Escuela Falcon Spanish school in Guanajuato, Mexico is a welcoming and warm place to study Spanish. In March 2016 I spent four weeks learning Spanish there. I had been doing online lessons and self-study to brush up my rusty language skills but wanted to do an immersion in a Spanish-speaking country.
In February and March 2017 I returned for three weeks, taking a mix of private and group classes. I enjoyed my second experience, making new friends and reconnecting with old ones.
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I spent some time debating what country I wanted to study Spanish in. I considered Colombia since it’s famed for its beautiful, clear Spanish. However, I couldn’t find any language schools there that truly impressed me.
I also seriously considered Guatemala. Guatemala has a lot of schools with a great reputation, costs are much lower than Mexico, and classes are one-on-one, which I prefer. I still plan to study Spanish in Guatemala at some point, but on this trip I chose Mexico since I wanted to visit the colonial cities of the northern central highlands.
As a fifteen-year-old, I spent a summer on a language exchange in Veracruz and fell in love with Mexico. To me, Mexican Spanish sounds the most clear and natural and is the easiest for me to understand, since I’ve traveled to Mexico multiple times and most of the Spanish-language media I consume is produced there. I also love the colorful Mexican slang and expressions. ¡Órale, güey!
Choosing a School
I did an Internet search for Spanish schools in Mexico and browsed recommendations in forums, noting school names. Next, I searched for reviews for each school to ensure it was still in business and get perspectives from former students. A couple of Mexican schools had rave reviews on TripAdvisor: Escuela Falcon in Guanajuato and Spanish Institute of Puebla. Both Guanajuato and Puebla appealed to me as places to study Spanish.
SI Puebla operates on a three-week schedule with its group classes and also strongly recommends six hours of instruction a day, with four hours of classroom instruction in the morning and two hours of conversation in the afternoons. The three-week schedule did not fit my plans since I wanted to take four weeks, and I was concerned six hours of class a day might be too many. I chose Escuela Falcon with four hours of class a day which ended up being perfect for me: enough to keep me challenged and busy but not overwhelmed.
As a nice side benefit, Escuela Falcon was also the least expensive by far of the schools I considered, although this was not a major factor in my decision.
Update: I visited Spanish Institute of Puebla later while passing through the city after my studies in Guanajuato. Coincidentally, the school’s director was also my Airbnb host. He graciously showed me around the institute and I was really impressed by the philosophy of the school. It’s a very serious, focused place to study Spanish, which appeals to me. I could see that six hours of instruction might not be too much since two hours are unstructured conversation classes in the afternoons. Puebla is a beautiful, fascinating city and I’d love to spend more time there.
I also got a tour of Baden-Powell Institute while in Morelia and really liked it. Morelia is a lovely place with few foreigners and a great place to study Spanish. Both SI Puebla and Baden-Powell are on my list of possible future schools to attend.
Guanajuato turned out to be a great location to study Spanish. It’s stunningly picturesque, and I loved exploring its cobblestoned alleyways and tree-filled plazas. Guanajuato has enough extranjeros to allow you to meet interesting like-minded visitors and expats, but it’s not completely overrun with norteamericanos like San Miguel. Locals always spoke to me in Spanish, and I had plenty of opportunities to practice my language skills.
As a university town, Guanajuato offers an impressive variety of inexpensive or free cultural events and colorful festivals. There are a number of excellent museums and historical sights to explore on weekends, as well as interesting day trips like Dolores Hidalgo or San Miguel de Allende. Guanajuato is small enough that everything in the center is accessible on foot, making it easy to attend events or meet friends.
Escuela Falcon has rave reviews on TripAdvisor for good reason. It’s a small school with a dedicated staff that works hard to ensure each student has an experience tailored to their individual interests. In addition to standard classes like grammar and conversation, you can take electives like Mexican cooking, Latin American literature, salsa dancing, or muralism — all in Spanish, of course.
EF also organizes an extracurricular event every day, such as a field trip, an intercambio (language exchange) with local university students, or a language workshop. The activities were always diverse and interesting and added a lot to my experience.
