• Prof. Development

Become Bilingual: Language Immersion Trips Worldwide

Nick Callos
By Nick Callos
Writer
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“One language sets you in a corridor for life. Two languages open every door along the way.” – Frank Smith, a contemporary psycholinguist

Language immersion trips present a valuable opportunity to not only become bilingual but also to gain in-depth knowledge of another country and culture. That can enhance your life professionally, personally, and even mentally and spiritually.

After all, 66% of job recruiters actively look for multilingual or bilingual talent. Additionally, when you travel abroad and learn a foreign language, you can form lifelong friendships and relationships.

Studying languages abroad can even benefit your health and intellect. Being bilingual can prevent cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease, according to the American Council on Science and Health.

Now that you know the importance of speaking a second language, let’s talk about language immersion trips worldwide that can help you become bilingual. Here, we’ve put together a detailed list of the best programs for studying languages abroad.

What Do Language Immersion Trips Involve?

Before we dive into the programs, let’s discuss what you’ll do when you travel abroad for a language immersion trip.

Generally speaking, you’ll take classes for several hours each day. Outside of class, you may volunteer, work, intern, or take other classes (depends on the program). For example, certain gap year language immersion programs will include lots of cultural activities so that you can practice the language in a natural setting.

The point is this: During the trip, you’ll be learning every step of the way, whether you’re chatting with locals at the market, studying grammar in class, or visiting a museum.

There are lots of programs out there, from trips for beginners to courses designed for those developing full fluency. From Vietnamese to Swahili to Italian, you can find a program for any target language.

Here’s just a small sample of the variety of programs out there:

  1. Study Japanese while you intern with The Intern Group in the bustling city of Tokyo, Japan
  2. Learn Spanish and volunteer with children in Cusco, Peru, a tranquil city in the Andes Mountains (offered by Globalteer)
  3. Learn Swahili while you volunteer on community support projects in Zanzibar, Tanzania, an archipelago that wows with its natural beauty (through African Impact)
  4. Join Global Leadership Adventures (GLA) on their Mandarin Service Adventure and learn Chinese as you travel across China (from Beijing to the Tibetan Plateau!)
  5. Take a French language course in Madagascar and see what life is like on this beautiful island (offered by Projects Abroad)

Finally, realize that many language immersion programs offer academic credit. As you look through programs, check to see if you can gain college credit and inquire with your university if they’ll be able to transfer those credits. If you’re a student, this is an excellent benefit of studying languages abroad. Don’t miss out on it!

Recommended Language Immersion Programs

International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ)

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Established in 2007, International Volunteer HQ sent over 100,000 volunteers overseas in just over a decade. Recognized as one of the most reputable volunteer abroad organizations, institutions and companies like UCLA, Northwestern University, Salesforce, and Microsoft have all volunteered with IVHQ.

Known for having a variety of volunteer abroad programs, IVHQ also boasts some great language immersion trips worldwide. Read below!

Spanish Service Learning Course

Accredited by the California State University, Monterey Bay, you can gain university credit through this Spanish course. You’ll also add volunteer abroad experience to your CV/resume, as it’s a required part of the course. Volunteering projects include childcare, healthcare, construction and renovation, teaching English, and special needs care.

When volunteering, be sure to put your Spanish skills to the test. Note IVHQ offers this course in three locations:

  1. San Jose, Costa Rica (volunteer fee from $1,125 for four weeks)
  2. Antigua, Guatemala (from $895 for four weeks)
  3. Cusco, Peru (from $895 for four weeks)

Past students have wonderful things to say about the course, like Sarah, who journeyed to Guatemala:

“Guatemala itself is a beautiful place to be, but it’s truly the people you meet in Guatemala that enrich your experience! The local team are fantastic and offer great opportunities to learn Spanish and make the most out of your time in Guatemala.”

To join the Spanish Service Learning Course, you must commit four weeks to a volunteer program (see pricing above). In addition to that fee, your Spanish classes will cost $880.

Altogether, that price is pretty reasonable, considering you can gain academic credit and your meals and accommodation are covered. Also, the chance to give back to the communities you visit can be a life-changing experience.

Do you want to become bilingual in one of these amazing cities? Get all the course details here!

