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Why Learning a Language Overseas during a Gap Year Can Enrich Your Teen's Life

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learning a language on a gap year

Many educational experts are quick to extol the virtues of taking a gap year between high school and college, in that it brings immense benefits (both personal and career-wise) for teens. Learning (or improving) a language not only provides a great deal of satisfaction, but it can also set a teen in good stead for future life.

What Benefits Can Learning a Language Offer?

The most important, and long-reaching, benefit of learning a new language is undoubtedly for future career prospects. Having a second (or third) language under their belt can open up a teen’s options, and make them very valuable to a wide range of prospective employers. However, improved career possibilities are not the only benefit: learning a new language, and being able to use it (especially with native speakers) is an incredible confidence-builder, very rewarding, and brings about a sense of accomplishment and pride. It also opens up a teen’s horizons, allowing them to view the world through different eyes, and experience how others live and think.

Which Method of Learning Is Right for Your Teen?

Although there are opportunities to learn a language during their gap year on home soil, the majority head overseas; however, the way it is done depends on the teen involved and opportunities open to them. Some choose to enroll in a school and learn the language in a more academic way, whereas others dive head first, immersing themselves in the culture and surrounding themselves with the locals.

[Take a Gap Year studying French.]

In a formal setting.

Formally learning a language involves students attending structured classes, where they are thoroughly taught every aspect of the language. Students come away with an in-depth understanding of grammatical rules and are usually equally competent in writing, listening to, and speaking the language. Some teens prefer this formal, structured approach, where others may find it rigid, inflexible, and simply way too much like school (which for some, may seem like defeating the object of using a gap year away from studies). This method is also the more costly option, as tuition fees can be high. However, the major benefit of learning in this way is that it results in a recognizable qualification.

Immersed in local culture.

Some teens learn better on their toes, relishing the direct, hands-on approach, such as teaching children in a remote part of Costa Rica. Although definitely hairy at times, a great benefit of being thrown in at the deep end is that you either sink or swim, with no option but to learn the language—and fast! Although this method of learning is fast-paced, there is often a lack of formal knowledge (teens may become fluent, yet might not have a great understanding of grammatical concepts or learn how to write particularly well), and there is usually no recognized language qualification to come back home with.

[Study Spanish or Chinese during your Gap Year.]

A combination of the two.

In general, the majority of teens studying a language during their gap year have a combination of both learning experiences. Many choose to live with a host family, for example, working as an au-pair, and also attend school; this means that they get both the formal education and qualification, plus the opportunity to learn the language first-hand, among the locals.

The benefits of learning a language overseas speak for themselves. One thing is sure, and that’s that your teen will return home not only conversing in another language, but also with an entirely new outlook on life, which widens their prospects and opportunities immensely.

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Tracy Morgan-profile-picture

Tracy Morgan is a freelance writer living in Hjärup, Sweden. The proud mum of two amazing boys, Tracy loves baking and when pushed, admits to a weakness for reality shows.

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