Study abroad for the best language skills
In today’s world, language learning is becoming ever more important. There are language schools all over the country offering quick and efficient routes to fluency in a new language. However, immersion remains by far and away the best way to learn a foreign language. The best way to do this is by spending time abroad.
Failing that, you can always try to find a native speaker for conversation practice and language skills swap, get a CD to help your pronunciation and watch subtitled films from the target country. Gumtree for instance, has a large database of people who are willing to swap conversation in French, Chinese or Arabic for conversation in English. Similarly, St Georges Spanish courses and other reputable courses offer substantial elements of conversation practice. The best way to immerse yourself in a language, though, will always be to spend time abroad in the chosen country.
What can you learn?
There’s a lot of difference between languages learnt in a classroom and languages learnt on the spot. And if you’re looking to target a particular region, it can be all important to visit first to make sure you’re learning the right language given variations in dialect and regional quirks. For instance, if you want to learn Russian, bear in mind that a big country such as Russia doesn’t just have one standard version of the language – although Russian is spoken all over, the language has many variants. If you want to be able to communicate with or work with people from the Crimea, you may have to learn the Tatar dialect, which is different to standard Russian in many ways. Because it’s harder to find language teachers or courses for these specific dialects, living abroad for a while is often the only way to learn authentic proununciation and idioms.
These last two elements are arguably the most important parts of learning a language, and often you can’t learn them from a language school. Pronunciation differs so much regionally in some countries that it affects people’s ability to comprehend what’s being said. Idioms contain much of the life of a language and are so fast moving that most language teachers living outside the country find them hard to get right.
There can be many other small differences that will help a student to pass as a native speaker with immersion experience. For example, in the Crimea, although Russian is spoken, it’s spoken more slowly than in much of Russia – the kind of detail that isn’t easily picked up outside of the region. Similarly, English language courses abroad have obvious advantages, although if you want to learn French in London may seem to offer everything that is necessary due to its many language schools, you might not learn all the most interesting idioms; for instance, in France you won’t be ‘hungry as a horse’, but ‘hungry like a cow’.
Most importantly, learning a language abroad is a lot more fun than learning in a classroom! Meeting native speakers makes a language come to life, and you’ll always remember things better if you’ve had fun while learning. This is, perhaps, the most solid reason for learning a language through immersion abroad.