The World's Best Countries for Foreign Language Study in 2018
by - Published January 1
If it’s your dream to throw tomatoes during La Tomatina in Valencia or order churros like a pro, but all you can say is, “¿Dónde está la biblioteca?”, don’t throw in the towel just yet. Even if your foreign language skills have gone soft after years of neglect or you never really learned anything in your high school French/Spanish/German/Mandarin class, there’s always time to learn (or relearn) the talk with foreign language study.
If you’re tired of language apps, why not try another angle? Some of the best language programs can be found in the country where the language originates; it makes perfect sense to study Japanese in Japan rather than on your iPhone (sorry Duolingo). Beyond the whole slew of benefits from immersion, another great perk is that during intensive language programs abroad, you get facetime IRL with locals and other internationals who are also passionate learning or teaching your chosen tongue.
If you really want to understand and utilize a language like the locals, you have to like it so much that you’re prepared to undertake some intensive language learning. This becomes much easier if you spend time immersing yourself in a place where the language is spoken. You won’t be able to escape it at the supermarket, on the bus, or on the streets, and you’ll have to learn it to survive/understand what’s going on around you.
Still confused where to study? Look no further! Here are the 10 most popular countries for foreign language study in 2018 according to our fabulous users.
1. South Korea
Do you wish you could read an entire restaurant menu written in Korean so you can stop ordering just kimchi? There’s a whole wide world of Korean cuisine to explore if you know the language. The best place to study Korean is the mother country itself, so why not sign up for one of the language schools in Seoul, Busan, or Gyeongsan? Language courses in the Land of the Morning Calm often include cultural lessons and excursions (AKA field trips!), so you’ll be slurping noodles and bibambap’ing with the locals in no time!
Recommended program: Study Korean in South Korea with ISA
Cuba is one of the hottest travel destinations today, so why not pick up a little Spanish while you’re there? Language schools in Cuba can be as formal or informal as you like. Choose from language immersion courses at cozy family homes or in quaint school buildings. After hours, practice what you’ve learned by ordering a mojito en español at the bars and beaches in Havana, Santiago de Cuba, and Trinidad. Don’t forget to bring your dancing shoes, too—those Havana nights are no joke, and provide the perfect time to practice your Spanish with that cute local.
Recommended program: Study Spanish in Cuba with Jakera Cuba
Are you ready to stop reading the English subtitles of your favorite anime? Don’t be intimidated by kanji, hiragana and katakana anymore! Take your language learning abroad and study Japanese in Japan! Japan’s top foreign language schools are usually located in the big cities like Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka. If you’re really feeling adventurous, head to the smaller towns, where locals hardly speak English and you’ll have to use Japanese—and only Japanese—to communicate. Your future self will thank you when you come home fluent!
Recommended program: Study Japanese in Japan with KCP International
Looking to stand out in the international job market? Learning Chinese will help you forge ahead in international trade and business, as China is one of the leading economies in the world right now. Build your fluency with the best language schools in traditional Beijing, cosmopolitan Shanghai, and East-meets-West Hong Kong.The most popular dialects in China are Mandarin (the national standard), Wu (often used in and around Shanghai), and Cantonese (common in southern China and Hong Kong). Pick your homebase and have it your way!
Recommended program: Study Mandarin in China with CIP
Make a beeline for Switzerland to acquaint yourself with “the mother lode” of Western European languages. Because of its location in the heart of Europe, it has four national tongues: German, French, Italian, and Romansh. Study German with top language programs in world financial center, Zurich, or French language courses in peace capital, Geneva. If you want to sign up for Italian language study programs, head to Lugano on the Swiss Riviera.
Recommended program: Study French in Switzerland with ELFI
If you want to learn a language abroad, why not pick Norwegian? The Land of the Midnight Sun is home to three main languages: Bokmål, Nynorsk, and Sami. If you’ve had your fill of the ski slope, language schools in Norway are the perfect place to immerse yourself in the land of trolls, dragons, and Vikings. Polish off your Norwegian accent during classes in popular cities like Oslo, Bergen, or Tromso. If you’re up to the challenge, you can learn other Scandinavian languages while you’re there, like Danish and Swedish. Do you have heaps of hygge in your future? The forecast looks bright!
Recommended program: Learn Norwegian in Oslo with Languages Abroad
7. Puerto Rico
Prefer to learn Spanish in country that also speaks English, where our American readers don’t even need a passport? Puerto Rico is your dream foreign language study destination. Study Spanish at language schools in sun-drenched San Juan and you’ll be rolling those “r’s” like a Boricua before you know it! After classes, island-hop to Vieques to see glowing marine life or take a trip to El Yunque, the only tropical rainforest in the whole of the United States.
Recommended program: Study Spanish in San Juan with Language Vacation
French is one of the most popular spoken languages in the world, so why not study it in the source? Pick up an authentic French accent at language schools all over France. Study while eating baguettes in Paris, soaking up the sun along the French Riviera, over a glass of Bordeaux in wine country, or après-ski in alpine villages. Foreign language study in France is like something out of a movie. A really, really good one that you’d see again and again.
Recommended program: Study French in France with Passeport Pour Les Langues
Colombia is a top pick for beginners who want to learn Spanish because the accent is easy to understand and the locals are super friendly. Top language programs are located across the country—if you like a mild climate, colonial neighborhoods, and a bustling modern city, study in Bogotá aka the Athens of South America. On the other hand, if you fancy less crowds and more sun, head to Caribbean-flavored coastal cities like Cartagena and Barranquilla. Your Spanish will improve leaps and bounds rapidly (great news for your future career!).
Recommended program: Study Spanish in Colombia with Red Tree Study
Want to learn one of the sexiest languages in the world? Let your foreign language study take you to the heart of the South American continent. Study Portuguese in Brazil to understand bossa nova lyrics, cheer on your favorite futebol team, and order a caipirinha on Ipanema beach. After classes, learn to samba like the locals so come Carnaval time in Rio, you can twinkle your toes like the best of them! Whoever said learning languages abroad would be boring clearly hasn’t done their homework (or tried pão de queijo).
Recommended program: Study Portuguese in Brazil with ESL - Language Studies Abroad
BONUS! Top TYPES of languages
Not only did we collect data on where the 10 best countries for foreign language study are according to our search data, we also found some awesome trends the most popular languages people choose to learn. For these polyglots, destination comes second so long as their language program involves…
A note from GoAbroad
We’d like to thank our community for not only inspiring us daily, but for also giving us enough insight to share accurate predictions for meaningful travel in 2018.
Learn more our research methodology, recommended programs, and links here.
Browse more of our report on language schools—broken down by region
- Best Destinations for a European Language School in 2018
- Best Destinations for Language Classes in the Americas for 2018
- Best Destinations to Learn an African Language in 2018
- Best Destinations for Language Courses in the South Pacific & Asia for 2018
- See ALL top destinations for ALL travel