5 Keys to Learning a Language Abroad

It has been two months into my study abroad program and I have a confession, I am not bilingual. One misconception about achieving this is that “you will just pick up the language right away,” or that one day a switch will turn and you will know everything Spanish. The truth is that you need to work very hard to achieve this milestone, and with time you may be able to accomplish this goal. Hopefully with two more months to go, I will be able to say that I am at least almost bilingual. Here is a basis that every study abroad student should follow, and perhaps read before they go to a new country and learn a new language.
  1. Force yourself to hangout with locals or intercambios. I came across a Robert Louis Stevenson in which he says, “there are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.” The matter of fact is you would be surprised how open people are to help you. You are in the same world and on the same planet, just in a place where people prefer to speak a different language. After making some friends, maybe you could teach them a bit of English too.
  2. Make a pact to speak Spanish amongst Americans. For me, it is a challenge to speak Spanish amongst other USAC students because it is way to easy to resort back to English. This won’t work for everyone, but if you find another friend who is very dedicated to learning the language and totally emerging themselves in a new culture, never speak a lick of English to them. Make it be your own little manifesto.
  3. Although it may feel like you are on vacation, study and do your homework. It is important to remember that you are still in school. You start achieving a higher level when you practice a lot in bookwork, then apply what you learned to the outside world. You really have to want to learn, and constantly be motivated by the possibility of being bilingual. This is hard, patience is a virtue.
  4. Converse with your host family or roommates. If you live with a host family don’t sit in your room all day. Hangout with your new family and converse, the best learning is having people help correct you on the spot. If you live in an apartment, try to live with Spanish kids, or go out in the town and to the market to practice buying things, bargaining, etc.
  5. Above all, positive attitude!

I hope this helps anyone who will be studying abroad, is thinking about studying abroad, or people who need to kick it in high gear before the semester ends. I may go find a new intercambio as we speak, this kind of opened up my own eyes a bit! Be motivated by the possibility of being bilingual, patience is a virtue…

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 You can leave a response, or trackback.

Leave a Reply