How Living with a Host Family is Imperative for Learning a New Language

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Spanish Language & Culture

By: Alex Smith

Do you really want to be ‘bilingual’? Not many people know what it takes until they are studying in another country and realize the number of layers to being bilingual; it’s a lot harder than people think, and it takes much more time and patience than you would also think. If you are studying abroad for the sole purpose of learning the language in your host country, it is imperative that you live with a host family for many reasons you might not have thought of during your consideration. 

Obviously, for starters, it is evident that living with a host family gives you more practice with the language you’re trying to learn. But the language skills also go deeper than practice. You will be exposed to the slang they use, you’ll become more comfortable with the local accents, and you will learn so much more vocabulary you would never know inside the classroom (household appliances and other super random things – I learn so much vocabulary every day from them!). In my case, my host family does not know any English, so I am forced to communicate in Spanish with them, so when I don’t know how to say something, I don’t have the option to resort to English, we both must try to understand each other by contextualizing and explaining more about the idea which also broadens my abilities. Also, the television is always on, and you will become accustomed to their form of entertainment, which obviously is in their language. My host sister is always listening to music and my host mom always has the television on. These are things I never even thought about when I considered my living situation but are bonuses because I am always surrounded by Spanish in the house. 

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Read More: The 6 Best Places to Learn Spanish Abroad

You will gain a better sense of community as well living with a host family. They already have so many friends and coworkers and connections in the city, and they are happy to introduce you to all of them because locals love to meet international students! I have picked up and started to practice so many cultural customs they do, which surprisingly helps me better adapt to the language, because when my body is in full Spanish mode (not just the language, but the activities, too), I am better equipped to switch my brain to Spanish when I am practicing more of their culture. Immersing yourself in the culture also helps you understand their way of life more, and why they have this way of life. In doing this, you will form stronger connections with locals and you family. My family has introduced me to their friends and coworkers, in which I have gained more connections and practice conversationally. In school, your host family can also help you if you don’t understand something you’re supposed to be doing, and when you’re having normal conversations with your host family, they can correct you, so you are constantly learning. 

I knew living with a host family would help me improve my Spanish skills, but there are so many hidden reasons it helps immensely that I have discovered since living with them. I have jumped out of my comfort zone every day, living far away from my American friends, and forced into a Spanish way of life. I am mainly speaking Spanish during the school week, and it is helping me become better each week. Given that living with a host family helps immensely, if you want to be bilingual, you still must seek out other opportunities every day, it will not just fall into your lap.