What Is Language Tourism?
Language tourism, also referred to as language travel, is a type of cultural tourism. This type of tourism is the specific intention of traveling to learn or master foreign language skills. At the same time, there’s a desire and an opportunity to ingrain oneself within the local culture. This article investigates 2023 language tourism statistics.
Language travel is different from study abroad programs where students opt to attend colleges or universities abroad or attend language classes. It can take different forms such as staying with a host family, living in a city while taking language courses, or traveling off the beaten path where one is forced to speak foreign languages.
Prior to the pandemic, worldwide language travel was reported to be on the rise with interest in “living like a local” nearly doubling, opening the door to a whole new type of travel.
The Ling App conducted a survey to pull back the curtain behind language tourism statistics. Over 1,000 people currently located in the United States were surveyed.
Our goal was to determine whether learning the local language of a foreign country was important to American travelers. We also inquired about how many Americans have ever relocated to another country to study or learn a new language. In addition we determined the most popular countries for language tourism and which languages are most in demand to learn during language travel.
Language Tourism Statistics 2023: Key Findings
- Only 16.4% of respondents said learning a local language was not important to them at all
- Females were twice as likely than men to report that learning a local language was very important to them.
- 16.7% of Americans have specifically traveled abroad to learn a language
- Of those who responded yes to being a language tourist, 56.4% were female
- The majority of people who have traveled to learn a language were between the ages of 30-44
- Mexico was the number one destination for language tourism for native English speakers
- German and Japanese ranked within the top languages travelers learned
What exactly do these results reveal about the future of language tourism?
Worldwide Language Tourism Statistics VS The United States
When comparing Ling’s US based survey to a worldwide survey conducted by the WYSE Travel Confederation, we notice there has been a huge increase in interest in living like a local. In fact, it’s almost doubled to 51% from 2012. More than half of the respondents reported wanting to travel less like tourists and have more real cultural experiences.
When asked whether travel was undertaken with the intent of learning a new language 20% of travelers identify as language tourists. This is close to the 16.7% of American respondents who answered yes to the same question asked by Ling.
Is Learning A Local Language Important To Americans When They Travel?
Interestingly, only 16.4% of Americans stated learning a local language was not important to them at all. Over 84% expressed the opinion that learning a local language was somewhat important or very important to them and females were twice as likely to report that learning a local language was very important to them.
Surprisingly, those in the youngest age bracket of 18-29 expressed a lower interest in importance (22%) than expected. Those aged 60 or older showed the least interest in learning a local language at 37.3%, while those in the age bracket between 30-44 had the highest percentage of interest at 31.4%.
As one gets older travel interests and purpose change. When travelers are young, importance is typically placed more on fun as opposed to culture. There may be a decreased interest in amalgamating with the local culture as opposed to visiting as a typical tourist at these ages.
Top Countries Language Tourists Have Visited
One surprising result revealed that a fifth of the respondents had actually relocated to the United States for language tourism. This means that the United States came in as the most popular country for language travelers. Of note, our survey was responded to by people physically in the United States some of whom turned out to be language tourists.
When considering English native speaking respondents, we learn that the most popular language travel destination for English native speakers was Mexico followed by France and Spain.
With interest in language tourism nearly doubling over the past 10 years, these results may indicate an opportunity for the above countries to attract such types of tourists.
Top Languages Language Tourists Have Learned
The top countries where language tourists have traveled to would imply that English would be the most popular language for travelers to have learned, however that isn’t the case.
Spanish was the most popular language travelers wanted to learn at 32.8% followed by English at 17%. This falls in line with the 2022 Language Learning Statistics survey which reported that the most popular target language for native English speakers is Spanish.
The fact that in the United States both English and Spanish is spoken, may explain why it came in as the number one destination for language tourism.
The Benefits of Language Tourism
Why is the “living like a local” trend growing? According to a survey conducted by Hostelworld.com, 62% of respondents said they wished they were better at speaking other languages for various reasons.
38% of people perceived that learning a new language would allow them to become more deeply engrossed in the country’s culture. 24% also thought it would help them to meet new people while 21% wanted language skills to help them adventure off the beaten track.
Learning a new language can reduce feelings of embarrassment when worrying about being misunderstood or saying something incorrectly. It will also lessen the chances of getting lost on adventures and be used to help you find your way if you do. Language skills will help ensure planes, trains or buses aren’t missed and will make ordering food a breeze.
According to a study on the long term impacts of language travel, more than half of language tourists reported feeling confident speaking new languages. A quarter said the experience helped them to travel more and 13% said it positively impacted their professional life.
Top 10 Reasons Why You Should Learn A New Language in 2023
- Increase self-confidence. Learning a new language can increase self-esteem, helping you feel more comfortable communicating and connecting with others.
- Connect with local people. Open yourself up to new people and make life-long friendships. As Edmund De Waal said, “With languages you are at home anywhere.”
- Boost cultural awareness and understanding. Learning a language helps you understand and appreciate other cultures, leading to greater empathy and respect for others through all aspects of life.
- It can save you lots of money. Knowing the language can get you local prices on everything from food to accommodation to attractions.
- Make getting around easier. Go from place to place easily by learning how to ask for directions. It will take the stress out of travel.
- It increases safety. Knowing how to ask for help or recognize threatening situations will make your journey so much safer.
- Improve problem-solving and decision-making skills: By being exposed to different perspectives and ways of thinking, learning a new language can help improve problem-solving and decision-making skills.
- Enhances career opportunities. Being bilingual or multilingual can increase job prospects and open up new career paths, especially in fields such as translation, interpretation, and international business.
- Increases brain function and creativity. Studies have shown that learning a new language can stimulate the brain and increase creativity.
- Provides a sense of accomplishment. The challenge and reward of learning a new language can provide a sense of personal satisfaction and accomplishment.
How To Learn A New Language For Travel
The best way to learn a new language is to meet and interact with native speakers. 90% of respondents to Sprachcaffe’s Language Learning Sustainability Project said it was face-to-face interaction with other people.
A fantastic alternative is to use a language app. They are easy to use and offer flexibility in when and how much you learn. Most are interactive and each app can help you focus on particular language skills. Some even go so far as to teach you how to read and write in a new language or connect you with live tutors.
With 56% of Americans planning to travel internationally in 2023, language tourism looks like it’s well on its way to taking off!
For our study all data for Language Tourism Statistics 2023 was collected through a SurveyMonkey questionnaire conducted in early 2023 to 1033 respondents in the United States.
Here’s a list of additional sources used in this article: