Overseas language study plans translate into opportunity

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MIAMI -- Emerging from their English-only cocoon, Americans are studying foreign languages more than ever before, a trend that can reap rewards for agents.

This is certainly the sentiment of Louise Harber, who has been selling commissionable foreign-language study programs to Europe, Central America and South America for more than 27 years. She launched her company, Miami-based Foreign Language Study Abroad Service (FLSAS) after studying in Spain in the 1960s.

San Sebatian is one of several cities where foreign students go to study Spanish. "Americans are no longer just studying languages as a hobby," she said. "They are doing it more and more for professional reasons, to communicate with their clients both here and overseas."

Since Spanish is the second most widely spoken language in the U.S. after English, it is no wonder Spain has benefited from Americans' linguistic enlightenment.

Harber offers three programs that cater to students of all ages who want to learn Spanish, as well as have a good time outside of an academic setting.

  • The Language Institutes program takes advantage of some of Spain's best language study centers, Harber said.
  • The program, available in 19 cities of touristic interest, runs from one week to "as long as people want to stay," with the option of hotels or a homestay.

    The average age of students on Language Institutes program is about 26, except in the summer, when students tend to be younger, said Harber.

    "No age group is ever out of place at these schools," Harber said. "I recently had an 86-year-old client who attended a language school in France, and then he came back to us the following year to study German. We get a lot of retirees."

    Of the programs offered by FLSAS, the Language Institutes appeals most to first-time visitors, because it includes planned excursions to tourist sites.

    Each of the language institutes Harber works with has a staff member that arranges homestays. "That person visits all of the homes to make sure they are suitable for visitors; cleanliness is a key factor," Harber said.

    "A few days after the students have settled in, the staff member checks in on them to make sure everything is going OK," she said.

  • The 100% True Language Immersion program brings guests to live in the home of a Spanish teacher. All lessons are given at home.
  • "This is an ideal setup for executives who need to master a language quickly," said Harber. "This also appeals to adults who want to learn at their own pace and not worry about competing with younger students in a classroom setting."

  • FLSAS also offers non-language cultural immersion homestay programs, offering from one to three meals daily. "This is designed for people who may have been to Spain before and want to have a non-touristy experience," Harber said.
  • As part of the homestay, FLSAS can design an activity program that includes guided sightseeing. But most visitors prefer to go on off-the-beaten-path excursions with their hosts, who Harber emphasized are not professional guides.

    Although the non-language-study homestay is more affordable than a typical hotel stay, Harber said agents should beware of clients who choose the program for this reason alone.

    "This is a program for people who do not want to be typical tourists; this is not for guests who just want to stay in a home the way they would in a hotel," she said.

    "Agents should consider these programs [for clients] who are able to adapt well to different situations and who don't compare everything they experience with what they have at home," said Harber.

    Some of the biggest adjustments for homestay visitors include eating dinner at 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. and living in narrow streets where the noise level can be quite high late into the evening, said Harber.

    Couples, including gays and lesbians, are welcome in the FLSAS program, as are parents and children; grandparents and grandchildren, and small groups.

    FLSAS: Avoid tourist meccas

    MIAMI -- Where is the best place in Spain to study Spanish? The town or city with the smallest number of tourists, according to Louise Harber, owner of Foreign Language Study Abroad Service (FLSAS) here.

    "The more Spanish that students hear spoken around them, the faster they will learn. If the town is overrun by tourists, they will likely have a chance to speak English, and this will slow them down," said Harber.

    Among the 10 cities where FLSAS offers language institute programs, Harber cited Avila as being ideal because although it gets its share of visitors, they often come just for the day.

    "Santander is also a good choice because its visitors tend to be mainly Spanish. Malaga has an advantage, too. Even though this is a resort island, the school is in a residential district where few tourists can be found," she said.

    Two of the more difficult places to study include Nerja, on the Costa del Sol, and Salamanca, according to Harber.

    "The school in Nerja is excellent but it's on the Costa del Sol, where you don't hear much Spanish among the international sun-seekers. And Salamanca gets so many foreign students because it's a famous university town," said Harber.

    Studying abroad: A syllabus

    MIAMI -- The following provides some details on Foreign Language Study Abroad Service's programs:

  • The Language Institutes programs, commissionable at 5%, vary in price: A two-week, small-group program at the Enforex school in Madrid with 27 lessons per week and five hours of private tutoring is priced at $1,170, including a homestay, two meals daily, class materials and a social/cultural activities program. A similar program in Avila is priced at $1,000.
  • The 100% True Language Immersion program, commissionable at 10%, is priced from $1,250 for one week with 10 hours of private lessons, the homestay and three meals daily. This program is offered in the following regions: Barcelona, Canary Islands, Madrid, Malaga, Salamanca, Toledo, Valencia, Santander and Seville.
  • The non-language cultural immersion programs, commissionable at 10%, start at $460, double, for seven nights with lodging and breakfast. There is a possible extra charge for homes with private facilities.
  • A five-star program is available for the latter two programs, typically at 90% more than the standard cost, which features luxury homes. All rates are subject to currency fluctuations.

    Foreign Language Study Abroad Service
    Phone: (800) 282-1090 or (305) 662-1090
    Fax: (305) 662-2907
    Web: www.flsas.com
    E-mail: [email protected]

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