Attending an intensive language school can be an effective way to progress in learning a foreign language. A motivated student can make excellent progress learning a language during vacation and have a wonderful experience at the same time. But how does one choose a school? There are schools advertising on the internet and in magazines with catchy advertisements to gain your attention, but are they any good? Here are five things you should look for.

  1. Good Recommendations. Let's face it, many schools are just out to make money and you are going to be committing time and money to this enterprise. Ask your teachers, friends, or colleagues if they can recommend a language school. The professionalism of the teaching and administration at the school can have a big impact on your experience.
  2. Timing, Level, and Length of Course. Contact the school or check their website to find out about the availability of courses. Some schools start courses at various times throughout the year for students of different levels, also some Universities offer summer courses. This can be ideal because if you have a good experience you can choose to return again for further study. In a short course you do not want to be frustrated by being stuck in a class with students who are either far behind, or far ahead of you.
  3. Group Courses vs. Custom Classes. It is usually cheaper, more effective, and more enjoyable to be in a class with other students than to have individual tutoring. You have a chance to get to know and learn from other students and they can also provide camaraderie and motivation. I have attended language schools where my husband and I were the only students in the course, and although the program was tailor-made for our needs, the lack of formal structure plus the focus on us meant that we actually learned less in some ways. If you have a class you are likely to be exposed to more vocabulary, more structured presentation, and more opportunities for practice.
  4. Location. Schools outside the capital city are usually cheaper, without compromising quality. They are also likely to be in areas where it will be possible to practice with local people. It is very hard to get much local practice in European Capitals because everyone is very busy, and in the summertime they are on holiday. It is much easier to get practice in rural locations. Students of Spanish or Portuguese might also want to consider Central or South America rather than Europe for these reasons, despite some differences between their dialect
  5. Live with a local family. Many schools will help you link up with a local family and this will make your experience much more memorable. As well as learning the language you will learn the culture, make new friends and have a much richer experience.

I highly recommend intensive language study as a most effective way of learning a foreign language, but do your homework before committing to a school.