Gap Year Language Study Abroad

Why study a language abroad?

Learning or upgrading a language in a place where it is used by everyone around you all day long is more fun and a LOT more effective than in the classroom.
Language graduates have an outstanding employment rate, but even if you you don’t do a degree in it, another language will still look very good on your CV (resumé) and will probably help on holidays throughout your life.

What to study in which country

There are thousands of languages in use throughout the world but when deciding which one to study you need to consider the usefulness of the language if it is to further your career prospects, the attractiveness of the countries in which you can study it and the possibility of working there – for example as an English teacher – to support your studies. Here are some options with some of the best study destination options listed:

Spanish in Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Peru, Puerto Rico, Spain (and its islands), Uruguay.
The third most spoken language in the world and the second most spoken in the USA where Spanish is considered to be an important language for business.
Other than Spain it is the official language of countries in Central and South America except for Brazil and some islands.
Spanish is one of the easier languages too (in the early stages) and related to French and English in many ways.
Note that Spanish people are quite sniffy about their mainland pronunciation compared to that of Latin America.
See: Cuba | Mexico | Peru | Argentina | Chile | Costa Rica | Guatemala |Spain

French in Canada, France, Belgium, Switzerland or possibly Morocco (though you may end up with a curious accent).
If you have ever travelled to France and tried to get the natives to speak in English, you will realise how useful it is to know French to penetrate the social scene.
It’s also an important language within the EU and useful for travelling in some exotic places.
French is also the sexiest language in the world with a sound that turns the average English speaker weak at the knees. ‘Voulez-vous coucher avec moi? ‘ etc.
See: Morocco Guide | Canada Guide | Paris Guide | Switzerland Guide

Italian in Italy or Switzerland.
For true Mediterranean culture you could happily study in Italy with lots of sun, good food and wine, world class art and architecture and a very relaxed life. Or go for the Italian Alps and adjacent Italian speaking parts of the Swiss Alps.
This is also quite a sexy tongue, with lots of arm waving, and not too difficult as its related to English. But it’s not a useful travel language.
See: Italy Travel Guide | Switzerland Travel Guide

German in Germany or Austria.
Germany is the most populous country in the European Union and the language the most spoken in the EU overall, where its popularity as a foreign language is second only to English.
Germany is important economically, so it’s tops for business and Austria is gorgeous.
The language, however, is famously harsh and unattractive – a language of command rather than discussion – and not particularly useful for world travel. But. . . Vienna is gorgeous!
See:  Austria Guide

Russian in Russia.
Unfortunately not as good a language for business as the Russians would like, nevertheless the Russian Bear is now a free market economy and has some wonderful cities to explore, with St Petersburg and Moscow at the top of the list, though Moscow is now one of the most expensive cities in the world. Russian is a difficult language and uses a different alphabet.

Arabic in Egypt, Morocco, or Oman.
Fascinating cultures – though respect for both Islam and the local government is imperative – and warm, hospitable people, combine with low cost of living to make these destinations of great interest – if Arabic wasn’t so difficult, what with the funny alphabet and strange gargling sounds necessary. Difficult, but not impossible, and easier than Chinese or Japanese. Arab men can be aggressive towards single girls, so these places may be a problem unless you’re prepared to wrap up your assets.
See: Egypt | Morocco | Oman

Chinese in China or Taiwan.
Chinese is the most spoken first language in the world, and it’s likely to be increasingly important as China looks set to take over from USA as the world’s leading power this century.
Mandarin Chinese is what you need to learn for business, but Cantonese is the less formal version you tend to hear. Both are written in the same way, a non-Roman alphabet that is a memory nightmare, as are the variable tones essential for comprehensible communication.
So, cheap living, great food, great sights and a language with a future, but difficult to master and not useful for travel otherwise.
See: China

Japanese in Japan.
A fallen star economically speaking, but the Japanese are still business giants in the car and electronics industries and Tokyo is still a global financial centre.
What’s more the culture combines tradition with an eclectic and wacky modern day mix of oriental and western, and it is very, very safe.
The language is tricky, being totally unrelated to Romance languages (English, French, Spanish, Italian), but worse is the writing, which requires memorisation of thousands of characters. The characters (ideograms) are fascinating but you’ll need 5, 000 to read a newspaper.
So, a very safe and interesting country with wonderful food, but a dog of a language and high accommodation costs.
See: Japan Guide

Portuguese in Portugal or Brazil.
Not much of an EU business powerhouse but Portugal is a good place to head for sunshine in Europe and cheap too.
Cross over to Latin America and Spanish is ubiquitous apart from Brazil where Portuguese is the mother tongue and a fairly easy language to master but not much use for either worldwide business or travel.
See: Brazil|Portugal