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Do I Need to Be Fluent in Another Language to Study or Intern Abroad?

by AIFS Abroad
Young woman looking concerned with three ways to say "hello" in another language.

Choosing to study or intern abroad can be a great way to immerse yourself in a different culture and gain valuable experience in your field of interest. However, for many students, language requirements can be a source of anxiety and confusion. The good news is that there are programs available to suit a range of language levels and interests.  

Let’s explore some of the most frequently asked questions about language requirements for study abroad and international internships: 

What are the language requirements to study abroad or intern abroad?

It depends on the language requirements of the study abroad program, internship provider, or university you plan to attend. Some programs and universities may require that you have a certain level of proficiency, while others may offer courses instructed in English or provide classes to help you learn the local language. For example, AIFS Abroad’s many study abroad and international internship programs don’t require you to know a language besides English — you’d just need check the prerequisites for the program and courses you’re interested in on our website!

If your study abroad program requires proficiency in a language other than your native language, you may need to take a language proficiency test to demonstrate your language skills.


Do you dream about studying abroad, but feel reluctant because you don’t know another language? 
We totally get it — language requirements can be a source of anxiety and confusion for many college students who want to go abroad. 
But, good news! There are programs available to suit a range of language levels and interests. Watch this video to learn more. Have questions about language learning abroad? Leave ’em down below and save this video for later! ✨ #studyabroad #internabroad #languagelearning #languagecourse #collegestudents #aifsabroad

♬ Lo-fi hip hop – NAO-K

Are there study abroad programs or international internships designed for students who aren’t fluent in the local language?

Yes! Many study abroad programs offer courses taught in English. Here at AIFS Abroad, we offer programs that can accommodate all levels of language learners, from beginners with no knowledge to fluent and native speakers. Classes in many locations are instructed in English. Plus, you can choose to study or intern abroad in a predominately English-speaking destination like Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, or England

There are also English-friendly internship placements in locations across the world. While specific businesses or industries can have language proficiency requirements, you don’t need to be fluent in a foreign language to intern abroad. In fact, some international internship programs may offer you the option to enroll in a language course to enhance your communication skills. 

How can I improve my language skills before studying or interning abroad? 

Even if you are not required to be fluent in another language to study or intern abroad, having some knowledge of the local language can be very helpful in terms of daily communication and cultural immersion. It can make it easier to navigate day-to-day tasks such as shopping, using public transportation, and making new friends. 

Here are some tips for brushing up your language skills before you go: 

  • Use subtitles to listen to music or watch TV shows in your destination’s local language 
  • Practice basic vocabulary with an app like Duolingo 
  • Take a survival language course, or see if one is offered through your study abroad or internship program 

Will I have the opportunity to practice my language skills while studying or interning abroad? 

Of course! Many study abroad programs offer students the option to take foreign language courses. Students with a higher level of language proficiency may even be able to take courses alongside local students. According to the latest survey, nearly half of AIFS Abroad alumni said that their study abroad program contributed to their ability to speak a foreign language. Even if you aren’t studying the language, it’s important to try using at least a few phrases during your time abroad. You might be surprised by how much of the language you can learn! Most locals will appreciate you making the effort and taking risks.

Whenever I go to stores and restaurants I communicate in French to the best of my ability. If I have a problem with getting a ticket at the train station, I try to resolve the issue in French. My proudest problem solving experience in French was when I was at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris and was able to get a ticket to the top for free by telling the worker I was an American student who was studying in France for the semester. Each successful interaction I have in French feels like a proud moment for me and helps boost my confidence in the language that much more.

– Corey, AIFS Abroad in Cannes, France alum

Homestays are a popular housing option for those wanting to maximize their language learning abroad. Living with a host family near your program location is a terrific way to practice speaking the local language.  

International internships are a great opportunity to gain practical communication skills that can serve you well in the workplace and beyond. If you opt for an internship in a destination where the primary language is not English, you’ll probably be exposed to the local language at work.  

Did you know? AIFS Abroad provides many opportunities for students and interns to immerse themselves in the local language, including homestay housing options, language immersion programs, cultural activities and language-buddy programs with local students.  

Navigating international internship and study abroad language requirements 

Overall, while being fluent in another language is not always a requirement for studying or interning abroad, having some basic knowledge of the local language can enhance your experience. If you’re concerned about language requirements for a specific program, be sure to do your research and ask the program organizers for more information. With a bit of preparation and an open mind, studying or interning abroad can be an incredible learning experience that broadens your horizons both personally and professionally. 

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