study abroad foreign language learning
College Study Abroad,  High School Study Abroad,  Study Abroad Tips

How to Use Foreign Language to Enhance Your Study Abroad Experience

When it comes to thinking about studying abroad and foreign language learning, many students feel intimidated and overwhelmed by the idea, while others feel excited and at ease. 

 

Granted, if you are a student who has previously studied a language that will be relevant in your semester abroad experience, you should feel thrilled to have a leg up. 

 

It is understandable why most students see this as a scary notion though. 

 

In terms of those who have the upper hand on foreign language, research (and common sense), shows that European-born and those from the Middle East, Africa, and India to name a few, tend to have more exposure to and a need to learn at least one foreign language compared to their American counterparts

 

While a large number of American high schools offer foreign language options, the exploration of non-English language falls off drastically at the college level. According to a 2015 research piece from The Atlantic, only seven percent of college students were enrolled in a foreign language while in college or university. 

 

Adjusting for enrollment year-on-year, we can assume this number may have increased by a few points since, but likely not much. 

 

So what is a student to do when a foreign language is a core part of the study abroad experience? 

Embrace it, of course. 

 

Here are three ways you can foreign language to improve your study abroad experience (even if you have no clue how to speak one): 

 

Study Abroad Foreign Language: Improve Your Conversational Skills

 

Conversations are the base camp of life (for those of you, like me, who want to sink into the concrete with small talk: stick around, I’m going somewhere here.) 

 

In the basic form of human interaction and communication, you need conversational skills to communicate your needs, wants, and desires daily. 

 

As a student studying abroad in a foreign country, you will find that the art of conversation will be useful for everything from asking a stranger on the street where the right train platform is or talking with your instructor about an assignment, and everything in-between. 

 

If you are interested in making a good impression, you will want to start your foreign language journey by learning the basics such as greetings (formal and informal), days of the week, time, and even some local “slang”. 

 

Over time as you further immerse in the culture, you’ll find it easier to notice common words and patterns of speech that can lead to a more in-depth chat with someone but to start, focus on ACING the day-to-day lingo you’ll need to find an immediate sense of assimilation. 

 

Practicing Your Foreign Language During Study Abroad

 

You’ve heard it and you know it’s true: Practice makes perfect. Or as I like to say, ‘Practice reveals the best version of your actions’. If your study abroad program or overall journey requires you to plunge into a foreign language component, there are two important things I want you to consider: 

 

1. You need to face the challenge head-on, but with self-compassion

2. You are going to mess up ALOT and THAT is half the fun

 

This comes from someone who, as you may have seen in several videos on my YouTube channel, has mentioned that I consider myself semi-foreign language incapable (I’m currently back working on my Italian and Arabic skills, so we’ll see if it goes better this time!). 

 

It’s not that I have a hard time learning a language at a basic level, It’s just that I spend too much time in my head and have difficulty accepting that it is an area where I’m “not an expert”. #TypeAProblems

 

BUT, BACK TO YOU….

 

So when it comes to a challenge, I know you’re up for it. If you can go through all that it takes to study abroad, you can withstand being able to at least attempt to learn a new language. 

 

You’ve got this!

 

Now as for “messing up”. This IS going to happen. 

 

Your pronunciations will be wrong, you’ll overcompensate on that “p” and add an “s” where it doesn’t belong, definitely in the beginning. But this is part of the fun of learning and will at the bare minimum, give you the data you need to continue developing as a student based on understanding more about how you learn and what interests you. 

 

Ready to get a head start on your foreign language skills before you study abroad? Find a tutor on Preply.com. I have been using Preply since December 2021(for said Arabic and Italian reboot) and I can highly recommend them overall as a service. 

 

The two tutors I have had thus far have been phenomenal, but definitely do your research to find your fit. 

 

The best part is that if you’re not satisfied with your initial lesson — they’ll give you a full refund, no questions asked. Click here to browse and find your perfect tutor today

 

DISCLAIMER: Links for Preply.com included above are affiliate links. If you purchase a product or service with the links that I provide I may receive a small commission from Preply.com. There is no additional charge to you. 

Tackling Study Abroad Foreign Language with Immersion

 

Another fantastic way to grow in your foreign language skills is immersion. Granted, you will be immersed in some of the local cultural atmospheres based on your study abroad classes and through your day-to-day life in your host country. However, I always recommend that the students I advise take it one step further and add an element of ‘localism’ to their semester away journey. 

 

This includes mingling with the locals, doing authentic local things. The most wonderful part about it is that you can easily choose anything that suits your interests. 

 

Love Zumba and Dance? Sign up for a weekly class. Enjoy sports? Join a local drop-in team. Obsessed with music? Find a way to discover local bands and the independent music scene. 

 

The reason for this? Because THIS adds a heightened sense of going native that many study abroad students overlook. While it’s wonderful to do touristy things, go on day trips, and meet “locals” at the pub or bar, adding an element of immersion into the local community is a tangible benefit that has a lasting impact. 

 

In addition to exposure to local culture, you may also have a chance to connect with like-minded people, build connections, and in this context, have more people to work closely with to practice your language skills. 

 

Let’s hear it for ALL THE STUDY ABROAD WINS!!!! 

 

Your Next Steps

1. Determine what language skills will be required for your desired study abroad program(s). Is there an on-site component or do you need at least a minimum background before you leave for your semester abroad? Is there support once you start studying abroad or are you on your own?

2. Even if you are an English speaker going to a different English-speaking country, learn some of the basic slang. American English is different from Canadian English and British English on a colloquial basis (If you know me, you know I think British English is best….but we also know I’m a biased stan for the UK, so I’ll leave it there).

 

Are you excited to learn a new language during your study abroad program? Do you know which language(s) you will be learning? 

 

Let me know below WITH A COMMENT!

 

I can’t wait to hear all about it!

 

Arrivederci,

 

– K

study abroad consulting

Known as The Study Abroad Specialist, Kimber Grayson is a serial-study abroader turned International Education coach and expert. Since 2014, she has helped 100+ students navigate their semester away journey from the coastal areas of Spain to China and every place in between. In 2018, she launched The LiveStudyLearn™ Abroad Association, a one-of-a-kind online membership platform for study abroad students worldwide.

She holds two Master's degrees from two well-respected London-based universities and has experience working in the US, UK & and Italy.

In her spare time (what's that again?), she enjoys leisure travel city breaks, any snow-based activity, skeet shooting, and attempting to learn new languages.

Known as The Study Abroad Specialist, Kimber Grayson is a serial-study abroader turned International Education coach and expert. Since 2014, she has helped 100+ students navigate their semester away journey from the coastal areas of Spain to China and every place in between. In 2018, she launched The LiveStudyLearn™ Abroad Association, a one-of-a-kind online membership platform for study abroad students worldwide. She holds two Master's degrees from two well-respected London-based universities and has experience working in the US, UK & and Italy. In her spare time (what's that again?), she enjoys leisure travel city breaks, any snow-based activity, skeet shooting, and attempting to learn new languages.