Guidelines for Language Learning Abroad

Developing proficient language skills can be a gratifying and beneficial experience for students both personally and professionally. In the areas of business, peace and conflict resolution, and national security, proficiency in languages other than English is recognized as valuable for diplomacy and global competitiveness. Education abroad can offer a rich environment for developing language skills within a physical and cultural context where the target language is spoken. Because language and culture are remarkably intertwined with one another, language study and education abroad experiences should be complementary; when leveraged, the cultural context abroad deepens meaning and understanding of the target language and language learning deepens cultural understanding.

Language learning opportunities abroad can serve students at all language levels from beginner instruction to advanced immersion. They can be incorporated into education abroad experiences in a variety of ways:

  • As the primary focus of coursework;
  • As a course on language basics for students whose academic focus is in another discipline, but who nevertheless are studying in a country where languages other than English are spoken;
  • Through integrated university study where the target language is the language of instruction in the classroom; and
  • As a tool for practical experiences that apply language usage, e.g., in internship or community engagement experiences.

Alongside formal instruction and program activities, informal communication, socialization, and interaction in the target language support language learning abroad in ways not possible on a home campus.

Regardless of the level or format, language-learning experiences abroad should take advantage of the unparalleled opportunities to engage students in language and its associated culture(s). The home institution, host institution or organization, faculty at home and abroad, and students themselves should work together to establish clear goals and expectations for language learning outcomes, facilitate and foster open communication and interaction with local individuals, and set the stage for continued language learning and usage long after the education abroad experience has ended.

These Guidelines are meant to help these stakeholders collaborate to achieve their common goals by offering advice for addressing the specific needs and challenges presented by language learning abroad. Use them in conjunction with the Standards of Good Practice for Education Abroad.


Download the Guidelines




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