From the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, from Alaska’s Denali to Caribbean beaches, from sparkling city skylines to ancient Mayan ruins, North America offers immeasurable diversity in landscape, climate, culture, and language. Although English dominates the continent, Spanish is not far behind. Immerse yourself into the world of North American languages — line dance in the American South, learn how to make some killer guacamole from your host madre in Mexico, tap a maple tree in the Great White North. You’ll gain irreplaceable language skills, better understand North American culture, and soak up enough memories to last a lifetime.
The three largest countries on the continent– Canada, Mexico, and the United States– may share a trade bloc, but they all possess distinct cultures, geographies, and languages. Jump on into life in North America, and you’ll be well on your way toward fluency in your language of choice.
If learning Spanish is on your bucket list, say hola to Mexico. The largest city on the continent and the oldest capital city in the Americas, language schools in Mexico City await. Practice your verb conjugations while exploring park-filled Condesa or strolling down the Reforma, the city’s main drag. DF - Distrito Federal, also boasts world-class museums, tantalizing street food, and one of the cheapest metro systems you’ll find. Merida, known as the white city, is a great choice for language learners looking for a smaller, yet no less interesting, locale. On weekends enjoy live music and dancing in its large centro histórico, and grab a bite of tasty cochinita pibil, pulled pork flavored with a local spice.
North America is certainly the right place to come for those seeking English lessons. In fact, there are many English language courses in the USA for international students, where the motto the bigger, the better holds true. Although the cultural centers of New York or San Francisco have instant appeal, consider a lesser-known destination such as Boise or St. Paul to encourage the opportunity to practice with locals, study English in a USA university, and save more than a few bucks on housing. In your freetime, explore the magnificent National Park System, which includes Grand Canyon National Park, considered one of the world’s seven wonders.
Although the U.S. may hog the media coverage spotlight, its friendly neighbor to the north Canada shines just as bright. As a destination to learn English, try Vancouver. This coastal city consistently ranks as a top city worldwide for livability and quality of life. Or if big city life calls to you, consider Toronto. With never ending neighborhoods to explore, it’s literally impossible to get bored. Officially a French/English bilingual country, international language schools of Canada include the bonus of picking up a few French words while you’re there. But, be sure to avoid being based in primarily Francophone locales, such as Montreal, if your goal is to learn North American English. Cheer on your local ice hockey team or sample some poutine, the national dish of french fries, cheese curds, and gravy. Oh my.
Language Courses in North America
English and Spanish prevail in North America, but language learners will quickly find that not all language programs are created equal. Understanding the various options available and what to expect will help you select the program that will benefit you the most.
There’s no doubt that North American English has become an important global language, and with more and more students seeking to attend university in the English-speaking world, learning English in a native environment will give you a competitive advantage. Especially in the U.S., you’ll find many programs geared toward university preparation and North American culture, including pre-university enrichment. These programs not only help you achieve English fluency, but also provide skills in navigating university cultural and academic life. Some will even help you with college applications and American English accents.
For both English and Spanish-language programs, North America offers some unique features. Have you ever heard of living with your teacher? Yeah, that’s right. Consider a live-in program to maximize practicing the language at all hours of the day. This kind of arrangement also provides insight into the daily life of North Americans. If that kind of immersion seems a little too intense, perhaps a program that specializes in Business or Medical language would be a better fit.
Don’t let the number of choices for language schools in North America overwhelm you. Instead, begin by focusing on what’s most important to you and let that guide your choice. And, it’s hard to make a wrong choice, really.
Costs & Affordability
The cost of living varies greatly from country to country, region to region, city to city, and even neighborhood to neighborhood within North America— the cost of language programs in North America will differ just as well. In general, food is relatively cheap but you’ll spend any pennies you save on housing costs, especially in the larger cities in the U.S. and Canada. Staying in a smaller city or town will likely help you cut back on expenses, and Mexico beats out the other two countries in terms of overall affordability.
Expect to pay sales tax (between five and fifteen percent) on clothes, food, and souvenirs. Tipping is expected in most restaurants and for taxis on much of the continent. And be aware of the supersize deal. Many restaurants (especially fast food) will offer more food for more money, but ask yourself, can you really eat all of that?
In lieu of holiday and birthday presents this year, consider creating a FundMyTravel account! It’s your ticket to an affordable life while tackling North American languages.
Accommodations & Visas
If you’re planning to study language in North America, take some time to do some actual planning in advance of your program. Research your school’s location, neighborhood, and the best places for students to live in your new community. Learn what kind of public transportation is available.
Typically, the most common options for students’ accommodation include a homestay, dormitory, or an apartment. Homestays come highly recommended, especially for language learners, for their ability to help you build connections with locals and practice language on a daily basis. On the other hand, homestays may offer less independence as you navigate English in North America.
Dorms can be a good option for students who are studying at universities. It’s super easy to meet fellow students and is usually an affordable choice. Beyond university campuses, though, dormitories are not widely available. Apartments are available everywhere, but come with more hassle and a higher price tag. For one thing, you’re entirely responsible for researching and securing your housing in most cases, and it may be difficult to commit before arrival. Typically, expenses such as utilities, internet, or cable will be additional.
Laws and requirements regarding visas will vary depending on the country to which you are heading; however, generally, know that a visa will likely be required regardless. If you are participating in a university program, most schools will have international student offices to support you through the process of obtaining a visa. Check out GoAbroad’s Embassy Directory to learn the most up-to-date regulations for visas in your North American destination.
Benefits & Challenges
The North American culture and language are deeply connected. Sort of like that old song goes, you can’t have one without the other. You’ll begin to see how certain language expressions start to unpack a greater meaning and explanation of the culture.
If your educational or career plans include knowing a second (or third, or fourth) language, there’s no better time to start learning that language than now. Immersing yourself in the language will undoubtedly help you gain fluency faster than if you stayed at home. And, you will also have way more fun while you’re at it.
You’ll have tough days. No one learned North American languages in a day! But, you’ll come through the fog of language learning more sure of yourself, and of course, with the ability to have a conversation. Isn’t that the goal, after all? Eventually you will find your groove, and although every sentence may not be perfect pitch, native speakers will start to recognize the song you’re trying to sing (or speak).
With the amount of diversity and huge variety of program options, language schools in North America are sure to give you the boost you need to set you ahead of the pack while offering the kind of learning environment you’re looking for. Whether you’re bundled up in Canada, hiking ruins in Mexico, or driving the open roads of the U.S., North America will leave its impression on you.