Lifehacker Contributor Learns a Language in 90 Days

Lifehacker ran an article today on how you can learn a language in 90 days. Hint: it wasn’t through a software program (although memorization software was used).

spanish school in malaga, spain

The author emphasized the importance of speaking out loud and often, getting a private tour, and if possible, moving and studying in a country where the natives speak your language of choice. He also mentioned the benefits of living and eating with a host family.

Check out the whole article here.

host family near tamarindo, costa rica

And if you are convinced, why not kick your learning into gear by studying in one of our Spanish schools in Buenos Aires, Spain, or Costa Rica.  We offer host family accommodation at all of our schools as well.

Reasons Why New Graduates Should Go Abroad

The folks at Best Colleges recently wrote about 9 good reasons new graduates should go abroad.  Beyond the obvious reasons like the chance to experience a new culture, they list the ability to find more jobs in your field and potential lower costs of living as key factors when considering a move abroad.

Read the complete post on their blog:  9 Good Reasons New Grads Should Go Abroad.

And if you are looking to find some of those jobs abroad, check out our friends at Work Learn Go.  

Learn Spanish and tango in Argentina!

SG Spanish schools recently added a new language school in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Spanish and tango in Buenos Aires, Argentina


Located in the heart of the historic Palermo district, students will be in prime position to enjoy the wine, music, architecture and culture of this wonderful city.  Highlights of the program include:

So join us and study abroad or learn Spanish in Buenos Aires this summer!

Being bilingual ‘boosts brain power’ – BBC

The BBC reported on a study today that found that speaking a second language provides a mental workout that boosts the mind. We have suspected that all along, but it’s great to see scientists confirm it. So what are you waiting for? Learn Spanish with SG in Argentina, Spain or Costa Rica this year!


Top 10 Things to do in Valencia, Spain

Hola amigos,

As SG added a Spanish school in Valencia, way back in 2011, we figured it was high time we ran down our list of top 10 things to do in that wonderful city. This list is limited to day time activities and attractions (think arts and culture rather than beer and shooters). We will save our best nightlife picks for another post.
valencia spain
A little background on Valencia: Valencia is Spain’s 3rd largest city and is located on the country’s central eastern coast. It is also one of Spain’s oldest cities, with first the known settlers setting up shop before 100 BC during the Roman Empire. Since that time, the city has been conquered, reconquered, razed and rebuilt numerous times. Valencia was invaded and subsequently controlled by the Moors for over 500 years and much of the architectural influence of that era remains, mixed with the later ‘traditional’ Spanish styles of the Christian reconquest era. The ‘Golden Age’ of Valencia occurred during the 15th century during the height of the Renaissance. This was a time of prosperity both economically and culturally for the city. (Wikipedia)

So without further ado, here’s the list:

1. Take in the sights of la Plaza de la Virgin: Located in the historic district, the plaza is a major gathering point for the festival of Fallas which occurs from March 15-19 annually. This brief festival of parody is a time in which the citizenry make fun of the faults of society and Spanish politics. Major monuments around the plaza include el catedral, the Roman Museum, and the Church of Saint Joseph.

2. See, smell and taste El Mercado Central: This 8000 square meter space market is one of the oldest running in Europe. The building surrounding the market was designed in 1914 by architects Francisco Guardia and Alejandro Soler. Vendors sell meat, vegetables, fruit fish and more in over 1,000 stands. Come for the sights, smells and tastes in the early morning and then grab breakfast or lunch at one of the many restaurants and tapas bars surrounding the market.

3. Stretch your mind at La Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias: Images of the iconic center for Arts and Sciences can be seen on almost every website and pamphlet about Valencia. The center houses a museum, an IMAX theater, an aquarium, a planetarium, a laser dome and an opera house. Visitors young and old are encouraged to exercise their brains while touching and interacting with exhibits.

5. Spend a day exploring El Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno: The Valencia Museum of Modern Art is made up of a modern building and a 13th century building that was formerly a convent. The museum features painting, sculptures, photography, drawings, concerts and more from modern artists in Spain and around the world. It is open Monday and Thursday from 10am to 7pm and Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 10pm. Entry is only 2 Euros per person.

