Learning a New Language When You Study Abroad

Studying abroad is an exciting and transformative experience for prospective university students. It offers the opportunity to immerse oneself in a new culture, gain global perspectives, and expand academic horizons. But one aspect that should not be overlooked when embarking on this adventure is the immense value of learning a new language. Whether you are studying in France, Japan, Spain, or any other destination, acquiring local language skills can enhance your experience in countless ways. In this article, we will explore the benefits of learning a new language while studying abroad and provide valuable insights and strategies for a successful language-learning journey.

10 Benefits of Learning a New Language

  1. Enhanced Communication: Learning the local language allows you to effectively communicate with locals, fellow students, and professors, fostering deeper connections and understanding.
  2. Cultural Immersion: Language learning opens doors to immerse yourself in the local culture, traditions, and customs, providing a richer and more authentic study abroad experience.
  3. Academic Success: Understanding the language of instruction improves comprehension, participation, and academic performance, enhancing your overall learning experience.
  4. Career Advancement: Language proficiency adds value to your resume, making you more marketable in an increasingly global job market, especially for positions that require cross-cultural communication and international collaboration.
  5. Personal Growth: Learning a new language challenges your cognitive abilities, improves problem-solving skills, and boosts self-confidence, fostering personal growth and resilience.
  6. Social Integration: Speaking the local language helps you connect and build relationships with locals, fellow students, and international peers, creating a sense of belonging and expanding your social network.
  7. Travel Opportunities: Language skills enable you to navigate and explore the country more independently, unlocking a wider range of travel experiences and interactions with locals.
  8. Cultural Sensitivity: Language learning promotes cultural sensitivity, empathy, and understanding, allowing you to interact respectfully and navigate potential cultural differences with ease.
  9. Deeper Understanding: Learning the language provides a deeper understanding of the country’s history, literature, and art, allowing you to engage more meaningfully with the local culture and academic curriculum.
  10. Personal Fulfillment: Mastering a new language is a rewarding and fulfilling achievement, offering a sense of accomplishment and leaving you with lifelong language skills that can be applied in various contexts.

Research & Preparation

Learning a new language can be challenging, but also rewarding and fun. Before you embark on your study abroad adventure, it helps if you prepare yourself for language learning in the following ways.

Researching the local language and culture of your host country is a crucial step to ensure effective communication. Understanding how the language sounds and is spoken will help you better comprehend and be understood by locals. In addition, familiarizing yourself with the cultural context of the language will enhance your overall understanding. This includes being aware of customs, traditions, etiquette, and social norms that may influence how people communicate. By investing time in learning about the local language and culture, you can demonstrate respect for your host country’s customs while also making it easier to navigate daily interactions.

Consider setting realistic and specific goals to keep you motivated and focused on your progress. By establishing clear targets, you can track your development and have a sense of accomplishment as you reach each milestone. When setting goals, it’s important to be realistic. Take into account factors such as your current proficiency level, available time for practice, and other commitments in your life. Setting unattainable goals can lead to frustration and demotivation. Additionally, be specific when you define your goals. Instead of simply stating “I want to learn the new language,” try breaking it down into smaller, more manageable goals. For example:

1. Aim to learn a certain number of vocabulary words or phrases per week.

2. Set a target for understanding basic conversations within a specific timeframe.

3. Plan to achieve fluency in reading and writing by focusing on grammar rules and practicing regularly.

By being specific with your goals, you can create actionable steps that will guide your learning journey effectively. Remember that everyone learns at their own pace, so don’t compare yourself too much with others’ progress. Celebrate small victories along the way and remain adaptable in adjusting your goals if necessary.

Language Learning Strategies

Strategy 1: Immersion

International students relaxing on the grounds of University College Dublin Study in Ireland
International students on the grounds of University College Dublin.

Immersion is the strategy of surrounding yourself with the language as much as possible. This means that you try to use the language in every aspect of your life, such as speaking, listening, reading, writing, thinking, and even dreaming. Immersion can help you to learn the language naturally, quickly, and deeply, and is often considered one of the most effective methods for language acquisition. By living in the country while you study, you are already naturally immersing yourself in a useful environment. However, it can be easy to lose sight of this, especially when your course is taught in another language and your friendship circle is limited to other international students.

Engage with the community

Find groups that share similar interests as you do (e.g., sports clubs, hobby groups) where you can interact with locals who can help you practice speaking their language. Engaging in volunteer work or internships allows you the added bonus of contributing positively to society.

Local Activities and Events

Find and attend activities and events that interest you. They are opportunities to improve your speaking skills by conversing with native speakers, while also gaining a deeper understanding of the local culture. You can find activities and events by checking your university’s resources, local community boards, social media groups, forums,or websites that facilitate socializing and networking. Additionally, Language schools and cultural centers often organize events where you can meet fellow language learners and native speakers.

Native Speakers

Don’t shy away from making friends with local students and individuals. Not only can you practice your language skills in a natural and authentic way, but you may be able to count on them to correct your mistakes, teach you slang and idioms, and engage you in conversations around your mutual interests. You can also learn how to use the language in various contexts and situations, such as casual conversations, formal meetings, or social events. You never know, they may be eager to learn your language from you as well.

