Studying abroad provides a great opportunity to be immersed in a new culture and language. Research shows that language immersion is the best way to learn a new language – it helps learners develop the brain patterns of a native speaker.
Learning the native language in your host country can help you develop intercultural awareness. That will, in turn, help you make the most of your study abroad experience.
If you decide to stay in the country after graduation, your new language skills might also open up more job opportunities.
However, learning a new language isn’t easy. You’ll need to put in some effort to improve your proficiency over time.
To help you achieve native proficiency in the shortest time possible, here are some strategies you can follow:
#1- Take Language Classes
Taking language classes while studying abroad is an effective way to improve your language skills. In language classes, you will learn the grammar and vocabulary rules.
Make sure to choose the right level. For instance, if you’re a beginner, you are likely to feel lost in an advanced class. Assess your proficiency before enrolling and select a class that aligns with your current abilities.
Remember to communicate your goals with the instructors. Whether you want to focus on conversational skills, academic writing, or specific vocabulary, sharing your objectives will help them tailor the instruction to your needs.
To get the most out of language classes, be an active participant. Engage actively in class activities and discussions. Take part in role plays, group discussions, and speaking exercises.
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and ask questions. Active participation helps you practice the language, gain confidence, and receive feedback from your instructor.
#2- Practice with Locals
The best thing about language immersion is that you can practice your skills with native speakers. Most people are happy to help a foreigner polish their language skills.
Don’t be afraid to approach the locals and strike up conversations. Whether it’s in a café, at a community event, or while waiting in line, take the opportunity to engage in conversation. Start with simple greetings and common phrases, and gradually expand your vocabulary and fluency.
Consider living with a host family or in a dormitory where you can interact daily with native speakers. The immersive experience will allow you to practice the language in everyday situations and learn about local customs and traditions.
#3- Attend Cultural Events
In addition, attend local cultural events, festivals, and exhibitions. Not only will such events provide an opportunity to practice your language skills, but they’ll also provide insights into the local customs, traditions and history.
Research upcoming events that you might be interested in. Look for festivals, exhibitions, concerts, theater performances, art shows, or cultural fairs. Check local event listings, websites, social media, and community bulletin boards for information on dates, venues, and ticketing.
Chat with locals, international visitors, or fellow language learners. You can discuss your impressions, exchange cultural insights, and practice your language skills. Taking full advantage of such events can lead to valuable connections and friendships.
#4- Use Language Learning Apps and Websites
Today, with the help of language learning apps, learning a new language is easier than ever. All you have to do is download the app or log into the website to start learning!
The best language learning apps include:
You can also make use of online platforms such as BBC Learning English or language-specific websites to practice your language skills. Such platforms offer a wide range of resources including videos, podcasts, and interactive exercises to enhance your language skills.
To use language learning apps effectively, determine your goals beforehand. Do you want to focus on vocabulary, grammar, listening skills, or speaking fluency? Setting specific goals helps you tailor your usage of these resources and track your progress effectively.
Allocate dedicated time for using language learning apps and websites on a consistent basis. Create a study schedule that includes interactive sessions with these resources. Remember, regular practice is essential for building language skills and retaining knowledge.
Explore the different features offered by language learning apps and websites. Take advantage of vocabulary drills, flashcards, audio exercises, interactive quizzes, and speaking activities. These features help you engage with the language in multiple ways and reinforce your learning.
#5- Keep a Language Journal
Journaling is one of the best ways to keep track of your reflections, thoughts, and ideas. Consider keeping a language journal in your new language.
Aim to write in your language journal on a consistent basis. Set aside dedicated time each day or week to reflect on your language learning experiences, practice writing in the target language, and record your thoughts and observations. Writing regularly not only improves your writing skills but also helps solidify vocabulary and grammar structures.
Your language journal is your space to:
- Reflect on and track your language learning journey – such as challenges and achievements
- Record new vocabulary words, phrases, idioms, and grammar rules that you come across
- Describe your daily experiences and interactions in the new language
- Experiment with different writing styles – such as poems, narratives, opinion pieces, and dialogues
Keeping a language journal is a personal and reflective practice that supports your language learning process. It provides a space for self-expression, goal-setting, and language improvement.
Make it a habit to regularly write in your language journal and enjoy the benefits it brings to your language skills while studying abroad.
#6- Read and Watch Local Media
Reading and watching local media is an excellent way to immerse yourself in the language and culture while studying abroad. It will also help you keep up with the local news and popular culture, giving you something to talk about with your local friends.
Unlike learning language in a formal setting, consuming local media also teaches you colloquial language.
Local media encompasses a wide range of formats including:
- TV shows
- Radio programs
- Social media
For exposure to diverse language styles, topics, and perspectives, explore different formats. If you’re a beginner, consider beginning with simpler content that is suitable for your proficiency level. For instance, graded readers and children’s books, and articles with shorter sentences are a great place to start. Gradually progress to more challenging material as your language abilities improve.
Choose media content that aligns with your interests and hobbies. Doing so will make the reading or viewing experience more enjoyable and engaging. Whether it’s sports, fashion, current affairs, cooking, or entertainment, find content that captivates your attention.
#7- Stay Motivated and Consistent
Learning a language takes time and effort. Stay motivated by setting realistic goals and tracking your progress. Whether it’s achieving a certain level of fluency, passing a language proficiency exam, or comfortably conversing with locals, having specific goals provides direction and motivation.
Break your larger language learning goals into smaller, manageable tasks. Create a study plan with daily or weekly objectives. By focusing on smaller milestones, you can maintain a sense of accomplishment and progress.
Remember to create a consistent study schedule and allocate dedicated time for language learning every day. Celebrate milestones and recognize your achievements to stay motivated.
Studying abroad provides a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in a new language and culture. By actively seeking out various strategies, you can significantly improve your language skills during your time abroad.
Remember to personalize your language learning experience and connect it to your interests and aspirations. Make use of the resources available to you whether it’s formal language classes, digital tools, or the local community. Stay engaged, mix up your learning activities, and find joy in the journey.
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