some words about studying Spanish in Ecuador at Yanapuma

July 6, 2011 at 11:13 pm 11 comments

Yanapuma Foundation / Spanish language school & Volunteer house
Quito, Ecuador

The Mariscal district of Quito is full of Spanish schools and I chose this one back in New York because of their website and commitments to social projects around Ecuador. I wasn’t bothered by the $20 mandatory registration fee that they said goes towards these development projects, but I was disappointed when the only non-Ecuadorian director could not tell me what exactly Yanapuma was doing.

The school is organized into two sessions, the morning is from 9am-1pm and the afternoon from 2-6pm. There is a 15 minute break in between, during which students drink tea or coffee and some cheap snack provided by the school. Usually the break lasts longer than 15 minutes, because two hours is a long time to sit still and students like the opportunity to chat with other students. The layout of the building is nice.

The problem I found is that the teachers are basically freelancers who work with many other Spanish schools whenever they are needed. Also some of them live very far away. So asking for a different schedule that fit my needs better (9-11, with a 2 hour break, and then 1-3) meant that my poor teacher had to sit with nothing to do for two hours. It made me feel bad to return to the school refreshed after my walk and lunch, with an hour left until class, hoping to review the lesson on my own before continuing and see my teacher there sitting hopelessly staring into space. The first teacher I had refused to teach me once I changed the schedule to fit my needs. With the second teacher I eventually changed the schedule back to 9am-1pm because I felt sorry for her.

Also I was unhappy with how Yanapuma handled my accommodation. On their website they wrote about a volunteer house which I assumed from their description belonged to them. However the system was that they simply had “dibs” on certain rooms while other schools had “dibs” on others. I paid $270 for a month stay. A few days later I met a student who’d paid less than $200. And then another who paid $150 for a room with a private bathroom. I went to the management who refunded me part of my money and explained that Yanapuma had told her to charge me daily ($9 * 30 days) instead of monthly. So even though Yanapuma was not making any commission off me, they were not looking out for my interests. I did not like the volunteer house for other reasons as well. The shower did not always have hot water and the door to it was broken. It’s located in an area that’s extremely loud until 2-3am every morning.

Another bad thing about Yanapuma – they did not pick me up as promised from the airport.

Recommendation: If you want to study Spanish in Ecuador I recommend doing it in Baños, Otavalo or Tena. There are several language schools in these smaller cities, they’re safer than Quito and cost less with more flexible teachers who don’t have to commute long distances. And I personally prefer Baños, Otavalo and Tena to Quito (Baños for its multitude of outdoor adventures, Otavalo for it’s kind and ambitious indigenous people and Tena for its proximity to the jungle).

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handicrafts in Otavalo, Ecuador some recommendations for Leticia, Colombia

11 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Anon  |  January 20, 2012 at 6:10 pm

    I completely agree with this review but my experience was way worse. After completing 2 weeks of classes (1 whole week was dedicated just to learning about food which was useless) I emailed and called the organization asking them how much I owed them with no response. After I got my phone (rented from them) and credit card stolen at gunpoint they harassed and THREATENED me to pay $60 for a $20 phone. Did I mention I had already put down a deposit worth more than the phone in case it got stolen or lost. This place is only trying to make money, not to help people.

    Reply
  • 2. Tracy Winn  |  February 4, 2012 at 4:59 pm

    I’m really glad I found this post. I run an Ecuadorian website (www.gogo-gringo.com) and am in the process of researching which Spanish schools in Ecuador are reputable enough to recommend on my site. It is really hard to find honest reviews online, so this was perfect. Don’t think I will be putting Yanapuma on there!

    Did you know of any specific schools in Baños/Otavalo/Tena that people recommend?

    Reply
    • 3. Lena Shuster  |  February 5, 2012 at 9:04 am

      hi Tracy,
      i had a really positive experience at the Baños Spanish Center in Baños!

      they’re located at Oriente #8-20 y Julio Cañar…

      here’s a website with some more info:

      http://www.volunteeringecuador.info/spanish-schools-in-ecuador/banos-spanish-center.html

      i don’t recall my teacher’s name but she was excellent. she was patient but also demanding and friendly and the school felt a lot more ‘intimate’ then Yanapuma in Quito. the school also hires teachers on a part time basis (depending on number of students) but the relationships i perceived bt the teachers and owner were friendly rather than formal (as in i depend on you for my wage, therefore you’re my boss!) also since Baños is small, class schedules are more flexible and don’t destroy a teacher’s whole day. i actually saw my teacher around the town sometimes. for those who are interested in volunteering, the school is right next to a library center that’s run by volunteers on behalf of some non-profit. they live in a dorm and run a library and after-school activities for kids. i spent a day with them and saw their living conditions and work environment and my impression was very positive. so i recommend the school on several accounts:

      1. good teachers, pleasant, flexible, less formal environment
      2. volunteer opportunity next door
      3. Baños is a fun place, close to nature and safer than Quito

      Reply
  • 4. Paul  |  May 14, 2012 at 3:49 pm

    I too studied at Yanapuma in June of last year and have to say that I had an amazing experience. I visited two of the projects that they work on and met field staff and spoke to their volunteer coordinators several times. I found they were always helpful and informed, so I am surprised that another student could not find out what the foundation was doing, which is aftera lll why the Spanish school exists.
    A lot of schools in Quito say they support different projects with a percentage of profits, but I can confirm that Yanapuma really does!
    My teacher was great too. I would recommend them.

    Reply
  • 5. Simon  |  June 29, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    click here to see how Yanapuma spends its money: http://yanapuma.org/en/financial.php

    Reply
  • 6. Sandra  |  August 5, 2012 at 11:51 am

    Hello! I did an internship with Yanapuma for 4 months so I know the organization really well. I worked in the school organizing trips with students and other things, including visiting some of the commuitys that they work with.
    I can say that this really is a great organization that does what it claims to do, and everyone there works so hard!
    I know for instance that the post by Anon is actually a girl who ran away without paying for her classes and hostel but got caught. She had to come back because her mother sent her new credit card to the school! So she had to pay up in the end, and now is trying to get back at the shcool!!! Not very mature I would say!
    I hope this helps anybody really looking for a good place to study Spanish.

    Reply
  • 7. Wendy  |  October 3, 2013 at 9:36 am

    That I can see, the commentary it´s really poor and Anon does´t know inside of the school. I don´t understand, why the people if they have any problem they don´t say directly to responsible of any organization and write when they are far, that is coward.
    When I was with them, I didn´t have any problem and they were really communicative with me, for that I am really grateful.

    Reply
    • 8. Len  |  November 6, 2013 at 7:18 am

      there’s nothing cowardly about voicing frustration about one’s experience with this school on a personal blog that is open for comments. there are both negative and positive comments about the school here, readers who stumble upon this post because they’re considering studying or volunteering with yanapuma can only benefit from this discussion.

      Reply
  • 9. Kim  |  November 5, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    I would not recommend anybody to go to this school! The owners are frauds. Only a very small part is spend on their projects. The owners put the money in their own pockets. The website and school look very fancy, but no money is being spent on the people who need it. Don´t waste your time and money here, please!

    Reply
  • 10. Kevin Whelan  |  January 26, 2014 at 1:32 pm

    o boy! I am really confused now after reading all these comments. I am currently using the Pimsleur Method to learn Spanish but also want to immerse myself in a learning/volunteer program in the Autumn of this year. I will check out Lena and Tracey’s info from this forum. Thank you

    Reply
    • 11. Len  |  January 26, 2014 at 1:35 pm

      Kevin, check out Baños Spanish Center in Baños! they’re very good and located right next to a community center where you can volunteer.

      Reply

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