Studying abroad is one of the most exciting and fulfilling experiences you can have in your academic career. While you may have some familiarity with the language of the country that you will be going to, it always helps to brush up on your language skills. Don’t panic if you haven’t been as diligent as you could have been at perfecting your second language. You still have time to brush up before studying abroad by using the following strategies:
1. Focus on conversational phrases
It’s important to know enough of the language to navigate daily activities, such as traveling to class or ordering food from a restaurant. Note any emergency words and phrases that may be useful, such as contacting the police or explaining dietary restrictions.
2. Capitalize on all study opportunities
Carry a phrase book or create flashcards. These can help when you don’t quite know the right way to say something. You can also take them with you on the go. Any time you find a few free moments, you can pull out your notes and brush up on any phrases or areas where you feel your language needs improvement.
3. Take advantage of technology
Start listening to music or radio programs, and start watching TV shows and films in the language of the country you will visit. Watching dubbed versions of TV shows and movies that you are already familiar with will get you in the habit of understanding the language within certain contexts, instead of just using hypothetical situations.
4. Join a foreign language practice group
Foreign language groups can help you meet native speakers, as well as others in the same boat as you. You can practice conversations with them, and they can give you pointers on how to improve your pronunciation and phrasing.
You can also attend a short foreign language course in-person or online. To prepare yourself for a course in your second language, try reading and writing in the language consistently. Switch your social media accounts and cell phone to another language, and practice translating any phrases that you come across. The more frequently you are able to come into contact with words from your second language, the better chance you have of retaining the information.
When preparing to study abroad, it is always a good idea to make sure that you are able to communicate as clearly as possible in the local language, even if you haven’t necessarily mastered it. With resources like apps, conversation groups, online courses, and other learning aids, brushing up on your foreign language skills before you go is easier than ever.
Niki Bridges is a contributing writer for UniversityTutor.com, the world’s largest global marketplace for finding independent tutors.