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Learning Spanish in Merida

Merida's Cathedral in the Plaza GrandeAbout two or three times a week, we are asked why we moved from California to the Yucatan. And when we answer, we are reminded that one of the main reasons we came here was to learn a second language. We briefly considered setting up shop on the island of Bali in Indonesia, but decided that speaking Indonesian was not going to be very helpful outside of Indonesia. Spanish, on the other hand, is spoken around the world. In fact, according to a recent study by SpanishSEO, 6.78% of the world’s population speaks Spanish. On a web page entitled “Ten Facts About the Spanish Language“, we learned that with 329 million native speakers in the world, Spanish ranks as the world’s No. 2 language in terms of how many people speak it as their first language. There are actually more people speaking Spanish as their first language than English (328 million) but far less than Chinese (1.2 billion). So it seems like a particularly useful language to learn, don’t you think?

In 2002 we arrived with a lot of English writing and speaking skills (Working Gringo even has a degree in English!), and might have even been considered erudite in certain circles. But with only California place-names and one semester of a UCLA Spanish course under our collective belts, we were at a preschool level when it came to speaking Spanish. This was nothing if not a humbling experience.

As we were just normal gringos when we first arrived (we weren’t Working Gringos quite yet), we spent our days in the streets of Merida exploring, paying bills, finding needed items, and learning about our new community. We would come home exhausted at the end of the day with the stress of trying to communicate in this new foreign language. We would huddle in the living room and watch the Warner Channel on television just to hear spoken English. The comfort value was almost as good as a cup of hot tea with milk and honey and a cookie.

But the next day, we’d be ready again to brave the language immersion, and indeed, immersion is the best policy when it comes to switching idiomas (languages). Years later, we no longer need to watch the Warner Channel, though the voice of the announcer reminds us fondly of our early days here. We are far from fluent, but we no longer dread making a phone call to order pizza or inquiring about a strange charge on our bill at Telmex. We can even hold passable conversations with our Spanish-speaking friends about everything from what our children are studying in escuela (school) to what we think about current events. Though all this is true, we are still relieved when a conversation with Mexican friends is switched to English for our sake (and humbled…). We still have a lot to learn, and we are now convinced it will be a lifelong pursuit.

How did we get this far? When we first moved here, we took formal classes. We chose the Benjamin Franklin Institute because at the time, they provided the only classroom situation we could find without having to ask directions or get in our car. The three of us (one of our daughters was here with us) took classes three mornings a week, struggling through grammar and pronunciation in a classroom setting. If we had to do it over, we would still make a point of learning the basics, but some of us might have chosen a different venue. We discovered that we all learned differently and at a different pace. And being stuck inside a dark classroom for three hours a day is never our idea of the right way to learn.

Learning Spanish with Oscar in the Merida CemeteryAt the same time, we hired a young bilingual Yucateco who had been introduced to us. His name was Oscar and we paid him to walk around town with us, explaining to us how things worked and helping us learn the names for places and things. Oscar was a kind, fun and thoughtful young man (who has since moved to Toronto… hola, Oscar!) and we have fond memories of our days of wandering through the markets and streets of Merida, Kanasin and even San Cristobal in Chiapas. We found these lessons much more enjoyable and effective, and the Spanish started to sink in.

Where we really started to learn our day-to-day Spanish, however, was where the rubber meets the road: when we had to. We learned to communicate with the albañiles working on our office restoration, with the woman who cleaned our house and with José on the street where we parked our car. We learned to talk with our neighbor who took us to la corrida (a bullfight), with our Cuban neighbor who fixed our plumbing and eventually with our clients who came to us for help promoting their services to an English-speaking public. None of this would have worked as well, of course, if we hadn’t had that foundation in grammar and pronunciation.

We have learned that our experiences are not particularly unique. Many expats who come here to live either see learning Spanish as a gift or a necessity. And everyone trying to learn Spanish in Mexico has told us how helpful and patient the locals are when it comes to listening, communicating and teaching their language. Anyone who has spent any time in France trying to use their high-school French will understand how important it is that the locals enjoy your attempts at mangling their native tongue.

Another Spanish TeacherOftentimes, we have learned the most from conversations with waiters or bus drivers or tour guides who are happy to exchange on-the-spot Spanish lessons for a few English lessons in return. And listening to how Spanish speakers mangle English has taught us how the Spanish language works. As we try to fit Spanish into the syntax and expressions that are comfortable in English, we realize that our Spanish-speaking friends are doing the same in reverse. Parsing those mistakes teaches us how to do it right in Spanish. Entiendes? Sure you do… and if you don’t yet, keep trying. You will!

Learning Spanish is not just for those of us who live here. Turistas (tourists) come to Merida for the express purpose of learning Spanish. On extended vacations for anywhere from a week to several months, they come for Spanish immersion programs with one of the local schools. They stay with local families (home-stay), attend classes (usually in the morning) and go on field trips. All in Spanish, of course. Merida is becoming more and more popular as a destination for this type of study, competing with cities in Guatemala and other parts of Mexico.

In the spirit of assisting our fellow extranjeros (foreigners) to develop their Spanish language skills, or in helping travelers find local Spanish language immersion schools, we are listing here the schools in Merida and the surrounding area that we know about and can recommend. Some are better than others, and when choosing a school for yourself, it is important to remember that everyone’s learning needs are different. Many schools have classes that start every Monday. Some have programs that are geared towards college students, while others might be more appropriate for adult learners. We highly recommend that you speak on the phone or correspond with the school to ask them questions before you sign up, but we’re pretty sure that no matter which one you choose, you’ll enjoy your experience and you will learn some Spanish!

We are also listing the names of some language tutors that we know, though this is a more fluid list. We encourage you to write us with your recommendations if you have found a good tutor and we will include them. If you are in Merida, you could also check the physical bulletin board at the Merida English Library for tutors offering their services.

Before the list, however, we’d like to add a few thoughts for you to consider.

