In this lesson, we’re going to revisit some of our best strategies for getting the most out of studying or working abroad. These strategies will help you to maximize your language learning experience while living in a country whose primary language is not English.
Listen, Watch, and Read for Pleasure in Your New Language
Listen to music that is sung in the language that you are learning. Find a genre or band that you like and listen it instead of the library of English language music on your iPod. Start watching television shows that are spoken in your new language. Once you’ve found a couple that you like, make a point to watch them regularly.
Grab a book that you’ve never read before that is available in both English and the language you are studying. Read the version in your new language first then check out the English version to see how much of it you really understood. This can also be a great way to examine the similarities and differences between English and your new language. Some things just don’t translate between languages, so you should analyze how the translator handled concepts in one language that don’t have a direct equivalent in the other.
Speak and Write in Your New Language as Much as You Can
While it might be tempting to revert to English outside of class or work, doing so will only slow down your language learning progress. Speak and write in your knew language whenever possible, even (especially) when you don’t need to. Forcing yourself to have every conversation in your knew language will give you invaluable real world practice that you just can’t replicate in a classroom setting.
Get Out There
Find a few different places to visit or activities to do on a regular basis. These could be coffee shops, bars (only if you’re of legal drinking age!), or clubs that hold regular meetings. Not only will this provide you with opportunities to practice your new language, you’ll gain valuable insight into what is and is not considered acceptable behavior in certain situations. While you probably have a general idea of what you should and should not do and say in a Starbucks or a Taco Mac, expectations for acceptable behavior in such places may not be the same in the country or culture where you are studying or working. Spend some time observing how people interact in various environments, paying special attention to the use of language, before you join the conversation.
Run Your Own Errands
Whether you need to buy groceries, pick up a prescription, or mail a package, you should run your own errands whenever possible. Resist the temptation to let your roommates, friends, or coworkers do these sorts of daily tasks for you. Every one of these routine interactions is a potential opportunity to practice your language skills in a practical, real world setting.
Speak for Yourself
Unless you are dealing with an especially delicate situation where every word matters, you shouldn’t let your coworkers or friends speak for you. A high stakes business meeting is obviously not the best time to practice using new words or phrases, but a celebratory dinner with your coworkers after that meeting definitely is. Do your best to answer questions about how a meeting went or how you did on a test without deferring to others for help. If you stumble over your works and a native speaker jumps in, politely explain to him or her that while you appreciate the help, you want the opportunity to explain what you experienced for yourself.