Plan a language learning
trip in 9 steps – Step 2
Select your destination
Going on a language learning trip might be the perfect way for you to learn a foreign language.
What are the 9 steps I use to organise a language learning trip?
In this blog post series, I will outline the 9 steps I use to plan and go on a language learning trip.
Start with Step 1 – how to choose a language to study. Visit the main page with all 9 of these blog posts here.
Step 2 – Select your destination
Choosing a country to learn your language sounds easy? But…. for many languages, there is more than ONE option for what country you study in. The world is a big place!
I have studied Chinese in China, and in Taiwan. Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia have also been considered as other options for studying Chinese Mandarin. I settled on Taiwan in the end because I have always found the Taiwanese Chinese Mandarin accent to be really clear and easy to understand. Also, the food is great and it is easy to get around 😉
French and Spanish are also good examples of languages with a multitude of countries where you can choose to study these languages. You might want to study French in New Caledonia or Spanish in Uruguay.
Many languages that are popular to study (English, Arabic, Spanish, French, Chinese etc) are spoken in many countries.
According to this article in The Washington Post, English is used in 101 countries, Arabic in 60 countries and French in 51 countries.
Enthnologue – Languages of the World have a vast collection of maps and resources on languages and where they are spoken.
So what should you consider before selecting your destination?
Dialects or accents
This can be important especially as a beginner. A clear, easy to understand accent in your target language makes getting around a lot easier. There are so many different dialects spoken in a country like China, it is important to be aware of any impact this might have on your language studies. When I lived in Nanjing (learning Chinese Mandarin), most of my interaction with stall holders, taxi drivers and other locals in Nanjing was through a thick Nanjing accent. Most locals speak Nanjing Dialect as their mother tongue, learning Chinese Mandarin at school.
Dialects within China are not usually mutually intelligible. Meaning that the dialects are so different that they are distinct languages and speakers can’t communicate with each other. Sometimes a speaker of one dialect can understand another dialect but not communicate back. I had an example of this in a meeting I attended in Guangzhou (a large city in Southern China that mostly speaks Cantonese). There was 3 of us in the meeting – me in my halting Mandarin, one of the others speaking in Mandarin and the other in Cantonese! (I had no idea what the Cantonese speaker said!).
Do you prefer hot, humid summers or cold, snowy winters?
The climate you prefer will help you decide on your ultimate language learning trip destination. Even within a country, there are usually many different climates. Vietnam is a good example of a small country but with diverse climates.
Cost of living
Some countries and cities can be more expensive than others. Do some research on accommodation and food prices to get a sense of the cost of living in your chosen city.
A resource to get a basic indication of the cost of living is Numbeo.
Do your cost research well by reading blogs online and talking to other people who have been to your country.
Check if there are any safety concerns you need to be aware of. This may include political unrest, natural disasters, health issues or weather conditions.
Smart Traveller – Australian government
Foreign Travel Advice – UK government
Travel Advisories – US government
Food and culture
This is important for me and I believe that food is an integral part of my language learning holidays. I also love coffee, so it is a bonus if my chosen city is also a coffee haven (thumbs up for Taipei!).
Where would you choose to go if the language and food were the primary drivers? For me I think it would be Viet Nam! Followed closely by Japan and perhaps Mexico.
Now, which city in that country?
If you’ve chosen a country like China, France, Japan or Mexico… well your options for studying are immense.
Size of the city
- Do you feel comfortable in a mega city like Tokyo or Shanghai or would you prefer a smaller scale city like Nagoya or Ningbo?
- Talk to others you know who have visited and try and find out what the vibe of the city is like.
- Subscribe to some travel blogs to find out more.
- Some travel bloggers I follow are:
- World Travel Family
- Travel Mad Mum
- Where’s Sharon
- Y-Travel Blog
- Never Ending Footsteps
- The Intrepid Guide
- Legal Nomads.
- There are HEAPS out there and lots that blog on specific destinations like Maroc Mama and The Tokyo Chapter.
Get in touch if you have a suggestion to share or would like some more ideas!
Number of universities or institutions
- How many universities or private institutions does your city have? Are there at least a couple of options to choose from? You can use google to find potential language schools. More on choosing a language school on my Step 4 post – Choosing a Language School.
Will your family/partner/children will have things to do whilst you are studying?
- This is important if you are travelling with your family, as you need to know your partner and children will be happy and entertained whilst you are studying! Tomorrow’s post Step 3 – Who’s Coming? For How Long and When? will explore this.
Availability of short-term accommodation
- You will need somewhere to stay while you are studying. I recommend a small studio or apartment as I like to have a kitchen so I can prepare some meals and snacks at home. I also look for a desk/table so I can work and study from home and a good wi-fi connection. We usually use Airbnb to find accommodation and in Taipei have found a great, two bedroom apartment only 10 minutes walk to Taiwan Mandarin Institute. I had a great studio apartment in Shanghai when I was studying there for two weeks (I was three months pregnant!) It was only two stops on the metro or a 25-minute walk to my school. More on choosing accommodation in my Step 6 post – Selecting Accommodation
Access from your home to your destination
- Can you travel directly to your chosen city or do you need to transfer in another destination first? Double check airlines and flight routes so you can maximise your time in-country! I use Skyscanner to get the best prices and connections possible. Kayak is another popular flight search tool. Just make sure you clear your browsing history before you get down to booking. I’m not sure if it is proven but not clearing your cookies could affect the flight prices you are displayed. It can’t hurt right?!
Have you got any destinations in mind for your next language learning adventure?
Let me know below!
I’d love to answer any questions you have. Get in touch below via the comments or on Facebook or Instagram.
Read the next instalment Step 3 – Who should you travel with here
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Until next time,
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