April 11, 2012

5 Ways to Improve Your Language Skills While Studying Abroad

Studying abroad is always a memorable experience, especially if you choose to live in a country where you don’t speak the language. In fact, most students choose to study abroad in the first place for the opportunity to gain proficiency in a foreign language. Despite the difficulties, it’s important to really focus on improving your language skills while you have the chance to live in a country with native speakers. Here are some of the top ways to get the hang of a foreign language while studying abroad, no matter your skill level.

1. Stay with a Host Family
This is the best way to become fully immersed in the local language and culture. Many study abroad students stay in residencies with other abroad students, but it can be very tempting to revert to speaking English in a residency. Even staying with other foreign students can turn into an English fest, because most young people speak English as a second language.

2. Make Local Friends
If you really want to get a front-row seat to the action in your study abroad city, try making friends with local students. Your language skills may not be good enough to speak with them comfortably in the native language, but you will still pick up quite a bit of phrases and vocabulary words from being around young locals that you would not have access to otherwise.

3. Take a Direct Immersion Class
If your language skills allow, enroll in a course taught at a local university with other native students. You will be forced to plunge directly into the language at an academic level. Doing research and writing and listening to class discussions will help you pick up the language ten times as quickly. If you can’t enroll in a college course with local students, try an extracurricular course, like dance or painting.

4. Go Out Alone
If you constantly hang out with other English-speakers during your stay, you will always revert to speaking English. You will also miss out on the chance to make friends with strangers, speak to the grocer or waiter, eavesdrop on the bus, and do all the other things that help you improve your basic communication skills. Students in a group generally allow the best speaker to do the talking for the entire group. Go out alone and do your own communicating and listening.

5. Read Magazine Interviews
The local papers and magazines sold on every corner will offer a wide array of inexpensive reading material in the language you’re learning. Also, reading interviews, specifically, helps improve communication skills. When studying a language, students are not always given examples of real conversations that involve unique questions and answers. Magazine and newspaper interviews capture nuanced words and phrases that aren’t in the typical textbook.

This is a guest post by Eliza Morgan who is a full time blogger. She specializes in writing about business credit cards. You can reach her at: elizamorgan856 at gmail dot com.

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