In October 2016 I spent two and a half weeks studying Spanish at AIL Madrid. Overall it was a great experience and I highly recommend the school.

Why Madrid?

Gran Vía, Madrid

Gran Vía, Madrid

I chose Madrid since standard Castilian Spanish is spoken there with a clear accent, unlike in Seville, for example. There are also no regional languages to contend with, such as in Barcelona. Madrid is a little more expensive than other parts of Spain, but overall I found prices for school fees, food, and accommodation to be very reasonable.

Madrid ended up being a great choice. Despite being a big city, I found its inhabitants to be extremely kind and welcoming. It was easy to connect with locals and practice my Spanish. Madrid is famous for its night life and you could attend a different intercambio or social gathering via Meetup every night of the week. Read More


Fly to Madrid from USMadrid
Madrid - 2 1/2 weeks of language studyMadrid
1AVE to CórdobaCórdoba
4Bus to GranadaGranada
7Train to RondaRonda
10Bus to SevillaSevilla
14AVE to MadridMadrid
15Flight back to US
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Spanish podcasts are an important part of my language learning. I listen at the gym, while out walking, and in the car. Podcasts are also a great way to pass downtime when traveling.

These are for intermediate and advanced learners, but beginner levels for the first four language learning podcasts are also available. All are available for free.

I normally listen on my Android phone using the excellent podcast app Pocket Casts. It’s not free but well worth US$3.99 since I’ve used it daily for years.

1. LightSpeed Spanish – Advanced

Lightspeed Spanish Advanced PodcastWitty discussions about fascinating aspects of Spanish culture and interviews with native speakers in nicely bite-sized 10-minute episodes. Hosted by a British/Spanish couple with great conversational chemistry. Gordon, the British half of the duo, speaks inspiringly fluent Spanish. The speech is generally at less than native speed but the frequently hilarious content and advanced vocabulary more than make up for it. The discussions on Spanish insults are particularly fun. Videos of each episode are also available.

Accents: European Spanish Read More

Mexican Spanish is my favorite Latin American variant of the language. For me, it’s the clearest and easiest to understand. I also love the Mexican culture and its people.

Mexican cinema is internationally celebrated and a great way to improve your Spanish. If you are an intermediate or advanced learner, I recommend watching with Spanish subtitles as studies have shown it enhances language learning. I also note down any interesting new vocabulary and add it to my Anki flashcards later.

I’ve sifted through a lot of mediocre films to bring you my recommendations for the best Mexican movies streaming on US Netflix as of February 21, 2017. Watch them while you can, because content disappears as licensing agreements expire.

1.  Desierto (2015)

Tense survival thriller about a group of illegal border crossers hunted by a deranged Confederate-flag waving vigilante. Eerily relevant in today’s political climate.

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In summer 2016 I spent 11 days in the highlands of Ecuador visiting Quito, Otavalo, and Cuenca.


1Flight to Quito via BogotáQuito
3Bus to OtavaloOtavalo
4Bus to QuitoQuito
7Flight to CuencaCuenca
11Flight to Quito, then flight back to US
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