The first thing to consider when choosing a language school is which language you want to learn! You probably already know this, and this will help you create a shortlist of destinations.
Your decision may depend on why you want to learn a new language in the first place. Are you planning on heading to university abroad in the future? If so, then where will that university be, and what language will instruction be in?
Or maybe you frequently negotiate with people from another country for your job? It would probably make sense to learn the language in that country (see accent below).
Or do you just want to make new friends when you travel? In this case you need to think about where you will travel, or languages that are popular amongst travellers. English and/or Spanish are good places to start.
Whatever the reason, make sure you choose the language that suits your purpose.
Now you know which language you want to study, do some research on all the countries where that language is the official language and is spoken daily by the majority of the population.
Let’s say you want to study English. You could go to the UK, USA, Australia, South Africa, even Malaysia – there are many, many countries you could choose. French? Well, there’s Canada, Switzerland, Belgium, several countries in Africa, and of course France.
Try and use the internet to help with research because you might be surprised by how many options you have. The search function in Coursefinders.com is perfect for this.
Now you will probably want to consider things like how close is the destination to your home country. If you are Mexican wanting to learn English then the USA is a popular choice because it is close to home. This means travel will probably be less expensive, and it may be easier to stay in contact with family at home if the time difference is less.
is another consideration. Maybe you want to learn Spanish to help your business because you have suppliers in Latin America. Even if you live in Europe, you may be better not to learn in Spain, because the accent and way of speaking can be very different from Latin America.
If you are learning a language because you want to be able to communicate with a specific group or culture then it makes sense to learn the language while immersed in that culture.
Once you have decided on which country to visit, you need to decide which city. Do you want to be in a big city or a small town? A big city may have more tourist attractions, but consequently it will also have more tourists. This means you may not be speaking the language you want to learn as much as you could. It may also be more expensive.
In a smaller town you are less likely to meet people from your own country. This will force you to practice your new language.
Some schools even offer courses where you can study half the course in one city and half the course in another city. E.g. New York City and Los Angeles, USA.
Prices can vary depending on many different factors so it is a good idea to contact the school and ask them.
The school will need to know which course you want to study, how long for and when you want to start. It is also helpful to tell schools your age and where you are from. This ensures you will get the best price available and will be put in to the most appropriate class.
If you want to know what a school is really like, it’s best to ask the students that already studied there. Schools will often add testimonials from their best students to their websites, and these help but these will always be very positive about the school. Try to find a source of independent reviews, or places where students can talk about schools without having their comments moderated. Coursefinders.com is one place where you can do this, and because students have to log in with a social media profile in order to write a review you can be sure that all the reviews are genuine.
Type of Course
Choosing the right course can be confusing, but once you have an idea where you want to study and why, it is much easier. And you can always ask staff at language schools for their advice. CourseFinders.com allows you to send a message to up to 10 language schools at once, which will save you lots of time.
If you are learning a language for fun or to help make friends when you travel, then you can look at General classes. These are often focused on speaking and listening more than reading and writing.
If you are planning on studying in another language then there are special courses to help, such as English for Academic Purposes. These will focus on reading and writing in the correct style for academic papers. Or if you need to attain a certain test score before being accepted to, for example, a university, then you can look for special courses for the particular test that you need to pass e.g. IELTS preparation exams.
French for Business courses will focus on words and situations you will encounter during business negotiations, when abroad on business.
You can even find specialised courses in unusual subjects and combinations: Japanese and Golf, English for Scuba Divers or even French and Architecture.
How long do you want the course to last? This may depend on how much time you can get off of school or work, how much the course costs, and on the visa restrictions of the country you want to travel to.
Generally speaking, the longer the course lasts the better you will be at the language when you finish.
Different schools have different sized classes. Generally speaking, the smaller the class (the fewer people are in it) the better, because the teacher will have more time to dedicate to you personally.
One-to-One classes are the fastest way to learn, but they are the most expensive.
If you only have a 2 week holiday from work and really need to learn fast, take an intensive course of 30 hours per week. If you want to brush up on a language and see some of the country you are visiting at the same time then take a relaxed course of around 15 hours per week.
The more hours of study per week you do, the faster you should learn a language.
There are many different types of accommodation available to the language learner. Staying in a hotel near the school will probably be the most luxurious and offer the most privacy, however staying with a local family in a Homestay will allow you to experience a culture first hand and practice in the evening all the language lessons you have learned during the day.
Some schools will have their own accommodation facilities; some may only have a network of homestay families.
Sports and Activities
If you want to participate in a particular sport or activity during your trip then make sure you are going to an area that has the right facilities, and that you are travelling at the correct time of year. For example, if you want to ski then make sure you travel to an area with ski resorts during their* winter; if you want to mountain bike then go in their summer.
It is always best to contact prospective schools in advance and ask their advice. CourseFinders.com lets you search for a school by the activities they offer and then contact them directly from the site, and it is all completely free for students!
*Don’t forget, Winter in the Northern Hemisphere is the opposite to in the Southern Hemisphere.