  • Learning Spanish has probably been one of the most mind-altering events of our adult lives, although the effect has not been sudden or dramatic, nor particularly obvious to an outside observer.
  • Learning Spanish has had the effect of rearranging the furniture of our understanding of the world around us.
  • Learning Spanish has given us insight into the entire Latin culture that makes up such a large part of the world and its history.
  • Learning Spanish has taught us subtleties and nuances in life that as English speakers we had never considered.
  • Learning Spanish has opened up cracks in our worldview, allowing us a glimpse into an entirely new way of looking at the world.
  • Learning Spanish has given us an appreciation for the way that Spanish-speaking people think, talk, love, party, plan, lie, count, pray, learn… it has taught us that it is probably impossible to really grok people who speak a different language until you can speak and understand their language.

More than anything, it has given us an increased appreciation for the intricate, infinite, delicate, magnificent and awesome differences that all somehow dance together to form humanity.

As you try to wrap your tongue around yet another verb tense, we encourage you also to keep in mind the well-accepted fact that Spanish is one of the easiest languages to learn. English is one of the hardest. Learning Spanish has given us a new appreciation for all the Mexicans in the US that we know who have learned to speak English. Our own employee, Joseph, speaks English like an American and has not spent more than four weeks total in the United States in his entire life. How did he DO that?

We wish we had enough lifetimes to learn other languages, and to appreciate the myriad cultures that they represent. We are grateful for this time and opportunity to learn Spanish. And we can only wish you the same paradigm-bending experience. The following is an as-comprehensive-as-we-can-make-it list of Merida’s Spanish Language schools.


Yucatan Spanish Language Schools Alianza Francesa
Phone: +52-999-927-2403
Contact: Diana Castillo
Address: Calle 23 #117 x 24, Colonia México
Homestay: No
Languages taught: Spanish, French
Classroom or Private Tutoring: Private tutoring only.
YL Notes: Alianza Francesa is where local families send their children to learn French. But they also teach Spanish… but not Mexican Spanish. They teach Latin American Spanish, and there is a difference. They teach writing and reading, speaking and listening. One of their teachers speaks English, and the rest are Spanish or French (or both) speakers.

Yucatan Spanish Language Schools Benjamin Franklin Institute
Phone: +52-999-928-6005>
Contact: Rosy Cetina
Address: Calle 57 #474-A x 52 y 54, Centro
Homestay: They will provide names of families, but do not have a formal program.Benjamin Franklin Institute
Languages taught: Spanish, English
Classroom or Private Tutoring: Both
YL Notes: Housed in a big old colonial building, this is the granddaddy of language schools here in Merida. They teach Spanish to foreigners but we think the bulk of their activity is teaching English to locals (they are the oldest English-teaching outfit in Merida).

Yucatan Spanish Language Schools Calle 55 Spanish School and Crepería
Phone: +52 1 999 274 3130 (from abroad) or 044 999 274 3130 (from Mérida)
Contact: Agustín or Rachel
Address: Calle 55 # 480 x 56 y 58, Colonia Centro
Homestay: Yes
Languages taught: Spanish
Calle 55 Spanish School in Merida Yucatan Mexico Classroom or Private Tutoring: Both. Intensive classes, semi-intensive classes, evening classes and private lessons.
YL Notes: Calle 55 is a new-generation Spanish school that aims to teach Spanish or French while enjoying all the cultural benefits those languages have to offer. Located in the historic centro, just walking distance to restaurants, churches, museums and shopping, Calle 55 provides many different levels of learning, can arrange a homestay, invites their students to relax and enjoy their environment outside the classroom and provides books, films and other resources for the full immersive language experience.

Yucatan Spanish Language Schools CIS – Centro de Idiomas Sureste
Phone: +52-999-923-0954 (Centro), 926-9494 (Norte), 920-2810 (García Ginéres)
Contact: Chloe Pacheco, Director or Jose Luis Lopez Espinosa , Spanish Program Coordinator
Address: Calle 52 #455 x 49 y 51 (Centro), Calle 11 #203-C x 26, Col. García Ginéres, and Calle 14 #106 x 25, Col. Mexico
Homestay: Yes
Languages taught: Spanish, English, French, Italian, German, Japanese
Classroom or Private Tutoring: Both, as well as Business Language classes to companies.CIS - Centro de Idiomas Sureste
YL Notes: With three locations and a wide variety of languages taught, CIS seems to us to be the most serious linguistic training school here. Chloe Pacheco, the owner, came here in 1968. She started working with CIS in 1978, teaching English. She and her husband purchased the school in 1980 and have been running it ever since. Their most popular Spanish course is a 5-day/week, 5-hour-day Intensive class that has classroom in the mornings and cultural activities in the afternoons. It is the oldest Spanish-teaching program in Merida. They also have special classes for Yucatan residents conducted every week at 5 PM for an hour and a half. Here’s a review from TripAdvisor.

Yucatan Spanish Language Schools Habla: The Center for Language and Culture.
Phone:+52 (999) 948-1872 or US Phone (401) 374-3237 Habla, Spanish School in Merida, Yucatan
Contact: María del Mar Patrón Vázquez and/or Kurt Wootton
Address: Calle 26 No. 99 B x 19 y 21. Col. México
Homestay: Yes
Languages taught: Spanish, English, Art
Classroom or Private Tutoring: Spanish Immersion program, Locals Spanish classes and custom Spanish Courses. Private tutoring on request.
YL Notes: We have heard nothing but great things about this school. We’ve talked to a number of expats who are taking classes here, and thoroughly enjoying the multidisciplinary approach to learning. If you are living here and wanting to learn Spanish because you actually want and need to learn it (as opposed to taking it as a class to earn a degree), or if you are coming to Merida and would like to take a Spanish Immersion course, we encourage you to check this school out. It was started and continues to be run by a brilliant, young and innovative couple with new ideas and lots of interesting connections. We’re thrilled that they’ve decided to set up shop in Merida. Read more about this school and their owners in our interview here. Also read about a recent mural that was painted at the school here.

