Studying Language Abroad
November 17, 2004 2:07 PM   Subscribe

Language programs abroad. I'm a university student, I'm Canadian, and I'm wondering if anyone could recommend a good immersive program aboard for studying French or Chinese. I doubt I can be proficient in either in one summer, and I already have a very basic grasp of both. What I'm looking for instead is a chance to go aboard to develop my french or mandarin further. Any suggestions other than commercial programs geared for Business-persons?
posted by phyrewerx to Education (7 answers total)
I'm not sure if these institutions offer summer programs, but I know they offer programs during the academic year, so it's a place to start:

Beijing Language and Culture University has a great program, arguably the highest-quality Mandarin program for foreigners in Beijing. You could also take classes (in rough order of quality of teaching) at Beijing Foreign Studies University, at Beijing University, at Beijing Institute of Technology, or at Tsinghua University. And, of course, other cities will have their own programs.

I studied at Tsinghua, and I have friends at most of the other schools in Beijing. My email address is temporarily in my profile - email me if you have further questions.
posted by gd779 at 3:46 PM on November 17, 2004

Okay - it's not at all abroad, but the Canadian government runs a program called the Summer Language Bursary Program: a five/six week immersion programs through universities in Quebec (and you can receive credit for a full-year French course at your home institution upon completion!).

The goverment covers fees, instructional materials, as well as room and board (sometimes--depending on location--with quebecois families) while you are responsible for transportation to and from the program and, obviously, your spending money. Pretty much anyone who applies will receive a bursary although getting a bursary in Montreal or Quebec City can prove to be difficult. It's well worth doing - this program tends to attract interesting, intelligent, and quirky people of varying French ability who are honestly interested in learning, travelling, etc. It is possible to do the program twice per summer, but you'd have to pay out of pocket (~CAN$2000) for one of the six week sessions.

I was sent to Trois-Rivieres last summer (not even remotely on my list of choices!) but loved it and HIGHLY recommend it (albeit the program moreso than the city but even the city grew on me) - it was an absolutely amazing experience. Feel free to email with questions.
posted by lumiere at 5:02 PM on November 17, 2004

The Middlebury College summer language schools are a very good place to learn many languages, including French and Chinese. The programs are completely immersive even though Middlebury is in Vermont -- all students are required to speak only the language they are studying, and pledge never to speak English, even in the dorms, etc. Anecdotally, people learn more quickly there than in most programs in foreign countries. In my personal experience, I learned enough French in five weeks (starting from absolutely nothing) to live and work in France the following summer. And I had a truly wonderful time: Middlebury, VT, is incredibly gorgeous, the classes and professors were excellent, and it was a lot of fun to be in a large group of young adults communicating at a grade-school level. The one major caveat is that it is expensive: >US $5,000.
posted by armchairsocialist at 6:17 PM on November 17, 2004

I went to the Trois-Rivières program lumière mentions back in 1991. The first two weeks were hard--I am not Canadian and therefore hadn't even the experience of seeing French signs at the post office--but the last four weeks were among the best I've ever had. I too highly recommend it.

Try to stay upwind of the paper mills, though.
posted by mookieproof at 7:30 PM on November 17, 2004

Another vote for Middlebury. The summer program is especially good, I've heard. My (native-speaker) Russian professor teaches there in the summer and several of my classmates have gone. It really improved their skills and they came back more confident in their proficiency than they thought they could be. Here's a link to the FAQs about financial aid, program length, etc.
posted by somethingotherthan at 8:27 PM on November 17, 2004

I'm currently abroad with the Hamilton College program and it's not so bad. You live with a host family, there are a lot of Hamilton-run classes (where the professors know you're not fluent), you can enroll in the Hamilton-Middlebury-Smith consortium classes, but more importantly, you have a wonderful choice of Paris universities as well.

For example, I'm taking a literature course at Paris III (Nouvelle Sorbonne), a theatre course with Hamilton that lets me check out a Parisian play every two weeks, a course on Franco-African relations with Middlebury with a stellar professor, and a photography course at Spéos, the Paris photographic institute. You can also take pretty much anything you want at the Institut Catholique, and a bunch of students are taking classes at the big-wig Institut Science Politique.

The first month is spent in the coastal resort town of Biarritz for getting used to the language, and we get to take excursions every once and a while to other parts of France.

I think they're taking applications for next year now... here's the Hamilton JYF web site, and here's my stunted attempt at a student web site for the program.

Feel free to send me an email for more info.
posted by themadjuggler at 2:28 AM on November 18, 2004

Columbia University started a new business-oriented intensive Chinese summer program last year. The program takes place in Shanghai: there is 6 weeks of intensive business language training and 4 weeks of an internship with a multi-national company in Shanghai (arranged for you by Columbia based on your interests and background.)

I've heard good things about it! I participated in the Columbia intensive Chinese program at Tsinghua University two summers ago and found that my Chinese improved greatly in 10 weeks.

(By the by, my parents are both Chinese but I was born and raised in New York so while I am sort of a native speaker, my literacy skills are equivalent to those of a fifth-grade Chinese student.)
posted by moxyberry at 8:45 AM on November 18, 2004

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