Study Abroad

Study Abroad Programs That Will Make You (Almost) Fluent

Lisa Saltagi
Lisa Saltagi
Topic Expert

Lisa studied in Ascoli Piceno, Italy in 2010 and since has always needed to have a flight booked somewhere. After failing at office life, she flew to Italy and became a European tour-guide for a year.

Study abroad Taiwan

Fun Fact that isn’t fun at all: according to Ethnologue, there are currently about 7,105 living languages in the world today with one language dying out every fourteen days. WHAT?!

For many who have been versed in only one language in their lives since they were young, learning a completely new one is extremely taxing. However, in a world that is growing smaller and smaller with advances in technology, plus with travel and study abroad growing every year, learning a new language is easier than it has been in the past and will only benefit you for your future. For relationships, you’ll be able to make more friends around the world and help people out that have immigrated to your home.

In a world that is growing smaller and smaller... learning a new language is easier than it has been in the past and will only benefit you for your future.

For your resume, adding fluency in another language (regardless of what it is! But Pig Latin or Klingon are better left unnoted...) shows motivation and worldly appreciation. Plus, if it is a widespread language, it may put you in the running to take a job abroad, work with international customers, or be in completely new jobs and opportunities like something in translation or in a satellite office of an international company. At Go Overseas, that’s always a plus.

Lastly but not leastly, learning another language allows each individual to step out of their comfort zone and their country and culture. Speaking to people of different languages allows you to discover the world as a person –- and that first time you have a conversation completely in another language trumps any trophy or award you received in high school or college. So, now that we have you geared up and excited about learning a new language, here are some language programs that will make you (almost) fluent:

A Program that Implements the Language Pledge

One of the most significant ways programs are producing fluency is with the Language Pledge. Becoming more popular in the recent years, attending a program with a language pledge is not the easiest -- CET's academic programs in Arabic, Italian, Chinese and more, for example -- but will get you thinking and speaking in your new language in no time.

The language pledge is a contract students sign at the beginning of their course stating that they agree to only communicate in the language of study. No English allowed! Though there are different variations of this pledge, the main concept is a complete immersion. If the students break the contract by speaking English during their time in the program, they will be expelled without return of their tuition. If that isn’t motivation to get fluent I don’t know what is!

Off-the-Beaten-Path Programs

People, Beach, Sicily

Another way to gain a sense of fluency is to select a program that is not in a large or popular city. For example: instead of Florence, Italy, where most vendors know English because of the great amounts of tourism there, try to select a program that is outside of the tourist track somewhere in Sicily or Umbria or on a boat in the Mediterranean.

This way, even if you are allowed to speak English and may have English speaking roommates, once you step outside the classroom doors, no one will know English in the rural town, and you will be forced to use your Italian in daily tasks and errands.

Programs with Host Families or Native-Speaking Roommates

Probably one of the most widespread ways programs are allowing language fluency (or close to it) is constructing a program in which the students live with a local family in their house (a host family), or that settle the students into apartments to live with native-speaking, local students.

This way, even outside of the classroom, the language is still being developed. When you have a House Mom or family to go back to, your meals won’t be your college norm (which definitely is sitting in your desk chair with a bowl of ramen while you watch cat videos or Beyonce’s new music video on youtube) but will more often than not be seated around a large table where you will need to speak the language you are learning. The more practice the better, and if you are hearing the language at home as well as at school, your mind will suck up more information.

Many programs, Greenheart Travel and Adelante for example, offer this option. If it is not written out on the information you receive, ask about being placed with a host family. Sometimes if you are truly interested in the language aspect of studying abroad, the program will accommodate you.

Programs That Give You a Conversation Partner

Don’t have time to dedicate an entire semester just to language? There are still ways that you can make it to fluency if you dedicate your time and mind to it. When searching for a study abroad program, see if they offer conversation partners as part of their extra curricular activities or even email and see if this could be set up.

Speaking with a person that is at the same level of language learning as you really makes it less intimidating

A conversation partner is a native speaker of the language that is also trying to learn English. The school will set up a meeting between the two of you to simply talk -- about day to day events and conversation. Though you may have history classes to fill those Gen. Ed. requirements, having a conversation partner truly breaks the boundaries of the "nervousness" that comes with actually speaking your new language. Programs like ISA in Florence, Italy have been known to set up these exchanges when requested.

This is a perfect way to still get those hours of language in if you’re nervous about living with a host family, or just want to make another friend. Plus, speaking with a person that is at the same level of language learning as you really makes it less intimidating; plus you’ll find it so much easier to make mistakes and learn from them -- because they are learning too!

Study Abroad, But Study As a Local!

International College Student

If you have already gotten the hang of your new language down to where you think your fluency would allow you to understand classes completely in that language, you can check out programs that will allow you to completely immerse yourself in a local high school or college.

High school programs like CIEE’s Italy course will have you staying with a host family, and going to school like all other italians your age -- in a normal high school with classes taught in Italian (*psst* Thinking of doing that? Here's 5 things to know before you do high school in Italy.) Though you will have an additional language course to help your fluency for the first few weeks, your new friends and family will be the bulk of your language learning teachers!

If you’re past the high school age, you still have the opportunity to work with a program like this through a process called direct enrollment; in which you actually apply to a school abroad! Benefits of this? You still will be with students in the country you’re living in -- perhaps with roommates or maybe a host family depending on the program and what it offers. The best part? Many times it is even less expensive than going to college in the US!

Extracurriculars Are Still Pretty Marvelous

With any of the options above, if you want to go out there and get the most of your abroad language use, take time after class to do other things you love -- in the new language you’re learning. Ask your program if they have sports teams, clubs, or art classes that you can enroll in with your peers.

These activities will get your mind working in your new language outside of the classroom and in some other topic that is really important (and fun) for you! Every hour of speaking and listening to your language counts. Plus, these are just more experiences that enrich your overall experience, regardless of the language factor!

Fun Fact that is actually fun? Regardless of where you roam or what program you choose, you will learn the language if you dedicate yourself to learning it. If you take a language pledge through a school, or set your own, it will still work. If you take time out of your day to study and actually speak (even if it’s in the shower! There are more things to do than sing in there!) you will begin to see improvements. Commit. Be dedicated, and soon those words that used to be gibberish, will be essentials to telling new stories to new friends, in your new country that now feels like home.

Photo Credits: Melody Shieh, BPSUSF, and BoboViel.