Student and Graduate Publishing

4 Ways to Help You Learn a New Language for your Year Abroad

Wednesday, 28 June 2017 16:01

Living in a country for a whole year where an unfamiliar language is spoken can be a daunting prospect for many people. Even if most of the people in the country you’re going to speak English, you might find that you want to speak with the locals in their native language in order to immerse your-self in the experience of living in a new country, for the sake of politeness, or even just to enjoy the thrill of learning a new language. Here’s some top tips for mastering a new language for your big trip.

1. Start small
Don’t overwhelm yourself with the goal of learning everything within a short time frame. Remember, you will have a whole year to grasp the language, and putting pressure on yourself to learn a lot within a limited amount of time will mean that you might find it harder to remember all of the correct grammar and vocabulary. Start by learning a few phrases each day - there are many handy apps that give you small amounts to learn at once, such as Duolingo and Memrise. Then, try using what you’ve learnt on willing participants, like friends and family.

2. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
The most important part of learning a new language is to make you sure that you practice it regularly. Saying a few phrases a couple of times a week may be less effective; instead, try practicing what you’ve learnt in everyday life. For example, you can speak the language with your housemates, or if they are busy you could just talk to yourself in the mirror, even if you feel a bit odd while doing it. Dictating phrases into a voice memo and listening to it on the way to university can also be a simple, yet useful, way of deepening your understanding of a language. Language is best learned when practiced repeatedly in many different ways, so make sure that you are dynamic and use a combination of techniques.

3. Utilise technology
Apart from the handy apps which were previously mentioned, there are many ways that technology can be helpful for learning a new language. There are also a range of websites that provide services with interactive videos and tests, such as the BBC language page, and even some that allow you to converse online with native speakers. Aside from this, many people also find it useful to soak up the vocabulary by watching foreign films with English subtitles at first, and eventually without them. This may be a particularly useful way of learning language that is more commonly used in everyday life, rather than menial sentences that you might have been taught at school, such as saying what your favourite food is, or how many pets you have. Even something as simple as resetting the language on your phone for a while is an innovative way of using technology to develop your language skills on a day-to-day basis.

4. Immerse yourself 
Despite any preparation you might carry out before your year abroad, most of what you learn will likely be done when you are away. Indeed, conversing with the locals in everyday settings such as markets, restaurants, or with fellow students on campus, is often the easiest way to master a new language. Make sure that you take every opportunity to do so, even if you are afraid of making a mistake. Learning a new language can be an exciting, interesting and enriching experience, so don’t stress yourself about it, and most of all, enjoy! 

- By Alma Neu