Volunteer and Learn Portuguese in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Want to learn Portuguese and volunteer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil? IVHQ has you covered.

Volunteer projects include teaching English, childcare, community development, and sports coaching. Your work helps Rio’s most disadvantaged children and families, and you’ll notice your impact right away.

Not only are these volunteer projects a good way to converse with locals in Portuguese, but you also get access to very affordable Portuguese classes as a volunteer. The programs give you a truly immersive environment in which you can work towards fluency.

During free time, Rio de Janeiro, a huge seaside city full of culture and entertainment, calls you to have the time of your life. Dive in!

Project fees begin at just $495 for two weeks. When you apply, simply specify you want to take Portuguese lessons. Get started on IVHQ’s site!

Volunteer and Learn Italian in Naples, Italy

Ciao!

Ready to learn Italian? Head to the Campania region in southwest Italy, where you can volunteer and take Italian classes. And, of course, you should explore the history and art of Naples when you’re not busy.

As a volunteer, you have the option of teaching English, assisting in an after-school program, or working on environmental projects focused on preserving UNESCO sites. During volunteer hours, take advantage of the opportunity to converse in Italian. Your Italian capabilities will really come in handy while working.

During non-volunteer hours, you can take formal Italian classes with IVHQ’s local team. You’ll either have the morning or afternoon free for classes.

Interested? Project fees begin at $685 for two weeks. Apply on IVHQ’s site! Remember to note you wish to take Italian lessons.

Plan My Gap Year (PMGY)

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Plan My Gap Year, an award-winning travel and volunteer abroad organization, places more than 4,000 people in programs each year. Founded in 2011 by volunteers for volunteers, PMGY features meaningful, affordable projects, including language immersion trips.

Check out two of PMGY’s language immersion programs abroad below:

PMGY Ecuador Spanish Language Immersion Program

This Spanish immersion program in Quito will do more than just teach you grammar, verbiage, and dialect. You’ll also learn a lot about slang and how to engage in natural conversations! How cool does that sound?

Each Spanish class has 2-5 students and you’ll take classes for four hours each day (Monday-Friday). You’ll stay in a volunteer apartment in central Quito. Note you don’t need to know any Spanish to join the program, but having a good foundation beforehand will allow you to learn quickly.

When you’re not in a class, check out the city and practice your Spanish with the friendly locals. PMGY organizes salsa classes, trips to nearby mountains, and Ecuadorian cuisine classes so that you can immerse yourself in the culture and better learn the language.

So, are you ready to study Spanish in Ecuador? Fees begin from $624 for one week. Sign up here!

PMGY Peru Language Immersion Program

Hola!

Journey to Cusco, Peru with PMGY, and learn Spanish as you immerse yourself in local Peruvian culture. Take four hours of class each day. And when you’re outside of the classroom, practice your Spanish in the museums, restaurants, markets, and elsewhere.

Situated in the Peruvian Andes, Cusco was once the capital of the Inca Empire. This city sits within close range of Machu Picchu. To get the most out of the program, explore the culture and sites. It will help you better understand Peru and give you the proper environment for enhancing your Spanish.

Does an adventure to Peru sound good? Apply for this language immersion program here!

Maximo Nivel

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Founded in 2003, Maximo Nivel specializes in volunteer, teach, and study abroad programs in Latin America, all with an educational component. Projects tackle challenges in education, wildlife and environmental conservation, and development. If you want to learn Spanish abroad in Latin America, absolutely look at what Maximo Nivel has to offer.

Maximo Nivel’s Spanish immersion trips receive particularly high praise, and suit everyone from university students to working professionals. If you’re in college, know you may be able to obtain academic credit (check with your school). See more details below!

Native Spanish Program in Costa Rica, Guatemala, or Peru

Gain academic credit, accelerate your career, or simply immerse yourself in another culture when you join Maximo Nivel’s Native Spanish Program. Recognized as one of the most intense and professional Spanish immersion programs in Latin America, notable aspects of the course include:

  1. Customized instruction: Get one-on-one tutoring in your field of work or study. For example, you can take medical Spanish or Spanish for business.
  2. Small group classes: Regular courses have 2-8 students. That means much more individualized attention.
  3. Super intensive courses: You get the option to take 6 hours of Spanish classes each day.
  4. Activities beyond the classroom: Spend time with a language partner through the Tandem Language Exchange Program, which gives you the chance for meaningful intercultural exchange. You can make a lifelong friend and you both can become bilingual! Sightseeing, shopping, and more during free time will also improve your Spanish skills.
  5. Host family stay: Expect to practice your Spanish from dawn till dusk. The welcoming family will establish a comfortable environment for putting your Spanish to the test.

