FAQs about language schools and language learning abroad

How much can I learn at an in-country language school?

A lot. How much you learn will of course depend on how long you spend studying the language you want. However, the standard intensive course offered at most language schools consists of 20 class-hours per week. During the course of the week your language course will cover grammar, vocabulary, conversation, and more.

In addition, the dynamic of living a country and learning the language of the country is rapid, compared to regular high-school, university, or other types of language classes offered at home.

Remember, a language course at a college or university usually meets 3 times per week (about 2.5 hours of class time). In a standard intensive language course taken abroad, you will generally have 20 class-hours per week. That's almost 7 times more than at home!

Will I be able to keep up with the class if we are learning so much?

Yes. The classes are structured in such a way that you will learn everything you need from one class to the next. The only way for you to fall behind is if you never do your homework or if you don't study at all.

How will the school know in which class level to place me?

Even if you have already studied Spanish in high school, for example, any of the Spanish schools you are thinking of taking a Spanish course at will have you take a placement test. Once you have completed the placement test, they will gauge your level of Spanish and put you into a group with students possessing the same level of knowledge as you. All language schools, regardless of the country or language will have you take a placement exam. The only exception is for someone who has never in his or her life studied the language before.

If I don't speak the language, how can I get information and how can I enroll?

English is the world's language of communication. There will almost always be someone on hand that speaks English and who can answer your questions and help you with enrolment. In addition, almost all language schools have English versions of their websites. On the school websites you will find all the information you need regarding classes, housing, activities, and enrolment.

How long would it take to become fluent in a language?

Becoming fluent in a foreign language depends primarily on the amount of time and effort you put into it. The language you are learning will also determine how long it takes to get a firm grasp on the basics of the language.

At most Spanish schools, Italian schools, French schools, and Portuguese schools, for example, students planning to acquire fluency will complete 1 level per month (80 class-hours). Most that teach Romance languages will have six levels. So, in six months you would complete 240 class-hours and you would complete all of the elementary, intermediate, and advanced grammar (not to mention building vocabulary, listening comprehension, and speaking practice).

Languages like Chinese, Japanese, Russian, and Arabic take longer to learn, and the course offering at in-country language schools will be longer-term.

However, if fluency is your goal, you can confidently expect to be, at the very least, highly-conversational to fluent once you have completed all of the levels of the language you wish to study. Keep in mind, however, that "fluent" is a relative term. The more you speak and use the language, such as when you live abroad, the more "fluent" you will become.

If I only study for one or two months, will I still learn a lot?

Yes. The intensive nature of the classes means that your are going to learn quite a bit more than you would at home. Not only will you be taking more hours of class that you would be at home, you will also be in a country where the language is spoken. You will hear it on the street, in cafes, on television, and, if you live with a host family, you will hear it everyday "at home".

I only have a couple of weeks of vacation. Do "language study vacations" exist?

They do. Many language schools have courses set up in two-week increments (some even have one-week language courses). So, even if you have only a few weeks to take a course, you can find one almost anywhere in the world. In Europe, for example, it is actually quite popular for vacationing Europeans to take language courses in another European country during their vacation. (Spain, Italy, and France are the most popular destinations.)

How much ahead of time do I need to apply?

It's always best to plan ahead and to apply early, especially if you are planning to take a language course in the summer. However, it is possible to apply just a week or so ahead of time. As long as the language school you're interested in has an open spot in their class, your preferred housing is available, and you have a plane ticket, it can be done last minute.

Some language schools, however, do require enrollment in advance. You will find this and other important information on their websites.

Is taking a language course at an in-country language school like studying abroad?

By definition, it is study abroad. In fact, language schools like the ones listed on this site often serve as the "host schools" for study abroad programs. That is, university students participating in a study abroad program to learn Spanish might go to Spain, where they will then be enrolled in one of the Spanish schools listed on this site. The Spanish school, as the host school, teaches the courses. The content of the course is much the same (if not identical) to the coursework taken by groups of students that attend these language schools via "study abroad" programs.