Yucatan Spanish Language Schools ILET: Instituto de Lenguas Extranjeras y Turismo
Phone: 969-935-7980. To talk to someone who speaks English, 999-738-6196 & 999-197-9179 (both cel phones).
Contact: Alma Torres Ugalde and José Humberto Vargas Avila
Address: Calle 29 #127A x 74 y 76, Progreso (across from the Telmex building)
Homestay: No
Languages taught: Spanish, English, Italian, French, German, Cooking
Classroom or Private Tutoring: Both
YL Notes: Alma Torres Ugalde has a degree as Instructor of Foreign Languages and has 8 years of experience teaching Spanish and foreign languages classes. José Humberto Vargas Avila has an Industrial Chemical Engineering degree, lived in Canada for 1 year and has 5 years experience teaching both English and Spanish. The other teachers in the school include a Spanish teacher, and two Cooking teachers, one with a degree in Gastronomy. ILET is located in Progreso, the popular beach community 30 minutes north of Merida.

Yucatan Spanish Language Schools Institute of Modern Spanish
Phone: +52-999-911-0790 or toll-free 1-800-4MERIDA
Website: www.modernspanish.comInstitute of Modern Spanish
Contact: Miguel Ceron, Director. Our contact was Janese Ott.
Address: Calle 15 #520B x 16A y 18, Col. Maya
Homestay: Yes
Languages taught: Spanish
Classroom or Private Tutoring: Classroom training or Private classes. Also have business training.>
YL Notes: The Institute of Modern Spanish is geared to those people who are coming to Merida to learn the language and immerse themselves in the culture. Classes are held in Spanish, but they also have other offerings such as Business Spanish, Mayan Culture, Yucatan History and Spanish-American Literature. They provide students with the option of booking tours of the local sites as well as participating in student excursions (at an extra cost). They can provide college credit for programs of two weeks or more. They also have a program for assisting local children with their English, allowing Spanish language students to work and offset the cost of their programs.

Yucatan Spanish Language Schools Instituto de Lengua y Cultura de Yucatan
Phone: +52-999-125-3048
Contact: Cecilia Novelo
Address: Calle 13 No. 214 x 28 y 30, Col. Garcia Gineres
Homestay: Yes
Languages taught: Spanish
Classroom or Private Tutoring: Classroom
YL Notes: This school offers Spanish language training in an immersion program of their own design. They combine classroom training with real-life situations such as going to the bank or cooking a meal. They also provide specialized classes upon request such as Spanish for Legal, Medical or Diplomatic needs.

Yucatan Spanish Language Schools Lengua Alternativa
Phone: +52-999-943-9181Lengua Alternativa
Address: Calle 37 No. 539 x 72a y 74, Col. García Ginéres
Homestay: Yes
Languages taught: Spanish
Classroom or Private Tutoring: Classroom training and private tutoring.
YL Notes: This school offers ten levels of Spanish instruction. The average length of stay for their students is 12-16 weeks. They cater to college students taking Spanish for credit. They also offer holiday courses for families wishing to study together, as well as Spanish for Business, Secretaries and Assistants, Medicine and Healthcare, Emergency Personnel and for Teachers.

Yucatan Spanish Language Schools MJ International
Phone: +52-999-925-4692MJ International
Website: none
Contact: Gabriela Bojorquez
Address: Calle 13 #214 x 28 y 30, Col. García Ginéres
Homestay: No
Languages taught: Spanish
Classroom or Private Tutoring: Tutoring only.
YL Notes: This school has five English-speaking Spanish teachers who are available for one-on-one tutoring. They also have teachers who can teach French or German.

Yucatan Spanish Language Schools Spanish Center Mérida
Phone: +52 999 926 68 19
Contact: Siegmar
Address: Calle 13 No. 108 por calle 18 y 20, Colonia Itzimna
Homestay: Yes, with walking distance to school.
Learning SPanish in Merida YucatanLanguages taught: Spanish
Classroom or Private Tutoring: Minigroups with a maximum of 5 Students and private classes. One on one, private tutoring upon request. Online Spanish tutoring is also possible.
Spanish level: From absolute beginner to advanced speaker.
YL Notes:This school offers Spanish immersion classes, including teaching of Spanish, Mexican culture, history and other Mexican-relevant topics like political and economic situations. They use a workbook from Instituto Cervantes, the organization that promotes the Spanish language around the world. Group courses start with 3 hours a day to a maximum of 6 hours per day. Class begins at 9:00 AM. Courses start every Monday. You must reserve your spot the week before you want to start.

Yucatan Spanish Language Schools Spanish Institute of Merida
Phone: From U.S. and Canada: 1-800-539-9710. From Mexico and the rest of the world: +52-999-925-4475
Contact: Christian Cuellar, Academic Director
Address: Calle 60 x 37 #358, Centro Histórico
Homestay: All our students get private accommodations with private bathroom and A/C.
Languages taught: Spanish
Classroom or Private Tutoring: Group classes and one-on-one classes.
Classes at the Spanish Institute of MeridaYL Notes: The Spanish Institute of Merida has received the “Educational Excellence Award” for 2007 from UNESCO, and was named the “Best Immersion Program” in Mexico in 2006 by Language Learning Magazine. It is a non-profit organization that specializes in teaching the Spanish Language and its culture and has been doing so since 1984. Their program conforms to ACTFL standards. More than a 100 Universities in the USA and Canada have given credits for classes taught here. All teachers have University degrees in Spanish as well as experience teaching Spanish as a Second Language.

Yucatan Spanish Language Schools Spanish Language Tutors:

Monica Tort- Monica can be reached by email at moniktort [at] yahoo [dot] com [dot] mx or by telephone at 01(999)921-5230. Read more about Monica Tort here.

Rafael Curiel – Rafael has ten years of experience teaching Spanish and English. He can be reached via email at vitalous [at] hotmail [dot] com or by cel phone 044-999-129-4017.

Ricardo Alfonso – Ricardo has a Masters degree in Education. He can be reached by cel phone at 044-999-228-7310 or by email at rifago [at] hotmail [dot] com.

