Going abroad is the one thing many of us think about as being the best way to learn a new language.

If the opportunity arises, is it worth grabbing?

I have talked about courses before, be self-study with Pimsleur or taught like Turkish course in Skopje.

What about these “intensive courses” though?  Just how much can you learn on one?

Living the language

Learning a language in-country can take many guises.  You can move to a country indefinitely for work, love or study without a definite plan to return to your native land.  Other options are exchanges (particularly for school/university students).  The other option open is short to medium stays, learning the language as an independent learner or on a course.  You could choose to do this in combination with a paid or unpaid work placement.  Or you might choose to seek out language tuition in the country.

All of these options have pros and cons attached, including a number of factors ranging from cost and efficiency to personal experience and preference.  I have done the language exchanges offered by my school, like Tim Doner from New York, who went to France on such an exchange this year.  In this video he talks about his experience:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QdNRq2kuVMk&w=420&h=315]

I have been on short courses abroad to brush up on my language skills and full year-long courses, working towards a diploma, like my Advanced Diploma in Czech Studies from Charles University in Prague.

If you are thinking about going on a course of study abroad with a language school or university, this new challenge is FOR YOU.

The set-up

I am currently taking mandarin language lessons over Skype with LTL (Live The Language) in Beijing.  The goal is to bring my very limited Chinese to a decent basic level in preparation for a one month stay in China at the start of 2013.


I will be taking part in the “Two City Combo” offered by LTL and spending two weeks in Beijing and then two further weeks in Chengde.  I will live with local families in a bid to make the most of my language learning experience and really Live the Language.  Whilst I am in both cities I will have twenty hours of tuition a week.

What do you expect to know after a month in China?

I aim to get my Chinese to a solid A1 level before I go over.  80 hours of tuition in China should be sufficient to get to the next level.  I hope to be able to speak it at a good A2 level by the end of my stay.  Any more than that would be a bonus.  The key is to get a solid grounding in the language to build on it  after the stay.

Why Chinese?  Why now?

Mandarin and I have had a rocky relationship with lots of starts and stops for a number of reasons.  Without a doubt it is an important language in terms of numbers of people who speak it.  It contains a the rich history and culture heritage.  I would also like to support my daughter in her studies of the language, as she constantly expresses an interest in learning it too.

Recording my journey

My Chinese was very basic before starting the Skype lessons, so it makes little sense to record a video saying nothing, right?  I will make a video in Chinese after I have studied for three months and then again at six months.  When I arrive in China I will be assessed officially for the course.  I will record this assessment too and then later show my progress at the end of the course.

Join me on my journey

Share your stories with me on here and on my Facebook page and let me know how I am getting on! :)