Just finished 4 weeks of study at the Centro Panamericano de Idiomas (CPI) in San Joaquin de Flores, Costa Rica. This was a total immersion program, where I stayed with a local family and attended classes at the school 4 hours a day. The family with whom I stayed were quite experienced at hosting students, and I thoroughly enjoyed interactions with them and their family and friends. My room was small but well equipped and comfortable. Although not promised when I signed up, I did have a private bathroom. Classes at the school were well paced and highly interactive. This is not a school where you can sit back and be taught--participation is mandatory. All of the staff were friendly, helpful, and extraordinarily patient. There were also numerous opportunities to take side trips to many of Costa Rica's attractions. I visited Volcan Poas, a coffee plantation, a rain forest preserve, and the capital city of San Jose. If you have any questions, I'll be happy to try to answer them. English or Spanish is fine.
Many thanks for yours. As one who has laboured long (and often fruitlessly!) at the European equivalent - Instituto Cervantes - to master anything more than "como te llamas" and, even more important, "dos cervezas", I can appreciate the quality of the experience you relate. A couple of questions: (a) when you say "highly interactive" what did this involve? and (b) did you get any kind of idea of the extent to which Latin American Spanish differs from its European equivalent?
What was your motivation for learning? The sheer intellectual challenge; career development; partner? And, at this point, I'll close before I'm banned!
In response to your questions:
(a) Each class session began with a discussion of whatever was on peoples' minds. The teacher never let anyone sit back without participating. With no more than 4 students in a class (and often less) you can't "hide". All instruction was interactive: the teacher briefly covered the topic and gave out a handout on the subject and then we worked through various exercises orally.
(b) Spanish is a rich global language. Lots of differences from one country to another. Spain is famous for its lispy s sounds. Within Latin America, every country has its own phrases and idioms. In Costa Rica, for example, they almost never use the "tu" form--not even with pets or children. Good luck if you continue your learning experiences.