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Low cost programs since 1990. See website.
Language fluency is all about confidence, smoothness, variety. Like a jazzman surrounded by his quartet, your language school teachers and students and the ones that back you up and move you on. The host country is the club scene, where you get your vibe, your practice. And the quality of your language school makes all the difference in determining whether you end up sounding like a linguistic Charlie Parker or out of tune and unable to communicate.
There are two main ways to study languages abroad (we're already assuming you know that the best way by far to find that language groove is to go in-country). Language studies abroad at private institutions and language studies abroad through university-sponsored programs both serve the main goal of obtaining a global education, but they differ in many ways.
Private language schools abroad are often smaller affairs, run by anyone from seasoned local professionals who've been teaching for years to a bunch of gringos looking to make cash in between surf sessions. It's very important to study with reputable private schools, of which there are hundreds. University-sponsored language programs abroad usually mean there is an agreement between a home institution in the United States and a foreign university to send students back and forth. Taking Chinese classes at Beijing University is significantly different than taking them at UCLA even if it's still a traditional college environment.
Cost is by far the greatest difference: University-sponsored language study abroad programs are usually 2-3 times more expensive than the private language study abroad programs. The difference in the price of a 12-week course could from a few hundred dollars to as much as $8000.
If you wish to receive college credit, it is less hassle if a student goes to his or her own university-sponsored program where there is no transfer of credits involved. However, you can go to private language studies abroad for university credit, or just for the learning experience. If you want transfer credit through another university or a private language studies abroad program, the student must be sure to have the credits approved by his/her counselor before he/she goes abroad. Students should know that if they study for no credit at any program, they will generally not have to repeat the course for credit at their home university, but can take a placement test to go on to the next level.
University-sponsored language study abroad programs are much better-known in the United States; whereas private language programs are well-recognized in other countries. The average American believes that one needs to be enrolled through a formal institution in order to study abroad. They are often shocked to discover they can study next week in a school in Spain, Russia or just about any other country for as long as they want.
Private language study abroad programs can be very short term. It's common to study for a single week or two, a semester, a year or anything in between. Most university-sponsored programs last for a semester or longer.
Private language study abroad programs have flexible start dates - a student can start almost any Monday throughout the year. University-sponsored language study abroad programs usually follow typical quarter or semester dates.
Some university-sponsored language study abroad programs use the teachers from their own university to teach some of the courses in the foreign country. All teachers at reputable private language study abroad schools are natives of that country. The key there is "reputable." Quite a number of small private schools are little more than fly-by-night language shops set up by language "hacks". That's why it's important to verify a school's reputation through firsthand recommendations from former students or program reviews.
Private language study abroad classes are often much smaller (from 1 to 15 students - an average of 6 - 8 students) than university-sponsored language study abroad classes. Some university-sponsored advanced classes will also be small. Smaller means more personal attention, but doesn't always mean better though. You may find yourself wanting more students to interact with rather than a limited course of two people and a professor.
University-sponsored language stud abroad classes are often populated by students from that university; whereas Americans may be in the small minority in the private language programs where most of the students will be from other parts of the world. Private language schools often have a diverse age distribution of students also, anyone from high schoolers on a Gap Year trip to retirees who've decided they always wanted to learn Russian.
Chris Cotes runs Language Studies Abroad, on the web at www.languagestudiesabroad.com.