Zulai Marcela Fuentes – Zulai is a published writer and poet with over 35 years translation experience for publishing houses in Mexico City. She speaks Spanish, English and French fluently. She can be reached through email at alecramialuz [at] yahoo [dot] com [dot] mxor by phone at Tel. 01(999)212-1235, Cel. 044-999-264-6765.


Interested in languages? You might like our article on basics of the Mayan language.

If you are looking for schools for your children in Merida, read our article on Schools in Merida Mexico.


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94 Responses to “Learning Spanish in Merida”

  1. Once again, thanks for an informative and well-written article. I spent July ’06 studying at Centro de Idiomas del Sureste’s school in the North part of the city, and it was a wonderful experience. In addition to offering beginner, intermediate and advanced courses in Spanish, English and several other languages for children and adults alike, they offer specialized courses such as the one I participated in: a study of Mayan history/archeology and Mayan/Yucatecan literature. The school is well run and the staff and instructors are personable and knowledgeable. Highly recommended.

  2. I can give spanish lessons too, I have a degree in swearing 8-)

  3. Great article once again. I am looking forward to the challenge of re-educating myself in Spanish. The immersion system works best from my perspective as went through that as a child when my parents moved back to Holland and it was either pick up the language or not play with the other children. Then to school in Canada and learning French. Lots of fun, not.

  4. Ah, but now you speak all those languages! What a gift!!

  5. You continue to impress me with your well-composed, interesting, fun-to-read, and helpful articles. I’m based in Puerto Morelos and I will look thru your sites provided to see if I can create something there – but I wish you were closer to me. In that way, I’d learn all these great things about my region. The best way to learn is by teaching, so maybe, as a retired English teacher from Canada, I should contribute some informative, “roving-reporter” articles from my town’s perspective to you – please email me if you’re interested.

  6. i remember when i got into the us,the immigration officer asked me something and i was like WHAT?????,and then he spoke slowly to me,and then i picked up, what is the reason of your visit?, and i answered him,with my poor english,and i did not speak english for a while,because i was always around mexicans and about almost three years ago i had to learn,cos i got this job in HVAC,and everything was in english,then i started going to school for hvac and the same there’s no spanish class now i think i speak ok,more or less i do not have trouble ordering pizza no more,or going to the chinese,or even going to an american restaurant,or speaking to people,my boss,etc,but there is one thing i noticed recently if i am going to talk to an american i kind of set up my brain for english and then he speaks to me in spanish even the only thing he knows is :BUENOS DIAS,COMO ESTAS?,my brain sort of goes blank for a second and then keeps going,i just wanted to share the other side from spanish to english,i can teach you people to speak spanish no charge.have a nice day.

  7. Thank you for the compliment! And Manuelito, we have noticed that sometimes Spanish-speaking people don’t understand us at first, and it must be that they are expecting us to speak English. Gracias for your perspective. It’s good to hear from you again!

  8. Being a son of a Mexican father and a white mother from S. Carolina, we spoke little espanol in our house. So, like most 2nd, 3rd, and 4th generation chicanos, espanol was soon forgotten. I didnt begin to appreciate the beauty of espanol until in my 30′s. When I met Ariadna (who spoke very little ingles) and moved to Merida, it gave me an opportunity to emerse myself in espanol. 1 day at Walmart, we ran into a Canadian man, who was also married to a Yucateca (like me). He asked me where all the english speakers were, cause he used his wife as a translator. I said: they are scattered through out Merida, and are not Centrally located. I told my wife Ariadna, how sad it was for this man not to learn espanol and only rely on his wife as a translator. Though espanol was hard for me, I was making an effort to learn, so I can talk with the Yucatecos in Merida. I say it is good to learn espanol and other languages. Just as I encourage the Ilegals here to learn Ingles, for their benefit.

  9. …and the best fun of all… the gales of laughter when the young men on the garbage truck take you – and your Spanish – on as a “project” – we laughed, we laughed, we laughed – as they attempted to improve my Spanish in twice weekly “drive-by” lessons… the poor driver would just shake his head and smile… but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world!!!

  10. Wonderful article!!! I have been hoping for just this kind of info. Having greater detail about how the classes are taught, etc. makes all the difference(not to mention having the legitimacy of referral status with you. I hope to take classes there soon, but was wondering if there are any such classes or tutors in the Progreso area? It is a 45 min drive from my place to Merida, so for convenience sake, Progreso classes would be preferable.

  11. I’m a volunteer English teacher with Intercambio de Comunidades in Boulder. I know exactly what is meant when people say the best way to learn another language is to try to teach your own to people who are learning to speak it. All the grammar I learned in grade school I took for granted – never gave it a thought. Never, that is, until my students started asking me why we say things the way we say them in English. I had to go buy some books from Amazon dot com that show English and Spanish grammar side-by-side. I think it helps me as much as it helps them. You can only go so far in learning a different language without having to tackle basic grammar. The longer you put it off, the slower you will get to your goal.

    This is a great website, by the way.

  12. Thank you! And thanks for your comments. That sounds like a great book…can you tell us the title?

  13. My wife and I are contemplating part time retirement in Mexico and definitely wanting to learn Spanish. There is a large Hispanic contingent where we live and it could be useful here as well. I am aware that a software program can’t teach you to be fluent but have you heard of any that can help? We’ve heard good things about Rosetta Stone but have no experience with it. I’m sure a class and immersion are better but our schedules at present don’t allow for either.
    I’ve found your website to be very informative, entertaining and well written.The more I read, the more my interest in Mexico,(especially the Yucatan), is piqued. Keep up the fantastic work.

    -Soggy in the Northwest

  14. Hola, Soggy! We used a series of Spanish language CDs when we were first learning. I think there are a lot of good ones, and you really can’t go too wrong. The best thing to do would be to make a Spanish-speaking friend and make a deal to teach them English if they’ll teach you Spanish. Hang out together, have fun, and learn how to say it all in Spanish!
    Thanks for the compliments on the website…we intend to keep doing it! Stay tuned for more interesting things to come.

