September 19, 2011 · 6:12 PM
A gringo or gringa (male/female variants) is a backpacker, tourist or traveller most commonly identified by Merrell shoes, unkempt hair, unwashed clothes, loud voice and bad dancing. Gringos/gringas can be seen sporting colourful cardigans with repeated alpaca patterns to slob around in whilst watching movies in their hostels.
Other uses: gringoland (tourist hub, very little cultural authenticity here, unless you’re talking homogenised culture); the gringo trail (the safe path that travellers follow through Latin America where they will inevitably bump into the same gringos/gringas time and time again).
often disparaging: a foreigner in Spain or Latin America especially when
of English or American origin; broadly: non-Hispanic person
September 19, 2011 · 3:13 PM
There are options aplenty to study Spanish in Quito, and with prices pretty much the same between schools, it can be difficult to make a choice. There are also some good options to study on the coast, in the jungle or at other popular spots along the gringotrail. Prices vary away from the capital.
My choice of school was based simply on proximity to my hostel, and the fact that it was the first one I managed to locate when orientating myself following my arrival in Quito. I lucked out with a fun, inspiring teacher and a good school that offered early evening activities as a bonus.
Individual classes typically cost $8-$10 per hour and the usual weekly allocation is 20 hours. Typically, this will be split across five days and you choose whether to do morning or afternoon sessions. I chose mornings (my brain seems to function slightly better before the day takes hold) but due to being in the middle of spewing my guts up, I missed the first day and my 20 hours was shunted into a four day programme. Five hours per day is quite intense, although one Aussie guy I met was doing six hours a day and stuck with it for eight weeks. He is now ridiculously good at Spanish.
Group sessions cost anything upwards of $4.50 per hour, but the catch here is that you generally need to sign up to a four week course (although there are opportunities to reduce that slightly). Initially I considered the idea of group sessions (much more sociable) but then realised that one-to-one classes would actually advance me considerably quicker than if I had coasted along on other people’s learning. Horses for courses. An alternative: flash card testing and revision with other students works well after classes and can become quite competitive for the geeks among us.
One final option to consider is the home stay. Feedback from travellers who have done this suggests that it can be hit or miss. Full immersion into the language and culture is a great idea and you’re presented with the perfect opportunity to put the day’s learning into practise without returning to a hostel where the default language is English. Difficulties can arise when host families are uncommunicative or unhelpful or make you feel awkward. The likelihood is that, with typical Ecuadorian generosity and spirit, you will be warmly welcomed. You may even, as happened with one traveller friend, be walked to the language school on your first day! Home stays typically seem to cost anything from $115-$200 per week (in addition to the cost of Spanish classes) and tend to include two meals per day.
Finally, registration fees at schools are common. Expect to pay about $20 as a one off fee.