Are Language Immersion Programs All They’re Cracked up to be?

by Published

If you’ve been thinking about learning another language, you’ve probably heard or read the words “Language Immersion Schools.” Sure, you could go abroad, take a few language classes, practice the subjunctive tense, and come home – but what if there was more? What if you could dive head-first into the deep end of language learning? That’s where these mythical-sounding language immersion schools come in. 

Wooden docks on beautiful lake, Guatemala.

Practice your conversational Spanish over a cup of coffee on the lake with language immersion programs in Guatemala.

Why language immersion programs are important

At language immersion schools, every second of your time is spent speaking, listening, and living the language you are trying to learn. Your classes are taught entirely in the native language of your host country – that means no cheating! Your local professors will speak the language in your classroom, your assignments will all be in the language of your host country, and you’ll be expected to speak to your classmates only using the that language you’re learning (no English allowed).

Practice makes perfect

You’ll be forced to speak this language at all times – and not just in the classroom! Language immersion schools almost always include homestays as their form of accommodation for their students. This means that you’ll be living with a local family and forced to practice your new language skills with your host parents, host siblings, and all the friends you make in your daily adventures of immersing yourself in the local culture.

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Crowds of people walking around the Great Wall of China

Overcome the Great Wall of language learning in China.

Immersion is key

Many language immersion schools often also offer language exchange programs that you can participate in outside of the classroom with local students your own age. This can range from sports clubs, to conversation hour, to dance classes! In all of these situations, you can practice your language skills and make new friends with people your own age. Even better – you’ll get first-hand experience living the daily life of a student just like you, but in an entirely different culture and country.

Studies show that full immersion is the best way to learn a language. Language and culture are intricately entwined, going hand-and-hand. Attending an immersive language program will teach you the cultural context of the language you are learning, and living within the language, speaking it every day, will have you chatting with the locals at your favorite tapas place in no time!

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Villas, vineyards, and hillsides in Montepulciano, Italy

Learn Italian among villas and vineyards in Italy.

Follow your tongue — er, heart

Your passion for learning another language could come from anywhere. Maybe you always heard your grandparents speaking Spanish, and you’d finally like to communicate with them in their native tongue! Or you’re an aspiring entrepreneur hoping to expand his business in southeast Asia by learning Hindi. Or maybe you want to work in a variety of countries throughout Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, so you’ve decided to learn French! Regardless of what language you love or why you want to learn it, there are language immersion schools for everyone.

Here’s our go-to list of a handful of language immersion programs that are definitely all they’re cracked up to be.

Spanish language immersion schools/programs

Spanish is the official language of 20 countries, but it’s widely spoken in several more, and on at least four separate continents due to immigration. For those looking to study a language that is useful in everything from business, to government, to medicine: Spanish is it. Because there are so many countries in which Spanish is one of the primary languages spoken, you have endless options when choosing where to study! Our recommended Spanish language immersion programs?

Learn Spanish in Guatemala with Maximo Nivel

Through this program, you will have the opportunity to study and live in the small city of Antigua, Guatemala, where students are encouraged to learn through practiced oral communication with locals. Living in such a small city with a vibrant, local culture will make learning Spanish fun and exciting! However, if you’re looking for all the glitz and glam of a large, metropolitan city, this might not be the program for you. 

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Mandarin language immersion schools/programs 

Today, Mandarin is considered to be one of the world’s “critical languages.” Since China is one of the largest financial, political, and cultural forces in the world, learning the primary dialect of its Chinese language is crucial for those hoping to pursue a career in Asia. Mandarin is notoriously difficult to learn for non-native speakers, so an immersive language program is a great option for those looking to dive in headfirst! Our recommended Mandarin language immersion programs? 

Learn Chinese in China with GoAbroadChina.com 

This Beijing-based program places a heavy emphasis on the Mandarin dialect. Homestays allow students to learn traditional Chinese cooking as well as grammar, and group activities will allow you to explore Chinese culture all while improving your language skills.

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Arabic language immersion schools/programs

Islamic architecture and a courtyard in Marrakech, Morocco

It’ll be a challenge, but stop instagramming and actually do your Arabic homework!

Similar to Mandarin, Arabic is considered to be one of the most crucial languages in today’s world. It is often used in government, medicine, and international affairs. The Arabic language also comes with an intricate, beautiful history and culture, which is crucial to learning the language. Our recommended Arabic language immersion programs? 

Learn Arabic in Morocco with Qalam wa Lawh 

This program offers an excellent language-immersion program in the beautiful capital city of Rabat, Morocco. While strolling through the stunning, historic arches of the city, you can also learn Arabic through the numerous volunteer and internship placement opportunities available through the program.

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Italian language immersion schools/programs

Look, if you want to accurately order your Neapolitan pizza on the streets of southern Italy, you better have your Italian language skills ready to go (and maybe a few hand gestures as well). Living and learning Italian is a Romance Language Lover’s dream! The language goes hand-in-hand with its culture of cuisine, music, and art, and each region has its very own dialect (and type of pasta) that you’ll have to put in some tough work to learn. Our recommended Italian language immersion programs?

Learn Italian in Italy with Lorenzo de’Medici

The dialect of central Italy in Tuscany is often considered to be the “standard Italian” dialect used by most Italians. That’s what makes studying abroad with the Lorenzo de’ Medici program in Florence such a great option for an immersive language experience! This program focuses on comprehensive learning by incorporating listening, speaking, reading, and writing into the learning process. Language exchanges with local Italian students are also arranged, to give you more casual, conversational experience. 

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French language immersion schools/programs

People milling about the Tuileries, Paris, France 

D'apprendre française à Paris sera toujours une bonne idée.

Hoping to learn the language of love? Learning French is no picnic by the Seine, but if you’re willing to fully immerse yourself in the local culture, you’ll be fluent in no time. French is also spoken in many places outside of France – North America, the Middle East, and Africa among some of the most common – and it also happens to be one of the official languages of the United Nations and Interpol. Our recommended French language immersion programs?

Learn French in France with Languages Abroad

Take your language learning overseas – and straight to the heart of the smallest country in the world. Languages Abroad offers an extensive program in Monaco, that gem of a city-state on the Mediterranean, where French is the official language. You’ll also have the incredible opportunity to live in the home of your very own private instructor, so your language-learning will be 24/7.

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Japanese language immersion schools/programs

A hub of finance and pop culture, Japanese is a crucial language to learn for those interested in an international career in business (or if you have a love for anime!). Although it’s a small island, Japan’s reach goes far, and living in Japan while learning the language is an incredible, culture-shocking experience. Our recommended Japanese language immersion programs?

Learn Japanese in Japan with KCP International Japanese Language School 

This language immersion school is a nonprofit educational organization that offers immersive language instruction in bustling Tokyo! Aside from immersive homestays with a local family, the KCP program also organizes excursions for its students so as to fully immerse them in Japanese culture as well. 

Related: 

practicing calligraphy in Japan

Learning Japanese in Japan will be full of characters (on and off the page).

Dive into language immersion programs

Whichever language you decided to study abroad, seriously consider a language immersion school. The idea of giving up everything – your home, your family and friends, and your language – is a scary one. Change is always a little intimidating. However, there is no better way to fully learn a language and be a part of another country’s culture by immersing yourself completely. Pretty soon, you won’t even need Google Translate! 

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Topic:  Before You Go