Studying in a new culture and language can be a difficult thing to do, but it is also one of the most rewarding and enjoyable experiences out there. For me, learning and using my second language (German) while I was abroad got exhausting at times. Between work and meeting people and finding ways to relax, my second language was always rattling around my head—so, I figured out a few ways to make sense of it all and keep focused.
Watch TV and Movies—This one is my favorite—Television and movies in a second language are great for casual learning. With visual situations, it is really easy to understand the context of the language being used. I had a great time watching events like the Winter Olympics and World Cup as well as movies and tv shows I was familiar with. Local news and sitcoms are more difficult—so I suggest finding easy to follow shows (don’t be ashamed to watch children’s shows).
Listen to Music—While you might have iTunes or other music apps in your home country, be sure to explore in your second language. You will find artists you have never heard of and you can find newly released material before it gets anywhere else. I still listen to a few albums I picked up in Germany which has kept me learning little bits of German from around the world.
Get Out—Spending time just walking around or hanging out in a coffee shop in your new culture can be a great way to get used to your second language. Listen in a bit. Figure out where people are walking or what coffee they are ordering. Sometimes you’ll even find yourself in a conversation!
Record Class Lectures—Ask your professors for permission before recording them, but if you do it could be really beneficial. With a recording, you can listen back as many times as you need, confer with friends about hard to understand statements, and you will have excellent study material.
Read—Simple enough, right? Your class books and packets will not have the same English language as a magazine, comic book, or other light reading will. So if you don’t want your English to sound like a text book, pick up other reading to add to your conversational and comprehension skills. And read out loud! Hearing your own voice and putting together how a sentence sounds will improve your English as well.
Write—Lastly, if you’re having trouble understanding the academic tone of your text books, try copying the text into a notebook. Seeing yourself write down the language can aid in how you comprehend it. You will see the sentence parts come together, notice how particular words and phrases are working, and get a feel for that academic tone.
I hope these language learning tips will help you get through another semester abroad and make it a little more fun. I realize these aren’t academy based suggestions, but they are things I picked up as a teacher/student and that I have done myself to make language learning easier and more enjoyable. So
Don’t study hard, study smart!