Last week I spent a week in Guanajuato with Spanish and Go. Spanish & Go are a company run by my friends Jim and May, and their goal is to help people learn Spanish and we were in Guanajuato on a Spanish Immersion Program.
This post is a complete break down of everything I experienced leading up to the program, during my time in Guanajuato, and my final thoughts on the experience.
If you want to learn Spanish in Mexico, if you want to be on a Spanish immersion program in Mexico, or if want to combine both touring this beautiful country with learning some Spanish phrases, then read on.
Who are Spanish and Go?
Spanish and Go is a company run by Jim (an American) and May (a Mexican). They are perhaps most well-known for their fantastic YouTube channel where they help people (like me!) learn Spanish that you can actually use.
I’ve been following their channel for a while now and I even met up with them in Puerto Rico earlier this year, so I was confident that their retreat was going to be a great experience.
May is a certified Spanish and English teacher and has been teaching since she was 18. She’s the main teacher for the retreat and Jim is always around to help with questions about not just Spanish, but Mexico.
Jim knows how hard it is to learn Spanish since he’s done it himself, so he is an invaluable resource to have alongside May.
What is a Spanish and Go Spanish Immersion Program?
Spanish and Go immersion retreats are weeklong trips in different cities around Mexico that aim to fully immerse you in both language and culture.
The immersion retreats never have more than 10 guests. There are usually two Mexican teachers (May as well as a local teacher who changes depending on the location of the retreat).
Having two teachers means that they can split the group based on your level so that everyone is being pushed without feeling totally out of their depths.
From their website:
This incredible experience will allow you to explore one of the most beautiful and charming cities in Latin America in a way most never will. Not only will you learn Spanish, but you’ll also learn about the history of of the places we visit, taste the food, chat with the locals, make friends, and improve your confidence.
Each day you’ll get situation-focused lessons, and apply what you’re learning during the trip. With May and Jim’s help, you’ll get real-time feedback and encouragement throughout the retreat.
That’s exactly what my experience was. We learned about the history of Guanajuato, we ate amazing food, and we spoke Spanish as much as we wanted.
Why did I decide to Go on this Spanish Immersion Program?
I’ve been working really hard on my Spanish learning for the last six months or so. I did a two-month course over the summer, I’ve been taking daily lessons with a tutor online for at least an hour.
This retreat was another way for me to push myself further along on this Spanish journey.
All of the classes I’ve been taking over the last few months have been online. I was struggling to transition from feeling confident behind my computer screen to feeling confident out in the real world here in Mexico.
I knew that this retreat would help me get past that barrier while also continuing to teach me valuable Spanish phrases and vocabulary that I could start using right away in my everyday life here in Mexico. I wanted to be pushed out of my comfort zone every single day for more than just an hour a day.
My Level Before the Retreat
Before the retreat, I could string a simple conversation together. As I said above, I’ve been studying solidly at least 5-10 hours a week for the last four months, so I was making good progress. But I still did (and do) have so much to learn.
My biggest problem was that I would freeze up when I was speaking to someone face-to-face. I was struggling to focus on what people were saying when it wasn’t an online teacher asking me simple questions.
I knew that I understood the vocabulary, so it was frustrating to continue to get tongue-tied or struggle with translating quicker.
What a Typical Day on the Spanish & Go Retreat Looked Like
I usually set my alarm for about 7:30 each morning. That way I could do some yoga in my very spacious room (or on the outdoor terrace like some of the other guests did!). Then I would shower and be ready to have breakfast with the rest of the guests for around 8:30am.
Breakfast was self-serve. Jim and May filled the refrigerator and cupboards with cereal, eggs, bread, coffee, fruit, yogurt, granola, lots of spreads for toast, and plenty of different milk varieties.
Lessons started at 9am. We were all given a beautifully designed workbook that we brought to each lesson.
We would have a larger group lesson with everyone (there were six people on my retreat). May would introduce a topic that was in the workbook. We would learn some phrases and vocabulary around that topic (weather, greetings and goodbyes, ordering food, etc). Sometimes we would break up into pairs and create dialogues.
After an hour, we would break into two groups. One for the beginners and one group for the more advanced.
Once in these groups, we used worksheets that May gave us. These were also to do with the topic that had been introduced for the day, but they were more challenging.
All throughout the lesson, May would speak to us in Spanish, we would speak to her in Spanish, and we would also speak to each other in Spanish.
Lessons tended to end around midday. We would then have about 10-15 minutes to get ready and we would all go out to lunch somewhere.
In the afternoons there was either free time or a planned activity like going to the Mummy Museum.
Sometimes we would have an activity in the morning, like when we went on our food tour. On those days, we would have our lessons in the afternoon.
Although dinner was not included in the retreat fees, we usually all ended up having dinner together or splitting off and having dinner in smaller groups if people were tired. I tried a few cool bars with some of the other guests and Jim – we even had a really delicious pulque (something that I didn’t know was possible!).
I was usually asleep no later than 10pm.
Pros of the Spanish and Go Retreat
- We spoke tons of Spanish, to each other, to our tutors, both in the classroom and outside
- The curriculum has been well planned and thought out and the delivery was outstanding; the teachers really care about what they’re doing
- We got to explore a seriously beautiful city (in my instance, Guanajuato)
- We ate amazingly delicious food
- There were plenty of planned activities to enjoy
- There was a good balance of free time and planned time
- You are really in a supportive and non-judgemental learning environment from the moment you arrive
- A lot of communication leading up to the retreat including a Facebook group where we could get to know each other
- They casually tested our level on the first day by simply chatting to us in Spanish on our walk to dinner so it never felt like you were being “tested”
Cons of the Spanish and Go Retreat
I am genuinely struggling to think of cons. I loved the group and I think we all got along very well. Everyone was supportive and really just wanted to learn Spanish and explore Guanajuato.
I think truly advanced learners will find it a little bit simple. If you already know a lot of Spanish and just want to practice or perhaps want to delve even deeper, I would get in touch with Jim and May directly before booking to make sure that you will be able to have more challenging lessons.
Final Thoughts on the Guanajuato Spanish Immersion Retreat
In that short week, I gained so much confidence. I realized that this whole Spanish fluency thing isn’t so far out of my grasp. If I want to be able to speak Spanish better I need to start speaking Spanish more often.
I can’t say enough how much I enjoyed this trip. I’ve actually never been on a group tour or retreat before, so I was nervous that it was going to feel too rigid or that perhaps it might be awkward to get along with 5 other strangers.
But I really had nothing to worry about. Jim and May do a wonderful job at breaking the ice, creating a fun and safe environment, and they really know how to pick good restaurants (did I mention we ate really well?).
I loved it so much, I would consider going on another retreat should they visit a different city in Mexico that I want to check out. Guanajuato was a great place for the retreat and I look forward to seeing where else they expand to in the future.
How to Sign Up for the Next Spanish & Go Immersion Retreat
If you want to learn more about Spanish and Go’s immersion retreats, you can check out their main page here.
They currently have one tour open and available that will be in Guadalajara in Jan/Feb 2020. You can read more about it and book that tour here.
Prices vary depending on the location but it always includes the accommodation, all breakfasts and lunches, and two dinners. Some of the activities are included. Other “free time” activities and, of course, flights and any souvenir shopping you want to do are added costs.
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