For being Mexico’s immense and internationally-connected capital, you would think that Mexico City would be bursting at the seams with incredible Spanish language schools. But, in comparison with colonial towns like San Cristobal de Las Casas, Puebla, Cuernavaca and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico City falls rather short when it comes to options for Spanish language learners. But, for so many foreigners who have moved to the nation’s capital, be it for work, family or pleasure, this can make matters incredibly frustrating because learning Spanish is the key to integrating oneself into normal life here in the city. This is where I found myself two years ago and through trial and error, I have compiled information and evaluated some of the most popular private schools and university programs in Mexico City. Apart from detailed descriptions, I have rated each school based on five criteria:
How engaging are their learning materials? Do they group students in appropriate levels?
Do they have rolling enrollment (easier to jump in) or do they have set course dates (harder to get started with classes)? Do they offer evening classes for the working professional?
Do the classrooms offer a comfortable and inviting learning space? Does the school have common spaces for students to talk and mingle?
Does the school offer cultural activities, field trips or other alternative programs for students aside from just learning Spanish?
How affordable are their group classes in comparison with other schools in Mexico City?
Caveat: I have done my best to remain objective however, it’s important to note that this article is a compilation of both my personal experience and interviews with others which are subjective. Furthermore, I have not rated teacher quality here because I think that can be hit-or-miss and is not always entirely reflective of the school as a whole.
Centro de Ensenanza para Extranjeros (CEPE)
Cost: 12,000MXN for 126 hours
Schedule: 21 hours per week for 6 weeks
Location(s): UNAM Campus & Polanco
This mini-campus is located within the Universidad Nacional Autónomo de México (UNAM) which is considered one of the best universities in all of Latin America. CEPE feels like a gathering center for all foreigners living in Mexico City and you can meet people from all over the world. The courses are 6 weeks long and you actually receive a grade and a formal certificate at the end which is nice if you want something to show for your hard work. However, the rigid 6-week session schedule makes it difficult to just jump in for those who are in Mexico City for a shorter period of time. CEPE offers 9 levels, from basic to superior, so you could really spend a whole year here learning Spanish. CEPE also self-publishes their own textbooks and their curriculum is excellent. As part of your tuition, you also get to choose a few extra clases de cultura which break up the intense Spanish learning (I would recommend the cooking or dance classes). On a side note, many that I interviewed have said that teachers can be hit-or-miss – some are young, new and vibrant, while others have been teaching there for over 20 years and are rather burnt-out (I had an excellent teacher but that was my experience). CEPE also administers a variety of official Spanish examinations as well as offers diplomados and especializaciones for those who want to be trained as Spanish teachers or just want to take their Spanish to a more academic level. Lastly, CEPE hosts a number of guided weekend trips to more unknown areas of the State of Mexico as well as a select number of trips outside the state.
*If you are confused about the enrollment process before the start of a new 6 week session (just like I was), here is some information: new and returning students need go to CEPE the Friday before the start of a new session. They make you pay your fees first before doing anything else, then you take a written test as well as a verbal test (which just consists of talking one-on-one with a teacher). Once they place you in a level, you pick up your textbook and take a picture for your official CEPE ID. Lastly, you are sent to the computer lab to register for your cultural classes – make sure you take a look at them beforehand so you know which one’s you want to sign up for. And that’s it! [I had to send a lot of unnecessary emails to get some clarity on this process because there is really no information on the website so I hope this is helpful]
Universidad La Salle
Cost: 5,700MXN for 45 hours
Schedule: Daily 3-hour classes for 3 weeks
Nestled in the heart of the trendy, bohemian Condesa neighborhood, the Centro Internacional de Educación La Salle (CIEL) is centrally located and easily accessible from all parts of the city. Their Spanish program is offered year round with rotating start dates for both their intensive 3-week courses (5 days a week) and semi-intensive 5-week courses (3 days a week). Levels follow the Common European Framework of Reference or Languages, from A1-C1 levels, and La Salle can facilitate official certification exams. Class size ranges from 3-8 students and the curriculum is stellar. Aside from their continuous Spanish courses, La Salle is special in that it offers two wonderful programs. The first is their Intensive Summer Language Program which offers 45 hours of Spanish classes, 6 hours of introductory classes on history and culture of Mexico (with focus topics such as Human Rights in Mexico and Latin American Literature), as well as 45 hours of cultural field trips and activities in and outside Mexico City. Your tuition also covers housing and two meals daily with Mexican family. The deadline for applications is normally in late March/early April. The second program is there Service Learning and Internship Placements which focus on serving organizations that are working to improve their communities in areas such as education, health care, sustainable and economic development and technology. They range from 6-16 week placements and have various start and end dates.
