“Just go and spend time there and you will learn the language.” While this great and often-given piece of advice may work for some, not everyone has a knack for picking up languages by word of mouth. For most people, it involves going where the language is spoken and taking classes at a language school and/or in a language immersion program. But, like most things, not all language programs are created equally. So, before you sign up for one, here are a few tips to consider for finding the best language school for your needs.
Before You Go:
Even before you make your flight booking, book your accommodation, and of course, delve into the kind of classes you’re looking to take, here are the steps you should take to cover off all the due diligence you’ll need to determine what programs are both available to and the right fit for you.
Research The Location
Where you are studying can largely, if not solely, impact your language studies. If the school is far outside of a town, you have to consider how long your commute will be each day and whether you are going to have much real-life interaction with locals to test your skills. If the school is right in the heart of a tourist center, you also have to determine if enough people will speak the local tongue to you or simply resort to English. If you can’t really test out the skills you pick up in the classroom in actual settings and scenarios, it can impair your ability to learn the language.
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Determine Your Housing Situation
When you are deciding on a language school, first and foremost you have to determine your housing options. Many schools can set up private apartments or homestays for you at an additional cost. Some even include housing in their overall price. Private apartments may limit your language learning, especially if you are placed with other English speakers. Homestays can be more intensive and challenging but can also move your language learning along at a faster pace. Prospective language school students also need to know the details of their living situation. In some parts of the world, a school might have no problem mixing you up in apartments with both men and women. You have to be comfortable with the situation, which starts by asking detailed questions on your living accommodations.
Be Sure to Compare Prices
When you plot to live aboard and learn a new language, many tend to underestimate how much they will spend. You might sign up for a very expensive language school, thinking that will be your only cost. Students have to know what the average amount will be that they could spend on meals, activities, and entertainment. Before you commit monetarily to a school, know how much you are paying for a group and individual lessons on a per-class basis. You need to know what is included and what isn’t while having a general idea of how much you will spend each day including lessons. Obviously location can play a role in the expense with more popular destinations tending to cost more. For example, a language school in Florence tends to price out to be more costly than a language school in Sicily.
Read the Reviews
One of the best ways to get a real feel for a school or program is to read reviews submitted by former and current students. These are honest assessments submitted online, so you can feel comfortable in their accuracy. You should read a number of reviews for every school you consider in order to develop a good judgment regarding the school.
Picking the Right Program:
Now that you’ve knocked out all the preliminary steps, it’s time to delve into the actual classes There is a world of choices, so you need to set your goals and parameters before you dig into the details of the research and determine the program best suited for you. To figure this out, you’ll have to decide how long you want to stay abroad and the type of learner you are. Here’s what to consider when you’re choosing:
Read Over the Curriculum and Accreditations
You want to look at the curriculum and levels of instruction, but you also need to make sure of the school’s accreditations. How equipped will it make you in the language once the course or program complete? Is the program primarily classroom centered or is it more of an experience immersion. Is it too rigorous for a beginner? Is it too slow if you’re already at an intermediate level? Does it cater to your learning strengths (ie: if you’re a visual learner or more of a notetaker, etc). Reading over the curriculum for your program is imperative to find out if you’ll leave the course with the skill level you’re looking for, as well as whether it’s the right type of format for you to thrive in. If you find that the school is well-regarded and has the accreditations you’re looking for, it’ll help you determine the price you’re willing to pay for the education you’re going to receive.
Take Class Size Into Consideration
If you are really trying to pick up a new language at a language school, you need to research how big or small the class size will be. Small is best if you want to fine-tune your skills and receive more individualized attention. However, if you are looking to meet people, small programs can make this more difficult. Again, it depends on your wants but for better language skills, select a school that places emphasis on small and private instruction.
Flexibility is Important
You will need to also get a feel for how flexible the school administration is regarding assignments, missed classes, and other factors. If you need to work abroad to support yourself, you will need some flexibility in the school schedule to accommodate your working hours. If you are sick, you will need some flexibility to complete assignments. You are abroad, so you want everything to count.
It may not seem like an important thing, but you should also look at the student activities offered by the school. Student activities are one way to make friends, get out, and have fun. Having structured activities is also a safe way to socialize since you aren’t familiar with the area and know no one.
Once you do the research, you should be able to pick an appropriate school that meets your needs. Then, you can move forward with your plans to study language abroad with confidence. Let us know if you have any tips to add to the list in the comments below!