Improving your language skills and fluency is one of the benefits of study abroad, but be prepared to put in some work before you go and once you've arrived.

Required language level

Foreign language requirements, where applicable, are stated on the paper destination lists available from the Study Abroad office. Ask the Study Abroad office if you're unsure of the requirements for a particular university.

If a university has a language requirement, it is included on the exchange partner lists available from the Study Abroad Office and also our VLE organisation. Please ask the Study Abroad Office if you are unsure of the language requirements for a particular university.

Most universities measure language level according to the Common European Framework of Reference for languages (CEFR). You are usually expected to be comfortably at B1 level, as a minimum, by the end of level 2 at Leeds. Some of our partner universities will have a higher minimum language requirement.

Because the CEFR aims to compare language levels across different countries’ school systems, it doesn’t correlate directly to GCSEs and A Levels, so it’s important to read a description of the different CEFR levels on the Europass website.

This table shows the approximate equivalent qualifications:

 CEFR level  FLTU module  Approximate equivalence
 A1  Beginner
 A2  Elementary  GCSE A* - C
 B1  Lower Intermediate  AS Level A* - C
 B2  Upper Intermediate  A Level A* - C
 C1  Advanced
 C2  Advanced Plus  Near-native fluency

Demonstrating your language proficiency

If you apply to a university which teaches in another language, you must be prepared to demonstrate your language competency to the Study Abroad office on application to the Study Abroad programme. This will take the form of a written statement during which you should:

  • State your CEFR level (as a self-assessment) – see the Europass website for CEFR level descriptions.
  • Give details of what you have studied to date to enable you to reach that level.
  • Give details of your plans to improve your language competency before departure.

When writing your statement, please bear in mind that B1 is the minimum language requirement. You need to be able to show your willingness and enthusiasm to progress beyond this level.

The majority of partner universities that have a set language requirement will ask you to send in evidence of your language level in the form of a certificate. You will usually be expected to do this as part of your formal application to your host university, and not at the time of your initial application to the Leeds Study Abroad office. If you are unsure of how you will formally evidence your language level, please speak to a Study Abroad adviser.

Improving your language skills

Whether you’re studying in another language and want to build up your confidence and academic vocabulary, or will be taught in English but want to learn the basics, there are various ways for you to improve your language skills in advance of your study abroad year.

Discovery modules

You may be able to study a language as a discovery module. Languages for All (based within the School of Languages, Cultures and Societies) offers a wide range of 10 and 20 credit discovery modules in a variety of languages. These are coded "FLTU" in the module catalogue. 40 credits should equip you to cope well with everyday communication abroad. If you have queries, contact

The Language Zone

The Language Zone (in the Language Centre)  is located on the second floor of the Parkinson Building and is open to all students. There are self-study resources for over 40 different languages, including live and recorded TV broadcasts, computer software, audio and video practice material, newspapers and magazines. If you can't find resources in the language you're interested in, speak to staff. There are also lots of resources on the Language Zone Minerva pages.

You can get advice on any aspect of language learning, including putting together a personalised strategy for strengthening your language skills, from the language learning advice service. To make an appointment, email  or talk to staff in the Language Zone.

Language exchanges and Language groups

Many international students at Leeds are looking for native English speakers to practise their conversational skills with. The Language Zone staff in the Parkinson Building keep a register of interested students so you can find someone with similar interests to you to practice a language with.

If you look for an opportunity to meet regularly with other students to practise the language you are learning, you can also sign up to join a Language Group. Language Groups are led by students who are native speakers who facilitate friendly relaxed conversation sessions on various topics. In the 2016/17 academic year the Language Zone run language groups for English, French, German and Spanish.

Applications to join a language group in any of these languages open in early October 2017.

Leeds Erasmus and International exchange Society

Arrange informal meetings to practice the language with an incoming exchange student at Leeds by joining the Erasmus and International Exchange Society. Add “ESN Leeds - Erasmus and International exchange Society Leeds” on Facebook.

Global Café

Meet our international students at Functions in Leeds University Union from 17.30 to 19.30 every Monday.
The Global Café is a great way to practice your language skills in an informal setting while enjoy free tea, coffee and biscuits.

Private language courses

An internet search will bring up companies offering private language tuition. Charges will vary.
Leeds Beckett University (formerly Leeds Metropolitan) offers evening classes in different languages over the academic year for a reasonable fee. For Spanish, there's also the Instituto Cervantes on Woodhouse Lane. 

Pre-sessional language courses

Many universities offer intensive pre-sessional language courses aimed at new international students. The cost of these varies. Courses run over the summer and usually last between two and six weeks. Research costs and dates on your host university's website.

An intensive language course at your future host university (or with a private provider in your future host city) can also give you time to familiarise yourself with the city, look for accommodation (if you need to) and maybe meet other exchange students who'll be at the university.