Hold up, before we begin, it’s wise to introduce the concept of an Intercambio before we get into the where and when.
Intercambio: Speakers of two languages come together to practice each other’s language in turns. There are different forms of Intercambio, including one-on-ones, structured groups, breakout groups, workshops, and the free-flowing large group. An Intercambio can take place anywhere in theory, such as on a hike or through an app, but in Cuenca, they usually involve sitting around (bebida optional) and focusing on the conversation.
Fortunately, Cuenca has a good range of intercambios, perfect for extranjeros who want to practice their Español, y por Ecuatorianos que quieren aprender más Inglés. Read on for all of the group Intercambio sessions in Cuenca, along with their organizers, cost, locations, contact details, and unique selling points.
Looking for a one-to-one Intercambio session, you can try to find a language partner here or in our Cuenca Facebook Group. The best way would be to make a post with your name, age, desired learning outcomes, availability, and an explanation of your Spanish level. Any potential Ecuadorean language partner is likely to inbox you privately to follow up and arrange a meetup.
Aún no hablas Inglés? El Mercurio escribió este articulo sobre Intercambios en Cuenca.
Monday 15:30 – Golden Prague
Organizers: Ani Lemaster
Location: Golden Prague, in front of Super Maxi, El Vergel
Why choose this Intercambio: Family-friendly, play area for small children, language partner pairing, plenty of seating, great beer and food, and free parking available.
Ani Lemaster hosts the first Intercambio of the week at Golden Prague, a Czech-themed craft beer pub in the pleasant El Vergel neighborhood. Designed to appeal more to families, thanks to the indoor play area, this Intercambio welcomes a mix of parents, children, and those who are fortunate to not be at work on a Monday afternoon! Stewardship of the group will be changing hands in October, but the format will stay the same – free conversation in English and Spanish for all ages.
This intercambio was originally setup by Californians Ed & Lauren. I asked Lauren why she and Ed set up this Intercambio and her response was fantastic. She told me, “We travel a lot, so we need to create a community really quickly when we go somewhere because we’re not there for very long. We have been wanting to learn Spanish and we want our kids to learn Spanish so we have to keep practicing. So it was like a two-for-one, being able to be social, but also being able to practice our Español.”
A few minutes later a handsome Latino gentleman called Jose Luis joined the Intercambio. He told me that he’s a regular here and that this Intercambio suits his work schedule nicely. I wanted to know why he found regularly attending Intercambios to be important to him. Jose Luis explained, “Well, here I just try to learn something new for one of my languages. I’m just learning new things through practice, because I work as a waiter and sometimes I serve people from other places, like the USA, London, or another part of the world, and English is the first language that they try to talk with here in Latin America because it’s more universal.”
Remember: Golden Prague is a YapaTree partner, which means 10% off your total bill. Woohoo! Don’t forget your Yapa!
Monday & Thursday 15:30 – Antigua Escuela Central
Organizers: Cuenca Language Exchange Club
Location: Benigno Malo y Gran Colombia
Contact details: Paulina – [email protected] / WhatsApp 098 890 7549
Why choose this Intercambio: Great learning environment, growing community, and great for all English and Spanish levels.
Cuenca Language Exchange Club invites people to improve their English and Spanish skills in a free-flowing social learning environment. As long as you have the basics of either language, you’ll get along fine. Set in an awesome colonial building that used to be a school, you’ll be in good company with other language learners of varying levels.
There’s no membership fee to join this club, simply show up punctually, sit down, and start to develop your language skills.
Thursday 15:00 – Café Otorongo Lounge
Organizer: Paulina Aurgiles
Location: Otorongo y 3 de Noviembre
Contact details: Paulina – [email protected] / 098 890 7549
Why choose this Intercambio: Chic café lounge in a beautiful setting in Plaza Otorongo and near the river, great coffee, more structured learning
For either the cost of a cup of coffee or a $2 donation, Café Otorongo Lounge invites you to practice Spanish with native Spanish speakers, or practice English with native English speakers. The event starts at 15:00 sharp, so participants are encouraged to practice English punctuality and arrive a little bit early. This event currently takes place every Thursday.
Please note: Cuenca Language Exchange Club and Spanish-English Intercambio at Café Otorongo Lounge both take place on the same day at the same time. For the best chance of finding a suitable group and language learning partner, we recommend that you try both and see which is a more pleasant fit for you. Location may also be a factor, with the Antigua Escuela Central location just one block north of Parque Calderón, and Café Otorongo Lounge located on the Tomebamba river one block west of Plaza Otorongo. Note that the Otorongo Intercambio has a $2 cost, whereas CLEC is free.
Wednesday 18:30 – Cafe Ñucallacta
Organizer: Rumi Duchicela
Location: Cafe Ñucallacta, Hermano Miguel y Juan Jaramillo
Contact details: @Cafenucallacta – Instagram
Why choose this Intercambio: Younger crowd, great coffee (many say the best in Cuenca), desserts and dinner options available, immaculate vibes
My personal favorite Intercambio in Cuenca (if you’ll allow me to drop the impartiality for a moment). Rumi was one of the first, if not the first, to start an Intercambio in Cuenca and his Wednesday evening meetups are a staple in my social calendar. There are a group of regulars, mixed with a new influx of learners, coming each week. There’s no real structure to this Intercambio, and that’s how I and many others like it. Truly free-flowing conversation switching between Spanish and English, on any topic. Since many people are regulars, after your first visit you’ll always receive a warm welcome. You’ll find varying levels of language learners here too, from total beginner to borderline bilingüe.
