Parlez-vous Français? Sprichst du Deutsch? Eh?
Brushing up on the old language skills is one thing constantly nearing the top of the travel to-do list. Just imagine lounging in a sun-drenched European piazza, sipping an espresso and lazily passing the time of day with the locals, before dashing off to something terribly cultural – or is this just my fantasy?
If you’re determined to make the dream a reality and get a bit of sun at the same time, a language-learning holiday provides the best of both worlds. You get a crash course in the lingo, make new friends and enjoy a first-hand experience of the culture all at once.
Don’t fret that you’ll spend all your time in a classroom; some courses are combined with excursions to local sights, picturesque cycling trips and even surfing! Read on for our favourites.
© Pyrenean Experience
For those wishing to learn Spanish, Pyrenean Experience offers the whole package; an idyllic farmhouse setting with staggering views of the Pyrenees, a friendly, family-run environment with plenty of tapas feasts on the terrace and total immersion into Basque culture. Their Spanish Language and Walking holidays combine Spanish tuition with gentle hill walking and also feature elements of their English-speaking Basque Culture and Gastronomy holidays such as cooking classes and traditional Basque banquets in the village square, all rounded off with a glass of regional wine and a thrilling tale about smugglers – who wouldn’t love that?
© Natalia Macheda
Ah, Italian, the language of love. If you’re eager to start peppering your speech with romantic Italian phrases, check out the Piccola Università Italiana, offering courses in the coastal city of Trieste in north-east Italy or sunny Tropea in the south. We’re rather taken with the Calabrian town of Tropea. For starters, the school is just a five-minute walk from the beach, where you can take a motorboat tour along the coast or a mini cruise to the Aeolian Islands. Trips range from strolls to the local market to sample the fresh produce to tours of the ruins of Pompei and even across the water to Sicily, with parties and group dinners throughout the course.
On a week-long course from French in the Dordogne you’ll stay at Le Bourdil Blanc, an 18th-century manor house and the most sumptuous school we’ve ever seen, with tennis, swimming and cycling available on-site. Meals are prepared with locally sourced ingredients by the house chef and are shared all together, washed down with wine from the region. You’ll spend the afternoons getting to know the area, and with a range of activities on offer from wine tasting at the nearby vineyards of Medoc and St Emilion to canoeing and hiking trips around the Dordogne, your days will be full of Francophone fun.
If your favourite lessons are ones that come with a generous slice of adventure and get your adrenaline pumping, you’ll love this Learn Portuguese and Surf course in the vibrant Brazilian city of Salvador. During the week, Portuguese lessons can be followed with samba classes, scuba diving off the Salvador reefs and perhaps even a festival if you time your holiday right. After such hardship, you’ll be rewarded at the weekend with a surfing trip to beautiful Busca Vida, where you’ll stay just 30 metres from the shore and will experience some of the best waves in the world. Where do we sign?
There’s no better place to learn German than the historic city of Heidelberg. Home to Germany’s oldest university with a lively student scene, this city has inspired countless artists, writers and musicians over its 800-year history with its rolling green mountain views and fairy-tale architecture. This Heidelberg Summer Course includes free access to leisure facilities and excursions to local sights, including a tour from the Old Bridge up to Heidelberg Castle with stunning panoramic views over the city rooftops, the River Neckar and the mountains. If this setting doesn’t inspire you, then frankly, nothing will.
© Vadim Labinsky
Perhaps it’s not the first beach holiday destination that comes to mind, but the beautiful Black Sea coast of Crimea is a real gem. At Valentina Muschinskaya’s family-run language school in Yalta, the country’s most popular holiday resort with sandy beaches and a lavish promenade, the classroom is often actually a shady corner of the pretty garden with a striking backdrop of mountain peaks. It couldn’t be friendlier; you’ll practise your new skills over a traditional meal or a pot of tea made from mountain herbs with your classmates. Also on the agenda are trips to the cosmopolitan capital Simferopol with its large markets and to Sevastopol’s naval base – a treat for history buffs!
© Christian Delbert
To soak up the Greek language and culture, Athens is the place to be. From exploring the ancient Acropolis and its modern museum, navigating the winding streets of the buzzing tavernas and shops in the Plaka district to climbing to the summit of the city’s highest peak, Mount Lycabettus, you’ll never be bored on an Omilo language course. If you’d rather be away from the hustle and bustle of the city, no problem; courses are also held on the islands of Syros and Andros, where language lessons are mixed with Greek cooking, dancing and of course plenty of trips to gorgeous beaches.