International House Mexico
Cost: 4,000MXN for 20 hours
Schedule: Daily 4-hour classes for 1 week
Also located in the hip Condesa neighborhood, International House is situated in a lovely, bright yellow colonial house. With 10 classrooms, a computer room and a beautiful roof terrace, IH, for many, is the perfect place to embark on their Spanish learning adventure. However, that education will come with a pretty hefty price tag. One week of classes (20 hours) will cost you $230 USD with small discounts when you sign up for more than one week. IH also follows the European Framework (A1-C1 levels) however, as their student body is small, students are normally grouped in beginner, intermediate and advanced groups (even though the promote that they offer 12 levels). Class sizes are small with a max of 8 students. In terms of schedule, IH is one of the most flexible and has rolling start dates every Monday, unless you are starting their most basic course. They also can arrange for you to stay with a host family while in Mexico City which also comes with a pretty hefty price tag. IH is one of few places in the city that offers FPELE (Formación de Profesores de Español como Lengua Extranjera) for those aspiring to be Spanish teachers in their native countries. Furthermore, IH is the only school in Mexico City that administers the DELE Exam (Diploma de Español como Lengua Extranjera). From my experience attending courses there, IH does not organize after-school activities or weekend field trips.
Lengua y Cultura
Cost: 4,400MXN for 45 hours
Schedule: Daily 3-hour classes for 3 weeks
Location: Roma Sur
This small language school opened it’s doors over 15 years ago and is located at the very southern tip of the bohemian Roma neighborhood. There is no doubt that the teaching staff at Lengua y Cultura is very experienced, friendly and attentive to student’s needs. From comments gathered from students who have attended, their curriculum is very tied to the book they use which can be rather grammar -heavy and less conversation focused. L&C does not follow the European Framework but rather groups students together based on ability after taking a placement exam. There is also a supplemental online platform that provides extra practice materials. L&C has bright classrooms and classes are taught in round table format, however there is no common area for students to mingle. A big selling point of L&C is their flexibility of course hours and times. Apart from their morning classes, they offer both an evening course and an intensive Saturday course which is ideal for those working full time jobs in Mexico City. Further, their rolling enrollment makes it easy to jump in at any time. L&C does offer field trips to apply learned skills as well as occasional weekend trips, however, from interviews with past students, these were not frequent. If you’re interested in trying out L&C, they do offer a free demo class where you can sit in on a group class before signing up. Lastly, the school also provides private classes to prepare you for exams such as DELE (Diploma de Español como Lengua Extranjera).
Frida Language School
Cost: 5,700MXN for 40 hours
Schedule: Daily 4-hour classes for 2 weeks
I hesitate to even include this institution in this post, however, I am well-aware that when googling “Spanish Language Schools in Mexico City” it is one of the top three options. But don’t be fooled by their 4-star rating on google, Frida Language School is a full-fledged private business, not a an educational institution. They are lucky to have a few good teachers who leave a positive impression on students and somewhat raise their rating. Located on the 3rd floor of one of the busiest streets in Mexico City, Avenida Insurgentes, Frida Language “School” is essentially a converted 5-bedroom apartment with one bathroom. There is no lounge or common area for students to co-mingle and the upkeep of the classrooms and the bathrooms are awful. Teachers are known to repeatedly show up late and do not seem to have the necessary resources to do their jobs (i.e. CD players, white-board markers etc). The website boasts several after-school and weekend activities for students but they are few and far in-between and often times, highly priced. There is no cap on students per class and classrooms are often mixed-level. Frida Language School promotes offering accommodations however, I read a frightening comment from a student about the beds having bed bugs and the windows not opening. In short, if you have a week or two in Mexico City and are desperate to take a course and learn a few expressions and verb conjugations, Frida Language School may be a great option. However, if you’re serious about learning Spanish, run far away from this place!
Well, there you have it, all the information you need to make an informed decision about where to learn Spanish in Mexico City. There will be many factors that ultimately go into your decision – namely schedule, money and location – and I hope this article gives you a little insight into your options.