  15. We used Raffie for private tutoring in Spanish for 6 weeks and were very pleased. He tailored lessons to our individual levels and needs and provided homework and personal interaction at the appropriate level. We plan to use him when we return again next year.

  16. This is a wonderful website that I stumbled upon today. My sister and I are planning a trip to Merida in late November so I am finding all of this information very valuable. Before reading your article on language schools, I had pretty much decided on The Spanish Institue of Merida, but don’t see them in your list. Do you have any information on that school? Are they not listed because you don’t recommend them? Any information would be appreciated. Again, thanks for the website.

  17. Dear Jaime,

    The list of schools above is indeed shorter than the number of Spanish language and cultural immersion schools in Merida, which are an industry here. The schools we listed are the most frequently suggested by those we we know, but by no means should that imply they are the only worthy schools.

    Let us know about your experience at the Spanish Institute of Merida. If it is positive, we would be happy to include them in the list above.

  18. I am interested in taking intensive spanish class for 2 weeks. I also like to do some volunteer work, learn to cook, dance, and do sight seeing. would you recommend me the reliable one? thank you.

  19. This is fun to read. I studied during 2001 for about 6 weeks at the Benjamin Franklin institute while staying at a nearby hotel. The experience of getting to know the city of Merida, its people and the culture was tremendous, and it was a much less expensive way to brush up on some espanol that I’d let languish since my semester abroad in Espana many years before. I’ve since been back to Yucatan and Merida a few times, and always love the charming times there. Street vendors ended up being probably my best sources for mini-lessons, as they would always sit for a coca on a hot day and talk to you about their lives, or their city, and after seeing you around a few times and talking to you for a bit they even stop pushing nylon hamacas quite so hard!!!

  20. I can give spanish lessons too. I am a teacher

  21. Thanks for the informative article.
    Which of schools reviewed, would be best suited for a 60 old who would like to learn Spanish for traveling in Mexico.

  22. Hallo,
    from my fresh experiences I can recommend you here in Merida the Ecora School, which is located in the “Francisco Montejo” northern part of city.
    More info on their pages:

  23. I was in the Yucatan for a month last winter and loved the week I spent in Merida. I plan to come back for 6-8 weeks in Jan/Feb 2008. Since learning Spanish is one of my priorities your article on lanuage schools was very informative and helpful. Leaning toward private instruction and accommodations at this point. Also looking for someone who could give me lessons on guitar and/or requinto. Wonder if you have any suggestions?

    Thanx, Gary

  24. I am looking to go to language school in march in Merida and your info. will be most helpful. I was wondering if you have heard of a school by the name Spanish Institute Of Merida? and how they might match up to the list that you have?

  25. Thanks so much…I stumbled on your article while looking for Spanish lang. schools in Merida. It was very helpful. Any comments on which schools are more likely to have older students? I am definitely a senior at 68 yrs. old!!

  26. We’re pretty sure all the schools will welcome older students. You might also try private lessons where teachers can tailor the lessons to your level of age and experience. We have listed three very competent (and recommended) teachers in this article.

  27. We have two boys 7 and 11 and are coming back to the Yucatan/Central America for our third winter. We would like to hire a young person to travel with us as a tutor/assistant and exchange language. We were going to put up a flyer at Benjiman Franklin. Have you any ideas ?
    PS Just discovered your site. Fantastic!

  28. We are planning on sending our son to a spanish immersion program in Merida this summer ’08 before he enters college in the fall. He is a 5th yr spanish student and hopes to become fluent enough to take his junior year studies at the University of Costa Rica (with future goals of joining the Peace Corps). He has time for a 4wk program this summer and we have been trying to decide where he should go. He does want the homestay experience. As others have mentioned here already, I found The Spanish Institute of Merida. It appears to be the most prominent on the internet searches. The Instructor I spoke with over the phone was very helpful. Still, I would feel better about the decision if I had solid independent recommendations. When I didn’t see it on your list, I wonder which of the schools you recommend for our situation?

  29. What Mayan languages are spoken in Merida? Is there any formal instruction in any of the Mayan languages? Are all public schools taught in Spanish only? Are there any summer camps for English speakers wishing to learn Spanish?

  30. I did a lot of research before choosing a Spanish Language School in Mexico. I attended the Spanish Institute of Merida during the month of January 2008 and my experience was great. I really think you should consider to mention this school in your previous list.

  31. I was a teacher at C.I.S in the late 80′s. I taught for three years and am looking
    forward to returning to merida and teaching again

  32. Can you provide a printable view of the list of schools?

  33. Working Gringos. Do you have a website? I enjoy the information you provide and find it all very helpful.

    Thanks and keep up the good work.


  34. Does anyone have information about studying Spanish at the Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán. I have been on their website but not having any Spanish I am finding it difficult to find if they do or dont offer programs. Thanks for your help!

  35. How about some information on the UNAM Spanish language program here? I think it started fairly recently. I’ve heard good things about it, that it’s intensive and professional Thanks.

  36. Hummm… I just posted a comment but it is not showing.
    Anyway I mentioned that you should include The Spanish Institute of Merida. I studied there during the month of March. It definitely tops all the other schools that I have previously attended in Mexico.
    Feel free to contact me.

  37. Dan,
    On your recommendation, we will be adding them to the list.

  38. Wow you are fast! Congratulations to your webmaster.
    In regards to the school… I was really impressed with how professionally it is run. The school is located in the heart of Merida, the teachers are very knowledgeable. Every single detail was taken care of. As a regular to your site, I feel really comfortable recommending this school to anyone. I love your website and I loved Merida. Thank you for everything!

  39. Thank you, Dan! You’re our kind of reader… you love us and you contribute!

  40. I’m wondering if anyone has attended the Instituto Benjamin Franklin recently and can give me their opinion about it. It seems like the best location since it’s close to the main plaza. Is it a good place for someone traveling alone, in their 30′s?

