So, you are thinking of learning a new language abroad. Great! You’re about to embark on a journey that will give you a valuable life skill that looks great on your CV (and yes, being bilingual really is better on so many levels), but it will also expand your horizons, as well as your circle of friends. Picking the right place to study in can be tricky, however. First off, you’ll need to narrow down the language you’d like to learn; then you’ll need to identify which city will provide you with the right mix of challenge and fun as you learn and practice that language.
We’ve listed the ten best places to learn a language to help you decide.
Perhaps the most obvious place to learn English; London is also one of the best. In the big smoke, you’ll learn from the islanders whose ancestors actually invented the language. Life in London is hectic so you’ll have no choice but to learn fast in order to keep up. This gastronomic city will make you a pro at ordering at quirky street food stalls around the city and every kind of coffee under the sun in no time. London also has a huge international population, so no matter which country you’ve traveled from, you’ll get to both practice your English with them, as well as find a community that feels familiar and offers a little slice of home.
Eternal sunshine, year-round warm weather and the rolling blue sea – just three of many reasons Sydney is a great city to move to. But, what makes this place such a great place to learn a language? Well, the people are some of the friendliest in the world. Once you’re used to their loose-lipped ways you’ll find yourself chatting with everyone, from the barista at the café where you grab your morning dose of caffeine, to your gorgeously tanned surf instructor. Without even trying to, you will use your new-found vocabulary, pick up the local slang (here are our top 10 expressions), and cement your English skills. You’ll return home with a great Aussie accent, too.
You can be honest; learning French is just the excuse you’ve been looking for to justify moving to Paris, France’s gorgeous capital city. There is no better place to fully embrace modern French culture (and gorge on macarons) while practicing the language of love as it buzzes all around you. As you saunter along the River Seine, baguette in hand, or tuck into moules-frites, you’ll absorb it – like a sponge. A human, French language-loving sponge. You’ll also come away with tip-top grammar, the perfect Parisian accent and some local slang (our guide here); the locals feel no shame in correcting you if you dare to get their beloved language wrong or say something silly.
4. San Francisco
The easy-going creative capital of the USA is bursting with innovative ideas. From the laid-back artists that inhabit its bustling Bohemian scene to the thousands of visionary entrepreneurs that build their latest start-ups in full view of the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco has become one of the best places in US to be a young person. Inspiration and fresh ideas lie around every corner, and between the steep hills and spectacular skyline, there is always something to keep you busy when you’re not in class. Surrounded by interesting people with interesting ideas, your creative juices will be flowing and you’ll quickly be speaking English like a pro.
In Vancouver, you won’t just learn a language. One of Canada’s most beautiful cities owes its reputation to its superb location; simultaneously perched on the stunning coastline of British Columbia and nestled at the foothills of beautiful mountains. Here, you can learn to ski, master the art of downhill mountain biking or even add fishing to the list of skills (or hobbies) on your CV, alongside being able to speak ‘fluent and very polite English’, of course! Being so friendly and polite, the Canadians will happily chat to you for hours, swapping stories of hockey games and snowy winters until your English is perfect.
6. Playa Tamarindo
Well hello there, Costa Rica. More often thought of as a holiday destination, there is no reason the ‘on vacation’ feeling shouldn’t last all year and even when you’re there to learn. The adventure-capital of Central America has its own motto – ‘Pura Vida’, meaning ‘pure life’. Both spending time with the locals and embracing their concept of Pura Vida are keys to fast-tracking your Spanish learning in Playa Tamarindo. You’ll be able to spend time between classes surfing and zip-lining over lush green tree canopies in the country’s stunning national parks.
7. Cape Town
Cape Town provides the perfect opportunity to learn English whilst being able to see some of the world’s most iconic wildlife; nowhere else will Africa’s Big Five be so close to your school (and no, zoos don’t count). From your base in town, it’s easy to spend weekends on safari in one of South Africa’s national parks, searching for lion, leopard and buffalo. Cape Town is also super cosmopolitan and modern; with so much to do, ‘boredom’ simply doesn’t exist here. Once you have explored the bustling waterfront, hike to the top of Table Mountain for amazing views across the bay, visit Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned, or even climb aboard a boat to spot great white sharks.
Tokyo is truly like nowhere else in the world; futuristic skyscrapers and robot cafes sit next to flowering cherry blossoms and ornate, ancient shrines. You really have to learn Japanese quickly here. Even if there were enough signposts in your native language, life is so wonderfully crazy that you have no choice but to dive in head first, tackle the city metro and experience as much as possible. You do run the risk of realizing that you’ve been pronouncing the name of your favourite sushi wrong for years, though. If you dare, you can still practice your native language in one of the many karaoke bars dotted around the city.
As London’s little brother, you’re able to enjoy the best of all things British at a more leisurely pace when you learn English in Bristol. This harbourside town in the West Country has a winning combination of a bustling arts and live music scene stands alongside pretty historic architecture, independent shops and quaint teahouses overflowing with cream scones. Bristolians tend to be more talkative than Londoners so your conversational skills will be put to the test more often, but if you want to experience the hustle and bustle of the capital city, it is just two hours away by train.
Head over to one of the world’s largest English-speaking countries and learn the language for yourself in a town founded by English settlers. With world-leading schools like Harvard and MIT on its doorstep, Boston is well equipped to welcome students with open arms. This charming port town has a friendly, small-town vibe and amongst the grand brick architecture and pretty parks lies a hip café-dwelling, vintage-loving youth scene. This is also the place to enjoy a history lesson; journey through the story of the American Revolution in just one day by following the red brick freedom trail through the city center (and don’t miss out on our other tips on how to live like a local.)