Course fees for the Native Spanish Program vary by class type and location. See the price charts on Maximo Nivel’s site. All are affordable. For instance, four weeks of private classes for two hours per day cost the following:

  1. Cusco, Peru ($540): Tour Inca ruins in and around this ancient city; hike in the Sacred Valley
  2. San Jose, Costa Rica ($1,230): Explore the happening capital, which includes San Jose Central Market, the National Museum, and the National Theatre; the surrounding forests make for a cool day trip
  3. Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica ($1,380): Dive into all the beauty of Manuel Antonio National Park, which also has spectacular beaches
  4. Antigua, Guatemala ($390): Check out the Spanish colonial buildings and see the nearby volcanoes

Ready to take your Spanish to the next level? Apply to the Native Spanish Program here.

Projects Abroad

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Around since 1992, Projects Abroad is one of the most trusted names among volunteer and study abroad organizations. They place more than 10,000 folks overseas each year, a testament to the quality of their programs. Major publications like the San Francisco Chronicle and CNN have all featured Projects Abroad.

When it comes to language immersion trips worldwide, few offer the variety Projects Abroad does. Take a look at two of their study abroad programs below:

French Language Course in Saint-Louis, Senegal

Bonjour!

Learn French as you experience life in Senegal, a West African country with an incredible history, unique culture, and many natural attractions. You’ll live in Saint-Louis, a city known for its beaches and French colonial architecture. And you’ll attend French classes with other students each day. Lesson plans are tailored to your interests and level so that you can progress rapidly.

During free time, practice French with your host family, explore the city (and use your French skills), and hang out with your classmates. Expect to speak French nonstop!

Already packing your bags? Apply on Projects Abroad’s site! Course fees start from $1,870 for one week. Note the price gets cheaper per week the longer you stay and study (i.e. four weeks is $2,570).

Mandarin Chinese Language Course in Shanghai, China

Want to travel abroad and learn Mandarin? Then go to Shanghai with Projects Abroad. Gain insight into Chinese culture as you take daily Mandarin classes and traverse the massive city of Shanghai. Whether you’re walking along The Bund (Waitan) or trying Xiaolongbao (steamed bun), you’ll have the opportunity to practice and improve your Chinese.

Since Mandarin is such a valuable skill, a trip like this offers fun and professional development. You could enhance your CV and build your career.

So, ready to study abroad in China? Fill out the application here! Course fees begin from $2,670 for one week ($3,770 for four weeks).

GoEco

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GoAbroad recognized GoEco as the Top Volunteer Abroad Organization in 2015. With more than 150 community, education, and environmental projects, as well as plenty of cultural exchange initiatives, it’s easy to see why GoEco is so well-regarded. They’re also affordable and have great in-country support.

If you want to travel abroad and learn a foreign language, GoEco has several programs worth considering:

Study Spanish and Work with Children in Buenos Aires, Argentina

When it comes to destinations for studying languages abroad, Buenos Aires is hard to beat. Sign up for this program, and study Spanish in the mornings and volunteer with children from underprivileged backgrounds in the afternoon. During volunteering time, you can test your Spanish as you help and play with the kids.

As you learn Spanish, you’ll immerse yourself in all aspects of Argentinian culture. Learn how to tango, view famous artworks, practice your Spanish at the bars, and more.

If you’re ready to experience a city filled with flavor, apply today and be on your way to Buenos Aires (fees from $1,400 for two weeks).

Study Japanese and Volunteer on a Farm in Otaki Village, Nagano, Japan

Lend a hand at a traditional Japanese farm while studying Japanese in Otaki, a village known for its forests and skiing. In addition to working as an agriculture volunteer, you’ll participate in Japanese lessons and cultural activities, like an origami tutorial, sushi making lesson, and trekking to famous sites.

