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8 Easy Ways to Boost Your Language Skills While Studying Abroad

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It doesn’t matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.

– Confucius

No matter where you are in the world you are no doubt surrounded by foreign languages. You likely have people that speak your target language and also people hoping to learn like yourself! This is one of the benefits of studying abroad.

Change your computer’s default language.

This is arguably the easiest step to take. On your computer it takes a few click. As any 21st century student knows, school life keeps us locked to our computers and tablets (as if we weren’t already). Learning to navigate your technology in the language you wish to learn is a  great way to keep that language fresh in your mind every day – and to learn new words that will soon become second nature. That way, even if you’re on Facebook you’re still being a little bit productive.

Netflix and chill.

Give new meaning to the term “Netflix and chill” by watching shows in English.. Netflix and other streaming sites offer a variety of foreign-language films and TV shows, in addition to subtitles and dubbing of your favorite shows. You already know you are going to watch Netflix to procrastinate your readings – might as well earn some guilt-free productivity points by streaming Friends in English.

Stop hanging out with your countrymen.

Okay, you don’t have to completely run away from them but if you spend time with people who speak your native language chances are you’ll speak your native language. I know this from both personal experience and observing other students in school. One way you can actually take advantage of this is to find a group of people from the country whose language you want to learn and hang out with them. They’ll speak their native language, and you’ll be learning all kinds of new slang, and probably words that don’t even translate to your native language.

Figure out your best time to learn.

Are you a morning or afternoon person? If you can work out when your brain is at its sharpest then you should cram in your language learning at this time. Some people work best first thing in the morning and switch off after lunchtime, while for others it takes a while to get going every day.

Think about when you function best and plan your learning to suit this. For example, there’s no point taking lessons that run late into the night when you’re likely to easily lose concentration.

Post-It notes are your friends.

My brother went to France for one year just after high school. When he left he knew dazzling French basics like “Where is the bathroom?” When he came back he spoke like a fully-fledged Frenchman. One of the secrets to his language transformation: a Post-it note wall in his room. Every day he learned new words he would write them down on a Post-it and put it on the wall in his room. Apparently, literally being surrounded by words is a good way to get them stuck in your brain.

Learn English idioms and phrasal verbs.

There are a number of aspects of the English language that you’re not always going to find in an academic course book. Things like idioms and phrasal verbs are extremely common in everyday English conversations.

If you manage to learn these then you’ll find it much easier to talk and understand conversations with native speakers. Although this is not the kind of language you’re likely to use in an academic essay, it’s arguably just as important to you.

Practice English whenever you can.

It’s incredibly important that you don’t leave your English learning inside the classroom. Make an effort to go to the library and study your notes, read and write in English, and speak to English nationals and other English speakers.

When you’re in bed at night, look over your English notes from the day and try to memorize some vocabulary as you’re falling asleep. The first thing you do in the morning while you’re eating your cereal could be to learn a couple of new words. Make sure you never escape learning.

Tell you teacher what you want to learn.

If you’re learning English in a language school or getting private lessons, you might not always be learning what you want. However, it can be difficult for your teacher to know exactly what you want to learn unless you tell them. So if you think that they’re giving you too much writing and not enough pronunciation, for example, then you should tell them. They’ll be pleased with the feedback.

It’s extremely common for language learners to want to better their English at an unrealistic pace. Set yourself objectives but be genuine in what you can achieve. Your teacher is just there to tell you things and practice with you for a few hours a day. It’s your job to remember and correctly use what you are taught. You cannot expect to just turn up to class for a few weeks and be able to speak the language. You must engage in lots of work outside of class and use your brain as much as possible.



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Mary Jane

Mary Jane Go has been teaching English for over 13 years. She believes that it is very important to learn English and learn it by heart. For her, it's always the right time for a dance party and that hanging out with friends is indispensable.

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