Serious About Fluency? Choose Intensive Language Programs

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Why Intensive Language Programs? 

So you’ve decided you don’t want to just walk the walk – you want to talk the talk. Today, more and more students are choosing to focus on language learning programs abroad as a way to truly immerse themselves and learn another language. If you’re serious about learning to speak a second, third, fourth, fifth (to infinity, and beyond!) language, intensive language programs are the only way to go. Here are just a few of the reasons why when sorting through the top language learning programs, you should choose an intensive language program abroad.

1. You’ll be challenged. 

close up of hands, person handing fruit to customer at a market stall
Buying a snack at the market will never be easier or more satisfying.

There’s no doubt about it: intensive language programs are, well, intense. They ask you to give up every feeling of comfort imaginable – your family and friends, your home, your culture, and yes, your language – so that you can learn as much as possible from another country. 

Throwing yourself headfirst into an immersive language program means that you’ll spend almost every waking moment of your day speaking your host country’s language and that can be tiring. Simple things like buying groceries or reading the instructions on the back of a box can suddenly take twice the amount of time, and four times the amount of work! But, as challenging as learning another language can be, the moment you successfully haggle over the price of your produce in a Moroccan market while speaking Arabic will be one of the most satisfying moments of your life. Trust us when we say: the hard work is worth it. 

2. You’ll live with a host family. 

Most, if not all, intensive language programs require their students to live with a host family during their stay. And if the language learning programs you’re looking at don’t require it, you should still opt in! You’ll want the incredibly rewarding experience of living with a local family during your weeks, months, or year abroad. 

While there, you’ll learn how families in your country live, how they eat, and how they spend their free time. Most importantly, for the purpose of your language study program, you’ll learn how they speak. With other study abroad programs, where housing is in university-style dorms with students from your home country, it can be easy to fall back and rely on speaking your native language. However, living with a host family means always having to speak their language, and you’ll learn so much more by living with the language and expanding your learning to beyond the classroom.  

3. Your professors are the best of the best. 

woman in gray shirt cooking in outdoor kitchen in daytime
Learn more than just the language when living with a local host family.

In language learning programs abroad, your professors and instructors aren’t just good— they’re the best. They don’t just want you to get a passing grade. They want you to really and truly sink your teeth into the lessons and learn about the language and culture you are studying on a personal and academic level. Even better, your professors are almost guaranteed to be native speakers of the language! There is no better way to learn a language in a classroom than from the locals themselves – and only a true Barcelona native can show you the ins and outs of learning the Catalan language

4. You’ll have classmates from all over the world! 

In intensive language programs, it’s very likely that you’ll be studying at a local university, or in a local language school. Either way, you’ll find that most of your classmates sitting next to you are from different countries themselves, or from your host country! This means that the only common language you’ll have to communicate with will be the language you’re trying to learn – so, no chance of sneaking back to your native English! And why would you want to cheat and speak English? Getting to know your classmates and making friends is not only a great way to learn the language; it’s also the best way to get to know the local culture. Who else is going to show you where to get the best pla rad prik in Thailand? 

5. You’ll be forced to practice what you preach— er, learn. 

In intensive language programs, you don’t just want to speak the language— you have to. There is no escape route, no backup plan, no big, red EASY button to push. When fully immersing yourself in another language, you have no choice but to learn it because you need it. 

You’ll need it to do everything from understand your professor’s lectures, tell your host mom how much you love her cooking, chat with your new friends about weekend plans, to figuring out the local bus system. You will become fluent by necessity. This might sound scary, but it’s actually the best way to learn a language

6. You’ll dig deeper.

group of people sitting outside on  a grassy hill enjoying the sunshine
How are you going to make weekend plans without solid grasp of the local language? Hmmm???

Choosing language learning programs is not just a choice to expand your skill set and add “Fluent in ______” to your resume, it’s a choice to also go beyond just studying abroad, and fully immerse yourself in the local customs, traditions, and culture. Your experiences with your host family, with your classmates, and even with the locals you meet on the street will all be that much more meaningful because of your efforts to connect with them through their own language. You will also be able to understand so much more of the underlying cornerstones of your host country’s culture and nuanced values when you don’t have to try and understand them through the extra filter of Google Translate.  

7. Your resume will have a whole new shine to it. 

Being fluent in another language is great for navigating the streets of Paris, but it is also the perfect way to set yourself apart when applying for graduate schools or jobs. It’s never too late to think about the future, and you should always highlight your study abroad experience on your resume to demonstrate your recently-acquired global mindset, intercultural skills, and love of all things international!  

The fact that you chose far more challenging intensive language programs will reflect well on that go-getter attitude of yours, and any grad school or future employer will definitely be impressed! Having these skills – especially the ability to speak a language crucial to your dream job of, say, working in the U.N. – will set you forward on your goals of pursuing a more global and well-rounded career and life.  

8. You’ll learn to navigate those – sometimes tricky – cultural barriers.  

Man jumping into water at sunset
Accurate depiction of what signing up for an intensive language program abroad feels like...

Most importantly, learning another language helps you cross the line between “us” and “them.” On your first day in your new country, you might seem like just another foreigner jumping off the plane to snap a few selfies with an alpaca, get your academic credits, and eat as many kebabs as you can. However, learning the language of your adopted country is as much about proving yourself to the locals as it is about proving to yourself that you can do it. 

By actively trying to make a connection to the culture around you, you’ll form real bonds to the people themselves.

In countries that have a preconceived notion of the home you are coming from, this can make an incredible impact on the grassroots level between your two cultures. Just as your newfound language skills will help you get to know the country around you beyond the stereotypes you’ve read about, your attempt to truly learn from this culture will show others that you are serious about crossing that cultural barrier and creating a global community, connected by mutual understanding.  

Recommended Intensive Language Programs

Start your search by checking out these top notch intensive language programs:

Insider Tips on Intensive Language Programs

Save and compare intensive language programs side-by-side with MyGoAbroad, and bookmark these articles about language learning programs abroad, or some of the ones linked below while you’re at it: 

Serious About Fluency? Choose Intensive Language Programs

Get serious. Get fluent.

Studying abroad is challenging, but intensive language programs are like diving right off into the deep end with no pool noodle or floaty in sight. Yes, it is scary and yes, it will be difficult. There will be days where the simplest of things will take hours, a dictionary, and probably the help of three strangers on the street. But there will also be days where you breeze through your chosen study abroad country, speaking to locals as if they were old friends, and you’ll realize that despite all of the challenges, it was worth it. 

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Topic:  Before You Go