Short-Term Language Schools: Their Impact on Cultural Understanding
Language and culture are interlinked in a deep historical level that overflows into the everyday life of native speakers. Words, expressions, tone of voice, and vocabulary live and breathe within the given environment.
If you’ve ever attempted to learn a new language, you’d inevitably receive more cultural knowledge along the way. Whether it’s an untranslatable word like “Saudade” in Portuguese or a culture-specific idiom, you discover layers of history and anthropology when exposed to a new language.
In the interconnected world, most people are eager to learn more about other cultures. This might be the reason that traveling and learning new languages are commonly two of the most popular New Year’s resolutions.
In this article, we talk about short-term language schools and their impact on better cultural understanding. We dive into who needs these schools, how culture seeps through linguistics and into the learner’s mind, and how to retain the knowledge after you finish the course (or decide to move on).
What Are Short-Term Language Schools?
Short-term language schools create highly customizable, lightweight, and practical courses for those seeking to improve specific aspects of their linguistic journey. While programs might differ in knowledge and formality levels, the one constant is the intensity of linguistic exposure.
Whether your class meets four days a week for a couple of hours or an hour every day, you get the most out of your experience through being present in the linguistic environment all the time. You might also not be allowed to use any other language in class. The latter helps you find ways to express yourself under pressure.
The quick learning language schools focus on interactions but still have an underlying grammar component. Depending on teaching methodology, the school might offer conversational, listening, and grammar modules for the same group of students. In any case, you’ll be able to land the necessary course at your convenience.
Short- Vs. Long-Term Foreign Language Schools
These two courses vary drastically in their teaching method, topic focus, course structure, time limits, and goals. Long-term schools might give you a grammar base, writing skills, academic-level competency, and deeper linguistic understanding.
Short-term courses aim to:
- Kickstart your ability to talk to locals
- Feel comfortable in a business setting
- Immerse yourself in culture
- Brush up on language skills you already have
Keep in mind that shorter courses cost much more than longer ones.
Who Might Need Quick Learning Language Schools?
As you can already guess, foreign language immersion schools are specific to personal goals. Here are a few groups that might benefit from them.
Are you a business person who travels a lot or communicates with international partners? There’s a chance that you need to be familiar with some linguistic and cultural patterns to build efficient communication between your partners and you.
Those entrepreneurs who invest time learning the language of their international associates have a better chance to maintain stronger ties with them. It indicates interest and involvement from your side. Believe us, your clients and co-workers are going to be impressed.
Intensive language schools and apps for learning a language are excellent options for an entrepreneur’s busy schedule.
Traveling is a way of getting closer to the culture by digesting local meals, language, and culture. Vacation courses are one of the most common short-term language school types. “Good” travelers research the language before arriving at a new country. Not only is it a courtesy to the locals, but it also has a practical component. You can ask for directions or place your order, minus the embarrassment of not knowing what to say.
You might want to take online language learning courses before using your smartphone. Apps for learning a new language are the best way to kickstart your journey, even if you haven’t left your home country yet.
Short-term foreign workers
Businesspeople might be bound to learn the language for lasting professional ties. Still, temporary workers have a more pressing and practical issue to solve. Taking an intensive course in the target language might improve their understanding of the people around them. It’ll also strengthen their work quality and immerse them even more into the locals’ way of life.
International students have to adapt to the new environment quickly. They have to learn essential communication skills to acquire an edge in academic studies. They have similar objectives to the previous group, to absorb as much of the new cultural setting as possible, as quickly as possible.
Whether you’re an exchange student on a short program or a newcomer at a foreign university, these courses will do you a lot of good, boosting your experience in the new country.
Locals seeking personal growth
Up to this point, we’ve been focused on foreigners in one capacity or another. Still, we believe that natives should also experiment with their language. Whether it’s about self-development or career advancement, locals will have something to learn about their language.
How Much Culture is There in a Language?
