Taking language courses abroad

Language courses

The “full immersion” method is the most efficient way to learn a foreign language and discover another culture. Going on a language holiday provides an excellent opportunity to really practice using a foreign language and quickly work towards full proficiency. Attending classes in the morning and filling afternoons with extra-curricular activities is the most popular language holiday option. Due to abundant and very diverse possibilities, booking language courses abroad can be tricky. Everything you need to know about destinations, choice of courses, language travel agencies, study abroad insurance, accommodation…

Where to go and for how long?

Choosing the destination and length of a language holiday doesn’t only depend on the language you wish to learn and the level of proficiency you are aiming. Your budget also will often greatly influence your selection.

Short stays versus extended stays

Most language holidays last a minimum of two weeks but year-long programs also are available. To begin noticing a significant improvement of your language abilities, leaving at least several weeks usually is necessary. Prices will vary depending on how far and how long you are going and on whether or not you have selected specific additional activities.

Popular languages & destinations

Many agencies offer immersion language courses on each continent. According to the language you are learning you may be able to choose from a wide range of destinations. Every year, a large amount of young people choose to enroll in:

  • English language courses in Great Britain, USA, Canada or Australia,
  • Spanish language courses in Spain, Argentina, Mexico, Chile, Costa Rica or Peru,
  • French language courses in France or Canada,
  • German language courses in Germany, Austria or Switzerland.

Japan, China and Russia also or becoming more and more popular destinations.

Choosing the right language study program

When booking your language holiday, you will be choosing between a large amount of options. To make a suitable selection, make sure you know what your goals and priorities are. Do you hope to achieve fluency in a very short time? Do you wish to get ready for a language test? Would you especially like to have plenty of free time for sightseeing?

Main types of language courses abroad

Standard courses
These usually are half-day courses. This schedule allows you to take part in cultural or sports activities during the rest of the day.

Intensive courses
Making rapid progress is the aim of these courses. Expect to spend many hours in the classroom.

Exam preparation courses
These courses are specially designed to lead you to an international language certificate such as TOEFL, IELTS, DELE or BULATS.

One-to-one courses
If you are seeking individually tailored lessons, these courses will meet your needs. Lessons take place either in a language school or at the teacher’s home.

Course + job or internship programs
These programs allow you to improve your language skills while gaining international work experience. Courses may occur before or during the internship or job.

Main accommodation options

Staying in a host family
Living with the locals and sharing a family’s routine is the ideal way to experience full language and cultural immersion. To really improve your language level, avoid staying with someone who speaks the same language (mother tongue) as you.

Staying in your teacher’s home
If you select one-to-one courses you may choose full-board accommodation in your teacher’s home. You will definitely be making rapid progress this way, as classes never really end!

Student residences
Are you eager to socialize and meet people from everywhere in the world? Staying in a student residence during your language holiday might be the best option for you. Do note this type of accommodation is more expensive than staying with a local.

Selecting a language travel agency

Though there is a very large number of agencies, all do not offer quality service. Select your agency carefully and check what services are included in the overall cost of the language courses abroad.

Choosing members of international associations

To make sure your agency will provide a quality language holiday, check if it is member of an international association such as:

  • IALC (International Association of Language Centres),
  • GAELA (Global Alliance of Education and Language Associations).

Many countries also have their own national associations.

Services provided by the agency

The price of a language holiday usually includes multiple elements and services such as:

  • booking of the round-trip flight (remember, the cost of the trip isn’t necessarily included in the price),
  • languages courses,
  • accommodation,
  • personal liability insurance and health and repatriation insurance (though you might often need to select and take out study abroad insurance on your own),
  • advice (choice of courses and options, visa requests…).

Always make sure you know what exactly you are paying for before selecting an agency. This will allow you to avoid unexpected additional fees.

To find out more about language courses abroad:

Find out which language centres are IALC accredited. Choose from one of the GAELA members.

Date of publication Jul 8 2013

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