You know that feeling when you’re studying for an exam and all of a sudden it hits you: why am I learning this language? What good will this knowledge do me in my lifetime? This is a question many students ask themselves when they are faced with the prospect of taking on yet another language.
But did you know that there are actually several very practical reasons to learn another language, even if your goal isn’t to become fluent or work overseas? Language study abroad provides concrete benefits that can be applied after graduation, no matter what career field you pursue. Here are five practical ways to maximize your language-learning experience while studying abroad.
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- Find a Language Partner
- Learn the Local Dialect to Connect with Locals
- Use Translation Apps to Help You Get Started
- Watch Movies, TV Shows, YouTube Videos, and Read Books and Newspapers in the Target Language
- Get out of Your Comfort Zone and Try New Things.
Benefits of Learning New Language
The benefits of new language learning are, at best, abstract. While it’s easy to see how a second language can enhance your future career path–just look at the rise in demand for bilingual employees and international business-savvy workers—you’ll be hard-pressed to find examples of individuals who were able to use their knowledge of another language while still in school. But it’s very possible that you know people who have taken advantage of the language skills they studied overseas after their study abroad experience and can prove to yourself how useful studying a language outside of campus walls can be.
Language study is not solely about expanding your vocabulary and learning new rules for language usage. Language classes are also a great opportunity to practice adaptability, problem-solving, and teamwork skills. All of these qualities are highly sought after when it comes time for job hunting. To further prove the point that language study is good for your career, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the greatest increase in foreign language jobs over the next seven years will be among medical support workers, who are needed to help provide medical assistance in countries where English is not commonly spoken.
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Why studying abroad is the best way to learn a new language
Studying abroad is the perfect way to learn a new language because you’re immersed in an environment where it’s necessary to speak and be understood. This provides a great opportunity for academic and personal growth, not only because you’ll improve your ability to communicate with other people but also because of the knowledge you’ll gain about a different culture.
Language learning is a skill that improves with use. When you’re studying abroad, you’ll have more opportunities to speak your target language as much as possible in order to improve your fluency and comprehension skills.
Studying abroad can help students improve their language skills
Studying abroad will help you improve your language skills in ways you might not have even realized before. For instance, many students find it easier to speak the language in an academic setting than in more casual circumstances. This is because they’re better able to organize their thoughts and present them clearly using a familiar structure that’s already been built over time.
Studying abroad is a great way to test your language learning skills. It helps to challenge you and see where your current abilities are so that you can evaluate what areas you need to focus on improving in the future.
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How to maximize language learning in a study abroad experience
The experience of studying a language in its native country can be one of the most rewarding and eye-opening experiences a student can have. To get the most out of your time abroad, follow these tips.
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Find a language partner
Find a partner who speaks both languages so that you can practice together regularly and ask them questions about their culture and language. When you study abroad, you’ll get a chance to meet native speakers when attending lectures or taking part in extracurricular activities. You can also find a partner online.
i. Speak from day one
Don’t wait until your language skills have improved to start using them for real-life applications. Make an effort to speak the language you’re learning from the first day of class. Your language partner, classmates, and friends will appreciate your efforts to communicate with them in their native tongue.
ii. Seek out interactions
If you don’t have a language partner or can’t find one who speaks both languages fluently, language exchange websites provide another way for you to get some speaking practice. It can be a fun way to meet people from around the world and share your experiences with one another.
iii. Take notes
One of the most important components of language learning is note-taking and reviewing what you’ve written down. Take detailed notes about new words, grammar points, or ways to use a specific phrase in context. Even if it’s difficult to do at first, writing down what you hear and read will help you improve your listening comprehension skills.
Learn the local dialect to connect with locals
Even though you’ll probably be learning the standard form of your target language, it’s also important to learn the local dialect. This will help you get a better understanding of your host country and connect with locals on their terms.
Talk to locals as much as possible. You’ll get more speaking practice if you talk to others as much as possible, even if that means going beyond your comfort zone. Small talk with the cashier at a local grocery store or ordering food in a restaurant can be daunting but it’s crucial to doing well in your language learning goals.
Use Translation Apps to Help You Get Started
Translating one word at a time on your phone allows you to communicate with others, even if you can’t speak fluently in the target language. Better yet, use it when reading signs or other visual cues while abroad and save yourself from having to look up every unfamiliar term.
If you find that you can’t get a lot of speaking practice or simply want to use your time abroad to focus on improving your comprehension skills, learning basic phrases through Google Translate is another way for you to gain some exposure. Just set the app to the voice setting and speak into your phone or tablet so that it can record what you’re saying and play the phrase back.
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Watch movies, TV shows, YouTube videos, and read books and newspapers in the target language.
You can find plenty of material in the language you’re learning online. Find movies or TV shows with subtitles, scripts, or both to help improve your comprehension skills and reading proficiency.
Listening to music from a different country can help you learn about the culture of others and even expand your knowledge of dialects. Just make sure that the lyrics are appropriate for in-class use.
The key to building a solid language foundation is by practising regularly. Whether that means watching movies in the target language during downtime or taking a break from studying to work on your listening comprehension skills, having the tools and resources you need readily available will give you more opportunities to practice.
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Get out of your comfort zone and try new things.
You don’t know what you will enjoy until you try it.
Enjoying the process is an important part of language learning and should be a big part of your journey abroad. If you’re not enjoying yourself or having fun while practising, you may want to reevaluate why you wanted to learn this specific language in the first place. While there is nothing wrong with wanting to learn another language for the sake of learning, you should try to make it fun and meaningful.
Make sure to practice speaking the new language every day even if it’s just for 10 minutes!
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Get involved in volunteer work – it’s a great way to meet people who are native speakers of the language you’re learning, and it will give you an opportunity to practice what you’ve learned so far!
Do not be afraid to make mistakes or ask for help when you need it.
Join an international club or organization at your school, which can help you make friends with people from different countries.
There are many benefits to learning a new language, but the biggest one is that it can open up more opportunities for you. Students who study abroad have an opportunity not only to learn how to speak another language fluently, they also gain skills in cultural understanding and world issues so they can be better prepared as global citizens. Studying abroad doesn’t just help students improve their language skills-it helps them grow into confident people with worldly experience so they’re equipped for success outside of academia.
About the author: K C Raj is a career counselor and recruiter with many years of experience. Interested in topics like human development, education, immigration, inequality, and many other international issues. K C Raj is a socialist in thinking, and believes in “One Nation, One World” theory.
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