If you are studying, volunteering or interning abroad in a non-English speaking destination language learning is probably a high priority for you. Some people claim they are not great at learning languages, and yet they speak perfect English. Others try to figure out how to learn a language by yourself, only to be met with frustration at the lack of dialogue and interaction (the sweet spot of communication!). More accurately, many may just not be confident learning another language or get embarrassed when trying to speak a foreign language. These challenges can be overcome. Everyone can learn a second or third language, it is all about your motivation.
To help you get your confidence back, here, we bring you some quick and dirty tips to learn a language fast while abroad. You'll be speaking it fluently in no time!
1. Start before you leave home.
Buy a book, an audio book, download a language lesson application, or buy Rosetta Stone language learning software. Even if you do not have time to learn the language in advance simply get comfortable listening to the language, because knowing the sounds and breaking down the words is a critical first step.
2. Use it whenever and wherever you can.
The shopkeeper may speak English and your language skills may be weak, but still use what you have. Get comfortable, gain confidence by using it little by little. Don't worry about how ridiculous you may sound, just get the practice!
3. Carry a small pad of paper with you.
Every time you hear a word for the first time write it down. Ask the meaning or look it up, this can become your new dynamic vocabulary list. These are in fact the words that you are hearing daily so they are probably important to learn.
4. Memorize phrases.
Not every language teacher would agree, but memorizing daily phrases in their entirety allows you to start conversations and have more useful interactions with locals earlier than just piecing together words.
5. Get a language buddy.
Post on a local bulletin board or website that you are looking for a language exchange partner. This language buddy will do wonders for your spoken skills, not to mention your acculturation. Language partners provide a safe and relaxed environment where you can try anything without the anxiety of laughing audiences.
6. Live in a homestay.
There are plenty of reasons why homestays are the best way to live abroad, safety, cultural immersion, networking, but perhaps the best reason is the language practice you will receive at home. If your family speaks English ask them to speak to you in the local language, they will generally understand and respect you for trying, and you won't have to ask them again.
Language learning is about confidence, practice, and immersion.
7. Listen to music.
Listening to music, reading lyrics, and even trying to sing a song in karaoke is a great way to practice, and songs are complete with trendy colloquialisms too.
8. Get engaged.
If you are studying abroad, get an internship on the side. If you are volunteering abroad, take a class on the side. If you are interning abroad, join a club.
Play soccer with the locals, find a gym, take a cooking class, meet people at the plaza, take a dance class, whatever you decide to do, just get involved. Every minute with a local is a language learning opportunity.
9. End your day with a quick language review. 🌙😴📚
At the end of your day pull out your vocabulary list, start a new list, take a couple of your new phrases, and practice them all. Go to bed with thoughts of the new language and soon you might be speaking fluently in your dreams.
Next steps to finding language programs abroad
Ready to take the language-leap and commit to fluency? Here's a few logical steps you can take to move closer to your dreams of living abroad:
- Pick a language! You might be starting from scratch, picking between a few languages you've taken classes in over the years, or maybe this recommendation is silly because you only have one true foreign language love. Regardless of where you stand, you need to pick a language to focus on so you can later...
- Pick a destination! Keen to learn French? Consider France or Canada (or think outside la boîte). Spanish? You have tons of options—from Latin America to Spain (the mother country!). Once you know what language you want, consider the country and further still, the city you want to call "casa" or "maison" or "家" for the next few months.
- Choose between the best language schools. Pay attention to past students’ reviews, your school and organization reputation, location, and your ease of getting started at your current level. Some schools or providers may even provide contact info for ambassadors or past participants if you want the REAL dirt. Check this out: The 8 Best Language Schools in the World.
- Plan your finances. Sort out funding before you go to afford daily essentials and splurge in travel (in addition to program costs and airfare). Do your research to have an idea of how to pay for learning a language abroad.
- Get prepared! You've done your research, chosen your language school, saved up the money, and are entering your last weeks of life "at home" before you move abroad to finally GET FLUENT. Well done! Here's our language schools planning timeline/preparation guide to help make this stage more fun and less stressful!
Think you're ready to learn a language fast and fluently while abroad?
There are no substitutes for speaking and no magic language-learning pill. There will be bumps, embarrassing situations, and misunderstandings along the way but the rewards will be worth the journey. Speaking the language is part of understanding the culture and essential to a complete cultural immersion abroad.