10 reasons to study a language abroad
Why you should definitely study a language abroad
If you want to learn a new language and you’re trying to work out whether to do so at home or abroad, I’m here to convince you to take the road less travelled. Studying abroad can be an intimidating thought: you’ll be away from everything and everybody you know, so you’ll essentially be jumping in at the deep end. Yet if you’re brave and make the leap into the unknown, the chances are you’ll not only master a new language quicker and more thoroughly, the experience will also immeasurably enrich your life.
You’ll experience the best of any destination
When you visit a city as a tourist, it can be hard to know how to get the best out of it. We’ve all ended up in situations where we find ourselves at an over-priced restaurant with sticky tables and suspiciously long menus. However, when you live and study abroad, you slowly become an expert on your new home. If you are unsure where to go, locals give the best advice; trust me when I say that people love to air their opinion about where does the best local dishes and offer up warnings about which cinema is outrageously priced and smells of feet. Live and study abroad and interact with the local inhabitants, and before long, you’ll know which café has the flakiest pastries and the best coffee, which viewpoint offers the dreamiest vistas over the city, and where you definitely shouldn’t attempt to go on a Saturday afternoon in the height of summer.
You’ll become so much more confident
I’m going to level with you right way: studying a foreign language abroad isn’t always easy, yet it is our most difficult challenges that make us who we become. Food writer and chef Anthony Bourdain said it best when he explained ‘Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body.’ Not only will you learn how to look after yourself away from your home comforts, but if you choose to study abroad, you will become more self-assured about your ability to communicate with a diverse range of people and to make new friends. Your maturity, empathy and independence will blossom, and you’ll be confident that you can thrive anywhere in the world.
You’ll understand life better
I know it could seem like I’m exaggerating on this point, but I’m really not. Studying abroad not only gives you a deeper understanding of another culture, it actually helps you to learn more about human nature, politics, the environment and everything else in between. What’s more, since the travel bug is extremely infectious, once you’ve found your feet studying abroad, you’re likely to have the confidence to venture farther afield and learn how people live all over the world. As musician, writer and actor Henry Rollins so aptly put it ‘there are lessons that you can’t get out of a book that are waiting for you at the other end of that flight’.
You’ll make lifelong friends
When you’re thrown in together with people also in the same situation as you, you tend to connect on a deeper level than if you say, come across them once at a party; in no situation is this truer than when you find yourself studying abroad. Your fellow students will also be a long way from home, and they’re likely to be suffering the same anxieties about getting by in an unfamiliar environment as you are. You’ll be able to easily relate to each other about how you are feeling, and to share the joys and frustrations of learning a new language and navigating a new life. You’ll likely be spending large quantities of time together both in and out of the classroom. What’s more, the fact that you will also get to share the heady excitement of discovering a new country together, having adventures and making lifelong memories, will serve to cement your bond. It’s easy to see why many foreign language students who studied together abroad remain friends for life.
You’ll be practicing every single day
There is nothing that compares to having to practice a new language every single day, and when you’re studying abroad, there’s often no choice. You are boarding busses and trains (not to mention having to first negotiate the ticketing system) to get to class; you’re dropping by a local café for lunch and ordering food; you’re trying to understand the machines in your local gym without sustaining a permanent injury. In short, you have to practice communicating all the time just to get by. The repetition of anything at all, whether it’s riding a bike or learning a new language, helps to make it into a habit, and when something is a habit you no longer have to think about doing it – it simply becomes second nature. It’s true what they say, practice really does make perfect.
Your employability will skyrocket
There’s no two ways about it: employers love linguists, and they love linguists who have studied abroad the most. Not only do language leaners bring the benefits of the language in itself, meaning they can communicate seamlessly with foreign clients and help a business expand across borders, they also hold immense value in other ways. A language learner has demonstrated that they not only have the mental dexterity needed to master a second language, but they likely have other unique qualities too. Language learners need to be hard working, patient and extremely determined to succeed: employers know this. Linguists who have attended language schools abroad display more desirable qualities still. They have shown resourcefulness (they can navigate a foreign country without starving or getting hit by a bus), courage (they have stepped well out of their comfort zone and still thrived), and open-mindedness (they have been willing to embrace a whole new culture, and been excited to live among unfamiliar customs and ways of life).
You’ll discover new hobbies and interests
Different environments open up entirely new possibilities of how you can spend your spare time. Learning English in Wales might be the catalyst to discovering you make a formidable rugby player or studying Spanish in Seville may lead to a promising Flamenco career. Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating just a tad, but there’s no doubt that becoming immersed in a new country and culture will lead to exciting new discoveries about what it is you enjoy. Firstly, you’ll be living in a different physical environment, so if, say, you’re used to living inland in a bustling city and you find yourself studying in the countryside or by the sea, you will suddenly have access to watersports, mountain biking or hiking. Secondly, you’ll be living in a different culture, so if you want to try out local hobbies and interests, you’ll have the best instructors on hand.
Your speaking and understanding will become nuanced
We’ve all come across those language students who speak perfectly – only somehow it all sounds a bit stilted. I firmly believe that the only way sounding like a language student robot can be avoided, is to live and study abroad. Why learn a language if you’re not going to pick up and enjoy the quirky little words, expressions and phrases that give it character and meaning. It’s so important if you want to truly fit in and communicate in a way that seems natural and relaxed. Plus, how else will you pick up gems like the French ‘l’esprit de l’escalier’, which translates literally as ‘spirit of the staircase’, meaning realising exactly what you want to say but only as you’re leaving the party – i.e. thinking of the perfect comeback too late.
You’ll be unavoidably immersed in your new language
Never underestimate the power of popular culture. Television, film, magazines, newspapers, advertising: all of these things envelop you when you study a new language in a country where it’s spoken widely. Not only that, but you’ll overhear friends gossiping on the bus, witness a child having a tantrum in the supermarket and being told off by his or her exasperated parents, and be forced to listen to the nation’s current favourite pop song every time you take a taxi. In this way, language courses abroad help you improve by the most painless method of learning there is: osmosis.
You’ll get right to the heart of another culture
It’s one thing learning a new language as an academic skill, quite another to become wrapped up in the culture that speaks it. Living abroad, you’ll get to see the cultural and religious sites that mean so much to a country’s inhabitants; get to taste, and even learn how to cook, their food; and get to experience their theatre, music, dance and festivals first hand. What’s more, over time you will pick up on the correct non-verbal ways to greet others, or to show appreciation for a delicious plate of food. You’ll learn when to take your shoes off and when to cover your shoulders up. Slowly and surely, these small but fundamental things that form the backbone of a culture will become second nature, and you’ll start to feel at home. In this way, you’ll learn so much more about a culture and the significance of its language than you could possibly learn at home. Not all classrooms have four walls. (1,592)