Columbus didn’t quite make it to the Indies. Instead, he stumbled upon the West Indies, today referred to as the tourist destination: crystal clear waters, blazing sun, and white sandy beaches. More commonly known as the Caribbean, it is truly a unique place to study languages abroad. A stunning blend of African and European languages and cultures is found among incomparable islands and island nations. Develop your English, Spanish, or French within the enriching context of multiculturalism (and palm trees) and discover where piracy looted the treasures of the New World through language programs in the Caribbean.
Diversity rules the Caribbean, from the Greater Antilles to the Lesser Antilles. There are several different places to immerse yourself in the language of your choosing while also getting a taste of local linguistics (think creole and patois). Here are a few of the top places for language programs in the Caribbean:
Havana, Cuba. Picture yourself havana good time chowin’ down on ropa vieja in Cuba’s charming capital city. Stroll along the malecón, travel through time in Old Havana, and take a tour in one of those picturesque, classy cars in between Spanish language classes. If you crave Cuban rhythms, add in a little salsa dancing or percussion drumming. Intertwine a survivalist history with intensive language courses in a place that attracts famous and not-so-famous people alike (just take a look at the signed walls of La Bodeguita del Medio).
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. As the oldest European city in the Americas, Santo Domingo prides itself on its heritage, history, and fascinatingly-distinct neighborhoods. Check out Parque Colón and the New World’s oldest paved street, Calle Las Damas, in the zona colonial (UNESCO-approved). Get your cultural fix at one of four museums in Plaza de la Cultura, sample Dominican dishes like mofongo, sancocho, and of course, some plátano, and gaze at Victorian houses in the well-to-do Gazcue neighborhood. Practice your Spanish skills in and out of the classroom, and when you get tired of verbal communication, learn some merengue and bachata steps! Suavemente, no?
Martinique and Guadeloupe. Fusing French and Creole influences in the French West Indies, Martinique and Guadeloupe (I'ile Papillon or Butterfly Island) are fabulous extensions of France. Picture France as a paradise island: c'est parfait! Add in a hint of adventure in these off-the-beaten path destinations when you’re not conversing with locals in French. Both Caribbean departments of France are incredibly unique: mountains, rain forest, beaches, and coral reefs galore. Whether immersing yourself in colorful Sainte-Anne, Guadeloupe or Le Robert, Martinique, French fluency is achievable in one-on-one homestay programs that combine private tutoring with all things French culture.
Language Programs in the Caribbean
Whether it’s español, français, or English language courses you seek, the Caribbean has got you covered, in more than just sunscreen. Language programs in the Caribbean come in all shapes and sizes, and are at your disposal during any time of the year, because “It’s Always Sunny in the Caribbean” (well, except during rainy season). Here’s the lowdown on language programs in the Caribbean:
You can customize your language courses to fit your desired schedule, location, and form of language instruction. If you prefer a short-term burst of language classes, there are one-week options. Lots of language programs in the Caribbean start on Mondays, so you can decide when is best for you and go from there; language schools in the Caribbean will even let you decide if you’d like to keep on truckin’ week by week.
If you’re craving that long-term, immersive language experience, there are semester-long language programs in the Caribbean as well! Several reputable universities in the Caribbean provide students with academically advanced language courses as well as intercultural exchanges with native speakers and other international students. Sand and studying, cool, huh?
You could study Spanish at the Universidad del Sagrado Corazón in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where there are courses offered in both Spanish and English. On the other hand, advanced Spanish language learners can deepen their Caribbean knowledge at Pontificia Universidad Católica in Santiago, Dominican Republic. At the University of the West Indies Centre for Language Learning in St. Augustine, Trinidad & Tobago, you can learn English as a foreign language (or even study Arabic, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin, and more!).
On the opposite side of the academic spectrum, if fluency is on your linguistic horizons, study French in the Caribbean while studying in a homestay with private tutoring (and with a bit of luck, some fabulous French cooking!). From private classes to intensive group classes, from small university classes to in-home tutoring, language courses in the Caribbean are completely personalizable.
Costs & Affordability
Language skills are priceless; that is, until you take a peek at the price tag of language courses. Program costs in the Caribbean vary (some locations are more touristy than others), but with that being said, there’s a language program for all types of budgets.
The Caribbean offers a smoking hot atmosphere with a super cool price, it being a tourist destination and all. Capital cities in the Caribbean are significantly cheaper than, for instance, London or Washington, D.C, but more expensive than the rural areas. How much you’ll need to spend will be determined by length of your program. To help cover the costs, check out GoAbroad’s Scholarships Directory where you can even find foreign language scholarships! Depending on how long you’d like to study Spanish, French, or English in the Caribbean, you can work it out so that your budget stretches for as long as it takes to master what you’re after.
Accommodation & Visas
To really get language practice outside the classroom, you’ll need a study pad. Lots of language programs in the Caribbean already have housing figured out, your choice to opt in or out.
From self-reliant to family-style, there are so many accommodation options. Some language programs in the Caribbean offer housing in apartments or guesthouses. While university programs usually provide dorm-style housing, which makes for a great social atmosphere and paves the way for cross-cultural experiences and multilingual conversations.
Immersive programs lean towards homestay options, and some even set up private tutoring in-house. Eat and breathe that language ‘til you’ll be dreaming in it. If you’re one to challenge yourself on all linguistic levels, go for the home-stay, but if you’d like a more independent experience, choose a program that gives you that extra freedom.
Before worrying about where you’re going to live, start with actually entering the country: visas. Again, the length of your program and the destination you choose will affect whether you will need a visa. Most countries do not require a visa under a certain amount of days, but it, of course, depends on the country (and the Caribbean’s got lots of countries)! It’s best to hit up the GoAbroad Embassy Directory to find necessary visa information before heading off on your language adventure en el Caribe.
Benefits & Challenges
The laidback lifestyle of the Caribbean shouldn’t deter your from your linguistic goals, let it help you! Take advantage of the warm, friendly locals and strike up conversations while kicking back to enjoy the view.
Chillin’ out, maxin’, relaxin’ all Caribbean cool. The Caribbean conjures up images of lounging on the beach surrounded by palm trees and turquoise waters. Hunker down (while also catchin’ some rays) and study Spanish, French, or English amidst a region many equate with paradise. Not a bad place to learn a language, eh?
Go Against the Grain. With its not-so-mainstream appeal, the Caribbean is not your average location for language study abroad (but it should definitely be número uno on your list). There’s so much food, music, and dance to experience within an extraordinarily unique mix of cultures.
Creole Confusion. With multiculturalism comes multilingualism, which can set your mind spinning in linguistic circles. The Caribbean has official languages and not-so-official languages, making language policy a tad difficult. Expect to hear (and pick up on!) a fair share of Creole languages in your pursuit of Spanish, French, or English.
Despite the fact that roughly two percent of the Caribbean islands are inhabited, that two percent packs a cultural punch (think food, music, language, architecture, dance, religion). Pick any place to learn a new language in the Caribbean, because all of them provide language learners with breathtaking vistas, immersive opportunities, and an unforgettable chance to live the island life.