Have you ever thought about combining your love of travel with learning a new language or improving your language skills in the country where it is spoken? Rather than just doing the usual touristy, sight-seeing things, if you study a language abroad you gain a real sense of achievement. By immersing yourself in a language in and outside the classroom, you will learn so much more about the place, people, culture and history of the country you are in.
How to impress the locals
Locals are often unduly impressed and complimentary even if you only manage to utter a few words in their language, but imagine how much more impressed they would be if you could exchange more than just a few words. And, with your increased knowledge and awareness, you will be able to stray away from the usual tourist trails where English is often spoken and written. You will be able to venture into areas which only cater for locals and make little or no concession to tourists who don’t speak their language.
Which course to choose to study a language abroad
A search online will reveal many organisations which offer opportunities to study a language abroad. Many of these cater for younger people but there are some organisations which offer courses for a slightly more mature age group. If you would prefer to learn a language whilst enjoying the local culture with people of a similar age, check out the following:
The 50+ courses offered by Cactus are specially geared to people who are over 50. Their study a language abroad courses give you the chance to explore a new language and culture with people of a similar age and adventurous spirit. The language classes usually take place in the morning leaving the afternoons and evenings free for cultural activities. Organised activities range from cooking and wine tasting to visits to art galleries and other places of interest. Most courses last for two weeks and are available at all levels. Check the Cactus website for the details and dates of courses.
Crossroads Languages offers culture and language courses for people who are over 50. Their language programmes include Spanish and Culture, Spanish and Flamenco, Spanish and Art, French in Provence, French on the Côte d’Azur and Rome for the 50+. Crossroads Languages works with language schools in a variety of holiday destinations around the world and can prepare programmes which combine a language course with social and cultural activities. You can either join a group of people of your own age and similar interests or you can request a special package for you and your group.
Living Languages Abroad organises courses of one or two weeks in Spain, France, Italy and Germany. Their 50+ courses give you the opportunity of studying a language with your peers whilst enjoying the social programme that runs alongside each course. You can choose to stay with a host family or in a hotel. Check the Living Languages Abroad website for details of their courses, destinations and start dates.
Apple offers year-round courses for adults of all ages but they also provide Club 50+ courses for more mature students. Their Club 50+ courses combine a language course with a range of cultural activities and excursions. Activities include guided walks, wine tasting, cookery lessons, theatre trips and dancing. The courses are offered at all levels and so unless you are a complete beginner you will be asked to take a level test on your first day to ensure that you are placed in the appropriate group. If you want to immerse yourself completely in the language and culture, Apple can arrange accommodation with a host family. They can also offer a high standard of accommodation in private studio apartments and hotels. Click here for details and dates of Apple’s Club 50+ courses.
Through their network of carefully selected language schools, Twinkle can offer language courses for all ages in Spanish, French, German and Italian. To cater for a more mature age group they also offer a 50+ program with courses in Spain, Italy and France. You can learn Spanish in Barcelona, Malaga, Salamanca or Tenerife. In Italy you can choose between Florence, Milan, Rome and Siena and in France you have a choice of Nice or the French Riviera. All of the 50+ Program courses include a variety of cultural activities. Twinkle will help you to choose the right course, location and accommodation and will give advice on your travel options. While you are abroad they stay in contact to make sure that everything is going well.
Check your language level before you study a language abroad
If you are not a beginner it can be useful to check your language level before you sign up for a course. There are a number of free online tests available but here are a couple of suggestions:
EF Education First provides online tests in French, German, Italian and Spanish.
ESL Education First provides online tests in English, German, Italian, Spanish, French, Chinese (Mandarin), Arabic and Russian.