The world we’re living in is more interconnected than ever. Whether you’re learning Spanish, German, Mandarin Chinese, or even English, learning a learning a second language benefits everyone around the globe. There are many ways to do it, whether it’s through classes in college, apps on our phone, software on your computer, or talking to friends or family members who speak another language.
However, one thing is certain: the best way to learn a language quickly is through methods of immersion. There are many ways to learn a new language in an immersive context, but one of the best ways to get truly fluent and immersed in a language is if you study abroad. So, follow our language tips and you’ll be able to take advantage of everything your host country has to offer!
As one of our most valuable study abroad language acquisition tips, keep in mind that it pays to start learning the basics before you pack your bags. Whether you have a few months or just a few weeks to prepare, there’s a lot you can do to make sure you can carry on basic conversations, ask for directions, and participate in classes.
Your home university may offer courses in your target language. However, if it doesn’t, then consider an immersion course that gets you active and engaged while letting you hone in on grammar, syntax, and even cultural do’s and don’ts that let you hit the ground running once you arrive.
If you want to be as proficient as possible, opt for a class where English isn’t allowed from the time the class starts to the moment it finishes. This will force you to think in the target language you’re learning, while letting you practice intuitively, with an instructor who can guide you along with classmates also learning at your level.
If you’re going to a popular study abroad destinations in Europe, there’s a tendency among locals to revert to English if they notice you’re anything less than fluent in their native tongue. This is especially true in Germany, the Netherlands, and in Scandinavian countries where many natives, particularly those in larger urban areas, will speak to foreigners in English. Don’t be discouraged! As another one of our key study abroad language tips, we have a few ways you can avoid that “English trap.”
It can be difficult to stay immersed in your new language if you’re only learning a few hours a week or if you’re in a specialized program where English may be your language of instruction. However, there’s a number of things that’ll benefit you as you’re learning a second language.
Find a native speaking student looking to brush up on English as a second language. Having a study partner helps when you’re trying to learn a learn a new language in segmented, one-on-one conversations, and you’ll have a unique opportunity to learn from a native speaker at your own pace. Break up study sessions into portions that involve you giving instructions on English conversation as a native speaker while alternating with your study partner who’ll teach you as well.
Regardless of your skill levels, living with a host family when you study abroad is among the best ways to learn a language or culture quickly. This can work in tandem with our other study abroad language tips, as you’ll be forced to overcome any initial language barriers. While that may sound nerve-wracking, keep in mind that your host family will be patient and will be prepared to help you learn as much as you can.
This can be especially helpful when it comes to studying abroad in places where English language skills may not be common such as Japan, Saudia Arabia, or China. Make it a point to regularly participate in chores to learn names for common household objects and directions. Also, attend meals to learn more about your host family’s culture, local cuisine, and manners.
When you’re out and about, make sure to engage with locals as much as possible. Go to bookstores to hone your skills in reading and writing. Practice ordering coffee or tea at a local cafe. On the weekends, go to local bars and restaurants if you’d like to get a feel for how native speakers socialize. As one of our key study abroad language learning tips, remember to speak as much as possible. Even if you falter or stumble over your words at first, it’ll be great practice for you to learn from.
In between classes and homework, remember to experience as much of your target language’s media as possible. Watch local news programs, comedies, dramas, and even dubbed American sitcoms if you want some extra practice!
As with casual conversations, the important thing is to remain immersed, even in your free time. Visit local libraries and check out books that align with your studies or personal interests. Are you studying something in a STEM field? Look up math or science reference works that focus on tops you’re already familiar with. How about something in the arts? Look up regional fashion, fine art, or design publications. After you’re done, quiz yourself on comprehension. Here’s another study abroad language tip: mouth the words to yourself or whisper if you can. Remember, the more you speak, the more you practice saying words naturally.
While you’re studying abroad, our language tips can also be put into practice if you travel frequently. Many popular study abroad destinations have advanced railway and public transit systems, especially in Japan and Europe. So, take advantage of your local transportation options and hit the road!
Look for destinations within your host country that are popular with locals. Take tours as much as you can (especially ones that are in the language you’re learning.) This will help you see sights with a local, native speaker’s frame of mind, and it’ll give you more opportunities to hone your comprehension and listening skills.
As an added practice tip, consider keeping a travel journal while you’re abroad. This will give you a chance to reflect on what you’ve learned while writing in your target language.
While this may be a costly, long-term option, living abroad offers the best opportunities for full language immersion. After studying abroad, these language tips can be used for work, travel, and everyday life in your new home.
If you’re set on living abroad permanently, there are a number of ways to go about this. Many countries have long-term visa programs and may even offer relocation incentives for native English speakers, especially if they plan on teaching English.
After you’ve settled your residency details, remember these tips and tricks. Traveling abroad is always exciting and can open up your own life to new experiences. So, whether or not you plan on settling down or you’re setting your sights on traveling the world, these language tips will help you keep an open mind wherever you are.