Strategy 2: Formal Language Classes

Beijing Language and Culture School specializes in international Chinese language education in China. They also offer a range of tailored online classes.

Formal classes are the strategy of learning the language in a structured and systematic way. This means that you follow a curriculum that covers the essential elements of the language, such as grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, and culture. Formal classes can help you to learn the language accurately, correctly, and comprehensively.

Language courses at your university

Taking language classes at a university is a great way to learn a new language in a structured and comprehensive manner. These courses are often designed by experienced instructors who can provide you with the necessary guidance and resources to effectively learn the language.

Language exchange programs

Language exchange programs offer individuals the valuable opportunity to practice their target language with native speakers. It can be an immersive experience that can greatly enhance your speaking skills and cultural understanding. The programs facilitate mutual learning by creating a reciprocal experience, where participants can both teach and learn from each other. Interacting with people from diverse backgrounds also helps you build your cross-cultural understanding and empathy.

Private Tutors

For those seeking a more personalized and structured approach to language learning, hiring a private tutor is an option. With one-on-one instruction, tutors can cater to your specific needs and learning style, working with you to improve your pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary, and overall language fluency. When looking for a tutor, it’s important to consider their qualifications and experience. Look for someone who is a native speaker or has advanced proficiency in the local language. Many universities have language departments that offer tutoring services or can provide recommendations. Other options are local language schools and online platforms that connect students with tutors from around the world.

Remember that consistency is key when it comes to learning a new language. Be sure to practice outside of formal classes or tutoring sessions. This will accelerate your progress as you will reinforce what you’ve learned.

Strategy 3: Independent Study

Memrise is one of the most popular apps for learning a new language.
Memrise is a popular language app that allows you to learn independently and at your own pace.

Independent study is the strategy of learning the language by yourself and at your own pace. By setting your own goals, planning your own schedule, and choosing your own resources, you can learn the language flexibly, autonomously, and creatively.

Language learning apps and websites

Language learning apps and websites have long been valuable tools to aid in the language learning process. These platforms provide learners with convenient access to a wide range of resources, interactive exercises, and engaging content, allowing you to enhance your language skills from the comfort of your home. Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced learner, utilizing language learning apps and websites can greatly accelerate your progress and open doors to new opportunities in an increasingly interconnected world.

Numerous language learning apps, such as Duolingo, Babbel, and Rosetta Stone, provide interactive lessons, vocabulary drills, and audio exercises to help you improve your skills at your own pace. Additionally, online platforms like Memrise or FluentU offer engaging content tailored to different proficiency levels.

Other language learning materials

Engaging with textbooks, workbooks, flashcards, or audio recordings specifically designed for self-study can be an effective way to reinforce what you’ve learned in formal classes or through apps/websites. These resources typically cover grammar rules, vocabulary lists, dialogues for conversation practice, etc., providing a well-rounded approach to improving all aspects of the target language.

Remember that consistency is key when it comes to independent study; setting aside dedicated time each day or week will ensure steady progress towards achieving fluency in your chosen foreign tongue!

The Importance of Cultural Immersion

Cultural immersion refers to fully engaging and participating in the customs, traditions, and day-to-day life of a different culture. It involves immersing oneself in the local language, cuisine, arts, festivals, and social norms, and interacting with locals. A country’s culture plays a key role in understanding its language.

1. Language Acquisition: Cultural immersion provides an authentic environment where you can practice your target language consistently. By interacting with native speakers daily, you can improve your listening skills and develop fluency in speaking.

2. Contextual Learning: Understanding a new language goes beyond grammar rules and vocabulary lists. By experiencing the culture firsthand through cultural immersion, you gain insight into how language is used in different contexts. For example, idioms, slang expressions, and non-verbal communication cues that are an integral part of everyday speech.

3. Cultural Understanding: Language is deeply intertwined with culture. Through cultural immersion experiences, you gain firsthand exposure to the values, belief systems, and social dynamics of the host country’s culture. This helps to develop cross-cultural competence and empathy towards others’ perspectives.

4. Breaking Stereotypes: Immersion experiences allow you to challenge preconceived stereotypes you may have about other cultures by providing real-life interactions that expose you to diverse perspectives.

5. Personal Growth: Studying abroad allows you to step out of your comfort zone and adapt to unfamiliar surroundings independently. This fosters personal growth by enhancing problem-solving skills and resilience while building self-confidence.

To truly embrace the local culture and customs, it’s important to be open-minded and aware of the cultural norms. Approach your new environment with curiosity and respect for different traditions, values, and ways of life.

Apply to Study Abroad

Remember that learning a new language when you study abroad takes time and effort, so be patient with yourself throughout the process. Don’t be discouraged by mistakes or setbacks along the way. Learning a new language is a process that requires perseverance. With consistent effort and a positive mindset, you’ll gradually become more comfortable communicating in the new language while studying abroad.

If you haven’t yet, you can find and apply online to your dream program anywhere in the world through Global Admissions.

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