  41. Verna,

    I visited Benjamin Franklin when I was in Merida. The location is good, but they aren’t specialized in teaching Spanish. They teach every language and none of their teachers hold degrees. That is why it’s so cheap. The education quality seems like it’s really poor. You should consider other options. I highly recommend the Spanish Institute of Merida.

  42. Verna,

    Did you end up studying in Merida? Which school did you choose? I’m travelling to Merida in a few weeks and finding it difficult to choose a school. Your advice would be appreciated.


  43. Has anyone attended UNAM? Do they offer 2 week intensive programs? Also what is your opinion on ECORA, CIS and the Institute of Modern Spanish? I’m looking for a good school for a 2 week course for an adult learner. I’m travelling within the next 2 weeks and need to book my school ASAP :)

  44. Shawna,
    We have friends who attend UNAM, but no, they don’t have two week courses. They are on a semester or quarter basis. All the others are good schools, but we have no personal experience with them. All our friends (who live here) attend either UNAM or Habla.

    You might try contacting the schools you are interested in directly via email and ask them each a few questions. And let us know after your trip what you liked or didn’t like!

  45. I’d like to teach esl during the winter months and get out of the frigid mountains. Do you think there is any opportunity in the yucatan for that? Esl experience and a masters from Johns Hopkins, teaching credential in English, lots of experience in film and television writing and producing. How about esl negotiate Hollywood film industry? eslnhfi

  46. There are plenty of places that teach English as a second language here in Merida. The teachers generally receive Mexican-level wages, however, and you might find those low compared to your current income level. If you spend some time here and get to know the area, you might be able to discover a niche for your unique skills. Or you could try getting in touch with Yucatan Expatriate Services (YES)… they might be able to point you in a fruitful direction. ( or info [at] yucatanyes [dot] com)

  47. Looking for a school I could feel comfortable leaving my 16 year old son for a two or three week immersion class. His Uncle would get him situated and then travel on, to return in a couple of weeks. Any thoughts, anyone?

  48. I have been living in Progreso for the past 8 months, I have noticed the great schools in Merida and they sound great but, I was wondering if someone could tell me of any good schools here in Progreso that I may take classes. I am living here full time now and I have finally settled in so I NEED to learn the launguage. Help please!!!!!!!

  49. My friend and I attended The Spanish Institute of Merida. The school was wonderful! Our home stay was awesome. We could not have asked for anything more! I really enjoyed a private class. I have been to school twice, for a month each time. I found it better with one-on-one teaching. My first time was hard due to students who are not serious students. I will be returning to Merida in January for an extended time. I do believe my SIM gave me an awesome beginning. It is total immersion, and I loved the interaction with everyone in Merida!! If anyone has questions, they can email me!

  50. In case it helps anyone looking for a good Spanish school, I’ve had an excellent learning experience with ILET Language & Cooking School here in Progreso. The quality of instruction is extremely high, and the lessons are very reasonably priced. Also a really friendly learning atmosphere. In my case, I’ve done private lessons, and I’d recommend at least twice a week, the more the better. But I understand they also have classes. One piece of advice I have is this – you can’t learn Spanish from a book, or from one of the online schools. I speak from experience. You absolutely need a teacher if you want to make any progress. And you need a teacher who understands the ins and outs of Spanish here in the Yucatan. That’s just as important. I tried some other places, but finally landed on this one. I’ve made very, very fast progress working with ILET. Just today, I was in a taxi with a driver who had taken me to Merida three months ago.and he was blown away by how much my Spanish had improved. Very exciting! Hope this helps.

  51. We had a lousy Experience at Spanish Institute of Merida in January 2011. I think they are good for those with Intermediate Spanish ability or better, but not good at all for beginners. Our instructor did not seem to know how to teach at a beginning level. Our lessons consisted mainly of the instructor writing lists of words on the whiteboard. In one day, we covered occupations, nationalities and numbers up to 100! It was very disheartening, when we left that day feeling completely overwhelmed.

    Their website stated that they had a computer lab. That consisted of two computers that instructors and students had available to them. They were seldom used for learning purposes. Generally, instructors or students used them on break to check email. As far as I could tell, the computers were not networked for class purposes. The one time our class used the computers, we all crowded around one.

    We took advantage of the trip to Chichen Itza which was included in the cost for the course. Come to find out, only the transportation and lunch included. We had to pay ourselves for entrance. What a shocker that was!

    Do need to say that more advanced learners seemed very pleased with their program. We weren’t.

  52. Hello,

    I appreciate the depth you went into for this article. I was most interested in ILET: Instituto de Lenguas Extranjeras y Turismo, however I emailed them and never heard back, and after finding them on Twitter see they haven’t posted since Dec. 2010. Do you know if they are still open?


  53. Yes, and we’re pretty sure they are interested in your business, as they have purchased advertising on this site recently. You can find out more about them here:
    And we will check the page you are referring to to be sure all the data is correct for them. Thanks for asking, and do let us know if you still cannot reach them!

  54. Thanks for all the useful details on your site.

    Minor correction to the web site for the ‘CIS – Centro de Idiomas Sureste’; it appears to have been re-hosted to:

  55. Gracias, Olaf! We made the substitute!

  56. Thank You for the information regarding the variety of Merida area schools teaching spanish. I am a retired person who has been living in Merida since january, 2009. I am fluent in english and spanish with a Political Science degree from North Western University-Chicago Campus. I am a California Licensed Real Estate and Insurance Sales broker. I will be willing to teach “Rapid Learning Spanish” as I did taught, some years back, to members of the city of Milwaukee Wisconsin Police Dept. and The Waukesha Wisconsin Sheriff’s Department. If interested in my services please contact me through the e-mail address.

  57. Wonderful written articles and I’ll definitely use the resources. College Spanish was along time ago and my street Spanish is so inappropiate!

