In today’s international landscape, knowing multiple languages is a must. For most of the globe this means, rather straightforwardly, learning English as a second language during your school years. For most native English speakers, however, it means making a point of developing the skill totally on your own. Because, honestly, that Spanish 101 class just is not going to cut it.
Let’s be frank — if you speak English, most places you go in the world as a traveler, you’ll be fine. You’ll miss out on some majorly rewarding parts of the journey, i.e conversing with locals, but you’ll get by easily enough on the fly.
The same can’t be said, though, if you plan on living abroad for an extended period of time. Studying, working, interning, teaching — all of these demand a greater level of integration and more dynamic interactions with the people of your host country. English and a few broken phrases in the local tongue won’t work out well in the long-run.
What are language courses?
How best to remedy this situation? Enroll in a language course! Better yet, enroll in a course abroad in a country where the language actually spoken. This dual-pronged approach of studying a language in the classroom while practicing daily in an immersive environment is your key to becoming as fluent as you have the drive to become.
Language courses abroad are pretty straightforward. You’ll directly enroll in a language school, usually these are private institutions, but some local universities will still offer courses— think, taking French at the Sorbonne, vs. taking French at a local language school. Both are great options, and will have native speakers in your host country as your instructors.
Don’t expect this to be easy peasy lemon squeezy like those conjugation quizzes and crosswords you did in high school. Language courses abroad are INTENSE and fully immersive. You won’t be able to lean on your English to get by. Between your instructors and your fellow classmates from all over the world, whatever language you’re learning is your new lingua franca, so you’ll really be picking it up quickly in order to make do.
Will language courses help my fluency?
Every language is unique, just like everyone learning a language is unique— maybe reading comprehension is your jam or maybe you’re more comfortable speaking than writing, it really depends on your learning style! There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for how to best tackle your language course, but we can confidently say that enrolling in language courses abroad will get you that much closer to fluent. Here’s why:
- You’re using it, so you won’t lose it. Inside the classroom and outside the classroom you are totally surrounded by this new language. Not only do you need to be able to answer your instructor’s questions, but you need to grocery shop, order food, ask for directions, and really live in your new language. Before you know it, you’ll start having those aha! moments and speaking will feel like second nature.
- You’ve got expert instruction. Who will know the language better than a local, native speaker? Not only will you get a serious technical vocabulary boost (describing my apartment? No problemo! Talking about my job? Plus simple!), but you’ll be spitting all the best slang in no time.
- All your classes are language classes. Five hour marathon grammar classes, then phonetics, then electives still related to learning the language comme business French, Russian lit, China’s great dynasties, the list goes on! It’s not like taking a class at your university back home, where you’re going through worksheets for 50 minutes and then off to your next class— switching in and out of languages without ever really getting it.
As long as you put in the effort, you’ll always be working towards fluency. So, where do you sign up?
Here are some tips about top-notch courses in 10 of the world’s most practical languages to send you off on the right foot.
How to find language courses
You may think that you have hours and hours of research ahead of you, infinite scrolling, and hitting the “next” button on Google search results. That doesn’t sound very fun, huh? I wouldn’t want to start my language learning journey on that note either — which is why we’ve done the hard work to give you a shortcut to finding meaningful (and effective) language courses abroad.
Instead of all of that clicking and searching and scrolling, just mosey down below!
This is your new go-to list for language courses
While we’d love to learn them all, we opted instead to give you a headstart on language courses abroad for 10 of the world’s most popular languages. Have a request for info about a language not listed here? Get in touch!
Let’s begin with the basics. English is our modern day lingua franca. While it’s spoken as a first language only in a few countries — primarily in North America, Oceania, and the British Isles — its widespread application as a second language makes it vital to internationally-oriented individuals all over the globe. Simply put, the most useful language to know in the world right now is English.
Top notch English language courses:
2. Mandarin Chinese
Mandarin Chinese is the only language in the world spoken by more people than English. While this used to be traceable to the sheer size of the Chinese nation, that’s no longer the case. China’s footprint has grown exponentially beyond its borders, with Chinese expats at the forefront living abroad. Chinese is difficult — most notably feared for its thousands of intricate characters in place of a standard alphabet — but well worth the efforts of a devoted student.
