Are Short Language Courses Beneficial?

Many students choose to study a language course for a long period of time as they wish to improve as much as possible. But, this type of extended study is not for everyone. Some students may only have 2 weeks holiday from work, or only 2 weeks in between terms at school or University. Often, it will even come down to cost and students will invest in a course for as long as they can afford, which could only be 2 weeks – or even 1!

So, is there a benefit in doing such a short immersion course or would it be better to invest in a longer course in your home country?

I feel that both are acceptable!

I am currently looking to start a Spanish course (having discovered that I have some aptitude for Spanish) which will take place over summer, for 4 hours a week over 2 nights, plus 1-2 hours of homework each week. So, let’s say, 6 hours a week of study over 4 weeks, so 24 hours in total.

This should give me grounding in the language, give me some vital base vocabulary and introduce me to basic grammar so that if I venture to Spain on holiday, I should be able to, at least, order a coffee.

Take that further and I will slowly learn more over an extended period of time. But, I don’t think I would achieve fluency. Maybe in 20 years or so and after 3456 hours of study, which is not ideal if I wish to be able to use the language in business, for example – my career would be over before fluency!

However, if I were to take a two week holiday, I could do that in Spain, where I could also take an immersion language course. If I were to take an intensive course, then, in one week, I could study for the same number of hours as I did over 4 weeks back home. Plus, I would be using the language out of the classroom, further strengthening my communication skills.

Additionally, as the classes are close together, I would also probably remember more from morning to afternoon than I would back home in between my class on a Wednesday and my next class the following Monday, thus I would develop much quicker. This point is discussed in a blog by Communicad, using research from Shona Whyte, and it supports my assumption. Also, having come from a Psychology background, specialising in Biological Psychology, I am aware of the neural pathways needed to turn short-term memory into long-term memory and I know that this works more effectively with shorter time spans between learning intervals.

Therefore, I feel that a short language course is an ideal way for me to supplement my own language learning back home. I believe that I would come back with better understanding and a more advanced level having condensed 2 months learning into two weeks. I also feel that this would help me to achieve fluency much quicker, thus being of quicker benefit to my career progression.

It may, then, be a good option for you, the reader, to consider a short, intensive language course over this summer. If you are studying a language course at home, then I have no doubt that a short course will be of benefit to you and will see you becoming a more confident user of your language.

It’s certainly something that I will be doing!

Jerry Meldrum

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