  58. I am a English teacher who teaches non natives. I have my CELTA certification, speak Spanish 90 percent fluently and have a few years of ESL teaching under my belt, and I am almost finished with my TESOL Master’s. I want to get a job in Merida or Yucatan. Can you tell me where I should go and whom I should talk to? I am going to be in Merida 9-16 de mayo 2012

  59. Unfortunately, my experience with Spanish Institute of Merida was the same as Barbara stated above. I felt that the teachers lacked the methods for teaching a 2nd language. There was no language lab and after considerable pressure from the students, one new computer was installed. That was our entire “language lab”. The brochure and web site promised much more than they actually delivered.

  60. Is anyone aware of a Spanish immersion program in Merida geared specifically to Teenagers. My 16 year old daughter and her friend are interested in a Spanish program (with homestay) where they would be with other teens. Any insight is appreciated!

  61. It might be difficult to find a program like the one you’re looking for, as Spanish schools in Merida work on a supply and demand basis, and do not organize large homestay groups. However, in ECORA Spanish School you can customize your homestay and ask if there is a family with teenagers so your daughter can hang out with them.

  62. Hello,
    I need to decide which one of two language schools in Merida is best:

    Spanish Institute of Merida OR Modern Spanish,

    PLEASE any advice, testimonial or other will be appreciated!

  63. Good information and well written. Thank you! Yes I have Spanish surname but Hungarian mother, so we didn’t speak Spanish at home. Now in my 60s, are there schools for older adults in Merida? I am visiting the city in November 2012. Just wondering?? Thanks you!

  64. My daughter and I studied at Spanish Institute of Merida summer 2011. A friend of mine also studied there early this year. We don’t recommend it. You can see reviews at I’m considering Spanish Center Merida next time.

  65. Input please! Spanish Center Merida wants 10% down but also the full fare paid before I arrive in Mexico. Is this normal??? At Spanish Institute of Merida, we paid the 90% balance on the first day of class.

  66. Spanish Center Merida clarified the deal, which is now clear. I can pay the 90% balance the first day of class.

  67. Hi Lolita. I’m from France and I recommend you to check Calle 55 website They just work with adults and they use a conversation based-method. The school is locate in the heart of Mérida, in a lovely and colorful colonial house. The school is new, but the project that this guys have is very interested. The school is run by a couple (I met them in France last year). I took a week of classes with them last month and I can tell you that they are really passionate about teaching and their methods are very creative. Désolé pour mon anglais : ) Fabien

  68. Hello! I am a student hoping to spend about two months in Merida with a language program. I’m living with friends so I don’t need a program that provides a homestay, but there are so many options that I really don’t know where to start! My friends in Merida recommended Berltiz, but only becaiuse it’s well known, so I’m really not sure what I should be looking for credential-wise. I would say I’m at an intermediate level, and I’m looking for complete immersion with less emphasis on the kind of textbook/classroom learning that you get in a regular school or university. Can anyone recommend a program?

  69. It sounds like the art-related and creative programs at Habla might be right up your alley!

  70. Hola Em,

    If you still looking for a spanish school in Merida I can recommend you Calle 55. I just spent 3 weeks and I’m very content with the progress I’ve made. We don’t studied in class with a boring book, we talk a lot, I really unlock my spanish! Now I feel comfortable to talk with a spanish speaker.

  71. Thank you for your responses! For me the decision is tied between Habla and Calle 55, so it looks like we’re all on the same page! I noticed that the cost is a lot lower for Calle 55 though; is there any specific reason for that? And since I’m really looking to maximize my fluency, is there any sort of sense that these non-traditional schools achieve this less so than a regular, structured school does, like the Institute of Modern Spanish (which my host family keeps bringing up)? Not to say they don’t teach you spanish; but is it more contextual/survival spanish rather than all-around fluency?

    Sorry I ask a lot of questions; I try to be really thorough in my research! This is the best resource on Merida language schools I have found, though, so thank you so much for creating it Working Gringos!

  72. Does anyone know of a Spanish-language group that meets regularly in Mérida?
    ¿Alguien sepa de un grupo para conversar en español que se reúne a menudo en Mérida?

  73. Paul, every Monday night, people who speak both languages meet at the Merida English Library to work with each other… and it’s free!

  74. I am looking for names of translators who are certified by the Mexican government. I need to file a denuncia and I have been told by several people that all my email communications with the person must be translated by a certified translator? Can anyone provide a list of those certified by the government here in Merida? Thanks.

  75. Here is the contact info for one of the approved translators in Merida:
    (999) 9 44 95 17 – (999) 9 20 20 11

  76. Hello,

    I am a recent University graduate, looking for a Spanish school in Merida for an intensive immersion program, for at least 4 weeks starting at the end of January 2013. Ideally it would also be some fun, but I am really intent on improving my Spanish, which is currently at advanced beginner / intermediate level. Any recommendations? I was thinking of going to the Spanish Institute of Merida, but have been put off by some negative reviews. I have also looked into Habla, but am not sure how effective the alternative approach is for someone at my level who wants to really advance. Any advice would be greatly appreciated, especially from anyone who has studied Spanish in Merida recently!


  77. Great article.

    I just finished a week at Habla in the advanced class and it was fabulous. This is a terrific school and I learned a great deal.

    Marimar, Ramon, and Paco (my teacher) are excellent teachers and you’ll go as fast and as far as you wish.

    The home stay program is excellent, too. If you have more questions about Habla, you can email me at noca04 [at] yahoo [dot] com

  78. A traditional academic semester offering is that by UNAM’s Mérida CEPHCIS branch; see That page shows the current spring 2013 courses already in progress, the text cleverly available only in Spanish! Use the contact info for 2.5 hr a day, 2 times a week courses later on in the year.

    Met a Canadian who came for 6 weeks for intensive Spanish (he only has a week or so left) and found both CIS Centro, and Calle 55 to be useless except for those starting from nothing. He has basic working Spanish already, and seemed to me to be a serious minded fellow. I offer his opinion as is.

  79. We have heard good things about the UNAM Spanish classes as well, especially for those with an academic bent. Thanks, Alan!

  80. I enjoyed reading this article. I taught school in the Bronx and witnessed the interaction between Latinos and blacks. I would love to visit and share my perspective about America while becoming fluent in Spanish.

