) and we were forced to live like the locals. As such, community neighbors would open up to us more easily and speak to us in Spanish. Essentially, we had to speak Spanish all day long, from the moment breakfast was served until we wished our host families “buenas noches”. This immersion was a critical factor because it forced volunteers to practice and reinforce all classroom lessons learned before.
2. Language classes: Three days a week, we received about 7 hours of Spanish. The classes were on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, which was great because classes were well spread out through out the week instead of being lumped towards the beginning or end of the week and leaving long 3- to 4-day long chunks of no Spanish learning. Also, our classes were taught by fabulous teachers who were trained in teaching Spanish as a foreign language.
3. Language activities: We were regularly given assignments in and outside of the classroom that would require us to interact in Spanish with community members or our Tico family. Some of these language activities included interviewing community members about their businesses, asking our Tico families help in completing their genealogy trees, or filming short movies based on local folklore stories where students would be the main actors.
Here is a short film that my Peace Corps group and I filmed, reenacting the folkloric tale of the Cadejos! Enjoy!
Once we were sworn in, we spent the rest of our services interacting and working exclusively in Spanish with community members and community leaders. All volunteers finished their services with fluent to native-level fluency in Spanish.
We created Spanish Language Bootcamp because we want to offer students the possibility to learn Spanish the same way that a Peace Corps volunteer does: through Spanish immersion! Spanish language schools and programs are great, but being able to combine program classes with a guided immersion experience is absolutely golden.
In Spanish Language Bootcamp, students live in a remote tropical community (close to major animal-packed natural reserves and national rainforests, but far from tourists, ex-pats, and bilingual natives who want to speak in English with you) where they receive training borrowed from the Peace Corps’ teaching method, using the three teaching pillars mentioned previously (Deep cultural immersion, Spanish classes, and Language activities). Students will live in a homestay, participate in fun language activities that come with Spanish language assignments (nature hikes in Spanish, Spanish dance classes, Business consulting in Spanish, and over 15 more), and receive a minimum of 20 hours of Spanish a week.
Spanish Language Bootcamp’s Spanish immersion program is highly effective and offered by the week. It is recommended that students stay for at least 4 weeks if they want to come back home with a significant stride towards Spanish fluency. 3 months will nearly guarantee full fluency in Spanish.
Our prices are very reasonable because the Spanish Language Bootcamp is located in a rural town where things don’t cost as much. Additionally, most of the proceeds remain with the different host families and instructors who will be helping you in your journey to fluency.
If you have any additional questions regarding my experience in the Peace Corps in Costa Rica, please write. If you would like to learn more about Spanish Language Bootcamp’s program, please visit our website or write!