PLQE Language School
In Xela, we spent a week studying Spanish at the PLQE (Proyecto Linguistico Quetzalteco
de Español) language school, which lived up to its fantastic reputation.
PLQE was one of the most expensive language schools in Guatemala, at US$200 per
person for the week. This includes 25 hours of one-on-one instruction,
activities, field trips, use of the extensive resources at the school, and a
homestay with three meals a day. Every student had their own teacher for 5
hours of either morning or afternoon classes, Monday through Friday. These
classes could be individually tailored to be anywhere from grammar exercises
and drills to long Spanish conversations as you walk the streets of Xela with
your private teacher.
Students, teachers, and the schedule of daily activities and field trips:
History & Current Events
The PLQE school had a strong political agenda — to teach visitors about Guatemala's 500-year history of injustice, and its problems today. Our week with PLQE started with a whirlwind Guatemalan history lesson, and ended with a field trip tour of a small community being taken advantage of by a foreign mining company.
Like many of the students, we came to Guatemala with little understanding of the country's history — but through PLQE, we all left much more educated about what has happened in this country. From conversations we had later with students of other schools, we learned that PLQE's focus on history and current events is somewhat unusual — but we are glad we had this full experience.
Every week, PLQE introduces its students to a different Guatemalan current issue. Our week's focus was on the conflict between a giant mining company and some small native towns in the area of San Miguel Ixtahuacán. We watched a local documentary on the issue, shared a conversation with a spokesperson from the area, and finally visited San Miguel Ixtahuacán itself. Oh, yes, this entire experience is all in 100% Spanish! Some of the workshops at the school were translated but, on the whole, this really is an immersion program!
As part of the Spanish immersion program, we had the opportunity to live and share meals with a local family. Our family included Josefina, her two daughters, and a grandson. Josefina was very sweet, and enthusiastically provided us with many delicious foods to try. In Spanish, she shared stories of her life, patiently answered our questions, and listened to our baby Spanish, as we tried to learn as much as we could while we were there.
Josefina has much experience being a homestay parent, and has created an incredibly easy environment to live in. We were provided our own private room, with a bed, table & chair for studying, and shelf for our clothes. We shared Josefina's house's single bathroom with her and her family. Josefina showed us how to light the gas heater for hot showers.
Here's our typical routine: We would be up at 7 AM for a 7:30 breakfast, and be at school by 8:30 AM on most mornings for some kind of field trip outside Xela. Then we'd return by 1 PM for lunch (the main meal of the day in Guatemala). Our language classes would begin at 2 PM and go until 7 PM, with a mid-afternoon coffee break. We would head home after class for 7:30 PM dinner, and then chat with Josefina and her family until 9-9:30 when we would do our homework before heading to bed.
Josefina was extremely enthusiastic about providing us a variety of food experiences. She or her daughter would make us traditional meals, and find new fruits at the market for us to taste.
Our favorite fruit in Guatemala was the zapote. Raw zapote tastes (& looks) just like cooked sweet potato!