Knowing a second language can be one of the most meaningful achievements a student can have. It is no secret that employers want it, peers envy it, and society rewards you for it! Western Europe offers a multitude of language learning opportunities that will prove functional and practical when applying for future jobs. Those who take their language studies abroad will find that language learning is the key to unlocking the many real mysteries of foreign cultures, allowing language students to have an even more gratifying experience abroad. Want even more great news? There are HUNDREDS of language programs in Western Europe to choose from, no matter which language you decide to learn.
Narrowing down your choices of the best countries for language study abroad in Western Europe often correlates largely with the language you decide to focus your studies on. To help you get started, here are some of the top destinations for language study in Western Europe:
Florence, Italy. It may come as a surprise that Italy is filled with a multitude of different dialects that can almost sound like a boom of different languages. A countryman in the north often times cannot understand a fisherman in the south. However, Florence is the nation’s capital of language and art, and the Italian language began on the cobblestone streets that illustrious men, such as Leonardo Da Vinci and Dante Alighieri, walked and talked upon. Florence is the perfect spot to learn and practice Italian, because it is where the “standard” of the Italian language originates.
Berlin, Germany. German is the most spoken language in the European Union and an official language in Germany, Liechtenstein, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, and Luxembourg, making it an extremely valuable asset to have in your back pocket. As the nation’s capital, Berlin is an exceptional place to study German, with its authentic charm and historical context. With the fall of the Berlin Wall and the separation of East and West Germany, studying German in Berlin will give you an up close look at Germany history and what life was like for people only a few decades ago.
Madrid, Spain. It’s no surprise that Spanish is spoken, and studied, by millions of people worldwide. But, the best way to learn Spanish is to skip the classroom and study Spanish among the Spaniards! Madrid encompasses traditional Spanish culture while remaining the nation’s ever-developing capital. As the city has passed through the hands of both Christian and Muslim rulers, it has developed as the origin of many cultures, making the city feel very culturally diverse and vivid.
Aix-en-Provence, France is a big university city, yet very walkable and located in the oh-so-grand South of France! There are many French and American students who aspire to learn a second language, making finding language programs in France easy and painless. Aix-en-Provence is considered a lively city that exuberates energy and culture through its dance, music, and history, which are all celebrated during many festivals held each year. Aix is one of the most beloved cities of France, especially recognized for its timeless charm and major curb appeal.
Language Programs in Western Europe
Western Europe is incredibly different from North America, in that there are many diverse cultures in very close proximity; it only takes a few miles to find yourself amidst another culture with new customs and a completely different language. Deciding to study one of these European languages, therefore, will open up an abundance of doors for you. In fact, it may be the best decision you ever make (especially when you consider future job opportunities)! The key is to find the exact language program in Western Europe that fits best with you.
Here are some of the most common languages spoken in Western Europe and the most popular places to study each one:
- French: France, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Monaco
- Italian: Italy
- German: Germany, Austria, Luxembourg, Belgium
- Spanish: Spain
- Portuguese: Portugal
Studying the local language is the best way to invest your time in becoming a real, active part of your host country. It’s like saying, “Hey, I respect you enough to learn your language and want to actually understand your culture!” It is a symbol of gratification and appreciation for the country you are aiming to delve into and become a part of. Language programs in Western Europe are also a great way for you to begin to comprehend the hidden value of living in a new place, which you couldn’t normally understand without speaking the native tongue.
There are many ways to approach language study in Western Europe. Some students choose advanced language immersion programs, after taking language courses in their home country. An advanced language program in Western Europe will have all of its classes taught in the native language and schools will expect you to be advanced in reading comprehension, writing, and conversation skills. This type of language study abroad is great for students who are aiming to fulfill language courses abroad specifically for a foreign language major or minor.
Furthermore, there are language programs in Western Europe that are categorized as beginner level, which offer the luxury of taking language courses in English while you gradually develop your foreign language skills. These options are good because of the natural progression into a more difficult level of language comprehension.
No matter which language program in Western Europe you decide to participate in, there are many opportunities and resources to aid you in the betterment of your language skills. Language exchange partners are commonly used in many language programs to help both partners practice and develop their conversational skills in a new language. Many students push their language limits by meeting international friends and practicing their language skills in social settings. It is up to YOU to decide how much time and effort you want to invest in language study in Western Europe.
Costs & Affordability
In some cases, choosing to study a language abroad can actually SAVE you money. The cost and inclusions of each program is different, based on the location and program structure. A language school in the UK, for example, is likely to be more expensive than pursuing language studies in Italy, because the Pound is worth almost double the Dollar, while the Euro is much less of a jump in value.
The amount of money you will spend abroad is directly related to the kind of lifestyle that you choose to live. A person who travels regularly on the weekends will spend more money than a student who travels only on holidays and breaks. While the cost of living in Western Europe is relatively equal to the cost of living in the United States, you will often see the differences in cost directly related to travel, leisure, eating out, and social activities.
Many language programs in Western Europe offer group activities and field trips included in tuition costs or program fees, so these add-ons should be factored into your decision. Choosing to study a foreign language abroad as opposed to at home is great because you are given the opportunity to actually see what you read about in textbooks and learn outside the classroom. History will never have felt so real, and the money you pay for tuition will never have felt more worth it. Accommodation is typically included within tuition costs. However, transportation is usually not, so it’s important to plan for this extra cost when budgeting for any type of language study in Western Europe.
Many students are most concerned about how they will finance language study abroad, rather than how they will tackle an entirely new language. If you fall into this group of students, you should be sure to research scholarship opportunities for language study abroad. There are thousands of ways to receive FREE money out there.
Accommodation & Visas
Language programs in Western Europe tend to vary in how they offer accommodation to participants. Some will require that you live in a homestay, which may seem intimidating; however, this is truly the best way to learn the native language, because you’ll be constantly surrounded by it. Other language schools in Western Europe may require that students live on campus in dorm-style housing. These can be a great opportunity to meet other international students, and practice your language skills in a social setting with local students too. Lastly, there are also some language program providers that allow students to search for their own apartments, which can be a great way to begin tackling the challenges of living in a foreign place. Although it can be absolutely daunting, finding your own place can also teach you a lot.
Unquestionably, visa requirements will depend on the country you choose for language study abroad. It’s important to read the fine print about travel documents in relation to your length of stay way before departure. This is definitely one thing you do not want to be ignorant about, or it will cost you in the long run! For the most up to date information on visa requirements, check out GoAbroad’s Embassy Directory.
Benefits & Challenges
Studying at a language school in Western Europe may be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. It will help you grow, push your boundaries, and change you as a person, and it may even open up job opportunities for you in the future. Learning a new language opens your mind to new ideas and gives you the opportunity to build life-long friendships and professional relationships.
You can bet it will intimidate you, as it may feel daunting and scary at first. In general, students become meek or hesitant when given the opportunity to speak in a second language, especially in a social setting among native speakers. BUT, do not let the fear of failure weaken your language learning and skill development. Be prepared to make mistakes, AND be corrected. This is how you’ll learn! Learning a second language also takes time; it will not happen overnight. If you are willing to give your effort and patience, you will reap all of the benefits and be thankful you did.
At the end of the day, there’s a reason you never hear someone say they regret learning a second language!