Many people come here straight from work on a Wednesday, get some dinner or a piece of homemade pie or cake, or enjoy a beer in the company of new language-learning friends. I asked Rumi why he thought there was a younger crowd here than at other intercambios and he told me “I think it’s because of the time. It’s very suitable for younger Ecuadoreans that are professionals and are coming out of work. You know, they can come down here, have a beer, chat with people, then go home. And for foreigners, it’s Wednesday, there are not a lot of plans being made, so this ends up being the plan. ”
There are usually more Ecuadoreans and hispanohablantes than English-speaking foreigners, which makes it a great place to get to know social locals. The Intercambio sometimes ends with the group heading off to a second venue, which has been known to be a local dancing club for Salsa and Bachata enthusiasts.
Rumi started this Intercambio back in 2018, so with over 4 years in the bank, it’s become one of the more established and well-known meetups. I asked him how people typically find out about the event and their attendance habits. He shared that “You know, we’ve just been around for so long. People might not come for a year, but then they end up coming and becoming regulars again. I think the language exchange is a nice jumpstart for the weekend because it’s a Wednesday night.
Remember: Cafe Ñucallacta is a YapaTree partner, so you can get a US-diner style cake or pie & unlimited Americano coffees for $5 (excludes cheesecakes). Bang – don’t forget your Yapa!
Saturday 11:00 – ¡Vamos! Cuenca School
Organizers: ¡Vamos! Cuenca School
Location: Calle Larga 11-43 (in front of the 10 de Agosto market)
Contact details: [email protected] / WhatsApp: 0982999083
Why choose this Intercambio: Structured classes with a bilingual language teacher present, thematic classes that provide cultural insights, taught in a school for a proper learning environment, the newest Intercambio in Cuenca
I don’t know much about ¡Vamos!, but what I do know is that it’s a brand new school that has opened up on Calle Larga, right by the big 10 de Agosto indoor market. Teaching Spanish language and Ecuadorean culture, this seems to be an ideal place for a structured and thematic Intercambio, rather than the free-flowing socials that the other meet-ups provide. There is a bilingual teacher present who prepares conversation ideas and activities to make sure you make the most of your time and $2 investment.
Here’s a recent announcement they made for their September 2022 Launch:
¡Vamos! provides regular and intensive Spanish Language courses for all levels of knowledge and a wide variety of workshops that will immerse you in the Ecuadorian culture. We offer both group and one-to-one classes according to your specific needs. The workshops include: dance lessons, Ecuadorian cooking, fruit tasting, a book club, creative writing sessions and Latin movie-forum events.
Saturday 15:00 – Selina Hotel
Organizer: Jorge Isaac
Location: Calle Larga / Escalinata Juana de Oro
Contact Details: Message Jorge on WhatsApp and he can add you to the Selina Exchange group – +593 99 281 0047
Why choose this Intercambio: Fun energy and atmosphere, huge terrace with beautiful view, delicious cocktails, plenty of seating, indoor and outdoor seating, chilled event
Last, but by no means least, we have Selina Hotel, a big beautiful pink monster forged from Cuenca’s alleged first hotel (from what I’ve been told) and one of the oldest buildings in the city. Nowadays the building has been renovated and is part of the Selina group, a hotel chain appealing to the young, hip, and remote working crowd. I’m a big fan, I’ve worked from here plenty of times, been to several events, and am on a first-name basis with many of the awesome staff.
You may remember: Selina was featured in an article a few months ago looking at great short-term accommodation options for Digital Nomads in Cuenca.
As for the Intercambio, it’s a great event and something awesome to do on a Saturday afternoon if you’re learning Spanish or English. The crowd is always very diverse, with a handful of regulars, guests, and first-timers appearing. In the accompanying video, you’ll see there were over 30 people in attendance, making it perhaps the busiest Intercambio of all these days. That being said, attendance is very much weather-related, with sunshine meaning the terrace is the venue of choice, whereas bad weather means sending everyone down to the converted cavern basement. I’m not a big fan of the basement, with limited seating and no air circulation, so you could say I’m a fair-weather fan of this event and accompanying my learning with mojitos.
Alternative Option: Online Intercambio
For some, the pandemic is over, for others, it is not. We are not here to judge but to support. We’ve heard many people express their fear of attending an Intercambio, kissing cheeks, shaking hands, and getting involved in a group discussion for an hour or two. It’s too risky for many who have been highly cautious when it comes to spreading germs.
If you specifically want to learn Spanish from a Cuencano and to do it virtually, through Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts, or a similar platform, you’ll want to find a language partner through a digital Intercambio forum or app.
Best forum for language partners: Open Language Exchange (please note that the search functionality doesn’t differentiate between Cuenca, Ecuador and Cuenca, Spain)
Best app for language partners: Tandem – Real friendships can be forged here through regular practice, in fact, one of my closest friends met his wife through Tandem! In fact, when I look at Cuenca on Tandem, I see half a dozen of my Ecuadorean friends who are keen to find new language partners.
Choosing your Intercambio
As you can see, each of the different options has something unique to offer, whether it’s structure, socializing, or a great location. Choosing your Intercambio is typically based on your personal availability. If you work during the day, Ñucallacta is the place for you. If you want to add a new social event to your calendar, Selina is the one. If you want to bring your kids along, the only option is Golden Prague. Good luck on your language learning journey, the YapaTree family is right here cheering you on!