Three Niñas - Corazon Maya

Three Niñas - Corazon Maya
Lupita, Magdalena and Clarita

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Friday, February 5, 2010

Costs - My Spanish Schools in Guatemala and Copan

Spanish Instruction
All schools offer Spanish instruction. One can study during the mornings and afternoons, for 2 to 5 hours, usually with one teacher per student (“1-on-1”). The most common is 4 hrs/day, 1-on-1. I have tried 5 hrs/day but found this to be too tiring. One needs several additional hours each day for review, practice and homework, in order to benefit from the lessons.

The costs of my Spanish classes (in 8 schools) mostly varied between $65/ week and $120/ week, for 5 days x 4 hrs, 1-on-1. Guacamaya, Copan, was the most expensive ($140/week – Dec2009). Of this, the teachers received between $30 (Pana, San Pedro) and $47 (Copan). This works out at $1.50 to $2.30/hr for the teacher. (Dec 2009 figures). At Guacamaya, Copan, my teacher received the smallest percentage of the fee ($47/$140 =34%) compared with $30/$65 = 46% at Corazon Maya. The overhead at all schools appeared to be similar, so it was not clear to me why some schools paid a smaller percentage to their teachers than others. Perhaps it was a case of paying what the market will bear.

Food and Accommodation
Most schools also offer optional homestays, which include accommodation with a local Guatemalan family in a private room, shared or private bathroom, and 3 meals/ day Mon-Sat. A few schools include meals on Sundays. Some schools offer accommodation only. There are cost savings to be had if one buys both instruction and homestay/accommodation from the same school. One may also choose to find one’s own accommodation and food.

During my studies at 8 schools, I have always chosen homestays with each school. The pluses have been the chance to speak more Spanish (since few families speak more than a few words of English), exposure to the local culture, the chance to make friends in the community, and excellent value for money. The minuses have been having to fit in with a family and their customs, and, at times, a certain lack of privacy. The food has varied a lot. Sometimes this has been basic, consisting of mainly beans and tortillas, with tea, bread and sometimes eggs. Sometimes one gets pancakes, fruit and vegetables. One may get honey, jam and even that luxury, PNB (two families). Overall, I have done fine with the food. I am a vegetarian so I have not been bothered by the relative scarcity of meat and chicken, which tends to be relatively expensive. A family may have more than one student, in which case one may need to reach an agreement to speak only Spanish at table, to get more Spanish practice, and out of courtesy to the family. There is competition for students amongst the families, so one may visit more than one before deciding. One is usually free to change families at any time, but usually one tries to do this during the weekends. (Once I changed during the week, as I simply didn't fit in). One needs to commit to a family only for a week at a time.

Overall Costs
Overall, my studies have cost me between $150 and $250 /week total, including 20 hrs/week of 1-on-1 Spanish lessons, homestays and misc expenses. Airfare and tips were extra. The cheapest studies (and the best value for me) were in San Pedro La Laguna, Lake Atitlan, and the most expensive in Copan, Honduras, with Antigua, Panajachel and Quetzaltenango in between.

Don’t forget to tip well - the schools and homestays are excellent value for money, and the people have so much less than we do. If satisfied, I tip teachers and families 20% of what they receive from the schools. I also tip other individuals in the schools if they provide good service.

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