Here are three considerations for English speakers applying to undergraduate programs in countries with a different national language.
1. You should expect to take a proficiency exam to study in another language. To study in a country's native language, some global universities require international students to prove fluency, while other institutions may only require competency.
Experts say proficiency exams typically involve reading, writing and speaking the language that is being tested.
Steve Sonntag, a semiretired language teacher and tutor with expertise in Spanish, German and Latin, says students who are eager to sharpen their language skills before a proficiency exam can refer to books, websites and mobile phone applications that focus on the language in question. However, he says it's difficult to pass a proficiency exam if you haven't thoroughly studied a language.
Jennifer Viemont, founder of admissions consulting company Beyond the States, says she rarely advises clients who primarily speak and write English to enroll in a college where the language of instruction is something else, even if they speak another language at home or have taken a foreign language advanced placement course.
She says conversational fluency in a foreign language doesn't necessarily coincide with knowledge of that language's technical terms, which often come up in college courses. Not understanding these terms could interfere with your learning, Viemont says.
For instance, the term "numerator" is rarely used in everyday conversation but is frequently used in math classes – not knowing this term in the native language could impede your academic abilities.
Given the vast array of English-taught undergraduate programs in non-English-speaking countries, Viemont notes that prospective students don't need to risk poor academic performance by studying in a language they don't fully understand.
3. Ensure English-taught programs offer courses in the country's native language. While it may be beneficial to choose an English-taught program, experts say you'll also miss out on one of the biggest benefits of studying overseas if you don't learn the native language. Experts say most global universities that teach primarily in English also offer courses in the national language.
Richard Coward, CEO and founder of China Admissions, a consulting company that helps students apply to universities in China, says students should learn the native language even if their undergraduate courses are primarily taught in English.
"Chinese is such a rich, amazing language and if you are in China it's such a shame not to learn it," Coward said via email.
Source: Ilana Kowarski