Everyone has advice on how to learn a language from the comfort of home, but what about if you are able to go out and experience the type of immersion that gives you the opportunity to learn a language? It’s actually kind of scary. As an English speaker, you are going to be very tempted (and probably encouraged) to speak English when you are abroad. It is going to be incredibly easy to give in to that familiar world because everything else is so different.
Well, there are five things that you can do that will help you get the most out of the experience and come away sounding like you are fluent – at least to people who don’t know much about the language.
Studying – Before and During the Experience
It doesn’t matter that you are surrounded by native speakers in another country, you are going to encounter English speakers, and you are going to want to lapse into speaking English. It’s familiar. It’s comfortable.
It’s not why you are there.
First, you need to have some idea of the language before you get there. It can be just the basic greetings, introductions, and getting directions. That is fine because it at least gives you a starting point with native speakers.
The best way to help mentally prepare yourself to keep using the language you are learning (instead of falling back into English) is to keep studying. Take the materials that you were using before you left and study while you are there.
Pay Attention to the Conversations Around You
Isn’t that eavesdropping? Well, yeah, but you do it all the time in English, even when you don’t want to. People listen when others talk. There is no reason not to when you are abroad. Actually there are many more reasons to listen because you will get a much more authentic learning of how natives use the language.
Listen whenever someone is speaking the language. Even if you know someone well, it is a chance for you to get the experience you need to understand what is going on. If you are on public transportation or sitting on a bench in a park, listen to what is going on around you. These are public spaces, so it’s fair game any way. You will be able to learn a lot more from these snatches of real life than any grammar book is going to teach you.
Be Prepared to Write Often
One of the best things you can do is carry a diary or journal around and write down the things that you learn. The things you learn and hear while you are roaming the country are what will make you seem more fluent in the language. If you try to commit everything to memory, you are going to walk away with just a small smattering of what you heard.
If you write it down, what you heard is there forever for you to go back and review.
This is the chance to learn the slang and colloquialism of the different areas.
Just make sure notebook is small enough that you don’t mind toting it around with you everywhere you go. And make sure you have a pencil or pen (or two or three) always at the ready.
Read Children’s Books That You Loved as a Child
You already know the story, so now you can love the story all over again. Children’s books are geared to the most basic types of learning, and they contain nearly everything you need to function within the language.
Books give you several advantages. First, they force you to read and think in the language. As you translate the words, you are more likely to translate them into images instead of English words. Read out loud to practice the grammar and pronunciations you need.
Want a challenge? Go for a children’s book you haven’t read or maybe a young adult book.
Live with Locals
If you can go abroad and stay with a host family or roommates, you will already be well ahead of most tourists. If neither of these suggestions is a choice, stay in hostels or other facilities where the barriers between strangers are muddled. Being in a secluded room is more likely to tempt you into English, and that is exactly what you don’t want.
It will be exhausting constantly thinking and speaking in your new language, but imagine how much easier it will be by the end of your time in the country. The more you practice, the easier it gets. You also need to converse with native speakers so that someone can correct your mistakes and assist you in forming the correct sounds. Even though it is a little embarrassing, they aren’t going to mind that much. Most people who speak other languages are just happy to hear English speakers trying to speak something else.
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