Sinking into the sea of students in high school Spanish is no longer an option. You’ve got language goals and you’re ready to crush them. Realizing that to hablar español you quite literally have to throw yourself into the awkwardness of living in a foreign language. Step two is finding the best foreign language immersion programs—you know, the ones that give you the tools necessary to order pão de queijo or converse with Moroccan tea vendors.
Learning a language abroad requires first-hand experience, bringing you out of your comfort zone, and closing off native language escape routes. To find the best language programs, ask the right preguntas. Start with this list of tips to help narrow down your list of language courses abroad and you’ll be on your way to standing on your own two linguistic feet, so to speak.
1. Be realistic.
Knowing yourself is a lifelong process. Knowing yourself as a student comes from years of taking up space within the educational system. Think about what type of learner you are, and how you would be in a completely new educational environment abroad. Would you prefer morning, afternoon, or night classes? Do you do well in small versus big classes? Would you benefit more from one-on-one private sessions? Do you require more personalized attention at a pace that you set or do you crave that classroom atmosphere learning alongside others in language courses abroad? Start your search for the best language programs by looking inward. Asking yourself these questions will only help you on your quest.
The ultimate goal is to speak French or German or one of these unique languages, but being intentional and realistic about how you’re going to achieve these awesome new language skills is essential. Set mini goals. Place yourself within a context in which you know you will be ready and willing to succeed. Enjoy cooking classes? Practice your cocina skills while simultaneously expanding your Italian vocabulary in Taormina, Sicily. Looking to do some community service? Learn Spanish in the mornings and then spend your afternoons working with children, the elderly, or refugees in Bogotá, Colombia.
While we’re being realistic, let’s talk about price. Set a budget and really look into options within your range. While researching online means you may fall prey to fancy websites, keep in mind that this doesn’t directly correlate to the quality of their language instruction. Language schools abroad come in all digital shapes and sizes. Explore the variety of language courses abroad to see which one matches best with your language-learning goals.
2. Look for intensive, immersive options.
Picking the language is, of course, important. Knowing the difference between dialects and understanding which best suits you is, well, important, too. No matter which language tickles your fancy, it’s best to look for programs that highlight intensive classes and language immersion. What does that mean? They’ve got native teachers. There are options for language practice in social settings (hint: conversation clubs!). They offer long-term classes. The more contact hours, the better with language courses abroad. Ultimately, a mix of dynamic teaching and conversational practice are key.
When there are more diverse ways to put your target language to use, you’ll pick it up that much quicker.
Check to see if the language school offers extra options outside of the classroom setting— we’re talking cultural and social options! These are opportunities to practice and as we all know, practice makes perfecto! Take a standard Russian course in Kiev, Ukraine that offers social programs including field-trips to historical Ukrainian and Soviet sites. Enroll in summer intensive language programs with Friday excursions around the Stockholm-Uppsala area, social events like potluck dinners, and movie nights to further your Swedish skills.
3. Read reviews.
Before you throw down money, do what you can in our hyper-connected world to get a feel for the quality of the language program abroad. Start with reviews. Students who have been there and learned that language are the go-to sources of influential and relevant information. Their opinions and experiences can help inform your decision to choose between the best language programs for you. Once you’ve soaked up some insights from reading reviews, save your fave programs and compare them side-by-side with MyGoAbroad.
You might have your sights set on languages that will get you hired, or you may prefer to take some language courses abroad while on vacation (which is súper cool). Either experience—and every language experience in between—can be verified by scrolling through alumni reviews. While you’re at it, take our read-all-the-reviews advice to the next level with our next tip to find the best immersion language programs abroad.
4. Talk to past participants.
Whether you’re down to learn Chinese in China or Taiwan, or ready to pick up German in Europe, people who have done it before have the insider info on which language programs are actually worth it—all those details you get from person-to-person recommendations, ya know?
Talking to people (or emailing them) delves even deeper than simply reading a review.
Do this by reaching out to potential foreign language immersion programs and see if you can be connected to past participants. Pick their brain to get juicy details about their experience, from everything they liked or disliked, to recommended extracurricular activities and their absolute favorite teachers. Another option would be to check out student blogs to get a better feel for the language program. Essentially, these types of interactions with past participants can make or break your decision about a language school abroad, and you’ll only get more excited and inspired in the process.
5. Check out the accommodation.
Take learning outside the classroom by intentionally choosing a housing option that requires the use of your target language. The best language immersion programs emphasize, well, immersion. Homestays are undoubtedly the best way to push yourself outside of your comfort zone. Here’s your chance to challenge yourself and really get experience living in a foreign language! Opt to live with a local host family or in an international dorm with others that do not speak your native language. This way, you’ll put all those verb conjugations and slang to good use on the reg without relying on your native language.
The goal is to actually speak, right? Take accommodation into account when selecting your language courses abroad. You can live with a host family or in an apartment in an intensive language program to learn Arabic in Amman, Jordan. You could stay in a guesthouse or a hotel as you learn Thai in Chang Mai. There are tons of different housing options, so it’s up to you to decide which aligns best with your language-learning goals!
So...what are you waiting for? Take the first step to find the best language immersion programs so you can start hablando, falando, or speaking whichever language your lil’ polyglot heart desires.