Home > Our Color Belt System.
Our Spanish program in Maryland is composed of 10 conversational belt levels ranging from the Pearl Belt (complete beginner) to the Black Belt (ultimate Spanish master). The ranks are useful for monitoring progress and matching you with Spanish students of comparable ability.
There are 4 beginner levels (Pearl Belt, Cream Belt, Yellow Belt and Orange Belt), 3 intermediate levels (Green Belt, Light Blue Belt and Navy Blue Belt), and 3 advanced levels (Purple Belt, Brown Belt and Black Belt).
Each of these 10 levels require the completion of 16 hours of instruction.
You can think of it as the beginner levels being levels to help you “not crash” when needing to communicate in Spanish, the intermediate levels as levels to help polish your speaking skills, and the advanced levels as levels to help you get as close as we can to someone that is native to the language.
Our conversational color belt levels in detail are as follows...
For Spanish students that are just starting or studied in the past but have forgotten most of it.
Complete beginner, or new to the language in practical terms
If you had some knowledge of a romance language, such as italian or french, but it is now practically gone, or you would prefer to have an introduction to the Spanish language as smooth and as light as possible, we would recommend considering starting at this level.
Can barely speak using phrases such as Yo como (I eat).
If you are new to Spanish but have some knowledge of a romance language, such as italian or french, at an intermediate level or higher, and you are a fast learner of languages, we would recommend that you start at this level.
Completing this and the prior belt level is the equivalent to achieving the European A1 beginners level.
Can speak using phrases such as Yo estoy comiendo (I am eating), and Yo voy a comer (I am going to eat).
Can speak using phrases such as as Yo comí (I ate) and Yo comía (I used to eat), along other phrases from prior levels.
Completing this and all prior belt levels is the equivalent to achieving the European A2 elementary level.
For Spanish students that already speak the language in its basic form but want to gain more confidence and precision when speaking the language.
Can speak using phrases such as Yo comeré (I will eat), and Yo he comido (I have eaten), along other phrases from prior levels.
Completing this and all prior belt levels is the equivalent to achieving the European B1 intermediate level.
Can speak using phrases such as Yo había comido (I had eaten), Yo habré comido (I will have eaten), Yo estuve comiendo and Yo estaba comiendo (I was eating), and Yo estaré comiendo (I will be eating), along other phrases from prior levels."
Completing this and all prior belt levels is the equivalent to achieving the European B2 upper intermediate level.
Can speak using phrases such as Dudo que el coma (I doubt that he would eat) and Dude que el comiera (I doubted that we would eat), Si yo fuera,... (If I were ...), Yo comería (I would eat), along other phrases from prior levels.
For Spanish students who are already comfortable with Spanish but want to master it to a level close to that of a native Spanish speaker.
Can speak using phrases such as Dudo que el este comiendo (I doubt that he is eating), Dudé que el estuviera comiendo (I doubted that he was eating), and Yo estaría comiendo (I would be eating), along other phrases from prior levels.
Completing this and all prior belt levels is the equivalent to achieving the European C1 advanced level.
Can speak using phrases such as Dudo que el haya comido (I doubt that he had eaten), Dudé que el hubiera comido (I doubted that we had eaten) and Si el hubiera..., yo habría comido... (If he had...,I would have eaten....) along other phrases from prior levels."
Can speak using phrases such as he estado comiendo (I have been eating), había estado comiendo (I had been eating) and habré estado comiendo (I will have been eating) along other phrases from prior levels.Completing this and all prior belt levels is the equivalent to achieving the European C2 proficiency level.
If you have already completed or are about to complete the Black Belt level, or if you already speak the language very well, please keep in mind that you can continue taking more classes with an open program by which you and your one-on-one native Spanish tutor decide on what to focus your attention, whether it is on:
Ascending through the belts requires accumulating Spanish tutoring session time to hone your skills. Purple Belt, for example, requires the successful completion of 16 hours. So will any other level.
In addition to successfully completing the required hours you will need to pass an Spanish examination and meet minimum score requirements to move up to the next belt.
