Alejandra, my Peruvian friend who occasionally helps me with the translation and editing of articles in Spanish, lives in the beautiful city of Arequipa, Peru. I had gone there in 2011 and had spent three wonderful days. When I thought about studying Spanish somewhere in Latin America, Arequipa was natural choice.
In 2014, I decided that my goal would be to succeed in the DELE (Diploma of Spanish as a Foreign Language) exam. The diploma is issued by the Instituto Cervantes on behalf of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport of Spain and attest your level of Spanish. They follow the guidelines established by the Common European Framework for Languages.
Despite having studied Spanish when I was younger and having no problem to communicate with Spanish speakers, I did not speak Spanish regularly for years (as I explained in this post). To improve my Spanish and prepare myself for the test, I decided to return to Arequipa.
Arequipa is one of the most beautiful and safest cities of Peru. That alone, would be enough to choose Arequipa to study Spanish. In addition, having one of my best friends living there, the choice was obvious.
However, another reason to choose Arequipa is that the Spanish spoken there is clear, without strong accent and grammatically correct. Many proud Arequipeños, including the writer Mario Vargas Llosa, say that Arequipa has the best Spanish in Peru and Latin America. If this is true, it is debatable. Nevertheless, the fact that Arequipeños speak a beautiful Spanish, this is undeniable.
Yet, the “white city” has great tourist attractions such as Plaza de Armas, the San Camillo market and the Convento Santa Catalina. In addition, three volcanoes Misti, Chachani and PichuPichu surround the city. With an altitude of 2330 meters, the climate is mild most of the year. Nevertheless, solar radiation is extremely strong, so we need to use sunscreen all the time.
After searching the internet, I found only one school in Arequipa that looked interesting for foreigners wanting to learn Spanish. The school is called EDEAQ and is certified by the Peruvian Ministry of Education. My initial plan was to do four lessons per day, two private and two in-group. I got in touch with the school to see if that was possible.
The answer I received was that as my native language is Portuguese, I would advance faster than students with other mother tongues would and therefore it would be impossible to fit me into one of the existing classes.
Another request I made was to study in the afternoon, which they later accepted. I decided to take four lessons per day, from September 1 through September 19 of 2014.
The school is located in the center of Arequipa, a few meters from the Plaza de Armas. Where there are restaurants, markets and exchange houses nearby. The school facilities are in the back of a hostel. The local is big; the classrooms are small but comfortable. There are not many places to socialize with other students, except for a large table where the teachers had lunch.
I was one of the only students in the afternoon, so I did not have many opportunities to meet other students. The few who I met came from Germany; they were supported by a German program called Bildungsurlaub.
As many years have passed since I studied Spanish, I had no idea of my level, but my goal was clear, to do the DELE exam for the level C1 or C2. On my first day, I did a test to indicate my level and the result was what I expected. I was among the B2 and C1 levels.
So it was decided that in the first few days, I would quickly revise some grammar, and then I would start studying for the DELE. Indeed, as a Lusophone, most grammatical points were easy for me to understand and I evolve very fast. I had two teachers: Rosario and Fabricio.
The classes were agreed and divided between them, so I would not repeat content. The two teachers had completely different personalities. Rosario was young, cheerful and curious; she liked to talk about everything. Fabricio, at first it was a little more serious, but he also loved to talk. In addition, he was more attentive to my small pronunciation mistakes, which usually pass unnoticed by others.
The fact that they have different personalities was great for my studies; they observed different errors in my speaking and writing and I spoke about different things subjects with them, which made the lessons more interesting. Both had a great training and I have no complaint regarding them.
In class we worked with the book Preparacion DELE C1, which as I said before, it is great to train for the official test. In addition, they gave me writing exercises and grammar ones. On the other hand, the listening comprehension exercises were rare. In the three weeks I was there, I could not finish the book with teachers, but it is perfectly possible to use it alone without the help of a teacher. So, I finished the book at home alone.
Regarding the administrative questions, the responsible was “Lula”, one of the school owners. She was very flexible about the schedule. For example, once I missed a day of school, because I tried to climb the volcano Misti. They replace the classes for me at no extra cost.
Speaking of costs, compared to other countries, Peru is a cheap place to live. Each private class costed, in 2014, five dollars. A rather high value for locals, but for most foreigners was reasonable. Searching on the school website, the price for 2016 is $140 for 20 hours of private lessons.
After these three weeks studying in Peru, I returned to Brazil speaking a much better Spanish. Two months later, I did the DELE test for the C1 level and I hadn’t any difficulties, except for the oral examination because I was very nervous. I got incredible results on the reading comprehension, listening comprehension and writing production tests.
Studying in Arequipa was a wonderful experience and if given the opportunity, I would study again there. Arequipa is a beautiful and very pleasant place. My experience in EDEAQ was very positive, I loved the teachers and the classes helped me to get my DELE diploma. Having price-reasonable classes with qualified teachers is not something so easy to find. The experience was worth it and I recommend the city and the school to those who wish to perfect their Spanish in Peru.
Have you studied Spanish abroad? Where? Do you know Arequipa? What is your opinion about the city and the Spanish spoken there?