High school is full of difficult questions.
Who will you go to prom with?
Where will you attend college?
When will your hours of late-night, Red Bull-fueled studying pay off? Will you ever actually need to solve for x or calculate limits in real life?
But for the determined student, there’s one question that may be even more pressing than others: How will you improve your language skills?
Sure, there are plenty of online language classes for high school credit, and there’s some great immersion software that can help you dive into language. But if you’re looking for rapid language improvement and a life-changing adventure, there’s nothing quite like a language program.
High school language programs offer focused education that aims to improve your language skills rapidly. And what high school student wouldn’t want that?
After all, if you improve your language skills enough, you may be able to test out of some college language courses and earn credit for them. Not only can this save you money and time, it can also make you an upperclassman more quickly.
Some schools allow you to register for courses earlier based on your standing, and testing out of language courses can have a snowball effect that leads to you being able to register earlier! That means you can snag certain classes when you need them, thereby saving you more time and money in the long run.
That’s a powerful punch!
So if you’re looking to improve your language skills quickly before you graduate high school, you might consider these six amazing language programs.
How to Choose the Right Language Program for High School Students
Consider time commitment.
Each language program can vary in length, so it’s important to select a program that fits your schedule. There are a lot of summer language courses, but you’ll also find some longer options, some of which may take you out of your normal high school for a while.
Because of this, it’s also important to consider whether or not you’re willing to miss some of your more traditional schooling.
Some programs for high school students are located domestically, while others are located abroad. Domestic programs are often less expensive and less intimidating. However, international programs can be exciting and expose you to a culture where your target language is widely spoken.
Different programs offer different levels. Some are designed to accommodate any level of learner, while others target more specific levels. Selecting the right level for you will ensure you’re challenged… but not overwhelmed.
Pay attention to what the program offers.
Programs offer different courses, focuses and levels of intensity. Total immersion is usually most effective. In fact, one study indicates that students who study in domestic intensive programs may actually learn more than students who study abroad in non-intensive courses!
That being said, some students may not be comfortable using their target language 24/7, so it’s important to consider how committed you’re prepared to be.
Get with the Program: 6 Amazing Language Programs for High School Students
Throwing yourself into an immersive program is intimidating, to say the least! Before you embark on your language-learning journey, try a little immersion at home first.
No one does immersion-at-home better than FluentU! FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Watching FluentU’s authentic videos will prepare you for your language program in two main ways: First, they’ll teach you about the local culture. Second, you’ll become used to hearing people speak in native accents at natural speeds. This is usually difficult for people to adjust to, so if you can familiarize yourself with authentic accents before your program, you’ll be able to start with your best foot forward.
But FluentU is about so much more than videos: You also get access to interactive flashcards and vocab lists, annotated subtitles and personalized quizzes that evolve as you learn.
Based in the woods of Minnesota, Concordia Language Villages offers a variety of immersive language programs for high school students.
One such program is a four-week course for high school credit, which is available for 14 languages, including popular options such as Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. This option is designed for all levels of language students and is highly immersive. You’ll average around eight and half hours of language instruction each day, and you’re encouraged to use your target language outside of class.
Like the appeal of a domestic program but still looking for a little international flair? Concordia Language Villages also offers a unique option that combines domestic and international study. The first two weeks of your study will be spent in Minnesota, while the next two weeks will be spent in Austria, Costa Rica or France.
Wish you could get your whole family in on the language learning? Concordia Language Villages also holds family programs that usually last for one weekend or one week.
Middlebury Interactive Languages provides a popular summer language academy for high school students.
Middlebury’s summer program lasts for four weeks. You choose whether you spend those four weeks at a college campus in Vermont or if you’ll study abroad in China, France or Spain. The programs are designed to be immersive, providing both cultural experiences and language instruction for beginning through advanced students, who pledge to use their target language 24/7. However, beginners are allowed to speak some English during the first week.
Middlebury Interactive Languages holds domestic programs for Arabic, Chinese, French, German and Spanish. It offers international programs for Chinese, French and Spanish.
Travel for Teens has summer language immersion programs intended for all levels of language students, even if you’re just starting out.
As the name would suggest, Travel for Teens is a travel-based program. You can study French in France, Spanish in Costa Rica or Spanish in Spain. Programs range from 11 to 28 days.
Travel for Teens offers a combination of structured lessons and real-world experiences, giving students a nice mixture of formal education and practical use.
If you want to go abroad but need a more flexible timeline, Greenheart Travel is a great choice. It offers programs that last between one to six weeks, giving you the option of short-term or longer-term study.
The programs aim at immersion, offering language instruction by native speakers along with cultural experiences. Excursions and homestays can offer an even more immersive experience.
With Greenheart Travel, you can study French in Canada or France, Italian in Italy, Japanese in Japan and Spanish in Costa Rica or Spain.
Programs can accommodate beginning through advanced students.
SPI Study Abroad offers study abroad language immersion programs for high school students.
You can study Chinese in China, French in France, Italian in Italy and/or Spanish in Costa Rica, Mexico or Spain. The language education focuses on practical skills in real-world context. While all the programs focus on language immersion, some also focus on global leadership and/or volunteering to help broaden additional skill sets. Language classes last between three and four hours each day and are appropriate for beginning through advanced students.
SPI’s programs are held during the summer and last between two and six weeks. Plus, SPI works with foreign universities to provide students with transcripts once they complete a course. Depending on which university you end up attending, you may be able to earn college credit for the experience.
AFS (American Field Service) is an international exchange program that sets high school students up with study abroad opportunities.
AFS offers programs in a huge array of countries, including Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Switzerland and many more. Some programs are billed specifically as language-related; however, most programs simply provide instruction in the local language.
Programs range in length from a couple weeks to one year, so you can probably find a program to meet the time frame you have allotted.
While high school may be full of difficult questions, whether or not you want to improve your language skills shouldn’t be one of them.
With these six language programs for high school students, you can have the time of your life while working toward fluency.
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