If you already know some Spanish, we would recommend that you consider filling the exemption exam for the level right below the level that you think you belong. You will get your score right away with a minimum passing grade of 70%. The exemption exams for each level can be found right before this section (scroll up the page until the levels are seen). Click on any of them and then select FREE exemption exam.
If you still have doubts, please give us a call so that we can help you assess your level over the phone, or just apply risk free and we will suggest you a starting level based on the information you include on your application
The Pearl Belt level (Beginner 1) is for those Spanish students who:
As an introduction to the language, Pearl Belt Beginner 1 classes work on engaging in practical role plays of different situations expected to be encountered when traveling without entering too much into any grammatical details.
Even though you may not be planning on traveling, please note that this is our entry level course, and that the traveling topic is used as a context to start introducing the basics of the language, to allow students to feel more comfortable engaging in dialogues verbally, and to prepare the students for the next level which is much more demanding and conducted entirely in Spanish as we strongly believe that this is the only way to really acquire fluency in a shorter period of time.
If you are learning Spanish to use it for work-related purposes and you are a true beginner student, one reason why you may want to consider starting at the Beginner 2 level (instead of at the Beginner 1 level), is that the Beginner 1 course, being an introductory class, uses traveling as a context to introduce slowly some basic concepts (nuggets of knowledge) and differences and similarities between languages, and students work extensively roleplaying in different situations that they will encounter while traveling: eating at a restaurant, interacting at their hotel, immigrations, airplane, bar, cafe, hospital, pharmacy, etc., all of which is very useful BUT not related yet to any professional needs. Be aware that the Cream belt level class will be taught entirely in Spanish and that because of this we would still recommend you to start at Pearl Belt level (Beginner 1) to avoid withdrawals and acchieve better long-term results.
The Cream Belt level (Beginner 2) is for those Spanish students who:
Cream Belt Beginner 2 classes, the first level where we will be strict about immersing you into the language avoiding the use of any English, offers a comprehensible but still practical approach to help students build grammar-based phrases of their own while role playing in a multitude of situations to be encountered while verbally interacting with hispanics.
Your level will be suggested and/or ratified by our Admissions Department in their response to your online application.
As our focus is to help you improve your conversational Spanish skills, it makes a lot of sense that the most important criteria we take into consideration when suggesting starting levels, is what we perceive is your current ability to use the language verbally. Knowledge of vocabulary in isolation or grammar theory without proper usage in a real conversation in Spanish has minor weight in our assessment. Most people have some prior knowledge of Spanish. They have either studied it in high school or in college. Although this experience is welcome, students may still be placed in the Beginner I level (Pearl Belt) or Beginner II level (Cream Belt), if not able to recall or use the language verbally and efficiently in the present tense.
In practical terms, you should strongly consider joining a level that may cover specific grammar that you have seen before if you are at this time not able to apply that knowledge in a real conversation in Spanish.
Generally, for example ...
Whether you are interested in pre-selecting a specific small group class from those currently available, or having private classes, you can read some guidelines regarding the requirements for each of our ten levels of instruction in the upper section of this page.
If still unsure about your level, just feel free to submit our online application. On this form you will be answering some questions regarding how you see yourself in the different areas of the language. Our Academics Department then sends you a formal proposal with a recommended starting level, based on your responses.
In the case of applications for group classes you will be asked to choose a group of your preference here. Choose one that corresponds to the level that you feel is best for you.
For students that already know some Spanish, we would recommend that they consider filling the exemption exam for the level right below the level that they think they belong. They will get their score right away with a minimum passing grade of 70%. The exemption exams for each level can be found in the upper section of this page (click on the corresponding levels).
We will still validate your level when we review your application. If you are applying for a group, we will be accepting you to the group of your preference or proposing you a group of an alternative level if we believe it would be better for you based on the answers to our questions that you will include on your application.
If you have not done this already, we would recommend that you consider filling the exemption exam for the level right below the level at which you think you think you should have been placed. You will get your score right away. The minimum passing grade is 70%. The exemption exams for each level can be found in the upper section of this page (click on the corresponding levels).
As an alternative, you may...
To purchase a sample session, please proceed as follows:
If attending private Spanish classes, just let your Spanish tutor know on any session so that you start working right away on the level that is most appropriate for you.
