Regular, Online, Intensive or Immersion: What type of course is best?

Thinking back to those New Years resolutions, did anyone choose to look for a course to take this year? Throughout the last decade, there has been a rapid increase in the number and variety of Spanish for medical professionals courses offered. This increase allows for students to choose what fits best with their learning and life styles; however, this choice can also be overwhelming for some. In this post, I was originally going to write about about the pluses and minuses of each type of course, but while doing the research, I found a good number of resources that present the exact same information in a clear succinct way. For this reason, I will instead offer a few of the benefits for each type of course along with links to where you can find more information.  I want to reiterate before beginning that no one course type is best for everyone, but rather what is best for each person depends on their current situation and learning style. Finally, if you are interesting in taking an intensive, immersion course in Spanish for medical professionals (practicum included), registration is now open! For information on the course see this link and to register click here.

Intensive versus Regular


  • More consistent contact with the language
  • Number of hours creates a more “immersion” type learning environment
  • Maintains interest / Motivating: “studies find that people who study intensively are less likely to fall behind or lose interest in their course, since their fast progress and good results are normally motivational and inspirational” (Whyte 2013)
  • Students can focus on language study rather than working in one language and studying another
  • Best option for those with jobs when choosing immersion courses: this allows the professional to take less time off work but get more classroom hours


  • Good for those who like to take learning at a slower pace
  • Ideal for those who cannot take time off from work for immersion

Laura Whyte offers a good comparison of the benefits and drawback of regular versus intensive classes in her post. Though she is talking about English, the same concepts apply for learning other languages.

Nevertheless, it should be noted that other studies such as the one conducted by Renate Schulz have concluded that “intensive courses hold much potential for those students interested in gaining proficiency in a language in a minimal amount of time” (Schulz 1979).

At-Home versus Immersion


  • No need to take time off from work for travel and study
  • Most cost effective (at times)


  • Those who were immersed performed better on standardized tests
  • Those who were immersed developed better pronunciation
  • Allows for internalization of the language and passive learning
  • Offers continuing education outside of the classroom
  • Some offer practicums in the target language to allow the professional to be immersed in the language in their occupational area.

For information on the benefits of immersion courses, see this article by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages or this one by Tara Williams Fortune and the Asia Society.

Online Learning

The main benefits for online learning:

  • Time: You can fit the study into your current schedule (as they say, time is money)
  • Access to native professors: Most programs offer only native professors
  • Cost: These programs are often less expensive since you do not have to travel to take a course that may not be offered in your area

The main drawbacks for online learning:

  • Lack of interaction with peers or natives
  • Less accountability: When life gets busy, an online class is easier to drop out of than a regular one

For more information see 5 Essential Benefits to Learning Languages Online and Jennifer Madison´s post on the benefits of learning a language online.  Also, if you decide online is the way to go, the blog where today´s image is from, Spanish Bites, has some good tips for choosing an online course in this post.

Please feel free to share what type of course you prefer and why as well as information regarding courses that you have found beneficial!


About abennink

Spanish and English instructor, medical interpreter and health educator. My passion around healthcare, equality, languages and education motivates me to continually seek to develop my skills in each area while also designing ways to use each one to improve the others.
This entry was posted in Spanish Language, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Regular, Online, Intensive or Immersion: What type of course is best?

  1. Hi, Thanks a lot for linking to my Spanish learning blog, Spanish Bites. Maria Fernandez

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