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Latin American language schools offer Spanish training and cultural immersion

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Q: I want to live in Central or South America for four months to improve my Spanish and learn more about the region's culture and politics. Which countries have language programs offered in a hospitable environment?

A: There are scores of language schools throughout Latin America that teach intensive Spanish and also give classes on the region's history and culture. The most established schools are in Cuernavaca, Mexico; San Miguel de Allende, Mexico; San Jose, Costa Rica; Quito, Ecuador; and Antigua, Guatemala. (Before visiting Guatemala, check with the State Department; there have been some anti-American incidents there recently.) Most large cities in Latin America -- including Mexico City, Buenos Aires and Caracas -- also have language schools. Although the quality and curriculum of the programs vary, most admit students for periods that range from a week to several months.

The Wisconsin-based National Registration Center for Study Abroad certifies language programs through out the world. It represents more than 30 programs in Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay, Venezuela, Costa Rica and Guatemala.

For instance, the Escuela de Idiomas D'Amore in Quepos, Costa Rica combines 20 hours a week of language classes with visits to Manuel Antonio National Park. Students live with a Costa Rican family where they are immersed in Spanish. The program costs between $685 and $795 a week, including board.

The Chile Homestudy program places its students in the houses of local teachers from the Santiago area. The program costs between $850 and $1,085 for two weeks, including room and board.

Mexico City's National Autonomous University has an intensive language school for foreigners. The university charges $395 for an intensive six-week program in Spanish. The school does not provide housing or meals.

The South American Spanish Institute in Quito, Ecuador, offers one-on-one Spanish tutoring for 20 hours each week for $300 (including room and board with a local family). It schedules two field trips for students each week.

For more information on these and other language programs, contact the National Registration Center for Study Abroad, P.O. Box 1393, Milwaukee, Wis. 53201; (414) 278-0631, fax (414) 271-8884.

Q: I have been informed that in Ireland a person 75 years or older cannot rent a car and that between the ages of 70 and 75 special insurance is required in addition to all of the regular insurance. Is this true?

A: There are no government regulations that specify an upper age limit for those renting cars in Ireland. However, some companies have set their own limits. Citing high car insurance rates in Ireland, a Hertz spokesman said the company would not rent to drivers over the age of 75 in that country. Avis said the upper age limit for small to midsize cars was 70 years in Ireland; for large cars the cutoff was 65 years. Both companies said they did not require older renters to purchase special insurance. The companies set no upper age limits in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

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