Now you know all about the many benefits of learning a foreign language during your study abroad placement, it’s time to put your money where your mouth is to ensure those lofty ambitions of speaking a foreign language become reality. Whilst most of it is just a question of practise, practise, practise, there are a few different methods you can carry out to achieve language fluency throughout your study abroad experience.
Fake it until you make it
Learning a language initially is nerve-wracking even for the most confident person, as you have to be prepared to make mistakes, a lot. But without mistakes, you won’t make progress so embrace making a fool out of yourself and throw yourself in the deep end. Start up conversations with everyone, get talking and put into practise all the material you’ve learnt in class. There is no replacement for actual practise with a native speaker, so forget worrying about whether it’s masculine or feminine, what tense you need to be using and the like and give it a go. Confidence is a huge factor to learning languages and even though it may be excruciatingly embarrassing, every time you make a mistake, you will learn something new and your confidence will, once you get over the initial embarrassment (which you will!), grow leaps and bounds.
Give yourself a head start
Before you go study abroad, learn the 100 most commonly used words and phrases. This will give you a foundation in the language and will help you greatly in the initial stages to settle down and establish yourself in your new study abroad city. Once you’ve learnt the 100 most commonly used words, make sure you learn how to say “How do you say…” then you can ask native speakers about even more vocabulary and add it to yours. Whilst there is no replacement for practise and immersion, free online language learning resources such as DuoLingo are a great tool to set yourself off on your language learning journey and begin to construct basic sentence structures.
Listen to your favourite new musician
Music is a great way to pick up a language without having try too hard, you can have it gently playing in the background without having to concentrate too hard. However, if you take time to listen to the lyrics, you’ll find it a fascinating language learning exercise. Musical lyrics are also a great insight into a language’s culture as it is often used as a social commentary tool and cultural references make a regular appearance. Listening to music will aid you to have a deeper cultural understanding of a country as well as helping you pick up a few new colloquialisms to earn yourself respect from native speaker peers.
Attend language exchanges
Language exchanges are a great way to learn a foreign language as it reduces the usual embarrassment and anxiety because everyone is in the same boat. Everyone is in the middle of learning a foreign language and therefore, everyone understands the frustrations, challenges and difficulties of a learning a new language. It also gets you into contact with native speakers and having to switch between your native language and foreign language means you won’t suffer language burnout as you’ll get the opportunity to rest your brain. All over the world, there are some quite creative and innovative language exchanges from set-ups similar to speed-dating, don’t worry, it’s still purely a language exchange and there’s no dating involved (unless you want to), to pub quizzes, nights out and the like. If you’re looking for language exchanges near you, try Meetup. You could even meet language exchange partners who could, in the long run, become good friends and you’ll have heaps of opportunities to practise your languages to your heart’s content.
The language of love is a great incentive to learn another language. With this added motivation, it is often noted that the rate of language learning is increased tenfold and you’ll have plenty of time to put into practise everything you’ve learnt in the classroom. You also have a natural ally who will encourage and help you on your quest to learn a new language. Obviously, this only applies to those who are single but if you do find yourself single on your study abroad placement, you never know, love may just be around the corner and you may gain a new language to boot.
Full language immersion
You’re setting yourself up for a huge challenge if you opt to go for a full language immersion. However, you will reap huge rewards if you do. It is knackering, challenging and frustrating to begin with, however you will notice you will start to pick up your newly found language skills like a sponge the more you immerse yourself in the language. Full language immersion means using all 4 of your language skills: listening, reading, writing and speaking to the max. Listen to radio stations or the news on the way to university, get yourself some new friends who are native speakers or fellow linguists like yourself and converse solely in the language, read newspapers, gossip magazines, children’s stories and signs on the metro and write down all the new words you learn each day. There will be many occasions when you encounter frustrations and language barriers but by the end of your study abroad period, you will be glad you pushed yourself when you return having come leaps and bounds in your foreign language skills.
Revise, revise, revise
If you remember only one piece of advice, remember this: revision is absolutely essential if you want to have any hope of retaining your newly acquired language skills. But how you revise is down to you, try to adapt to your learning style so you can learn in the most optimal way possible. That way you are engaged in the learning process as well as ensuring that you will pick up those much needed language skills. No matter where you are on your language learning journey, the key to retention is revision. But that’s the beauty of language learning, it’s forever a learning process and each and every day you can learn something new.