I had two reasons for visiting Costa Rica – San Jose was the cheapest place to fly to in Central America and I heard that Costa Rica was a fantastic place to learn Spanish.
I had also heard that Costa Rica was really, really expensive. This tidbit was confirmed when I began researching Spanish schools and found that many were charging upwards of $500-800 per week while schools in Nicaragua and Guatemala were charging only a third of that. I was nearly giving up hope of visiting Costa Rica – if schools were that expensive then I obviously wasn’t going to save money by flying in to Costa Rica.
Then, somehow, I discovered Montana Linda Spanish School in Orosi. Whether this was just a lucky Google search or it was on one of the many Spanish school databases, I could not say. Either way, it was a lucky discovery.
Montana Linda is located in the Orosi Valley of Costa Rica, about two hours by bus and one by car from San Jose. It’s a small, quaint town – there’s really only one main street that holds everything you could possibly want and a handful of delicious restaurants and sodas. The nearest city is Cartago – basically a miniature San Jose home to nearly every fast food restaurant, doctors, and all the other essentials you can’t find in the small town but with little else. There’s no rainforest or beach in Orosi as it’s completely surrounded by mountains but man, Orosi is worth a visit.
But, I’ll post more about my adoration for Orosi later…on to Montana Linda…
Somehow, Montana Linda offers Spanish classes at a third of what most other schools do. For a little less than $200 a week, you get 5 3-hour Spanish classes and accommodation at the Montana Linda hostel, though there are also homestay and guest house options available. Unlike most other Spanish schools, all classes are one-on-one unless you are traveling as a group or with a couple. This, I think, is the best part of Montana Linda. Additionally, you are given a workbook/textbook with hundreds of pages of grammar and vocabulary.
I had booked two weeks of classes at Montana Linda and went with the hostel option. I arrived a few days before my classes started but I was still able to pick up my textbook and get a head start on studying. By the time my first class rolled around on Sunday, I was both confident in what I knew and overwhelmed by what I didn’t know.
Luckily, I got placed with what I consider the best teacher at Montana Linda, Margarita. I was grateful to discover that she spoke English fairly well – while I know others argue that it’s not necessary to use English when learning another language, I can’t imagine learning the various verb tenses without having them explained in English. When I was told “you use this when you would say could have…”, I understood so much better.
If there was one complaint I heard from other students during my time at Montana Linda, it was that the other teachers didn’t speak much (if any) English and were therefore unable to explain tenses in a similar fashion.
Though I had taken 3 years of Spanish in high school, I considered myself a complete beginner. Cyber-school made it far to easy to complete homework without learning anything and it had been several years since I actually attempted to speak anything. Therefore, I was content to start at the beginning of the book, even though the first few sections were definitely a review. When I was unsure of something, Margarita took the time to stop and explain and when I already knew the information, we buzzed right past.
My favorite thing about the classes was the diversity. We’d start the class by reviewing the vocabulary she had given me as homework the night before and go over any sentences I had wrote the night before (I learn best by writing, surprise) before moving on to new information. About half of the class was spent learning new information and working on exercises (usually translating sentences related to the topic. Then, we’d switch to conversation or a game. It was a great combination as I learned something new every day, got to apply the information, and never got bored with the class.
I also have to give Margarita credit for not losing patience when I managed to forget things I’d known in the beginning as I made room for new info.
By the beginning of my second week, I couldn’t imagine leaving so I quickly asked to stay another week.
Though I am far from fluent, mostly due to my hesitation to actually speak in public, I learned more than I imagined during my 3 weeks at Montana Linda. For less than $600, it was the best investment I made in my trip. I would happily return for a few more weeks of class.
If you’re looking for a budget-friendly Spanish option in Costa Rica (or anywhere in Central America), Montana Linda is where it’s at.
You can learn more about Montana Linda on their website.
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