We’ve already mentioned the inseparability of language and culture. But still, what exactly is the relationship between them (historically and anthropologically)? How can you learn more about the natives and the nation by learning the language?
Loanwords and Historical Context
Words and linguistic patterns borrowed from other languages tell you volumes about the historical context of the language.
One of the most vivid examples is Canada vs. America. Canadian English spelling resembles the British English variation due to the ties with The Commonwealth. On the other hand, American English developed in the United States as a separate entity, distinguishing itself from the British due to US independence.
Borrowed words mixed with local speech also indicate historical affinities. Take any native language and mix the one spoken by colonists. You’ll get the whole historical gamut that influenced language patterns and way of life. This has been happening in most colonies (mainly British, Spanish, and French) throughout history.
Neologisms and Current Linguistic Transformations
Language changes constantly. It’s a living organism that reflects all that happens in everyday life of ordinary people. It’s an easy grab to use Internet terminology for neologism examples, but we will still do that.
Take the word “selfie.” How old is it? It’s safe to say that it was invented with front-facing cameras when people started taking photos of themselves.
What about the word “geobragging?” It’s a term to describe the act of posting every step of your travels on social media. There are a few types of neologisms besides the obvious technology-related inventions, including:
- Borrowing (English “herbs” from the French “herbes”)
- Derivation (using a suffix on an existing word to change its meaning)
- Blending (smoke + fog = smog)
- Abbreviation (shortening words or expressions with simplicity and practicality in mind)
Friend or Foe?
While borrowings are widespread in linguistic development (past, present, and future), you should also consider their connotation. Is the loanword used in a negative or positive light? Only in this way can you understand the historical relationship between nations under question.
Putting yourself in a new language environment, whether via traveling, quick learning language schools, or both, makes you meet new people with various backgrounds and professions.
Do you take your travels seriously? Do you want to discover the underlying layers of the language and deeper levels of culture? As the next step (after language learning schools intensives), dialect immersion activities will deepen the language skill you already have.
Most people learn the general spoken or academic language, which is usually stripped of the authenticity found in slang and area variations. Meeting new people, with specific speech patterns and vocabulary distinctions, will help you understand how they use the language daily, enriching your cultural immersion.
How to Retain the Knowledge?
To learn a new language quickly and efficiently, you need to live it every day. Interrupting the immersion learning will most certainly degrade the skills you gained in the short-term language school. It’s simple: if you don’t use it, you forget it.
Well, we say it would be a waste to let it happen. Luckily we have a few methods that will keep your level and even add to it in time. There are a few things you can do to continue the cultural journey:
- Download an app for language learning: Technology has allowed us to have anything under our fingertips. So if you own a smartphone, download one of many language learning apps and take a few minutes a day to brush up your grammar and add to your vocabulary. Most options allow you to start from a comfortable level and adjust the programs to your pace.
- Chat to natives online: If the apps don’t do much for you, find peers among native speakers. You likely made some friends during the travels. Why not ask them to keep speaking to you from time to time? You can also get involved in online communities and find new friends and fellow learners. It’s possible to do knowledge exchange, where you teach the person your language while they teach you theirs.
- Hire a Skype tutor: If volunteering and peer learning isn’t your thing, you can always hire a professional. You can pay for classes where natives teach via Skype.
- Take a course in your country: If you’re learning a popular language, the chances are that you’ll be able to find a long- or short-term program in your hometown. You can also search for schools using language learning apps to help students practice more.
Try one of the mentioned methods or combine them. Whichever you choose, the trick is to use spaced repetition during practice. Take note of what you learn and let your brain digest it. Repeat it the next day, then let it sit for two days and revise it on the third. Increase the period between repetitions, returning to the learned material. This is one of the best techniques of language learning.
Language learning is a life experience unparalleled to anything else. Whether you choose a short-term course in one of the best language learning schools or immerse yourself in it through travel, you’re definitely going to have a unique cultural adventure.