Due to the flexibility and informality of its schedule, EF works best for students who don’t require a textbook or lots of structure. Complete beginners might struggle with the lack of structure and changeover of teacher each hour. However, it is a great fit for learners who already have some Spanish under their belt and who like flexibility and a challenge.
My reader Rachel also commented in 2022, “Kids seemed to do really well. There were a couple of families there with young kids and they seemed to be having a great time and learning a lot.”
It was easy to make friends at EF. The other students were friendly and interesting and from all over the world, although the majority were from the US or Canada.
The host family I was placed with was friendly and kind. I learned so much about Mexican culture and food by living with them, and our conversations really helped improve my Spanish. I appreciated that they gently corrected me when I made a mistake. I got the sense they cared about me as a person versus just as a paying guest.
Staying in an Airbnb is also an excellent option for those who prefer to prepare some of their own meals and have more privacy and time to decompress.
Group Classes vs. Privates
I took group classes during my four weeks at Escuela Falcon, although a few of my classes ended up being privates by default since there were no other advanced students in those classes. Group classes are less expensive, and I formed some great friendships with my classmates. However, I often felt it was hard to get the speaking time I wanted, especially when there were other students in the class that tended to dominate the discussion. I found I learned best and most efficiently during one-on-one time with my teachers.
Based on my experience, I think next time I will invest the extra money and take private classes. I will probably cut back to three classes a day instead of four, though, since privates are more intensive as well as more costly.
When to Go
The pageantry of Semana Santa (Easter) is a special experience in Mexico. Día de las Flores is a celebration unique to Guanajuato the Friday before Palm Sunday.
Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) has become a popular tourist attraction in Mexico in recent years. One of my readers, Rachel, spent Día de Muertos in Guanajuato in 2022, and reported:
“The city is beautifully decorated – doors, shops, streets. I especially liked the tapetes – made of sawdust, seeds and flowers on the streets – they were really beautiful and the teams working on them had a lot of fun. Ofrendas were a big deal too – beautiful displays. Lots of Catrinas and Catrines. There was a really great arts/crafts fair in one of the tunnels. The Mummy museum was very popular and especially crowded on those days (I had gone earlier), as was the adjacent cemetery. I did not get to the parades at night – I heard the crowds were pretty huge. There are some good Facebook groups that provided a lot of information about what was happening and where.”
Rachel graciously provided some photos of the ofrenda (altar) at the school and the beautiful temporary tapetes (carpets) crafted in Guanajuato’s streets for Día de Muertos in 2022:
The Festival Internacional Cervantino, known as El Cervantino, is an internationally renowned festival of music, theater, art, and folklore that takes place each October in Guanajuato. Since Día de Muertos immediately follows Cervantino, you could combine the two.
Rachel reported in 2022:
“As far as Cervantino goes….yes it was very crowded. Two weeks is a long time for a festival with multiple events every day and night. I went to three concerts at night – for free. Two were good and one was great. Mostly people seemed to enjoy whatever shows or events they attended. I went to some special Cervantino art exhibits – all great. But it is noisy. Fireworks and firecrackers often going off. Helicopters circling often – I think for security/surveillance. Really noisy. The streets are crowded in the afternoon and evening and especially on the weekends. I could hear concerts every night from my Airbnb. So there is good and bad. I think the good outweighs the bad. I would probably go again during Cervantino but maybe for only one week of it. Some people had a hard time finding a place to stay, everything was full. It was hard to get tickets for events online – I would have gone to more shows.”
A huge gracias to Rachel for her feedback!
More Mexico Travel
After each of my study stints in Guanajuato, I added on more travel in Mexico. In 2016 I also visited San Miguel de Allende, Querétaro, Mexico City, Puebla, Morelia, and Pátzcuaro, and in 2017 Mexico City and Zacatecas.
My plan is to maintain my Spanish with at least one stint at a language school each year. In fall 2016 I studied for two weeks at AIL Madrid in Madrid, Spain.
Other top candidates for future visits include Instituto Jovel in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas and Habla in Mérida.
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Have questions about studying Spanish in Mexico or a Spanish school recommendation? Please share your feedback in the comments.