With one foot in the Indian Ocean, the other in the Pacific, and an arm in the Arctic, Asia has certainly staked its claim on Earth. Encompassing nearly one-third of the Earth’s land mass and nearly two-thirds of the world’s population, Asia is as different from country to country as yin and yang. Nonetheless, there are regional ties, historical complexities, and geographical similarities that help unite Asia under one distinct identity. If you’re looking to broaden your cultural horizons in profound ways, then learning a language abroad in Asia is the medium you’ve been seeking.
The world’s largest continent houses almost 30 countries that all sing a different tune. To help ease the burden of choice, take a gander at the breakdown of the most popular locations as you try to answer the question: “Which Asian language should I learn?”
China will help you build fluency in perhaps the world’s most important language. Future employers will be pining for you when they see that you’ve got the guts (not only because you survived the street food) to be bold in any career. Big cities like Beijing and Shanghai offer all the luxuries of city life and then some. You can even cross some major items off your bucket list, like the Great Wall and the Forbidden City. If the city life isn’t your cup of tea, Xi’an has your back, only allowing the tiniest shred of modernity to shine through the mountains that conceal its ancient roots.
Japan has a transcendent way of effortlessly transforming everything it touches into a work of art worthy of a space in the Mori Art Museum. Allow yourself to be entranced by the beauty of the language, culture, and people when you dive headfirst into the pool of Zen that is Japan. Tokyo and Fukuoka boast a fusion of futuristic sci-fi that is intricately laced with ancient art and temples. These clean and safe cities offer simplistic bounty, while the natural beauty of the country is possibly its best kept secret. Oh, and there’s sushi.
India presents a niche for every personality on the Myers-Briggs spectrum. Cities like New Delhi are large and in charge, while Goa is more laid back and “fun-sized”. Indian’s are also notorious instigators of the best dance parties on the planet, hosting some of the world's most dazzling festivals. Life in India is colorful and it won’t let you leave without imparting revelations of life that will forever blaze in your memory. No matter where you go, learning a language in India will undoubtedly be an interactive experience!
Indonesia will set your language learning on fire! With over 300 native ethnic groups that have their own dialects spread across Indonesia, you'll experience cultural diversity from coast to coast. Indonesians from all walks of life tend to be good-natured and optimistic. Whether you'd rather Eat, Pray, Love your way around Ubud, or get lost in the buzzing city of Jakarta, language programs in Indonesia will send your brain sailing and exciting adventures afloat.
Language Programs in Asia
The vastness that is Asia deems it as the mecca that is home to over 2,000 mother tongues. You can thank the Tower of Babel when you are tasked with choosing from this flurry of vernacular options. Take a look at this rundown of most widely spoken Asian languages to help you sift through the all the voices telling you which path to choose.
- Chinese: China, Taiwan, Singapore
- Hindi: India
- Indonesian: Indonesia
- Japanese: Japan
- Korean: South Korea, China
Take your time when choosing a language program in Asia, as there are many different types, and it’s hard to know which is the easiest Asian language to learn. For example, you can choose to do a short-term intensive language program in Asia at a private school or program. This will give you the opportunity to explore the city more and practice your newly acquired skills immediately. By immersing yourself in the culture, you'll develop a clear understanding of nuances and norms that you otherwise might not pick up on. The best Asian language to learn is the one that calls the most to you!
Some students prefer university programs where lessons take place on campus in a classroom full of students. Others might be more drawn to smaller group classes in order to have more attention from their teacher. The good news for international students is that attending an Asian university will help you step up your résumé game by adding a truly top-notch academic experience.
Other students may be more drawn to a private tutoring experience while learning a language abroad in Asia. All lessons are in a private, one-on-one setting, which will enhance your ability to learn at a faster pace. This is a great opportunity for students who might be looking for more than traditional classroom study and want to challenge themselves in an unfamiliar environment. If you need specific advice for a program you are considering, reach out to your program advisor to get those questions answered!
Costs & Affordability
Your cost of living–with no surprise–will depend on your location. For example, countries like Japan and Singapore frequently rank as more expensive than India and Thailand, so everyday costs will be higher. More rural areas are cheap enough to say, “Phuket let’s go,” while cities will always be cities and forever inflate your daily cost of living. The good news is there are plenty of free activities to get out and enjoy on the weekends! If you are still being a fussbudget, remember that program fees often include everything from training to accommodation to 24-hour in-country support.
Accommodation & Visas
While accommodation varies with each language program in Asia, students can generally expect to stay with a host family or in a dorm-style situation with other like-minded humans that may be your predestined lifelong friends. Student housing usually comes in the form of a furnished apartment situated in a safe neighborhood. Living with a host family while studying abroad in Asia is the ideal way to be immersed in the language and experience the culture firsthand. Program providers or universities will carefully choose both options, so students will be able to rest easy.
Visa requirements vary significantly from country to country, so it is important that you research intensively the immigration expectations required of you prior to departure. Visas can cost anywhere from $20 to $200, depending on your intention for visiting and the duration of your stay. Get your research started by visiting the GoAbroad Embassy Directory.
Benefits & Challenges
Transcontinental Travel. Asia is one of the more affordable regions to travel on the planet. As many Asian countries are still developing economically, travel within the continent is cheap and accessible for many students coming from the industrialized world, so explore as much as you can while completing a language program in Asia!
How the other two-thirds lives. Many people from the Western world are not attuned to the fact that most of the global population lives on the Asian continent. Learning a language abroad is the perfect opportunity to plop down amidst this thriving mass of life. It’s not going to be easy and you can go ahead and prepare to be overwhelmed now. However, the only proven anecdote to remedy culture shock is to push through and genuinely immerse yourself in the culture.
Traditions. Asians don’t mess around when it comes to tradition. There is no such thing as being a fair weather fan of the culture that is ingrained in them. In order to acquire valuable skills, such as intercultural communication, it is vital to demonstrate a respect for local traditions. In some instances, this includes modifying behavior or clothing choices in public. Just remember that respect and mindfulness is key. Learning how to conduct yourself while living in Asia will take time and patience, but nothing can undermine the respect that locals will feel when you get the hang of it.
High Expect-Asians. A completed immersion language program in Asia will beam on your résumé like a gold star. Asian languages are notoriously difficult to learn (we’re looking at you, Japanese alphabets) and having experience makes you extremely valuable to employers. When an interviewer sees that you opted to cannonball into Asia rather than dip a toe into a textbook, you will undoubtedly set the bar high for other candidates.
Learning a language in Asia is not only learning different words for the same things, but learning another way to think about things. Language schools in Asia provide a roadmap to understanding a culture. It tells you where its people come from and where they are going. So go snag a copy of that map, jump on the language bandwagon, and enjoy the ride!