Learning a foreign language is a challenge that some people just don’t want to face.
But the truth is that as the world becomes more connected, and people from around the world begin to spend more time traveling abroad — whether for school, work, or personal adventure — being able to communicate our emotions and ideas with one another in an effective manner is more important than ever.
If you're planning to learn the language of your host country, there are plenty of ways to make the process not only more effective, but more enjoyable. Here are four awesome tips to help you get started on your language-learning journey before study abroad!
Get a head start on your language learning — you'll be so glad you did!
Make language learning more relevant — and fun!
When you were younger, did you want to do something simply because someone told you that it was important? Probably not. And how often were you truly thinking about traveling across the world to a foreign country for school? Likely never.
Even if you’ve had the travel bug for a long time, it's difficult to grasp the hard work that often goes into studying abroad, particularly when it comes to language learning.
Making things relevant and fun when you're learning a new language is the key to staying motivated and sticking with it. And remember, every language student is unique. If you're not feeling engaged by traditional learning methods, don't be afraid to think outside the box and try something unconventional — use props and puppets, or dance around and act out new vocabulary words as you learn them!
Test out a free language-learning app.
Duolingo, Hellotalk, and Vidalingua are free language-learning apps that can help you master the basics before setting off. Basic words, phrases, and conjugations are the bulk of what you will use on a daily basis, so you'll be in good shape if you can get around 500 words under your belt. Language-learning apps are also great for getting the basic pronunciation down, so native speakers won't have any problem understanding when you speak.
Start with Duolingo’s quick, interactive lessons, which feature both spoken and written practice, grammar lessons, and vocabulary building. The app is available for desktop and mobile, so you can take it with you on the go. Duolingo also has a handful of cool features that are available offline, too!
Use Hellotalk next to practice what you’ve learned with native speakers using text, voice recording, video and voice calls, and correction tools. This app is great to expand your vocabulary by familiarizing yourself with local slang specific to the region you’re headed to for study abroad.
Use mnemonics to improve your memory.
Mnemonics are memory systems — tricks, essentially — that allow you to retain and recall specific information with greater ease. Say you want to ask basic questions to your host family over dinner— by connecting easy words and phrases to similar-sounding words, or even abbreviations, from your native tongue, remembering new vocabulary and terminology will be a breeze,
For example, raupe in German means caterpillar. To remember this word, try to picture a caterpillar climbing on a rope!
Other mnemonic devices include using the first letter of each of the words in a list or sequence (think ROY G. BIV, the acronym used to recall colors of the rainbow) or funny phrases, like one of my favorites from my Spanish courses years ago:
"Every -ción sings like (Celine) Dion. This tells us that words ending in -ción tend to be feminine and use la!"
You can do the same for words and phrases in your target language before you travel, so they’ll be easier to recall when you’re abroad.
Practice, practice, practice!
Like any skill, learning a new knowledge requires consistent practice. By making language learning a part of your daily routine, it will soon become second nature — just like brushing your teeth every night before bed! Another helpful tip for incorporating language learning in your day-to-day is to use the Post-It Method, where you label rooms and items around the house with Post-It notes, which indicate what they're called in your target language.
Most importantly, be sure to keep reviewing the stuff you've practiced before, and make it a point to revisit older materials from time to time. One tried-and-true review method that many people swear by is to rewrite your notes and practice lessons from the previous day.
Learn the local language — it'll help you meet friends, get around your new city, and experience the local culture.
2019 is the perfect year to both study abroad and to learn a new language. It’s easier than ever to work online, study online, and travel the world while doing both.
While it’s true that people speak English in many places around the world, we strongly encourage you to learn the local language anyway. It will help you meet friends, get around your new city, and experience the local culture more fully .
So don't wait until you arrive to learn the local language. Follow our tips and get a head start on your language learning — you'll be so glad you did!
Interested in learning a new language? Check out our search to find the program or location that speaks to you!
About the author
Tim Wenger writes for Live Lingua, the web’s first immersive online language school. The Live Lingua Project hosts the largest collection of free language-learning materials online, and offers over 130 different languages to choose from.