This paper explores issues arising from large-scale, relatively short-term (4-16 week) overseas language immersion and study abroad programmes for Hong Kong's pre-and in-service teachers. It argues that shortterm study abroad is an under-researched and under-valued field that both benefits and suffers from intuitive, often ill-informed judgements of worth. An overview is provided of: typical issues encountered by staff and students in the course of delivering and taking part in such programmes; possible solutions to problems observed; and the type, range and scale of gains that might reasonably be expected of participants. Reference is made to various contexts - under- and post-graduate programmes; culturally diverse locations ranging over three continents and to changing global circumstances - which may impinge on such programmes. Discussion takes account of the literature on generic study abroad and addresses the specific learning environments required of successful commissioned programmes of this type. In particular, issues of classroom vs communitybased learning, combined focuses of learning within a single multiply-oriented context, implicit learning and reflection vs pedagogical cultural imperialism, intercultural communication and constructive engagement are explored. Finally, recommendations for optimisation and research-based development are offered, based on hard and soft data acquired during extensive formal and informal evaluation and ongoing development of shortterm English language immersion programmes. The paper is of interest to academics seeking a framework from which to approach learning-focused links between tertiary education, language and culture and to current or potential study abroad providers and commissioners.