|Montevideo's Plaza Independencia|
Henry, a Uruguayan with an international background told the story of two non-Spanish-speaking executives who learned enough Spanish to start work at their company's Uruguay office in just 10 weeks.
Here's how they did it:
First, the company sent the executives to a Montevideo Language School called La Herradura. There, they spent five weeks doing nothing but studying and practicing Spanish.
Immediately after, they spent another five weeks at a guest ranch in Uruguay’s interior—a place where nobody spoke English. And with no access to cell phones, Internet, or television.
Henry’s story stuck in my mind. A few years later I spent a few weeks studying at La Herradura. It wasn’t as long as I wanted (my day job requires a lot travel). But while I was there, I learned a lot.
La Herradura is owned and managed by Margo Kros—originally from Holland. Passionate about language learning, Margo speaks Spanish, German, Dutch, English, French, and is currently learning Portuguese.
After 10 years of operating a Spanish-language school in La Herradura Spain, she opened the school by the same name in Montevideo, Uruguay in 2002.
With 24 years of dedicated experience, she’s developed an optimum environment for learning Spanish that includes well-trained teachers, a proven curriculum, and small class sizes (usually three to six students).
The Instructors and curriculum
At La Herradura, you’ll find four full-time instructors and two part-time instructors, which includes both Uruguayan and Spanish teachers. “Expats living in Uruguay get Uruguayan teachers to learn the local accent. But, I always have a teacher or two from Spain.
“It’s good to have different teachers to improve hearing. The Spanish teachers have formal training to teach Spanish as a foreign language (available in Spain but not in Uruguay). The Uruguayan teachers have a degree in Spanish, literature, or are trained English teachers,” says Margo.
Regardless of previous training and experience, La Herradura provides an intern program for all new teachers. Margo’s team also developed their own curriculum. It matches the quality of the Spanish curriculum for teaching Spanish as a second language, but with references to Uruguayan culture.
Many come to study as part of a vacation. Expats in Montevideo often start with a month of study, attending class five days a week. And then go in once or twice a week to continue improving.
One-on-one classes are also available, which can be customized to a student’s specific learning objective. As an example, people have studied at La Herradura to prepare for their Uruguayan citizenship interview.
Optional activities and volunteer programs
The school organizes weekly activities, which sometimes includes tours.
“We plan guided tours with small, down-to-earth companies that specialize in serving local Uruguayans interested in visiting places in their own country – like small bodegas," says Margo. “It’s less commercial, and gives students an opportunity to practice their Spanish.
“The weekly activities are optional. A student can choose to take part or not."
La Herradura can also help arrange placement for volunteer projects and internships.
To qualify, a student first needs to take a month of intensive classes to develop basic conversation skills. Then, the student can join a volunteer project to help make a difference and improve his or her Spanish at the same time.
Locations in Montevideo and Punta del Este
You’ll find La Herradura in Montevideo’s Cordón community. It's conveniently located between Pocitos (the city’s most popular residential area) and Centro (where you find historical plazas and architecture).
While attending classes, some students rent a nearby apartment they find on websites like Airbnb. Others stay at the school, which offers five rooms for rent, three shared bathrooms, and a kitchen.
In addition to the Montevideo location, La Herradura opened a satellite branch in Punta del Este in 2015.
Punta del Este is South America’s most fashionable beach resort. It bustles during the summer and is quite during the winter. It adjoins the middle-class city of Maldonado, which is active year-round.
You'll find the school in the Punta community of Pinares. It’s walking distance to both Maldonado’s Centro and the beach.
While most students are in their 20s and 30s, it’s common to have students in their 40s, 50s, and 60s. “Having a mix of older and younger students—as well as students from different cultures—helps in the learning process.
“We have students from many different cultures, ages, and social backgrounds. The largest percentage of students are from the U.S. and Brazil, followed by students from Germany. We also receive students from Switzerland, Australia, and New Zealand,” says Margo.
At La Herradura, the teachers love what they do, and many students report they feel like part of a family.