Making the Best of Your Study Abroad Trip

A problem I often see is language learners who study abroad but end up not learning as much of the language as they would have liked to. There are a few tips I can give for those of you who are planning on studying abroad that should help you learn the language.

First, I should say that simply going to a country where the target language is spoken is not enough to learn it. I’ve seen plenty of people go to a country for long periods of time (even years) and come out still not speaking past a few basic phrases. The point is, you’re going to have to put some effort into learning the language even while you’re in the country if you want to make the best of it.

So, how do we do this? If you don’t have a notecard program set up where you are reviewing new vocabulary already, then make sure you go ahead and do that as soon as possible. Setting it up is a bigger topic and can be read about in my Learn That Language Now book. Once you have your notecard program set up, you can begin adding vocabulary that you come across everyday.

Here is where being in the country really turboboosts your language studies. You are surrounded by real, natural language everyday. All you have to do is find some of the language and then add it to your notecard program. The great thing about being in a foreign country is that this language will surround you and force itself into your face everyday. For example, when I was in Japan, I would ride the subway to class and I was surrounded by advertisements rich with Japanese text. Not only did these advertisements provide me with real practice of my reading skills but I was also able to pick up on new vocabulary and study it later. You can find new vocabulary all around you; whether overheard on the train, seen in the supermarket, read in a newspaper, or anywhere else, it will all become good language practice for you.

Because you are in the country where the language is spoken, you simply cannot fail to find new vocabulary to add and learn. The important point though is that you keep track of it and make an active attempt to learn it. If you do not do this, you can be sure that the next time you come across the word, your chances of remembering it will be significantly lower.

Ultimately, the point is, don’t let the great opportunity of being surrounded by the language trick you into thinking you don’t have to put any effort into it. Study abroad can really boost your studies, but you need to make an active attempt to acquire the words around you, so do it! Another great tip is to find some native friends who can speak to you in the language — I’ll talk more about this in a later post. If you can’t wait or if you want more tricks, tips and the quickest, best method for learning a language, by all means, feel free to read through my site.

Thanks for reading!

– Robbie

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  1. Jessica Sztaimberg

    It is the mistake of many to just practice their grammar and vocabulary without ever using it in context! If you are spending a significant time at home/class studying how to speak, you should be spending even more time actually speaking that language.

    It does seem a bit awkward at first to try to talk solely in a new language, but with practice it starts to sound natural. If you are in another country you should automatically try to speak in that language, whenever you can.

    As you have said, it helps that the language will be surrounding you- whether you are taking a bus ride, looking at a menu, shopping at a clothing store, or watching a movie. As you do more and more activities and spend time thinking in that language, your speaking skills are going to improve.

    Studying does have to be a combination of learning and practicing in order to turn out positively. Talking as much as you can in the new language is the best way to go about it. Asking lots of questions, and practicing answers (whole sentences) does help. I remember when I was first learning Spanish; I did try translating things people were saying, and then I thought of my answer in English, and then thought how to translate it into Spanish. This process took way too long, and I realized after a short while that I already knew what the phrases meant that people were saying. I didn’t have to translate them, I just had to actually think in Spanish, and that way I could answer back quickly.

    I always thought of it this way- I already knew that “¿Cómo estás?” meant “how are you”. I didn’t have to think about it which meant that I automatically answered, “Bien”. I just had to start understanding/recognizing other phrases, without translating them first, in order to speak quickly. Might sound a bit tricky, but this knowledge does come quite quick and you will honestly be able to speak in a natural sounding way.

    I really enjoyed this post!

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