Learning a second language comes with a whole host of benefits.
The bilingual get to enjoy increased cognitive functions, additional employment opportunities and a more active social life.
Or in other words, you’ll be smarter, richer and happier.
But getting there isn’t always easy.
Learning a language takes anywhere between 575 and 2,200 intensive class hours, depending on the language and how proficient you want to become.
There is a way to expedite the process, however: language immersion travel.
By fully immersing yourself in a destination, your linguistic skills will skyrocket, and you’ll have a super rewarding travel experience to boot.
This article will cover five sample language immersion trips to point you in the right direction.
What is language immersion travel?
Language immersion travel is a tailor-made trip where the primary focus is on improving the participant’s language skills through cultural immersion.
Typically, the program involves daily classes and cultural activities for students to practice their newfound skills. Some companies throw in a homestay with a local family to encourage further conversation at the end of the day.
Tours usually target the languages tourists most commonly want to learn, such as French, Spanish, German and Mandarin. More obscure options are available, however.
Most language immersion trips are aimed at teenagers, specifically high school students.
However, there’s a solid selection of tours available for older students, as well. As another option, some adults prefer to do DIY language immersion trips in which they independently seek out local institutes and organize their own sightseeing pursuits.
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Why take a language immersion trip?
Completely surrounding yourself in a language is the fastest way to learn. And a custom-built language immersion trip is the best way to live, speak and breathe a foreign language.
Younger participants will also get a valuable extracurricular activity to add to their resume. Employers love to see some international study, even if it’s only a few weeks or so.
Finally, you’ll have loads of fun and make a bunch of new friends along the way.
Language Immersion Travel: 5 Overseas Trips to Hone Your Language Skills
Practice your Spanish through development work in Peru
Ever dreamed of brushing up on your español as you give a poverty-stricken family a much-needed helping hand?
Then sign-up for this high-school-students-only Hardcore Service Adventure in Peru via Global Works.
After a few days checking out the sights and sounds of Cusco’s stunning Sacred Valley, you’ll dive right into the “hardcore” section of the tour.
Expect to get your hands dirty as you work on a development project of your choice within an impoverished community. Common examples include construction, education or environmental restoration.
A series of custom-made Spanish language lessons provide you with a refresher of what you’ve learned in school.
By day, you’ll be encouraged to use Spanish to coordinate your project. Come nighttime, you’ll be staying with a local host family who doesn’t speak a lick of English. Opportunities abound to practice your Spanish with locals throughout the trip.
It’s not all work and no play, though! You’ll get to embark on stacks of cool regional activities, such as alpaca petting tours and a visit to the emblematic Machu Picchu.
Get your French on in Paris and Nice
French students will find nowhere better to hone their language skills than the home of croissants and baguettes itself.
This action-packed tour from Travel for Teens sees high school students from all over the world meeting in Paris and Nice. Over 15 days, you’ll get to study intensive lessons in the morning and visit world-famous landmarks in the afternoon.
Expect to climb the monumental Eiffel Tower, stroll around the majestic Versailles Palace and grab a selfie at the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Elysées. You’ll even get to peruse the fine collections of the Louvre to prove to your parents just how cultured you’ve become.
Of course, there’ll be plenty of time to kick back on a pristine French Riviera beach, and you’ll be yapping away in français the entire time as your language skills soar.
String some Russian together in Moscow
Language immersion tours aren’t only for kids as this intensive Russian program for adults can attest.
Run by a results-driven company called Language Vacation, you’ll have to study hard on this one because students are obliged to attend either four or five lessons each day, depending on your program.
Come night time, you’ll be bunking with a local family who doesn’t speak a word of English—the perfect opportunity to practice some more!
As a reward for your efforts, you’ll be notably more fluent by the end of it and could even receive a few coveted academic credits.
As serious as the program may sound, there’s a vacation element to it, as well.
Outside of class hours, you’ll be cruising around Moscow to check out city highlights such as the Kremlin and Saint Basil’s Cathedral with your newfound chums. And by the time the weekend rolls around, you’ll be ready to treat yourself to a stiff vodka or two at a traditional Russian watering hole.
Learn Chinese with the whole family in Beijing or Shanghai
Chinese, whether it be Cantonese or Mandarin, is among the toughest languages for native English speakers to learn. Obviously, you’ll need all the help you can get.
Families looking to learn the language together should check out the Hutong School’s Family Chinese Summer Camp, a popular program that runs in both Beijing and Shanghai for two weeks over the summer.
Families are broken off into two groups (kids and adults) for morning Mandarin lessons. In the afternoon, everyone regroups to explore the city together or practice conversations in a cultural activity such as kung fu or calligraphy.
Prefer to learn Chinese without your family? That’s cool. Hutong School offers internship, volunteer, language and gap year programs, as well.
Hang out with the hipsters as you learn German in Berlin
Sprechen Sie Deutsch? (Do you speak German?)
You will after doing an intensive course at Eurocentres Berlin.
This well-established institute provides tuition and logistical assistance to young adult students from all over the globe. All you have to do is choose from general, gap year or accredited Geothe courses and select the number of weeks you wish to stay.
Most students opt to live with a local family for further practice, although the institute does offer the option of renting a one-bedroom apartment for those who value their independence.
Regardless of where you stay, you’ll have a ball soaking in the eclectic bohemian culture of what many consider to be Europe’s hippest capital. Of course, there are plenty of fascinating historical monuments to explore in between steins at the local bierhaus (beer house).
A word of warning, though: English is widely spoken in Berlin. You’ll need to have strict linguistic discipline to avoid reverting to your mother tongue.
Do any of the above options tickle your fancy?
Wherever you decide to study and whatever your age, you’ll quickly discover that language immersion travel really is the best way to boost your linguistic prowess.
Harry is a South American-based freelance writer who covers travel, the arts and culture, among many other things.
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