Top notch Chinese language courses:
The most enticing part of learning the Spanish language is that you’ll be able to use it all throughout the continental Americas, barring only a select few countries such as Brazil, Canada, and the United States. And that entire region of Latin America, of course, is also in addition to Spain itself. Not a bad list of target destinations. If your native tongue is European in origin, Spanish won’t be too difficult to acquire as a second language.
Top notch Spanish language courses:
Apart from being arguably the smoothest-sounding language on the planet, French is extremely useful as well. Like Spanish, French is spoken widely across the world. The largest Francophone diaspora outside of France itself is spread across West and Central Africa; there are hundreds of millions of students in this region that learn French as a second language rather than English.
Top notch French language courses:
From the Atlantic coast of Africa in the west to the Persian Gulf in the East, Arabic is spoken across dozens of countries and by hundreds of millions of people today. The liturgical language of the Islamic world, Arabic is the gateway to a immersion in a broad sect of human history and culture often cast as impenetrable by those alien to it. Arabic is at once beautiful, challenging, and exceedingly useful in our modern world.
Top notch Arabic language courses:
Russian is the sixth of the official U.N. languages, and the least-widely spoken after the previous five just mentioned. This is perhaps why it too-often goes overlooked by second-language learners. Russia is a great civilization, a vast nation, and one of the most influential countries in the world today. While confined in use to the geographic region surrounding the country itself, Russian’s importance as an international language should not be overlooked.
Top notch Russian language courses:
Like Russian, German’s native usage is confined to one continuous geographical region, that being the heartland of Europe. Also similar to Russian, German’s usefulness in international business and politics — as well as among a sizeable global diaspora — makes it a highly valuable language to learn. German stems from the same language family as English, so can be a fascinating one to study for Anglophiles.
Top notch German language courses:
Hindi is the third-most spoken language in the world after English and Mandarin. It’s usefulness beyond India, however, is limited by a singular fact; Indian students are taught in English, and so educated Indians are more often than not already fluent in our world’s lingua franca. If you plan on living in India for an extended time, though, then learning Hindi or one of the country’s other broadly spoken languages (Bengali or Punjabi, for example) is a must.
Top notch Hindi language courses:
Despite the obvious perk of gaining inside access into Japan’s unique and exciting country and culture, learning Japanese is also an extremely valuable skill within international relations and business. Japan boasts the world’s third-largest economy and is a majorly influential country abroad in many sectors; the language is difficult for Western speakers to acquire, but worth the struggle for all these reasons.
Top notch Japanese language courses:
- KCP International Japanese Language School
- Hokkaido Japanese Language School
- See all Japanese language courses abroad
Undervalued as a global language, Portuguese is actually spoken fairly broadly outside its nation of origin — a legacy of Portugal’s early colonial activity abroad. From Brazil to southern Africa and beyond, you’ll find Lusophones in pockets all over the world. Portuguese is a Romance language, so it will be fairly easily acquired by speakers of other south and western European dialects.
Top notch Portuguese language courses:
Compare top language programs side-by-side with MyGoAbroad
One final tip for language courses
The key to acquiring a language is immersion, immersion, immersion. If you are planning on enrolling in a language course abroad, then make the commitment and do it the right way. You won’t get there in six months, or a year. Real fluency requires multiple years of classroom time in addition to regular reading, writing, and conversation. Travel to a country where your target language is spoken, and commit to living there for an extended period of time. After an adjustment period, you’ll feel right at home.
Language courses FTW!
This is a curated list of some of the world’s most practical languages, and doesn’t do justice to the tremendous linguistic diversity that’s found across our planet — not to mention all the distinct dialects to be found therein. The most important thing is to go your own way, and stick to that path. Choosing a language to learn is the easy part. Putting in the time and devotion to master it is a lifelong challenge. One of these language courses abroad is the best place to start.