Dean Fatas told us at orientation week that as an international school it is important for us to know 3 languages - our native language, English, and a 3rd language in a basic level. It kind of makes sense, since this is definitely one of the most international business schools. However, the implementation of the language program at INSEAD kind of ruin the noble concept.
Apperantely the courses are run by an independent contractor (or something like that) - I will call them "The Company", and those guys run the language program at INSEAD. On orientation week you do a placement test (if you want) - for 115 Euros, at the language of your choice. The test is written by The Company, and is very hard. If you get 100 you are fluent in that language. Get over 50 and you are basic level, and this is the minimum requirement for the exit level - you are done with languages. Less than 50 and you will have to somehow pass the exam (the difficult exam again) later that year.
Alternatively, you may choose to take the courses offered by The Company on campus (depending on your level, you might need to take courses for 1,2, or even 3 semesters). The courses require payment of around 500 euros per period. If you do those courses you will get much easier exams at the end of each period (passing it is guaranteed, trust me).
The Placement Exam
As I said it is hard. There is definitely a conflict of interests here - the same company who will train you for 1500 euros if you fail the exam is the one writing it. Do you wonder why the exam is hard? I am not saying the The Company and INSEAD is deliberatly doing something unethical, but the doubts still remain. The exam that you do after you study 3 preiods with The Company is much easier and everybody passes it (after we pay so much for it, we had better pass it).
The exam is a written exam. People told me that they studied for 2 month, scored the 51 they needed, but cannot speak or understand a word. The fact that they scored 51 is impressive by itself, as the exam contains all the most isoteric grammatical exceptions, and focuses on vocabulary that no-one knows or needs.
I studied 2 month before coming to INSEAD with a private teacher. I studied most of the needed grammer, but I did not have the time to study the vocabulary well. So I ended with a 31. I managed to save one period. I should have started the Spanish courses in p2 (Beginner 2) with the people who finished Spanish Begginer 1, but the company suggested that we start on p1.
Studying Spanish at INSEAD
First of all I suggest that people learn French in France. I wanted to study an easier language, but it is difficult to live in Fonty without knowing a single word of French.
We were arranged in 2 groups of 6. The teacher is from Spain, and is very nice. From the first lesson she talked with us only in Spanish. So we stare at her in discomfort, and she talks to us completely aware that we do not understand a single word that comes from her mouth. We got used to it during the period, and even manage to assemble a short sentence (a very stuttering one).
We learnt some of the tenses in Spanish (present, future, and a little past), we learnt some vocabulary - nothing exciting. I already knew most of it, so it was 80% complete waste of time (and money). There are 16 lessons of 1 and a half hour stuck in my already busy schedule. It is so nice to have 3 lectures back to back, and then have another 2 Spanish lessons (5 straight if you lost count). Or to have your first lecture at 14:00 but your Spanish lesson is at 9:00 (especially in a cold morning).
We did a quiz in mid term - ungraded. Then at the end of the period we had an oral exam - we had to pick one of 3 topics and talk about it 5-10 minutes in front of the class. Everybody chose to talk about their family. Everybody surprisingly passed.
Then we had a one hour written exam that I finished in 35 minutes (I studied for half an hour). It was pretty easy.
Summary of the first period
I haven't learnt much (but paid much). It was stuck in my schedule, and was 80% waste of time. In my opinion it missed the point. I did not have a lot of time to spend, and would have preffered to not do it at all.
Lucky for me in p2 I have to go through it all over again (Beginner 3 class). And I don't imagine that I will learn much. At the end of p2 we will have another exam, this time covering all the material we have learnt so far. Pass that exam and you are Basic. In my mind I am Basic now. The only reason I had to study his Spanish thing at INSEAD because the pleacement test was too hard (that's my take on it at least). Of course I cannot talk or understand in a reasonable way, but the placement test was a written exam (so no-one actually cares about that).
Tips for next years promotion
Get rid of it before you come here. Study as much as you can in order to get 51 in the placement exam.
Of course think if the costs. If you come here knowing nothing, you will spend 1500 euros and it will take much of your time. Think positive NPV for a second - if you will spend less back home on private lessons, and learn enough to get 51 you don't need The Company and it is much cheaper.