Studying at one of the many foreign language schools abroad can be just the thing you need, whether you’re a newbie to the translation field or a seasoned pro.
Wanting to go somewhere to improve your language skills is a chance to not only improve your target language or improve your source language, but more importantly, an opportunity to get a new perspective on the language and the various cultures that speak it. It’s also a chance to broaden your understanding of the world and broaden your understanding of yourself.
There are so many options to choose from that you are almost guaranteed to find a number of foreign language schools abroad which fit your particular lifestyle and needs. In order to find one, though, and in order to make the most of the experience, there are some tips that, if followed, could make your time that much more memorable (and way more productive).
Before You Go
Assess your personal situation
The first tip is to look at your personal situation and figure out what kind of special arrangements you might need when choosing among the various language schools abroad. Do you have a family? Can you afford to take them with you? What is your financial situation like? Can your current freelance workload support you while you’re gone? Can you continue to work with access to the Internet and email?
Assessing your personal situation in the beginning stages will help you determine your ability to study, whether it’s Spanish in Spain, attending a school in Mexico, or studying at a French school in France.
Figure out your goals for the experience
This step is very important because it’s where you decide what you hope to gain. Do you want to be exposed to another culture? If you’ve already been to Mexico, maybe you should choose a program in Spain. Are you more interested in a program that can improve your general knowledge of the language or do you want a more specialized program? Make sure you find programs abroad that cater to what you want.
Choosing a Program
Once you’ve assessed your personal situation, you’re ready to start looking at different programs being offered around the globe. There are programs at language schools abroad in nearly every country. You can narrow down your search a good deal by knowing beforehand what kind of program you are interested in. Once you narrow your search, there are a few things you should keep in mind when evaluating the different programs.
Understand the curriculum
It’s important to have a good understanding of the course outline. Know how long the programs are. Some are a few months long while others are only a week or two. Also, it’s a good idea to understand how many hours of instruction you’ll receive while you’re in the program. Some programs might only offer only four hours a day while others could offer up to eight. Once again, know what you want.
Research the instructors
You’re paying good money to take part in a program in one of many language schools abroad. You want to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth in terms of good instructors.
When I was almost graduated from college, I was tempted to go teach English in China. It never materialized but I always thought it was interesting that the only thing the program required was for me to be able to speak English and have a bachelor’s degree. Then again, I would have probably been teaching beginning students of English.
You, as a translator, already have a good knowledge of the languages you translate with. You don’t want to be taught by someone with less knowledge than you. You want to make sure that the instructors are people that can give you the training and experience you’re paying for.
Know what’s included in the deal
Make sure you know exactly what you’re getting when you sign up. What’s included? Meals? Lodging? Transportation? Sightseeing tours? Classroom materials? Get a detailed outline of what the program provides so you won’t be surprised or disappointed.
Enrolled in the Program
Once you’ve decided on a program that suits your needs, there are a few more pointers you can follow to make the most of your experience.
Learn everything you can about where you’ll be
The more you know about the area your program is located in, you’ll be able to more effectively take advantage of all the opportunities available to you while you’re there.
Take advantage of all the opportunities the program offers
Lots of times the program will have extracurricular activities set up and available for the participants. Make sure to get your money’s worth and attend these events. You’ll also be able to network with others which could increase your business.
While you are participating in your program, or after it’s over, offer some suggestions to the directors of the program so they’ll know how to improve the program in the future.
Also, they might be able to change some aspects of the program before it’s over for you in order to make your time better. They won’t know, though, unless you speak up and let those in charge know what you think.
Study abroad opportunities are available all over the place. If you’re interested in improving your Spanish translation skills, you can find a program that fits your needs. Doing your research before you go and following the tips outlined above will help you get the most out of your experience.
P.S. Want more tips on how to succeed as a professional freelance translator? Read my book.