Sunday 22 August 2010

Ateneo 21 review

Avoid this terrible Spanish language "school".

Whilst working (and injured, so no running) in London I decided to Learn Spanish to fill some time in the evenings.  I go to Spain and it's Tenerife frequently to train, and so it made sense to learn more of the language.  However, I classed myself as a totall beginner and google for langauge schools in London.  I found Ateneo21.

The Ateneo 21 website states that it is a Language School. As it transpired it was not a language “school” at all, but one Argentinean lady providing private tuition from her sofa in a small six floor flat in a tower block in Central London. So, the warning bells were already ringing, after clear misrepresentation from the website. I arrived and sat next to one only other student on the sofa, who it transpired had already had 3 lessons, but was back repeating the first lesson as he hadn’t been able to understand anything so far (he told me this afterwards). Without any introduction to the course content or methods I was thrown straight into a world of conjugating verbs, and tenses, and bewildering worksheets with complex Spanish phrases and not a single word on English translation on them. I thought “I must be in the advanced class”, but no, this was in fact the ‘breakthrough A1 beginners class’. I’m a clever guy. I have a well paid job in central London and studied French as part of my degree, but was left bewildered completely in an hour and 15 minutes of inappropriate level of instruction. I learned absolutely nothing at all.

Her next student turned up 20 minutes early and sat in the corner of the room, a further unwelcome distraction. Both me and the other beginner student left the class 15 minutes early, both realising we were wasting our time there. Outside the other guy told me the only reason he had gone back was because he couldn’t get a refund from her. He would not be going back either. He knew he had wasted his money, and had now booked onto a proper course at an actual language school in Regent Street. He had been to 3 lessons and he said they got no better, and he had felt as though he was stupid. He was very relieved to hear that I had thought the same. I had only paid for 12 lessons in advance. I emailed Carolina to complain about her teaching and ask for my second lesson fee to be refunded. Of course I got a reply in which told me to “refer to the terms and conditions on the website regards refunds”. So I threw my money aware. I feel as through the website is deceptive, the teaching very far below the standard we expect in the UK, targeted at an inappropriate level of difficulty, and I suspect just preys upon pre-payment of a (usually 4 weeks - £108) in order to make a living, as students will just cancel and can’t get money back.

The next day, I phoned a well known language school in Central London  to book onto a course.  I cited my experience with Ateneo 21, and questioned first lesson content and ongoing course structure.  I was assured that their first lesson and method are not remotely similar to Ateneo 21's  approach, which they said would, quote “scare off” and “cause a new student to lose confidence”, which is precisely what it did.  I suggest you attend a first beginners level class at a language school, and apply the method to your first lesson.

Do yourself (and your bank balance) a favour and book into a recognised language school, and not this bewildering amateur outfit run from a sofa!


  1. Useful review, thank you. I read the Ateneo 21 website and thought it was an actual school of language too. Do you mind telling me which language school you signed up for in the end?


  2. I booked onto the cactus Language School. They have many locations in London. The tuition is excellent, text books and CD's supplied, as well as online download podcast lessons. Class size max is 12 but usually less. Can't praise them high enough.