Friday, March 02, 2012

Language Immersion Courses

Probably nothing makes a trip abroad more pleasurable than being able to get along in the language of the country or countries you visit. There are many ways to learn a language (the best being growing up speaking several languages,) but for those of us who don't have that advantage, an immersion course can be second best.
I have written before about the many programs abroad that combine language classes with lodging and sometimes excursions--these are often a very good deal. But another possibility is total immersion before you leave.
A couple of well-known colleges in New England offer such programs in a number of different languages. Shorter and less expensive (but still up there) are the 10-day total immersion courses of Dartmouth College ( in New Hampshire, the school about which the early American orator Daniel Webster claimed that "it is a small school, but there are those who love it" in a famous speech. These courses go from morning to night with just a short rest period, and are available at beginner, intermediate or advanced levels. Cost is aobut $3600 if you stay on campus, and the program has been used by many groups including the Peace Corps to train workers going abtroad.
Longer courses are available at Middlebury College ( in neighbouring Vermont. I am somewhat tempted by a Russian immersion course that runs from June to August and costs just a little under $10,000. Participants have to sign a pledge that they will speak only Russian during the course, something that would be pretty tough for me.
Obviously these are both expensive options. For the same money, you could probably study abroad and hire private tutors. But if you prefer the pleasures of northern New England and in the case of Dartmouth if you have very limited time, these programs could be worth a look. And the knowledge of a foreign language you gain may pay off in travel savings or even in a new career.

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