I’ve been really busy at uni recently, so many classes and exams are coming up soon 🙁 but anyways, I thought I’d write a blog about improving a language abroad because I think it’s really important to be able to communicate with local people and to also feel at ease, like at home!
So as you know already, I am a Modern Languages student which gives me an advantage when it comes to languages as my degree is French and Spanish. However, many of my friends studying different subjects have chosen a country where they didn’t know the language and they’re just fine, subconsciously they’ve actually picked up many phrases and some have enrolled on some language courses and are now speaking very well.
I’m going to list a few different ways that I’ve found useful and hopefully at least one will help you on your Year Abroad:
Find native speakers
Okay, so this is pretty obvious but it’s harder than it seems because most Erasmus or study abroad students tend to mingle with each other because they’re in the same boat. It is important to have Erasmus friends for trips and to be able to relax and speak your language once in a while but I can’t stress how important it is to talk to natives. I have found most of my natives in the student residence but also, at events, in class during group projects, tandem programs, through friends and some are even study abroad students from Mexico for example, etc.
There’s always a way and they’re usually friendly and can help you learn a lot of fun colloquial phrases.
It’s important to attend uni because that way you are listening to the teacher, doing homework and being surrounded by that language. However, the language is everywhere so when going to the restaurant I always ask for the Spanish menu and try my best to learn new words from shop signs, to the push and pull on the doors etc.
Basically, stay alert and observe the small everyday vocabulary.
Here, in Spain people generally listen to songs in Spanish and at parties they play them a lot. The residence had the Spring formal last weekend and there were many songs that I didn’t know, especially the older ones but the Spanish were teaching me the words and it was a lot of fun! So, I think showing them that you’re interested in their culture is going to help improve a language greatly.
Being in a foreign university gives us access to a foreign library and there are so many books in the native language to try and read. I have read a few that I needed for my course and I feel that reading the language outside of class makes it easier, especially when it comes to the exams.
I’m really brave when it comes to languages, I’ll learn one phrase in a foreign language that I don’t know and go around saying it to every native I meet 😀 but for some people it’s a lot harder and they feel embarrassed speaking, especially in front of natives. What helps me is to think that they can’t speak English the way you can and that if you make mistakes yes, they may laugh if it’s something funny but normally it’s not and they’ll just help. For example, my roommate corrected me because I kept making the same mistake, I was so grateful and now I try and get it right. So don’t worry about getting it wrong.
Finally, there are lots of other ways too, but integration and immersion are key! Hope this blog has been informative and has given you confidence to go abroad and improve your language skills!