Whether you're a natural polyglot or barely making it by with one language, studying abroad is the best opportunity to learn a new language. It is unlikely that there will ever be another period of your life when you can focus solely on learning and experiencing life in a new language.
I studied abroad in Amman, Jordan to strengthen my Arabic skills after studying it for two-and-a-half years in college. Despite having a couple of years under my belt, taking on Arabic nearly full-time was still a challenge. But I knew that immersing myself in the language was the only way that I would get the most out of my experience, and truly experience the culture of Jordan.
Learning a new language is a chance to step out of your comfort zone and explore a new way of life. But how do you maximize your language learning while studying abroad? Here are five steps to help you immerse yourself in language learning:
1. Live with a host family
Living with a host family is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in a new language. You'll be surrounded by native speakers, and you'll have the opportunity to practice your language skills on a daily basis. Host families can also introduce you to the local culture, customs, and traditions.
I personally didn't live with a host family, but I noticed that my friends who did were exposed to SO much more daily practice. It's also a great way to try local dishes, attend community events, and experience a "home away from home."
2. Attend language classes
Enrolling in language classes through your study abroad program is a great way to build language learning into your routine. It can also make you feel more comfortable navigating your daily life in a new country, and feel better prepared to take on unexpected challenges.
3. Join a language exchange program
A language exchange program is a great way to practice your language skills with native speakers. These programs often match you with a local who is learning your native language, so you can practice speaking with each other. Not only will you improve your language skills, but you'll also make new friends and learn more about the local culture.
4. Watch TV shows and movies in the local language
Watching TV shows and movies in the local language is a fun way to improve your language skills. Not only will you improve your listening skills, but you'll also learn new vocabulary and get a sense of how locals speak in everyday situations. You can also use subtitles in your native language to help you understand what's being said.
I used an extension on my computer called Language Reactor that allowed me to watch English shows with arabic subtitles and vice-versa! I found this extremely helpful in preparing for my trip and learning slang from popular tv programs.
5. Participate in local activities
Participating in local activities is an excellent way to immerse yourself in the local culture and improve your language skills. Join a local sports team or club, attend cultural events, or volunteer with a local organization. You'll have the opportunity to meet locals, practice your language skills, and learn more about the local way of life.
In Jordan, my friends and I joined local gyms, attended workout classes, participated in sporting games, and went to art events to meet new people, immerse ourselves in the community and practice our Arabic.
Studying abroad provides a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in a new language and culture. By living with a host family, attending language classes, joining a language exchange program, watching TV shows and movies in the local language, and participating in local activities, you can make the most of your language learning experience while studying abroad!