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.
"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,
"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
"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
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
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
"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
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
E-mail: [email protected]