The most common new years resolutions seem to gravitate around weight loss and healthy eating. But in recent years educational resolutions have been making regular appearances on peoples lists. Most commonly, learning a language.
If you’re learning a language as an adult you’ll know how difficult it is to find the time. Either you are taking night classes after a long day of work or you’re trying the online route fitting in lessons on weekends or between dinner and your favourite television show. It can feel like a challenge without rewards. Ultimately, the best way of learning a new language is immersion.
If you have a few weeks of holiday leave stored up or perhaps you are in between jobs then I urge you to take the leap and dive into the culture, live like a local for a while and notice your language level soar.
But how do you organise such a holiday. It is much different to planning a vacation and there are so many variables to consider. Have a look at the foolproof list below to ensure you've got the most important factors ticked off.
Of course the location is the most important factor to consider when planning a language holiday. If you are trying to learn a language spoken in more than one country you will need to narrow down the options. You can do this based on the dialect you wish to pick up or simply based on aesthetics. For instance, in Germany the language varies from the North, to the South and is very different from the Deutsch spoken in Austria and Switzerland. Look for some examples of the dialect being spoken on Youtube in documentaries or in different films. Which regional accent sounds more appealing to you?
If you’re not so fussed about the dialect then consider the location. What are your most important travel needs? Do you want to live in a city or a town?
What is the cost of living like in the locations you are considering? What is the food like there?
After you have chosen your location, you’ll need to start looking at schools in that particular area. Most reputable schools these days should have a user friendly website with lots of information for potential students. This means the website should have an English page, photos of the school and the area, student testimonials, information about the class types, size of classes and the timetables. There should also be a clear contact page with details to either call the school or send an email. All of these things combine to show visitors how reliable and organised the school is. If a school has very little information and little effort put into their website it can be quite clear what type of quality you can expect from their language courses.
When looking for fees you should shop around for a while to see if the fees of most of the schools are comparable.
Generally schools will offer courses in packages from 2 weeks to 6 months to a year. Depending on the time of year you may be able to secure some kind of discount on a package. Always email and inquire about possible discounts.
Registration fees. All schools will have a one time registration fee. This should be no more than £50.00. This can be quite handy if you are considering a franchise school with several locations. You could do one week in the south of a country then travel up north for another week and pay only one registration fee.
Internet use: Find out if the school offers internet use free of charge or if they are the type of institution that will try to place costs on extra services like this.
Books: You should be able to find out what books the school uses for their courses and if these are available to purchase at the school or a local bookshop. The books may be included in the registration cost or you might have to source these separately once you arrive.
Is the school accredited by an education institute in it’s country? Is it affiliated with a reputable brand? It’s worth checking these things out as it will often mean that the school has to follow strict guidelines, something you may or may not want in your learning environment. It can also have a lot to do with any certification you may want to work towards in order to present to a future employer to show what level you have attained.
As with anything these days you should trawl the internet looking for reviews before you part with your money. I have been saved countless times from a potential loss by reading reviews first. On the flip side, you may find the words full of praise and positivity that you’ll be convinced to sign up to the school.
Find out what kind of accommodation the school can offer you. In Europe it is quite common for the schools to have Home stay options available and the schools should have coordinators that work closely with trusted families who have provided accommodation for students for years. The houses will often be two or three story with rooms at the top for students with a separate kitchen and bathroom. The rules are generally what you would imagine if you stay in another persons house; keep the noise to a minimum, respect the property and keep common areas clean and tidy. There may be curfews in some places and if you are an adult this is not exactly desirable especially when you are travelling. Check with the school first to find out what the stipulations are and you may find you would prefer to stay in a hostel in town or a hotel. You can always look around on Couchsurfing to see what is available in the area and save some money.
Schools should offer certain extra curricular activities outside of school hours with discounts for student groups. These can include visits to local museums, picnics in parks or nights at a pub with the other students. These are a fantastic opportunity to socialise with your classmates and students that are in other classes. It’s also a perfect opportunity to put your daily lessons to use and practise with others at your level. It’s also nice to be able to get to know the teachers outside of the teaching environment.