First thing’s first: Why study language?

3 Kinds of Classes | 3 Típos de Clases

Officially, institutionally, Spanish levels are divided into world-recognized, EU-standardized levels/niveles. The hierarchy is as follows, with C2 as the highest:

  • A1 – A2 – B1 – B2 – C1 – C2
  • Note that for purposes of living in a Spanish-speaking country, usually the B-levels are sufficient to carry on daily life and engage in typical conversations and discussions.
  • Pursuing until C2 is not for the weak-hearted. Nor do I think it’s for everybody. Studying until this level requires some deep-seated passions and convictions, I feel.

At Instituto Cervantes de Manila, each of these levels are divided into several courses worth 30 hours each. Each session lasts for 3 hours, therefore there are 10 class-days in all per course. From A1 thru C2, there are 28 courses in all. Each 30-hour course costs Php 4,000.

There are three types of classes which you can choose from to suit your needs:

  1. Intensive – Tuesdays thru Fridays (a course finishes in about 2 ¼ weeks. Available only up to the end of B1-level courses)
  2. Semi-Intensive – Mondays & Wednesdays, Tuesdays & Thursdays (courses finish in about a month)
  3. Extensive – Saturdays only (courses take forever. Higher-level classes usually end up as Saturdays-only due to the sparse number of students continuing to the highest levels.)
  4. ***Aula Virtual*** – Classes over the internet. Can be supplementary review classes)

The Students | Los Alumnos

Anyone can be a student at Instituto Cervantes. They offer special classes for kids (but I don’t think there are always enough enrollees to keep level-progression steady, best inquire with them first). Anyone, from high-school level to the blossoming 30-somethings to more aged folk, can be classmates together in adult classes. Most students I’ve encountered are call-center/BPO agents looking for a chance at a whopping Php 40,000-80,000 per month language premium salary intended for multilinguals. Si, señor! But there are handfuls of others, such as myself, whose idealism dictates that language should be studied and appreciated for its sake, or as a future tool for traveling to Spanish-speaking countries, which is high on my dream destination list. There are students of other motivations too, of course. But one thing is certain: no one can learn Spanish thoroughly if they aren’t genuinely interested enough in it to carry them through its hardships. So reconsider, before enrolling.

Professors | Los Profesores

Most of the professors come from Spain, and are thus native speakers. While this sounds great, my main issue with being taught by native speakers is that more often than not, they are not the best candidates to teach their own language. Imagine, for example, you explaining the nitty-gritty of the Filipino grammar (not to mention, colloquialisms) to a foreigner. It would be far harder to explain such things if you had grown up speaking them–it already comes natural to you, without necessitating further semantic explanations. I have been studying various foreign languages literally all my life. I know that I can teach Japanese better than I can teach anyone English or Filipino, because I went through the process of having zero-knowledge Japanese and going through the methodology and techniques I used to be able to understand the workings of said language. Learning French was worlds easier for me because I was instructed Spanish first (which is in the same group of Latin-based Romance Languages) from the state of knowing nothing except Dora’s “Hola!” to forming the most ridiculous, rule-defying super-irregular verbs in the subjunctive and why it must be this way and that (often French and Spanish have similar grammar rules, too). In the same way, I am able to tutor other people better in these languages than languages in my native tongue.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have gone under the tutelage of ICM professors who really know their stuff. While hearing the accent, pace, and natural tone of a native speaker has its advantages, I (and a number of my classmates), prefer learning from a fellow Filipino who went through the trials of learning Spanish from scratch and then advancing steadily until he is as good as any native speaker. This has the beautiful advantage of the teacher knowing how to approach the Filipino student’s way of thinking, to better adapt a lesson or explanation suited to the context of the learner. Commonly, Spanish people from Spain hardly speak any English, so this poses a bit of a problem in effective communication, especially in the very basic levels. If the words can’t be transmitted, how much more, the context? What this does, however, is to force both the students and the teacher into resourceful and creative approaches to getting a common, human point across. When it comes down to it, both parties learn and absorb the non-language-specific dynamics of communication, and this is a widely useful skill in any walk of life.

My level 9 classmates and professor before a Christmas fiesta

My level 9 classmates and professor before a Christmas fiesta


The Library & Cultural Programs | La Biblioteca y Actividades Culturales

ICM houses a Spanish library free for students to use. For a minimal fee, outsiders may avail of a library card as well. The library features a collection of comics, children’s books, fiction classics, non-fiction works, reference books, academic and technical works, TV series & movie DVDs, audiobooks, music CDs, and recently, an online library from which you may download open-licensed books and reference materials.

