Why the ISA Valparaíso, Chile Program Will Help Improve Your Spanish Skills

Cristina Werthwine is a student at Western Carolina University and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is currently studying abroad with ISA in Valparaíso and Viña del Mar, Chile

Long time Spanish language learners will know that Spanish can be a difficult language to grasp. With different grammatical structures, pronunciation, and vocab, it can be a lot to practice and learn. During my semester abroad I decided to take a leap into the world of Chilean Spanish, which is said to be the most difficult Spanish to understand/learn. I am convinced I am coming out of this experience with more confidence in my Spanish abilities then ever before. Here’s why:

1. School

El Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Valparaíso (or PUCV) in partnership with the ISA study abroad program offers many courses in both English and Spanish. The Spanish classes I took helped me become fully immersed in the language because our professor would only speak in Spanish and encouraged us to do the same with our classmates. There is an option to take classes with locals which is an even better way to practice your Spanish with native speakers! There are many opportunities to get involved on campus, including doing volunteer work on the weekends. Also, they offer free gym classes that include zumba, yoga, and more. These activities are great ways to interact with students from Chile as well as practice your Spanish speaking skills.

*Tip: Use sites and apps such as SpanishDict, Duolingo, and Quizlet as tools to help you learn the language faster and keep the language in your memory.

View from the ISA Office of PUCV in Valparaiso.

2. Home

When studying abroad in general, it is often recommended to stay with a host family to be fully immersed in the culture and language. I couldn’t recommend this enough! You can learn so much from sitting with your host family and chatting while having “once” (a late-night snack), to overhearing your host brother using seven different “Chilenismos” (Chilean slang) in a sentence, to helping your host sister study for her upcoming exam. Any random conversation you have ultimately helps your Spanish speaking ability. It also helps you to think fast which can help you quickly figure out what verb or grammar tense to use.

*Tip: When someone realizes you are not a native speaker, they might try to speak to you in English instead. DON’T LET THEM! I recommend to keep talking to them in Spanish to show that you are dedicated to practicing speaking Spanish- even if what you say isn’t grammatically correct at times.

This was the view from the balcony next to my room in my host family’s apartment.

3. Exploring

You can practice your Spanish anywhere- from ordering coffee at your favorite cafe with friends, to asking for directions around the city, to greeting the micro driver on your morning commute. Using little snippets of Spanish phrases and conversations helps you to become more confident in your Spanish speaking ability which helps you become a better Spanish speaker overall!

*Tip: Buy a small notebook and jot down random phrases/vocab that you know you will use every day.

Studying my journal of ‘Chilenismos’ on the way to he Atacama Desert.

With the right mindset and motivation, you are sure to be able to speak Spanish in the way you want. The ISA Valparaíso Chile program helped me gain that confidence in my Spanish ability that I will take with me through the rest of my studies and life.


The world awaits…discover it.

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