How to Fund & Find the Perfect Language Study Abroad Program

by Melissa Sakamoto

Imagine yourself speaking fluently with people of various languages and cultures. Becoming an impressive polyglot is feasible with the right approach and mindset.

In your home country, you can learn the basic grammar structures and phrases of a foreign language; however, in order to master a new language and achieve fluency, your best option is to study the language abroad. Since communicating involves more than just speaking, as it incorporates visual mannerisms, gestures, and body language, a simple conversation can be indicative of a foreign language speaker who learned abroad versus a speaker who only learned at home. To become a well-rounded foreign language speaker, international experience, learning and speaking among natives, is essential.

The first step to language study abroad is confronting the unavoidable costs (which will be well worth it!). But, have no fear! There are a multitude of funding options available for language study abroad, so before you know it you will be well on your way to becoming a multilingual speaker.

Funding Options

Scholarships, grants, and tuition reimbursement are all excellent ways to obtain funding for language study abroad.


Aside from scholarships for language study abroad specifically, students can also combine their international studies to open a larger range of scholarship options. For example, perhaps students who want to incorporate their passion for studying a foreign language with learning the culinary arts. A culinary arts scholarship abroad might also provide supplementary funding for language study abroad. Taking a look at the bigger picture and analyzing all aspects of your goals could help you find a combination of language and non-language scholarships.


Grants, like the Fulbright Critical Language Enhancement Award that specializes in promoting a sense of cultural awareness and communication, are also available to those who want to pursue language study abroad. In the case of the latter award, awardees are sent abroad on an intensive language study program for three to six months with the intention that learners will utilize the language throughout their careers. Additionally, the Boren Awards program focuses on sending students to countries that are critical to U.S. interests. Undergraduate and graduate students that have a strong interest in studying less commonly taught languages, like Arabic, Korean, and Swahili, are all typically eligible for this award program. Research-Specific Grants are also available, and are typically given to students as part of a university thesis or dissertation. These often require students to create a research outline before requesting funds.

Tuition Reimbursement

If you’re currently a working professional, several companies provide tuition reimbursement for employees interested in learning a language. Reimbursement agreements vary from company to company, and it is important to provide the business with a reasonable case as to why you need to learn the language abroad as opposed to at home.

For example, perhaps you need to learn to interact more effectively, both linguistically and culturally, in order to enhance business relationship with clients abroad. Most obviously, if you need to communicate with a client in a foreign language and there are no schools that specialize in this language nearby, it is reasonable to request that you have the opportunity to learn the language abroad. No matter what your reason for seeking out language study abroad, be sure to present specific reasons why learning the language abroad will benefit both you and the business.

Program Options

There are language programs located all around the world. The first key to selecting the best program option for you, is selecting the destination that can meet your needs and goals.

Shanghai City Skyline

Shanghai City Skyline


Asia is a region notable for its vast size, population, and booming economy. As the region continues to develop business relationships throughout the world, the need for language skills specific to the region continues to grow as well.

  • Chinese is the most popular language of study in Asia. If you’re a student that hopes to pursue a career in academic or public affairs, the U.S. Department of Education Fulbright-Hays Project Abroad Scholarship in China might be right for you. With this award, you’ll go on to learn Chinese at study centers in Beijing, Shanghai, or Taipei.


Europe is one of the most popular destinations for language study abroad. There is a constant flow of students who travel to Europe to immerse themselves in the history and culture of the region. With strong cultural, economic, and political influences on a global scale, choosing to learn a new language in Europe will be beneficial both personally and professionally.

  • The birth of the modern Italian language was crafted by Dante in Florence, Italy. If you’re interested in learning the language in a Renaissance-driven atmosphere, there are a number of Italian language programs located throughout Italy.
  • French is one of the official languages of the United Nations and the official language of 29 countries around the world, and a handful of these are located in Europe. Additionally, for all the aspiring chefs of the world, there are exciting programs that offer French language and cooking lessons, combining two passions into one exciting time abroad.

South America

South America is popular for its exportation of natural resources. More specifically, Brazil has become an economic powerhouse ranking in the top ten economies in the world. By choosing to learn a language in South America, you’ll be immersed in a region with strong economic and cultural ties.

  • Portuguese is largely spoken throughout the continent, but most prominently in Brazil. While language study is important, it’s also equally important to learn about the culture behind the language. Most language schools in South America offer language courses in combination with cultural classes, such as dance lessons.
  • Spanish is, of course, prevalently spoken in South America, from Ecuador to Chile. Spanish language schools in South America also concentrate on more than just language study, allowing students to gain a more well-rounded understanding and appreciation of the language and the culture of the region.
Table Mountain, South Africa

Table Mountain, South Africa


Africa is home to nearly one-third of the world’s languages and over one billion people. Studying African languages will provide students with a roadmap to understanding deeper social, cultural, and political developments in Africa.

  • Swahili is the most common language spoken in Africa. As a language that is almost entirely unique to Africa, it is one of the best languages to pursue. Most programs also include various cultural or other academic components too.
  • Arabic is widely spoken throughout Northern Africa. The language’s right to left, cursive script could be an exciting challenge for those more accustomed to left to right script.
  • Benin, specifically, is a one of kind place for language study abroad, as a nation that contains six endangered languages. With a bit of a twist, students can learn French in Benin not just as a way to communicate with locals in French, but also as a way to gain a deeper understanding of endangered languages from locals.

There is no experience comparable to language study abroad. Whether you’re a student or a working professional, there are is always a way to secure funds and find a language program that fits your needs and goals. Start doing your research and you will be on your way to becoming bilingual in no time!