6. Picnic at El Parque Natural de la Albufera: Centered around a gorgeous lagoon, this nature reserve south of Valencia is a great spot for the tired traveler to retire for some peace and quiet outside of the hustle of the city proper. Over 250 species of migratory birds frequent the area during the summer months. Visitors can also gaze at myriad flora and fauna within the park. Three separate canals connect the wetlands and lagoon to the Balearic Sea (part of the Mediterranean)

7. People watch on el Calle Caballero: This chic street full of shopping, cafes and bars is the best spot in the city to enjoy a coffee, read a book, or gaze at passers-by. Calle Caballero is part of Barrio del Carmen in the old town of Valencia and is frequented by Valencia’s young and beautiful citizens.

8. Visit El Catedral: This gorgeous cathedral is set in the center of the ancient Roman quarter of Valencia. Like many ancient buildings in coastal Spain, elements of Moorish, Baroque and renaissance style are present from conquerors of different religious backgrounds that have controlled the city throughout its history. Many additions to and subtractions from the cathedral were made during the 1600s, 1700s and early 1800s and the present day building is a beautiful collision of stylistic influences. The famous chalice known as the Santo Caliz sits in the cathedral, said by some to be the fabled Holy Grail.

9. Attend the Formula One European Grand Prix at the Valencia Street Circuit: The three day Valencia Grand Prix is one of two semi-permanent Grand Prix circuits in Spain, the other taking place in Barcelona. The European Grand Prix will be held there each summer until 2015. The course through the city was designed by the German engineer and automobile racer Hermann Tilke who has also designed circuits in Bejing, Zagreb, Jakarta and Instanbul.

10. Watch Valencia FC Play: You can’t visit Spain (or Europe for that matter) without attending a soccer match. Founded in 1919, Valencia FC is one of the top clubs in Spain. The club plays in La Liga against powerhouses like Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, the current Liga and European champs. A brand new 75,000 seat stadium opened in Valencia in 2011.

Anything we missed? As always, leave it in the comments!


How do I pack a travel backpack?

10 Backpacking Essentials

Planning on doing some traveling by foot this year? Maybe you want to hop trains in Europe or make your way through the Southeast Asian loop? Either way, you are going to need to pack lightly, efficiently and intelligently. We compiled a list of 10 backpacking essentials we never travel without. Think we missed something? Add it in the comments.

Disclaimer: This list is for urban/rural backpacking, not for overnight wilderness backpacking. The traditional ’10 essentials’ are for saving your life. This list is for saving you time, money and discomfort.

In no particular order:
how to pack for a backpack trip
1. Backpack: Having a good backpack is a given, but choosing one is more difficult than it sounds. Raymond, Eagle Creek, Lowe Alpine, Teton, Osprey, Gregory and tens of other brands offer backpacks of all shapes, sizes and designs. Volume, shape, material and fit are all going to be important factors. Read some reviews online and then make sure to go into a brick and mortar store, at least to try some on, because no backpack will be perfect for everyone. Here is a good list of backpack FAQs.

2. Durable and comfortable footwear: This is arguably the single most important purchase you will make for your trip. It can be a tough decision because shoes can add a lot of weight and volume to your pack, but if you get stuck without the right kind, you’ll be sorry. If you are planning on traveling mostly in urban areas and doing a moderate amount of walking, you may be fine with a good pair of walking athletic shoes and an extra pair of sandals for hot weather. Any trips that involve heavy walking, side trips into the wilderness, up mountains or through forests will require some sort of trail shoe or hiking boot. There is an entire spectrum of these, ranging from lightweight and less durable, to heavy duty and indestructible.

Head into your local REI or outdoor store, speak with an associate and try on some options. A trail runner hybrid shoe can bridge the gap between walking shoe and hiking boot in some cases. Also look into buying some wool or synthetic hiking socks to prevent blisters and wick sweat. It is a good idea to also get some moleskin and ointment in case you do develop blisters.

3. Undies: Around the internet, you can find different rules for how to pack underwear (3 pairs for every 3 weeks etc). Personally, we recommend spending some money up front and getting some Ex Officio travel underwear. You can literally wash these things in any sink and they dry extremely quickly, so you can have a fresh pair within an hour or two. You won’t need more than 3 pair ever. You can purchase them for about $30 (Men’s and women’s) at any

4. Duct tape: Duct tape has thousands of uses, from fixing a torn pack, to covering a blister in a bind. Don’t leave home without it. Jeff demonstrates the makeshift duct tape hammock below.

5. Sunscreen: This seems like an obvious pickup for anyone traveling in the summer months or in sunny areas, but it is a good idea year round anywhere you will be traveling. You will be spending a lot of time outside, and UV rays can be damaging even in overcast areas, especially at high altitudes. Check out this post from lifehacker regarding new FDA regulations on sunscreen. In the case you forget to apply, aloe vera is a tried and true method for soothing your burned skin.

6. Money belt: Yes, it makes you look like a tourist. No, it doesn’t higlight how worldly and street smart you are. Travel long enough without one though, and you will get pickpocketed or, at the very least, lose something. You can keep cash, emergency cards and your passport in here. Besides, you don’t have to let anybody see it. In fact, that’s the point.

7. Laundry kit: This one is pretty self-explanatory. You need to be able to wash your self so you don’t end looking like a smelly, matted-hair vagrant. Make sure to get environmentally friendly soap so you don’t go around polluting foreign water supplies. Also a sewing kit can come in handy for impromptu repairs.

8. Refillable water bottle: One of these will keep you hydrated, and because you won’t be buying disposable water bottles, will help save the environment and your beer money. Try to go BPA free so you don’t get The Cancers and purchase some purifying tablets if you will be anywhere with a sketchy water supply (i.e. Asia, Africa, and pretty much anywhere considered ‘3rd world’). Once you’ve had typhoid, you will agree that avoiding it in the future is worth a pretty penny.

9. Waterproof poncho: Having a foldable, waterproof poncho can be a godsend, whether you find yourself in a torrential downpour in the tropics, or just schlepping through a drizzle in London. They don’t look cool, but sopping wet hair and mildewy clothes aren’t very cool either.

10. First aid kit: You can get some pretty compact first aid kits, but make sure the one you choose has the essentials: antibiotic ointment, bandages, gauze, aspirin, an instant cold pack, scissors and gloves. You can also put an extra list of emergency contacts in here as well as your condom stash (see honorable mentions below). Note however, that condoms should be used as a preventative measure rather than ‘first aid’.

Honorable mentions:

-ear plugs
-travel lock
-condoms (mentioned above, but depending on the traveler, they probably deserve their own post)
-drylite towel
-mini flashlight
-swiss army knife (be sure to check at the airport)
-travel lock

Think we missed something? Let us know your essentials in the comments section.


Studying Abroad is Worth It – Study Shows Programs Pay off

SG Spanish Schools - ROI of Study Abroad

ROI of Study Abroad Programs

A study by Coursehero showed that more often than not, students who study abroad, end up earning a positive return on their investment in terms of career advancement and skill development, not to mention the worldview expanding experience they gain.

Thinking about studying abroad? Why not learn Spanish with SG Spanish Schools? Whether you want to spend a summer, a whole semester, or just a few weeks, our locations in Spain and Latin America can serve your needs. We realize not everyone has the time or money to embark on a full year abroad, so we specialize in both mini, short and longterm programs.  We’ll even help you prepare for the DELE exam.  Check out our website or email us at

Study abroad spain

Movement Makes Learning New Languages Easier

According to researchers Manuela Macedonia and Thomas Knösche at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Germany, performing motions while learning new words in another language, makes those words easier to recall from memory later on.

The researchers created an artificial language and taught half of its material using conventional methods, i.e. sitting at a desk without much movement. They then taught more material to the students and asked them to ask out certain words and phrases as they learned them. For example, participants learning the word for ‘throw’ would perform a throwing motion as they repeated the word aloud.

Material taught with accompanying movements was more easily recalled later by students than material taught using standard teaching methods.

Perhaps most surprising, was the discovery that performing movements not only aided in learning words with an obvious accompanying motion like chew or blink, but also helped students recall more physically ambiguous words like ‘doubt’ or ‘unique’. fMRI Scan Image

Based on the results of fMRI scans, the researchers postulated that motion creates a more complex representation of the words in the brain, allowing for faster and more complete recall later on.

Read the whole article at New Scientist.



Top 10 Things to do in Tamarindo, Costa Rica

1 – Learn Spanish

This one is simple, prepare before you arrive, but also be ready to engage once you get here. Learning a language is not easy, but diving right in and immersing yourself is a fantastic way to start. Whether you plan to further your education while in Tamarindo or just come away with a few more words and phrases, it’s very easy to find a place to learn. Fear not though, there are plenty of English speakers around town. Check out SG Spanish School in Tamarindo for more details and rates.

2 – Learn to surf

Tamarindo is home to a number of surf locations that can cater to wide array of skill sets. Whether you are just starting out on Tamarindo Beach or looking for a more advanced location such as Pico Pequeno (translation: small tip), there is a set of waves for you. There’s no shortage of surf shops or teachers either, it’s as easy as taking a stroll out to the beach. We’d highly recommend surf lessons for the first timer, but if you’ve ridden a wave before just ask around for the ideal destination for your skill set.

3 – Fish

The waters of Tamarindo Beach are home to a diverse sea life including sailfish, yellow fin tuna, marlin and wahoo, to name a few. Some of the best open water locations are no more than a few miles offshore and there are numerous boats and guided tours available in town. While the fishing is considered year-round, the ideal months are between April and August. A fun fact: September and October are generally the height of Costa Rica’s rainy season and bring with them some of the year’s best fishing.

4 – Explore Arenal Volcano National Park

For the past 43 years Arenal volcano was considered one of the 10 most active in the world with small daily eruptions and a plentiful amount of fresh volcanic rock. Now in a resting phase, Arenal is still a sight to behold towering, at its peak, some 5,437 feet over the lush hillsides below. The National Park is home to a rain forest, hot springs and it’s own lake leaving visitors with no shortage of things to do or see. This is an absolute must-visit for anyone new to Costa Rica. Shuttles and buses leave from Tamarindo to La Fortuna daily. Leave at least 2 days for this trip as travel time will be at least 3 hours each way.

5 – Snorkel and/or Scuba Dive at Tamarindo beach

Starting at Tamarindo beach is easiest, but up and down the coast there are tons of destinations for snorkeling and scuba divers. Supplies are easy to come by and scuba lessons are given daily, especially for beginners. You can expect to see a beautiful density of sea life just as easily close to the shore as you would in the deeper water.

6 – Kayak the salt-water jungle of the Rio Matapalo

Technically part of the Las Baulas National Park, this salt-water jungle serves as home to a number of species of water birds, crabs and the occasional crocodile, among others. Both self and guided tours are available to traverse its natural beauty, with the best tip being to get an early start and increase your chances of catching all the wildlife in action.

7 – Visit the tide pools at Playa Langosta

Take a trip just south of Tamarindo and you’ll discover the hidden gem known as Playa Langosta. Home to some small resorts and a number of surfing locations, Playa Langosta is also home to some beautiful tide pools naturally created within it’s rocky coves. This is another great way to get an up close view of sea life in it’s natural habitat and is a convenient trip, via land or sea, away from Tamarindo.

8 – Visit Playa Grande beach for sea turtle watching

Another stretch of beach to the south of Tamarindo, Playa Grande is a part of the Tamarindo Wildlife Sanctuary, which contains sea turtles, and other wildlife of the area. Playa Grande is just one of three beaches encompassed in the refuge and it serves as home to one of the largest leatherback turtle nesting sites in the world. Ideal months are between March and October when hundreds of leatherback sea turtles come to the beach and lay their eggs.

9 – Take a trip to Guachipelin

A boat trip away is yet another volcano with a host of activities for visitors. Guachipelin is home to the Rincon de la Vieja volcano and National Park. Rock climbing, horseback riding, white water tubing and hot springs are a few of the attractions.

10 – Eat at Dragonfly Bar & Grill

All this adventure will lead to a hearty appetite. Dragonfly is our pick for the ideal location to dine. Located on the road between the Hostel and Pasatiempo, Dragonfly places emphasis on using fresh and local ingredients for its spin on traditional cuisine. It’s far and away our favorite location in the area and we probably aren’t the first to say so. Try the filet. You won’t be disappointed.