Every so often, ICM features Spanish and Latin American cultural programs such as dances, musical performances, movie nights, seminars and lectures, etc. These are open-to-all, and the best part of all is that it’s free of charge. Yay!

Location | La Localización

Manila Branch – ICM is located along T.M. Kalaw street, perpendicular to Taft Avenue, near Save More and the United Nations station of the LRT-1. Many public transportation routes pass the section of Taft Avenue close to St. Bridget and Save More, rendering ICM just a few meters’ walk away. G-Liner, RRCG, and a couple of independent buses service the Quiapo-Taytay route which passes here (This is what I use. It takes me 1hr30 mins at the very least to get to ICM from Ortigas, and another 1hr30m to 2hrs to get back home. All in all, with the 3-hour class, a day at Cervantes costs me close to 7hours of my time, so extreme commitment and free time are necessary). The quickest way to and from other major points in the Metro is through the LRT Line 1 if you’re up for extremely rude shoving and elbowing in trains, which I’m not.

Ortigas – The A1 level is also taught every Saturday at the Ortigas Foundation Library. Unfortunately, higher levels must be taken in Manila. But it would be a good starting point to see if you can grow to love Spanish enough to pursue it in Manila.

Here comes my opinion—I think the main branch is greatly inconvenient for the majority of ICM’s target market. As stated above, most ICM students are call center agents, academics, or well-endowed fellows seeking to pursue a hobby—admit it or not, this is not the sphere where these folks commonly move around. It’s often greatly out-of-the-way for most office-goers, some college students or professors, and uhm, you know, the exclusive-village-dwelling socialites who just want to prove that they come from a mestizo line by learning Spanish. Perhaps a location closer to a more accessible “downtown” area, such as Makati, Eastwood, Ortigas, or UP/Ateneo in the north and the Fort as the southernmost would be more apt to such a market. However, with its proximity to Intramuros, the most famous Spanish-heritage site in Manila, I think ICM effectively sends the message that Spanish is a cultural heritage to us Filipinos (in theory), more than a commodity for employ-ability (in practice). But between such a message and visibility and accessibility, I think ICM had better choose the latter, if they want to push Spanish as a “hip” yet “traditionally dignified” “in-thing”. I have heard from my most recent professor that there are plans to move/add another ICM to somewhere in Makati, though no further details are available at the time of this writing.

ICM contact numbers:

526-1447, 526-1482 to 85 local 111.

Hearsays | Habladurías

  • Purportedly, Instituto Cervantes de Manila is the most attended Instituto Cervantes in the world today (due to the recent great demand for call center/BPO agents equipped with foreign language)
  • Language premiums for Spanish speakers range from Php40,000-80,000 salary. Wow.
  • There is a bulletin board at Cervantes that posts job openings for Spanish speakers, which pay as stated above. 99.9% of said jobs are in the call center industry. 0.01% is for postings from recruitment agencies for multilinguals, which will charge you a portion of your big-ass salary once they’ve assigned you to a call center job.
  • Language-learning is great fun. I believe in Cervantes’ methods of making students talk and interact with one another. Plus, the community of fellow Spanish-speaking students is one that’s nice to have, too. You’ll soon realize that some inside jokes are incredibly language-dependent, and that it’s a great feeling to be able to participate in them.

Anyhow, I hope you found this article informative!

Un buen saludo para todos,


10 thoughts on “Instituto Cervantes de Manila: Español for All

  1. Pingback: Do You Speak Human? | Far Gazer, Life Chaser

  2. I stumbled upon this beautifully written article of yours as i search the net for reviews for ICM. and i think i just found everything that I need! i will enroll here this month. :-D I’m excited! :-)


    • Hi, Rose!

      Thank you for reading! It makes me very happy to know that this article has helped you decide. I’m waiting for a class of my level to form the minimum student count, too, so I am crossing my fingers to be able to enroll this month as well. Hope to see you there, and good luck! I know you will love it and find it addictive! ;)



  3. just stumbled upon your blog why searching for more info regarding spanish learning centers. What do you think is the advantage of learning extensive vs intensive when learning (disregarding the time and schedule factor) which is more effective? I plan to enroll feb 2014 as all class are ongoing now.


  4. do you know a a native spanish speaker who wants to learn tagalog that i can have language interhcnage with?i’ve been studying spanish on my own for a while now but ineed to practice speaking with a native speaker.


  5. thank you shaira it helps me a lot about your words.thank you very much,it is very informative.i myself study spanish language but it is really not enough soon im going to enroll in instituto cervantes after in order for me to achieve my dreams in life.muchas gracias me amiga


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