A language school is a school where one studies a foreign language. Classes at a language school are usually geared towards, for example, communicative competence in a foreign language. Language learning in such schools typically supplements formal education or existing knowledge of a foreign language.
Students vary widely by age, educational background, work experience.Further, at language school students usually have the possibility of selecting a specific course according to their language proficiency. According to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), there are six language levels that define students language proficiency based on their speaking, writing and reading skills. Students will be then assigned to the course that matches their skills.
As a general rule, new students take a placement test which enables teachers to determine which is the most appropriate level for the student. Courses can be organized in groups or for individuals (one-to-one lessons). Private language schools are generally open year-round and are equipped with pedagogical material (books, tape recorders, videos, language laboratories, a library, etc.)
Most language schools are private and for-profit. Fees vary depending on a multitude of factors, including local cost of living, exchange rates, and demand for the language in the area where a school is located. Language schools are either independent entities or corporate franchises.
Teachers are expected to possess native speaker fluency or acquired competence in their target languages; formal qualifications to become a language teacher, however, vary by school, region or country. This ensures the quality of the language school and provides students with a richer experience. Teachers may have graduated with a B.A, Master's degree or a Ph.D.. Pedagogy, experience and strong teaching skills are the principal criteria during the recruitment of the language school's teachers.
Most students will sit an international language exam and receive an internationally recognized qualification.
International language exams
Language schools commonly offer specific programs to those wishing to prepare for internationally recognized language exams such as:
- TOEIC (English)
- TOEFL (English)
- CaMLA (English)
- TrackTest (English)
- University of Toronto TEFL (English)
- Cambridge English Language Assessment (English)
- DELF/DALF (French)
- TestDaF (German)
- SIELE (Spanish)
- DELE (Spanish)
- JLPT (Japanese)
- TOPIK (Korean)
- HSK (Chinese Mandarin)
- DELI/DILI/DALI (Italian)
Some organizations combine language study with travel to destinations where the language is natively spoken. This concept of immersion travel makes it easier for students to experience and understand the destination country's culture and language.
Globally, English language schools have seen the greatest demand over schools for other languages. Over one billion people are said to be learning English in a second language or foreign language context. In the United States alone, ESL learners make up over one-third of all adult, non-academic learners. English learning has experienced the highest increase in demand over the last three years, with an increase of 67%. The United States and the UK are the biggest players in the global English travel market accounting for 62% of the total revenue earned in 2013, and account for 65.5% of students worldwide.
English language schools are also among the most numerous in Asian countries such as China, Japan and South Korea, as Western culture influences the rising demand for English in business and cultural contexts.
Other European languages
Spanish is the second most popular language in the language travel market, followed with some distance by French, Italian and German. While demand for French, Italian, and German is decreasing, the demand for other languages such as Chinese and Arabic has significantly increased in recent years. Total immersion Spanish language schools have become very popular in Latin America and Spain. Total immersion Italian language schools are popular in Italy.
Chinese is one of the largest growing languages among second or foreign language learners, and demand for such classes has typically followed suit. Language schools teaching Mandarin Chinese in the United States and the United Kingdom have increased in number over the last two decades.
Arabic has also grown in popularity in the last decade. Reasons include the continued growth of Islam worldwide (the Koran holy book is in Arabic), as well as cultural, economic and political reasons.
The Hindi language along with the culture of the Indian subcontinent has started to become important due to recent foreign policies, global competitiveness, and emigration from the country. Hindi began to be introduced as a foreign language in some American schools in the 2000s. Instructors in the language were sought to teach from the kindergarten level right up to the university as part of the National Security Language Initiative.
- Language education
- English language learning and teaching
- English as a Foreign or Second Language
- Français langue étrangère
- Arabic language school
- Second language acquisition
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