7 top tips for getting the most out of your language immersion experience abroad

Learning another language isn’t easy. It’s a process that takes patience, grit and hard work. That said, if you’re lucky enough to spend time in a country with a foreign local language, you are at a huge advantage. Full language immersion is the best and quickest way to pick up another language. Here are some useful tips on how to take advantage of the opportunity for language learning next time you’re abroad:

 

1. Prepare yourself as much as possible before you even get on the plane

The more grammar and vocabulary you know before you arrive in a foreign country, the more you’ll be able to pick up during your time abroad. Since you already have the structure of the language down, it will be easier to adjust to the accent and learn how the locals really speak. It won’t sound like what you learned in school.

 

2. Write down words that you don’t understand

Bring along a tiny notebook wherever you go and keep track of all the new words, especially slang, that you hear during your day. If you’re among helpful, friendly people, you could even ask locals to help you spell and pronounce the words. Seeing words written down after hearing them will help the new language stick.

 

3. Read words out loud when you can

Run the risk of people thinking you’re a crazy, muttering foreigner – it’s worth it. Make an effort to read words out loud in the local language in order to practice pronunciation. Whisper if you need to. Getting into the habit of reading and speaking a new language will help both your verbal and reading skills.

 

full language immersion

 

4. Listen to local music

Download the best local music in your favorite genre and start listening. Try to pick out the different words and phrases when you first listen. After, look at some of the lyrics to fill in the blanks. Learning songs in a different language can really help get your mouth adjusted to a new way of speaking, so you can start ridding yourself of a foreign accent. Bonus: getting familiar with the local music scene is also a great way to meet locals and connect to the culture.

 

5. Practice at home

Practice makes perfect, so even if you’re living with native English speakers, try to pick a time every day where you all put in an effort to speak only in the local language. If you’re still learning some of the basics, you might even want to label items in the apartment to increase exposure to vocabulary. It’s also a good idea to turn on a local radio or television station – anything you can do to increase your exposure to the language.

 

full language immersion

 

6. Start conversations with locals whenever you can

Whether it’s a waiter, someone living in your apartment building or a colleague, try to practice the local language with anyone willing. They may try to speak English, so it’s important to explain that you would like to speak in a foreign language in order to practice. Don’t worry about making mistakes, just concentrate on what you need to say, listen as well as you can and use context clues to fill in the blanks if you don’t understand everything.

 

7. Take some time to study every day

During your down time at home, take some time to pick up new vocabulary and grammar. Reinforce the immersion learning that you’ve done during the day by reviewing words and phrases you’ve heard. Look up words you weren’t sure of.

 

Apply now to boost your career and benefit from full language immersion!

 

Photos

1. based on conversation, by alex de carvalho, CC-by-2.0

2. by The Intern Group

3. by The Intern Group

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Elizabeth Trovall

After short stints in Argentina and Belize, Elizabeth is finishing up her fourth year in Santiago, Chile. Elizabeth writes about international internships, life abroad and professional development for The Intern Group. She also reports on politics, business and culture in Latin America for public radio and print media. An Austin, Texas native, Elizabeth first left home to earn her journalism degree from the Reynolds Institute of Journalism at the University of Missouri. Besides her friends and family, she misses live music and Mexican food the most.
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