  81. We are from Montreal, Quebec intend to visit Merida from Dec. 2013 until March 2014 and would like to find a private French/Spanish/English teacher. Our boys will be in Grade 1 and 3. We are considering home-schooling or maybe a combination of private school/private tutoring so our kids can follow the homeschooling program from Quebec. Any comments or contacts are greatly appreciated.
    Thanks in advance for your assistance. We can’t wait to leave the snow and cold behind ! :)

  82. My husband and I are living in Chuburna and looking for a group/ private tutor closer to us than Merida. Does anyone know of anything in the Progreso area?

  83. Looking for Spanish for Kids during Summer?

    We are a family from Texas, and would like to have our kids learn spanish during the later part of our summer holiday. Does anyone know of programs for kids ranging from Kinder to high school students. We would be staying in Merida.

  84. Hola
    My name is Agustin, and I am the founder of Calle 55 spanish school. I know this is a forum for students and not to make personal publicity. I just want to clarify an information gave it by Reading Terminal on February 13th. It says that we give lessons only to beginners. I would like just to say that we teach spanish to all levels, from beginners to high advance, without mixing levels. Thank you.

  85. Hola!
    I completed three weeks at Habla. It was terrific. The instruction was better than I experienced in graduate school. The last time I had a Spanish class was in high school. I was concerned that the lessons would be like those in high school or like the Swedish class I took in college. However, Habla made the classroom fun yet challenging. The lessons were geared toward the abilities and interests of the students and the time flew by. Habla provided a great lunch and a chance to meet and speak Spanish with fellow students that were more advanced than myself. Twice a week students participate in an extracurricular activity such as a visit to a museum or art gallery or movie house. Habla also arranged for a home stay so I was able to practice my skills after school. If you are looking for a Spanish Language school with great instructors and a great approach, I highly recommend Habla. I plan to return for another session.

  86. My husband & I recently spent 5 weeks studying Spanish at Calle 55. It was a transforming experience for each of us. My husband had no Spanish at all when he began, and he can now negotiate nicely in Spanish in our continued travels in the Yucatan. I have studied Spanish off & on for many years in school settings. It was a completely different ball game for me to become fluidly conversant in Spanish. I am now certainly much more fluent than I was before.

    I was fascinated by Calle 55′s teaching methods & their ability to meet our needs. We were seen & understood in our desire to become knowledgable in Spanish. The teachers are smart, organized, and skilled in delivering concepts & conversational fluency at each of our levels.

    And it was fun! We had many fascinating & complex discussions in Spanish with our classmates who hailed from many parts of the globe. Our teachers brought good humor and good will to all of our conversations. We learned a terrific amount about the culture of Mexico, and our questions & as well as our needs were met in a professional & intelligent manner.

    Being at Calle 55 was a wonderful experience that so enriched our lives as well as our ability to speak Spanish. We hope to return.

  87. I studied at the Centro de Idiomas del Sureste school for two weeks in late January of 2014 and would recommend it to others. My teacher was very professional and patient. Fer, the school administrator was very flexible and accommodating. The classes were small with classrooms set around a lovely courtyard. The overall school environment was very friendly and it was a very comfortable place to learn. My ability to hear, understand and speak Spanish improved substantially. My host family was wonderful and like many of the CIS host families they had a long-term relationship with the school. Most of the students were older adults from the U.S. and Canada. Merida is a safe and vibrant city and the Centro is within walking distance of CIS.

  88. First of all, we wish to thank the Working Gringos of Yucatan living for this excellent Guide of Spanish Schools in Merida. We appreciated your comments on every school and it helped us a lot to choose one. Here is our experience with one of them.
    We enrolled for two months (Jan-Feb 2014) in Calle 55, a small and lovely school. Small groups (max 6). Teachers put emphasis on communication skills. Grammar is passed along discussion topics and conversational games. Total immersion, exclusively in Spanish. Hard for teachers, easy for students. Confidence and sense of humor were key elements.
    As teachers of French as a second language in Montreal, we were fully satisfied with the course.
    Michèle Charbonneau and Paul Desrosiers, Montréal.

  89. Thanks for the feedback!!

  90. We live in Washington State and recently visited Mexico. We want to say we loved the language school, Habla. They teach using things the students are interested in, while incorporating art and culture. The teachers seem overqualified (they have traveled, know different languages, cultures) but are still open and friendly. We got into great discussions using Spanish even though I don’t know that many words and my grown daughter was a beginner. We experienced the Yucatan more fully because of the school. My husband and I want to return to the area and will definitely go back to Habla.

  91. Hi I am coming to Progreso for about 9 weeks and would like to have my kids take Spanish lessons as well as guitar lessons. Are there any in Progreso you could recommend or if not then walking distance from an ADO bus station in Merida? Thanks a lot! Hopefully I hear back before we leave :)

  92. In describing one of the first schools on your list you mentioned that it taught Latin American Spanish – as opposed to Mexican Spanish – and that there is a difference. Could you elaborate on this please?


  93. Just finished a week of four hour a day private immersion class at Habla. I am in my late 60s and have traveled a lot; in addition I was a Peace Corps in French West Africa many years ago. The French language training was great and I still speak it well. At Habla I received excellent grammar and cultural instruction from Alejo who was very energetic and committed to the task. I don’t think it’s realistic to expect enormous progress in spoken Spanish in one week in ANY school. However I intend to blend what I learned this week with intensive oral practice at home using downloads from I think you’ll find the FSI (foreign service institute) Spanish courses there under “free resources ” or just Google livelingua FSI. These courses are free and replicate the Peace Corps training system I know and believe in. If you’re serious and disciplined FSI will train you like a race horse! Don’t expect the tapes (the recorded lessons) to offer slowed down language. But you’ll get so many ways to listen, repeat, manipulate, and thus LEARN Spanish that it’s the perfect accompaniment to fine school like Habla. Do them both! Habla is first rate and I would come back anytime.

  94. Thank you for sharing your experience, Chris!


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