Traveling, which combines tourism with language learning, also known as language tourism or language travel, is increasingly popular.
It is a preference especially among the youngest, especially for “Millennials”, who want to know the world with the extra advantage of being able to expand their linguistics and enrich their CV’s.
This is reflected in the “New Horizons IV” World Survey, conducted by the WYSE Travel Confederation, which surveys travelers under 35 every five years to find out their travel preferences. The 2017 results, in which more than 57,000 people from 188 different countries participated, make it clear that both the Millennials and the Z Generation do not limit themselves to simple tourism; they want to live in the countries they visit and, if possible, learn the languages and cultures.
If we compare the data against the 2012 results, we can see the interest in “living as a local” has almost doubled. In 2012 it was 28%, and in 2017 the figure rose to 51%. This means more than half of young people today prefer to have more real-life experiences, rather than feel like tourists. In the case of studying a language, this activity is chosen by 33% in their international destination, compared to 21% who selected this option in 2012.
An upward trend in language travel is also confirmed by those who choose to combine their holidays with the study of other languages: more than 20% of young travelers claim to be a language tourist, 14% more than in 2012; and 23% say their motivation for traveling abroad is precisely to study other languages.
What is language tourism?
Language tourism, or language travel is one branch of cultural tourism. As opposed to trips focused on visiting monuments, museums and other places of general tourist interest, language trips have as their main motivation to learn or perfect a different language, and at the same time experience local culture first hand.
The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) defines it as those “activities carried out by people during their travels and stays in places different from their natural environment for a consecutive period of time of less than one year, in order to make a linguistic immersion into a language other than their own”.
Its main advantage over classical cultural tourism is in addition to learning about cultural, artistic and historical aspects and enjoying leisure and tourist activities, we can take home the knowledge of a language other than the native one, which will help to improve our professional profile.
The progression of language travel has shifted from being a summer activity , concentrated between June and September, to a year-round experience.
Who are language tourists?
Generally speaking, the typical profile of a language traveler is a young person, averaging from 20 to 29 years old, mostly female , who decides to travel to another country for personal reasons, predominately academic, for an average of three to four weeks.
In terms of their countries of origin, UNWTO notes the most active international travelers are Americans, Asians (mainly Chinese, Japanese and Koreans), English and French. But what are the favorite destinations? Among the ten most visited countries according to UNWTO are four TANDEM International school destinations, as we can see in the table below:
|Ranking||Country||International Tourists (2016), million|
These are countries where language travelers can find recognized language schools and centers where they can learn French, Spanish, Italian or German while immersing themselves in local life and culture.
Challenges for language tourism
One of the major concerns when choosing a foreign country is security. However, many language tourists seem not to care too much, or overlook the risk of traveling. This is the case in Mexico which, despite its high crime rate, is the third favorite destination for American, English and French language tourists, second only to Chile and Spain.
Visas are also another important aspect that can be an obstacle for language tourists. Some countries require study visas for all people coming from countries with no agreements with the destination country, or do have international agreements, but are going to stay more than 90 days.
Original language travel with TANDEM
There are many alternatives for language tourists to choose from, but few that allow for truly authentic experiences. Part of the philosophy of TANDEM International Schools is to make it easier for students to immerse themselves in the language. For this reason, in addition to classes, cultural activities are programmed outside school hours so you can make friends and get to know and experience the city as a resident.
Other TIS programs go a step further and include language courses combined with activities. TANDEM Madrid and its “Spanish and Passion” courses will bring you closer to flamenco, Spanish gastronomy and wines, Madrid’s neighborhoods, its museums or Pedro Almodóvar’s films. At TANDEM San Sebastián, you can combine Spanish with surfing, horse riding, cooking classes or tourist routes through the Basque Country. TANDEM Santiago you can opt for Chilean oenology or study Spanish while skiing in the resorts near Santiago de Chile. And finally, at Acupari in Cusco, Peru you can discover the mysteries of Machu Picchu and Andean culture. At Escuela Mediterráneo in Barcelona you can enjoy guided tours of the city’s impressive monuments and weekend excursions to dazzling sites that combine history and nature.
If you are interested in learning Italian, at Il Centro you can combine Italian with cooking classes, Italian culture or tourist tours of Milan or Turin. Similarly at Torre di Babele or Istituto Venecia you can combine learning Italian with cooking, music, art, design, fashion, art restoration, jewelry and goldsmithing. And at Centro Machiavelli, you can enjoy cooking, or broaden your knowledge of Art History, or study music and sing with a soprano or tenor.
In France, the Institut Européen de Français offers an enjoyable way to learn French by providing an intense weekly calendar of varied cultural activities. In Germany you can join a program specifically for language travelers, City Hopping, that will allow you to study German and get to know Berlin, Bielefeld, Bremen, Frankfurt, Göttingen, Hamburg, Cologne and Munich.
What are you waiting for? Join the trend of language tourism.