Antigua Guatemala is world renowned for its language schools, offering those seeking to improve or perfect their Spanish skills a true Hispanic Mecca for learning.
First, you need to know that the Spanish spoken in Antigua is a bit like mid-Atlantic English in that it’s standard Spanish with an accent and usage that is easily understood and accepted worldwide. By contrast, Mr. Yolkobsen spent many years in Panama and found that his accent, inflexions, syntax etc. were not always transferable once he got outside the local steam he was used to speaking in. ?Que?
Mrs. Y was having a wonderful experience at the language school she found in Antigua, one of many available in town. One-on-one instruction four hours a day for ten days cost about $100 or about $5 an hour. That was at a language school, but you can find independent teachers who will come to your place or take you out for individual instruction at whatever level you find yourself. They might charge slightly less than the schools.
The other advantage to pursuing a language course in Antigua is you can go about the town practising Spanish while you shop, dine, ask for directions etc. The language spoken in town is consistent everywhere so you don’t have to penetrate unfamiliar accents, colloquialisms or outre slang.
Though there is the rare exception, Antiguans are generally very kind and accommodating when dealing with gringos trying out their sputtering Spanish. Like almost everywhere in the world, if you are prepared to try, face making mistakes and can swallow your ego, the locals are more than happy to listen and try to help. They’ll even forgive you for pronouncing “bueno,” as if it rhymes with “Wayne-O.” when it should really echo more like “bwen-o.” They are almost always kind and patient with the people who make an effort.
Mrs. Y, for example, keeps making the classic mistake which is to mix up the Spanish word for avocado (aguacate) with lawyer (abogado), but that puts me in the ranks with most novice speakers. My sister, on the other hand, made such a blooper that even the gentle Antiguan folk about her collapsed into helpless laughter. Yolkobsens urge you not to make the same linguistic error.
She wanted to go horseback riding (which you can get to just outside Antigua) and so said in what she thought was her best Spanish, “I want to ride a horse (caballo). What she in fact asked for was a ride on a gentleman (caballero). But they were all very nice about it once they pulled themselves back together again. For the record, she wound up with a caballo.