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TRAVEL TIPS & INTEL

8 Study Abroad Tips for Learning the Language of Your Host Country

Group of friends study abroad
Written by Suzy Guese

Studying abroad is an amazing experience for any student who wants to learn more about the country they’re interested in, have a ton of memorable adventures, and make new friends. Learning your destination’s language will make your trip run a lot smoother, and you’ll feel extra accomplished. With any study abroad experience, your language skills are sure to improve, but not without practicing these tips on how to learn a language.

Before you take off on a study abroad trip, keep these study abroad tips in mind for learning the local tongue.

Know It Won’t Be Perfect

Girl with globe

Learning how to pronounce every word in your destination’s language isn’t going to be possible on a single semester stint. For the prideful, it can be difficult to make mistakes or face ridicule from locals. So, if you’re studying abroad, you’ll need to be able to admit that your language skills aren’t perfect, and accept it. People may laugh and correct you, but keep in mind that you need to make those mistakes in order to gain a sense of the language.  The goal is to try. If you’re afraid of messing up, you’ll never speak up. Laugh along with them and know your pronunciation won’t be perfect.

You may also like: Five Tips for Choosing the Perfect Study Abroad Program for You 

Resist English Like the Plague

If you’re studying abroad and you want locals to speak to you in their language, you have to be disciplined yourself. Study-abroad students need to resist speaking English whenever possible. Rather than only making English-speaking friends or ordering in English at the dinner table, study-abroad students need to try the local tongue. Otherwise, you’ll struggle with getting into the swing of your destination’s language.

Select the Right School

Student abroad

Sometimes, your success in learning a language on your trip abroad boils down to the school you select. If you pick a school that caters only to English-speaking students, chances are you’re going to be speaking English most of the time. If you select a school with more of an international focus where students come from all over the world, you’ll all share the common language you chose to study. Before you pick a school, be sure that its main focus is learning the language that you desire. If it’s just like your home university, it will be a lot more difficult to learn a new language.

Challenge Yourself With Your Studies

Girl traveling

For some, studying abroad is just a means to travel and learn in a new place. However, if you really want to try to pick up some of your destination’s language, you’ll have to challenge yourself with your studies. Rather than signing up for the bare minimum language requirements, a classroom can provide the perfect environment to challenge yourself with a new language. If you’re worried you’ll be laughed at and make mistakes, a classroom environment can feel the most welcoming. Even if you’re worried about taking a subject course like history in a different language, try it. The challenge will increase your proficiency and help you set the bar high for your language goals.

Sign Up for a Homestay

The semesters spent living with locals will accelerate your language comprehension. If every dinner or exchange outside of the classroom becomes a language class in its own right, you stand a better chance of becoming proficient in the country’s native tongue. If you do choose to sign up for a homestay, it’s best to find one as early on as possible. As soon as you’ve booked your airline tickets, it’s time to arrange where you’ll be staying for your trip. That way, if you’re worried about making mistakes with a new language, you’ll have a warm, non-judgemental environment all set for you when you arrive. Those who sign up to host students will almost always be more patient as you stumble around the language.

Read and Listen to the Language Every Day

Girl study abroad tips

In order to learn a language, you have to be listening to it and seeing it every day of your trip. Before you leave home, you should start listening to music or watching TV shows in the language of your destination country. Begin gathering books in that language to help you start learning. Once you arrive, continue to listen to music and watch the news. Grab the daily newspaper and look up words you don’t know. Before you know it, you’ll be able to sing and read in a brand new language when you make it a daily ritual on your study abroad.

Take Advantage of Local Volunteering Opportunities

One of the best ways to learn a language is by getting involved in the local community. Luckily for study abroad students, many schools offer a wealth of volunteering opportunities. By giving back to the community, you’ll be forced to listen and try to speak the local tongue. Whether it’s teaching English to local students or volunteering at shelters in communities in need, you’ll end up polishing your language skills while doing good deeds in the process.

Partake in Language Exchanges

Study abroad tips

Just as you want to learn the local language, there may also be many locals looking to learn English from native speakers too. Many study abroad schools will set up language exchanges in which you can meet with locals who are interested in learning English in exchange for practicing their language with you. These can be casual events in coffee shops where you can have one-on-one conversations to truly fine-tune your language skills. You might learn your desired language for half of the meeting while you help teach English to the locals for the other half. Not only is this a great way to learn a language abroad, but you’ll also establish more local connections that will lead to friendships and conversations in the language you want to learn.

Got any other tips on how to learn your host country’s language when studying abroad? Let us know in the comments below!

About the author

Suzy Guese

Suzy Guese is a travel writer from Denver, Colorado. She caught the travel bug after taking her very first flight at just three months old—she was headed for Disney World—and has been a total travel junkie ever since. From family car trips across North America to stints abroad in Europe, Suzy travels the globe with her redheaded temperament in search of sarcasm, stories, and travel tips to share with anyone willing to listen. She blogs about her travels at http://suzyguese.com.

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