Top Tips For Improving Your Language Skills While Abroad
Is it well known now that the best way to truly master a foreign language is full-immersion. Once you got the basics, here are some tips to improve faster by making the most of your immersion. It has worked for me!
IMMERSION 24 HOURS A DAY, 7 DAYS A WEEK
1. Start your day listening to the radio.
What’s better than waking up to the sweet sweet sound of Italian voices and music (even though 50 per cent is actually American pop music)? It not only expands my Italian musical culture, but I also feel like it prepares my brain for a long day of people talking fast. So, all you need for this is a radio alarm clock or, if you’re like me, use your phone. I’ve downloaded a free app which gives me access to a bunch of Italian radios and I listen to the ones that are 50 per cent talk and 50 per cent music. I could also tell you to watch morning programs on TV but I just stare at the screen and then forget to get ready and I end up being late. Trust me; radio is better.
2. Use your spare time as well.
Wanting to relax watching your favorite series on Netflix? Find series in your target language! It’s even better if you find one linked to your everyday life so you get to know some words and phrases useful for you. At the beginning of the year, I was looking for an Italian series talking about teenagers but I couldn’t really find it so I ended up watching the two last seasons of Glee in Italian. I know, it’s way better in the original version but eventually it was quite helpful during some boring afternoons.
3. Surround yourself with natives.
It’s very cool to be in an international environment with international friends but it can keep you away from talking the target language and push you to speak your native language. Surround yourself especially with natives. Make a deal with your international friends to try to have most conversations in your target language.
When I was in Australia, there were four Europeans going to the same school and while fortunately I was the only French girl, two of them were German. First, they spoke only German to each other but then they made a deal to speak only English. Meanwhile, in another school in the same town, there were two French girls attending the same school and keeping talking in French together. At the end of our stay, I’ll let you guess who had improved the most.
Otherwise, surround yourself with kids. A friend of mine was a nanny in London and it has helped her a lot. Kids are honest, they don’t care about hurting your feelings so they just tell you if you’re wrong. They corrected her pronunciation too!
4. Become a chatterbox!
Also, BE TALKATIVE! The more you practice, the better you become! You don’t need any apps while abroad to improve a language. The only one you could need is a translator just in case you really have to find the right word and you don’t know how to explain it (by the way I recommend Reverso Context if your languages are available). But when you have a question about a language issue or when you want to practice, you have tons of people around you to ask and to talk with, so NO EXCUSES!
5. Read something you like.
To improve your writing skills, it is no secret that reading is the key. However, if you’re like me, who’s all “I don’t like to read”, “I have read some boring masterpieces at school” or “I can’t find the time to read”, then just read what you find and what you like. In Australia, I discovered the book The 100 by Kass Morgan and I could read it in English class which has encouraged me to read. Now, I read articles on the internet in English and writing this article reminds me that I should read a lot more in Italian!
If you are a beginner in the target language, do not forget that children books can be a good start. After that, move to young adult books. Even “people” magazines could be helpful. As you know the VIP they are talking about, so you can understand easily the meaning and learn new words. When your level gets better, pick national newspapers!
Another distraction from your target language is social media. You see and talk to your friends in your native language. Social media is a vicious circle: it’s always encourages more! I personally removed Facebook and Messenger from my phone and I check it once in a while on my computer.
So, speak, read, listen in the target language! The more you exchange, the better you become!