08 Feb Review of Yanapuma Spanish Language School in Cuenca, Ecuador
A big part of the reason we chose to visit Ecuador was to practice our Spanish, so we signed up for a one-week Spanish program during our first week in Cuenca. Cuenca has a number of Spanish schools as well as private tutors, so I narrowed down my search by scouring reviews online. I was delighted when my top choice, Yanapuma, agreed to arrange a discount for us in exchange for sharing our experiences here on the blog. Read on to learn more about Yanapuma’s non-profit Spanish school in Cuenca!
- Yanapuma’s Spanish school is conveniently located in the historic, colonial center of Cuenca
- The Yanapuma Foundation promotes sustainable development among indigenous and marginalized communities in Ecuador so you’re also supporting a good cause
- You can study from 2 to 4 hours per day up to 5 days per week
- Their teaching methodology focuses on natural communication more than academic-based teaching
- Most students take one-on-one lessons which are based on your learning goals and Spanish level. Small group lessons are possible if there are other students studying at your level.
- Yanapuma also offers a Cultural Program, homestays (more about those later), volunteer opportunities, and trips
A Typical Lesson
Since Jedd and I are at different levels when it comes to Spanish, we had separate classes. We walked to the school each morning in time for our 9am start. The week we were there, there was another couple and a family of five doing the full week of classes. A few singles came in doing a twice-a-week lessons over a period of a month or more.
Jedd’s teacher helped him learn to use the basic verbs, describing things around him, who they belong to etc. My teacher usually started with a conversation and then worked in a review of the different verb tenses throughout the week. Sometimes she would incorporate listening to a song, telling a story from a set of other images, or other little games to mix things up.
We met from 9am to 11am, with a twenty minute pause to get a drink from the kitchen, take a bathroom break, or chat with other students. Then we continued from about 11:20 to 1pm.
At this time, a week of classes starts at $120 for 15 hours. We did the Cultural Package which includes 20 hours of classes plus four afternoon excursions for $277. See more prices here.
The school is on the second floor of a building off Hermano Miguel, a street in the heart of Cuenca’s historic district, surrounded by shops and restaurants. There is a main office, bathroom, a few rooms for classes, a kitchen, and a covered “courtyard” in the middle. Thanks to the skylights, it feels pretty bright and airy. The office has a bunch of brochures and books of things to do in and around Cuenca, including a list of recommended lunch places. The kitchen is mainly for coffee and tea, which is available to students before class or during breaks. There is also a fridge if you want to bring your own lunch.
In the central courtyard, they bring all the students together once a week to do a session on Ecuadorian foods. The week we were there, the theme was “dulces” (sweets – my favorite!).
Yanapuma can arrange homestays for you your stay in Cuenca. As our loyal readers will recall, we’ve written about the value of homestays, especially when you first arrive and are getting oriented. We were happy to have chosen this option for our first three nights in Cuenca before moving to a more private Airbnb apartment for the remaining 6 weeks.
Obviously, your experience will depend on which family you’re placed with and having an open attitude going in. We were fortunate to be placed with Yolanda and her son, Carlos, who are originally from Venezuela and very well connected to the expat life in Cuenca. Yanapuma’s homestay program, at $22-$26, includes accommodations, private or shared bathroom, breakfasts, dinners, and great opportunity to practice Spanish.
Yolanda’s place is very comfortable, spacious, and clean. It’s located in a small gated community, about a 25 minutes walk from the historic center. We felt at home as soon as she popped her head out the window to greet us. While we were there, Yolanda was also hosting a student from Montana who was attending another Spanish school in the area. We got to participate in one of Carlos’s salsa lessons together, and they coordinated a guided group trip to Cajas National Park with other Spanish students and some of their friends.
Yanapuma Cultural Program
Some of the other Yanapuma students asked us if we would recommend adding the Cultural Program instead of just doing classes. It really depends. Normally, I wouldn’t have considered adding the additional cost of the Cultural Program since a week of Spanish lessons are already a big splurge for us. But because we did get a discount and we really wanted to learn more about Ecuador, it ended up being worth it for us.
Our first excursion was a bus tour of the city. While this is something we could have done on our own, the announcements in Spanish were extremely difficult to understand. Having a teacher accompany us, we actually absorbed a lot more, and we were able to ask questions and learn more in depth about Ecuador’s politics, history, and culture from our conversations with him. The tour included a stop at Turi, a great viewpoint overlooking the city where we got to sample the local drink: canelazo (which is delicious!) and we took a Jumping Jedd pic with Jedd’s professor.
Day two we went into the two big churches on the main square, including climbing one tower and going down into the crypt. Then we visited a museum of indigenous artifacts. Day three we visited a number of different craft and produce markets around town, plus the Panama Hat factory/museum. And on our last day, we explore Pumapunga where there is an indigenous tribes museum, ancient ruins, and a cool bird sanctuary.
Although we may have discovered many of these places on our own, there were a few spots that we probably wouldn’t have known about. More than that, we got different perspectives and local insight from our Ecuadorian teachers who accompanied us. When our friends visited Cuenca, we actually had quite a bit of background knowledge to share that we never would have gleaned from books.
Some Recommendations for Prospective Students
In my opinion, the cultural program is a nice introduction to Cuenca so it’s best done in the first week. Our schedule with four hours of class in the morning plus excursions in the afternoon was probably better suited for someone who only has a week to experience everything. Since we had plenty of time remaining in Cuenca, doing classes and the cultural excursions on different days would be more relaxing. I did get the impression that the school would be able to work with you to customize your schedule.
We also found that four hours of classes per day can be a lot to keep up with, especially for someone at the beginning level. You’ll need time in between classes to review and let your brain process to really digest everything you’re learning.
I think what I liked most about Yanapuma’s classes is they were individually tailored. They asked us to share what we most wanted to work on before we started class and the teachers prepared our lessons around those goals. For me, focusing on speaking and reviewing some of the more advanced verb usages was exactly what I needed.
To sum everything up, my honest opinion is that Yanapuma is a quality Spanish language school in Cuenca, and I would definitely recommend it.
Let us know in the comments below if you have any questions about Yanapuma or Cuenca in general. If you have experience with other Spanish language schools in Latin America, we’d love to hear your recommendations, too.
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