If you are attending small group Spanish classes that we have set you up with and you think other members in your group have different levels, please let your tutor be aware of your concern right away. Many times, though, first sessions' nervousness may mislead you. Please wait until you have your second session to address this concern with our office. You may observe after the second session that your levels look much more similar after initial nervousness and/or shyness from all participants is overcome.
If attending private Spanish classes, you will be able to move on to the next level as soon as the fluency objectives for each level are reached. This means that you may be able to move on to the next level before or after completing the 16 hours normally required for each level.
If you attend small group Spanish classes that we have set you up with, you will need to complete the 16 hours of instruction to be a candidate to pass to the next level. If after your second or third session you feel that you have been placed on the wrong level, though, please let us know, prior to your fourth session, and we will be happy to transfer you to a higher or lower level, at no extra cost, subject to availability.
If taking one-on-one classes, your current level should not be a concern as your tutor can adjust your level at any time.
If taking small group classes and you have not been able to find a class at your level, it is best to start lower and work your way up than to start higher and risk being behind the other students.
Note though that most people joining a lower level may have a lower level of fluency than yours. A better option for you may be to study the conjugations/grammar on your own (by accessing the material of that level at no extra cost while taking classes at a higher level), wait for small group classes to become available at your exact level, or have one-on-one classes instead where you can get the guidance and feedback of the tutor and have the level of your classes adjusted accordingly as you progress. Be aware that one-on-one classes cost about twice as much per hour.
At our institute, we take great pride in delivering results. Our goal is to help you become a confident Spanish speaker in the shortest possible time. Here's how we achieve that:
Although no one can be fluent in just 16 hours, which is what takes a person on average to complete a level, you will focus all of our efforts on developing your conversational skills even from the very first level.
We offer 10 different levels of Spanish instruction: four beginner levels, three intermediate levels, and three advanced levels. Each of these 10 levels requires the completion of 16 hours.
You can think of it as the four beginner levels being levels to help you “not crash” when needing to communicate in Spanish, the three intermediate levels as levels to help polish your speaking skills, and the three advanced levels as levels to help you get as close as we can to someone that is native to the language.
After completing the whole program, or 160 hours, you will be able to communicate your ideas and understand Spanish in a manner similar to that of native Spanish speakers. Most students do not need to complete all of these hours to communicate, though. It's up to you to decide how good you want to become.
After completing each of our 10 levels, average students notice significant improvement in their ability to speak and understand provided that they also do some supplementary self-studying at home on their own, through the help of our online student center, for at least the same number of hours per week that they meet with their instructor, to read in advance what they will be working with on the next class, and to do related homework.
After completing all 160 hours, many students keep studying and/or practicing to consolidate their knowledge and to continue getting better.
Although completing all of these hours of study and practice may take you one step closer to being bilingual, to be a truly bilingual individual, the person typically needs to have lived extensively in two cultures and actively studied the second language for a number of years. Extensively means at least 10 years living in a country where the second language is spoken.
Our courses can accelerate or substitute this process to a certain extent. Other success metrics depend on commitment, ability and persistence.
Although most of our students have been very successful with the help of our Spanish classes, we cannot guarantee that ALL students will achieve the results they are aiming at.
Our track record of success though is impressively high. Please take a look at the testimonials that current and former students have posted over time on our site or on independent review sites such as Google Reviews or Yelp, Facebook, or even the Better Business Bureau.
Students increase their chances of achieving the results that they are aiming at by:
If attending private sessions, you will be able to move on to the next level as soon as the fluency objectives for each level are reached. This means that you may be able to move on to the next level before or after completing the 16 hours normally required for each level.
If you attend group sessions that we have set you up with, you will need to complete the 16 hours of instruction to be a candidate to pass to the next level. If after your second session you feel that you have been placed on the wrong level, though, please let us know at least 24 hours prior to your scheduled third session and we will be happy to transfer you to a higher or lower level, at no extra cost, subject to availability.
If you speak Spanish very well but still need help in specific areas of the language, we would suggest you consider having one-on-one classes and follow an open program. This way you and your tutor can decide on what to focus your attention, whether it is on: