If you want to learn a foreign language, there may be no better place, regardless of the language you wish to learn, than the United States of America. Approximately 330 different languages are spoken throughout the United States, making it one of the best places on earth to study almost any foreign language. Naturally, English is the most widely spoken and taught language, but huge portions of the population speak Spanish, as well as Chinese, French, Vietnamese, German, Korean, Russian, Arabic, Italian, and the list goes on. It is possible to find language programs in the U.S. in all of the latter languages.
Foreign language courses can be found at essentially every university across the United States, which is a lot of ground to cover! The choices for language programs in the United States are nearly endless. However, when it comes to specialized language schools in the U.S., it is likely that most will be found in larger cities, including the following two popular locations:
New York. Perhaps the most famous city on Earth, New York City is the hub of American culture, business, and art. Language schools in NYC are widespread, and most concentrate on teaching English as a second language. As with everything in New York, language programs can be very expensive in comparison to language courses offered by colleges or universities. Intensive language programs in New York will likely cost several hundred dollars per week, and when you factor in the cost of living in the central part of the city, your budget may need to be astronomical. Fortunately though, there are cost-cutting options and benefits to engaging in language courses in such a diverse, major American city.
Boston. A bit further up the east coast lies the city of Boston. A fascinating mix of old and new, this centuries old city has been thoroughly modernized in many ways, while still maintaining its colonial heritage in others. Several world class language schools operate in Boston, mainly focusing on teaching English as a second language, but with a smattering of opportunities for learning other languages too, like Spanish and German. While the cost of living in Boston is not as high as many areas of New York City, it can still be quite pricey near the center of the city. Public transit will be any language student’s friend, providing transportation in and out of the city from more affordable accommodations in the suburbs.
Language Programs in the U.S.
There are as many language programs in the U.S. as there are states, actually a lot more than that. Language programs in the United States are offered in many different forms. The most common form of language courses in the United States are found at colleges and universities. The enormous range of languages that can be studied at American universities is truly immense. University language programs will require students to follow the usual application and enrollment procedures, so this option is ideal for international students who already have plans of studying abroad the United States. Also, it can be difficult to take only language courses at American universities, without expanding your studies to a larger subject area.
There are also stand alone language schools in the United States, though obviously less common than colleges and universities. Language schools are, like universities, often located in larger cities and for the most part focused on teaching English as a second language, whether to U.S. citizens, international students, or expats. Tuition fees at language schools in the U.S. are by no means cheap, and will likely parallel local living costs. However, language courses available in language schools are typically highly intensive and taught over a shorter period of time, so you will get the bang for your buck you are looking for, without having to spend an entire semester holed up in a classroom. Language schools also tend to give you lots of time out of the classroom, interacting with locals and your peers, and practicing your language skills.
Costs & Affordability
The United States is a paradox of affordability. While some areas of the country are incredibly expensive, others will put less stress on your pocketbook (hint: steer clear of major U.S. cities). The downfall of affordable items in the United States is that the quality is generally quite poor. For instance, you can eat an entire meal for $3 from the local fast-food superstar McDonalds, but your tummy (and general health) will eventually suffer from a lack of nutrients.
Your biggest expenditures during language programs in the United States will be housing and transportation. Although, you can mitigate some of these costs by applying for shared housing (even if you're crammed for a few weeks, it sure beats going into debt!) and finding housing that is within walking distance of your language school. If this isn't possible, seek accommodations near to public transit at the very least. In major cities, public transit is easily navigable and well established. If you opt to head to a smaller city or rural area, you may not be as lucky.
Overall, there's a reason why the United States is rarely grouped with China, South Africa, or Ecuador in terms of affordability. It may cost you more, but look at it as an investment in your skills and a rare opportunity to experience one of the most dynamic, influential, and powerful countries on the planet.
Accommodation & Visas
Universities are often able to provide their students with housing, either in dormitories or in school-owned apartments. These types of housing situations take the stress out of finding a place to live, and sometimes even include the opportunity to purchase meal plans which can be availed in the institutions private dining facilities. Language schools in the United States are less likely to provide housing or meal plans, but some do offer the opportunity to stay in homestays with local families.
Student visas for the United States can be obtained through the U.S. embassy in your home country. Regardless of what type of language program you will be attending, you will need a F-1 student visa to enter the U.S. legally. This visa can be issued up to 120 days before the start of your program, but you won’t be able to utilize it for entry until 30 days before the program starts. A moderate fee is usually associated with obtaining this type of visa and for anyone aged 14-79, and consular officers reserve the right to request an in-person interview with applicants at their local American embassy. Further requirements for entry include a passport, photographs, and a “Form I-20”, which can be obtained from your host university or language school upon your admission.
Variety. The United States is known as the land of opportunity, and when it comes to language studies abroad, this saying holds quite true. Somewhere in the country, there is a program that exists for nearly any language a student could possibly want to learn.
Costs. The largest challenge, besides wading through the abundance of language program options, may be the price tag associated with language study in the U.S. Attending language schools in the United States can be quite expensive, and tuition may be just a fraction of overall expenses in some parts of the country.