Through farm work, cultural exchange, and taking structured Japanese classes, you’ll have the chance to improve your Japanese rapidly. This program also allows you to experience traditional village life.

Sound amazing? Register with GoEco today (from $890 for one week).

A Broader View Volunteers Corp

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A Broader View opened their doors in 2007 with a commitment to helping those who need it most. They now have more than 245 overseas programs, including study abroad programs.

A Broader View has placed more than 20,000 volunteers, students, and interns abroad in their first 12 years. If you want to travel abroad and learn a foreign language, definitely look at their various language immersion trips.

Volunteer and Learn Spanish in Cartagena, Colombia

Travel to Colombia’s gorgeous Caribbean coast, where you’ll take Spanish lessons and volunteer with disadvantaged children in the city. A Broader View partners with local tutors to provide one-on-one or one-on-two Spanish lessons. The curriculum will be based off your input and language needs, whether that means more grammar lessons or boosting vocabulary. This ensures you can improve quickly.

When you’re not in a class, you’ll have the right environment to sharpen your Spanish. When you volunteer, converse in Spanish with the children. And when you go out in Cartagena, use your Spanish to communicate with locals. From the beaches to the markets to the classroom, this study abroad program offers full language immersion.

Ready to become bilingual? Sign up on A Broader View’s site (from $995 for one week).

Volunteer and Learn Spanish in La Ceiba, Honduras

Want to learn Spanish in La Ceiba? A beautiful Caribbean port city in northern Honduras, La Ceiba puts you in the perfect environment for learning Spanish. First, you’ll get one-on-one tutoring with a native Spanish speaker and licensed instructor. You can help determine your own syllabus so that your needs are best met. Lessons focus on grammar, pronunciation, and dialogue. And you’ll be able to improve in all aspects of the language (writing, reading, listening, and speaking).

Second, when you’re not in a class, you’ll volunteer in La Ceiba at a school, child care center, or medical clinic. While doing good, you’ll also get to speak plenty of Spanish!

Does the Honduras language immersion program seem right for you? Apply here today (fees from $995 for one week).

Frontier

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Founded in 1989, Frontier is one of the top organizations for travel abroad programs today. In their first three decades, they placed more than 103,000 students and volunteers in overseas programs. To date, they’ve published more than 600 research papers—a testament to their overall commitment and professionalism.

For studying languages abroad, few top Frontier. Whether you want to learn Spanish in Mexico or Panama or travel overseas to Senegal to learn French, Frontier comes ready to serve. Their program in France is particularly great for improving your French (check details below).

Learn French in Lyon, France

Immerse yourself in a fast-paced learning environment, one where you can truly become bilingual by the time you leave. For this program, you’ll study French a top language school in the heart of Lyon. The teaching staff consists of highly-qualified native teachers who know how to help those learning French as a second language. Expect your reading, writing, grammar, and conversation skills to progress at an impressive rate!

Lyon, the second-largest city in France, provides the perfect setting for studying French. The city has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Experience the city’s rich cultural heritage and make lifelong French friends during free time. You’ll hone your French skills as you enjoy the adventure of a lifetime.

Interested to learn more? Head to Frontier’s site! Know fees begin at $795 for one week.

Ready for Your Language Immersion Trip?

Now that you know all about language immersion trips worldwide, you’re ready to choose a program, pack your bags, and depart. No matter the language you wish to study, your budget, and your location preferences, you can join an overseas program that suits your needs.

To streamline your search process, try Abroadly, Volunteer Forever’s booking platform. You can search for language immersion trips worldwide in minutes according to your preferences. All study abroad programs have been vetted for safety and quality. Also, when you apply to a program through Abroadly, you’re automatically entered for the chance to win a $500 scholarship. How awesome is that?

For more help on choosing a language immersion program and reducing costs associated with studying languages overseas, check out our other resources. See the links below!

From fundraising tips to French language immersion trips, we’ve covered it all:

Best Volunteer Abroad Programs

French Language Immersion Programs

Spanish Immersion Programs

Volunteer and Study Abroad Scholarships and Grants

Picking a Program and Fundraising on Volunteer Forever