Thursday, November 27, 2014

5 reasons to learn a foreign language abroad

There are many ways of learning a language and some are more effective than others. One technique will not suit all (probably even 20 different techniques wouldn't suit all) since the ‘best’ way to learn something is very subjective. Before I came to Salamanca many of my friends asked me why I am going to Spain to study Spanish while I could ‘just as easily’ learn it from the comfort of my own home in Slovakia.  Although I understood where they were coming from (some of them have never studied abroad), I couldn't really agree and little by little I have ended up with a list of reasons why I think it is a good idea to study Spanish in Spain and I would like to share it with you now.

1. Immersion is key. The main point I couldn't agree on with my friends that I could learn Spanish ‘just as easily’ in Slovakia as I could do it in Spain (or any other Spanish speaking country).  Since I have tried to learn a few languages before, I know how my mind works and I know that ‘full immersion into the language and culture’ works best for me. I find it easier to learn a language when I am surrounded by it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week rather than 2.5 hours once a week.  When you are in the country full of native speakers you listen to the language all the time, whether you are using public transport, walking on the street or doing groceries (I am not mentioning being in class because that’s a given when you decide to join a language school).

2. Personal growth. The second reason is that although it is nice to stay somewhere where you are already know the environment and the people, most of personal development occurs while you are out of your comfort zone. Being out of your comfort zone is not always the most pleasant of experiences (hence the term), however, once the things outside of your comfort zone become part of it you will feel better and there’s a big chance you will have changed as a person too (for the better, of course).

3. Meet new people. The third reason is that whenever you move into a new place you will meet new people, however, that doesn’t always mean you will also make new friends. On the other hand, when you go to study a foreign language abroad you are very likely to meet a lot of like-minded individuals who are also looking for new friends and are eager to get to know you.  And because you are more or less in the same situation it is likely that you will bond faster than in ‘normal’ circumstances and that your friendships will last longer.

4. Once you are there, travel around. The forth reason is maybe the strongest incentive for some and that is travelling. Especially if the person lives rather far from the country where the language is spoken, it is cheaper and more comfortable to travel around the country once you are in it than if you have fly there every time (not to mention that you will visit many interesting places that you would not otherwise). For example, I have visited places such as Segovia, Ávila, La Alberca and Ciudad Rodrigo that I would not have otherwise visited (or even known about).

5. Good for work. And last but not least, if you are thinking about your future, studying a language abroad may help you gain a competitive advantage whether you are considering applying for a university programme or looking for a job. University admissions and job hunting are becoming more and more competitive and the importance of being able to differentiate yourself is increasing. Being able to speak one or more foreign languages is always advantageous, however, studying the language in its country of origin is even more than that. It shows that you are independent, able to take care of yourself, that you like challenges and that you are not afraid of getting out of your comfort zone and personally develop.

As a person who has studied abroad a relatively long time, I dare to say that all of these things are true. If you feel that you are have lived in a bubble then learning a foreign language abroad is the right thing to do. It will broaden your horizons by getting to know a different culture and language and new people who are likely to be from all over the world, and by bringing some new challenges that you have not expected. And most importantly, when all is said and done you will feel like a new person who has accomplished a great lot of things since you left home. 

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