5 Reasons to do a Language Stay

Cultural Travel, Featured — By on December 29, 2010 at 1:00 pm

By Briana Palma
LG Contributor

The world of travel presents endless options, from cruising the Caribbean to volunteering in Africa. A language stay is another rewarding alternative, particularly attractive for those who love to see the world but don’t get a kick out of the frenetic pace of new-day-new-place tourism. It also proves an enjoyable choice for travelers who love to speak to locals in their native tongue rather than falling back on the universality of English. Still, whether you’re a language buff or a complete beginner, taking a course during your vacation will bring you plenty of benefits.

1. Feel at home in a foreign city
Many language schools offer courses by the week, allowing you to join them even for a short period. Remaining in one city for an entire vacation and frequenting the same area everyday, you naturally get to know the place much better than if taking part in a typical sightseeing trip. During my four-month course in Rome, I discovered lots of little pleasures, like a tiny family-owned café with to-die-for cappuccino and an ancient statue used as a sort of community board for posting satirical comments and protests. And the experience of staying in an apartment or family home leaves you with an understanding of how people really live in your host country. You can find opportunities to interact with locals and learn about their culture even in the most mundane tasks, like grocery shopping.

2. Step out of the American box
Language schools bring together international and eclectic crowds. In Rome I took class with everyone from high school students to retired couples, and by the end of my course I had friends from Japan, France, Colombia, Turkey, Germany and Switzerland. Our backgrounds differed enormously, but a passion for the language and city brought us together. Thanks to my classmates I not only improved my Italian, our common tongue, but also picked up a couple swears in Swiss German and learned that Parisians aren’t quite the same as the rest of the French population.

3. Make local ties
Your list of international friends undoubtedly grows while attending a language school, but the experience permits you to meet locals as well. If your course includes a housing service, consider accommodation with a family. In a homestay you get to know natives of the city and also find extra opportunities to practice speaking, especially when opting to share meals with the family. Prefer a different living arrangement? Don’t fret. Many language schools coordinate meet-ups and conversation exchanges with locals. And if you happen to choose an institution that teaches other tongues, you’re bound to encounter residents coming in for class.

4. Add organization to your itinerary
Planning a trip, whether a weekend getaway or a month-long holiday, comes with challenges. A language stay, however, helps give structure to a vacation by creating a routine. During my time in the Eternal City, morning class got me out and about early so I could take advantage of each day. My school, like most, also organized optional evening activities like dinners, films and cultural visits. Still, a student schedule includes plenty of free time in the afternoon and on weekends to calmly check out the sights rather than doing it all in hectic, non-stop tourist style. Plus language schools often give out ID cards good for discount pricing at museums and other institutions.

5. Give your resume a boost

Any getaway can provide personal benefits, but a language stay has professional perks as well. Traditional courses have you in class about three to four hours a day with the possibility for extra lessons and activities so you can learn a lot in a short amount of time. Upon completion of the course, you should receive a certificate detailing your participation and level attained. Go one step further and leave with a diploma by taking an official exam, like Spain’s DELE or Italy’s CILS. No matter what level of intensity you choose, you’ll add to your resume language skills that can give you an edge in a rough job market.

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  • Laura says:

    I definitely agree that language stays are a great way to travel. A couple of years ago I spent two weeks in Guatemala learning Spanish and loved it. Now I’m in Mexico City taking classes and in my group of just 12 students there are 10 different countries represented. Not only am I learning Spanish, but I’m meeting people from all over the world. It’s an awesome experience!

  • Briana Palma says:

    Laura, thanks for your comment. I’m glad to know you’re finding the experience as rewarding as I did. Best of luck with everything in Mexico!