• Lavanya Nair

Learn a New Language in 5 Steps While Abroad!

As the world becomes more and more globalised, a larger volume of people are learning a new language, be it for personal development, enhancing a resume or interacting with new individuals. As a polyglot who speaks 5 languages, it dawned upon me that while, yes, travelling to the country where the target language is spoken is one of the best ways to grasp a language, there are still certain steps one has to take, to achieve fluency.

1. Complete Immersion:

This may seem like a no-brainer, but the number of people, living outside of English-speaking countries who speak the language fluently is steadily increasing. This would mean that although you are in the target country, you may still be prone to speaking English since the people around you are doing just that. To combat this, I suggest doing one or both of the following:

-Enrol in a language course at a school and ensure the classes are taught in the desired language. That way, you will not only be studying the ins and outs of grammar and syntax, but you will also be prompted to only speak that language.

-Move to a rural location within the country, where the knowledge of English as a second language is sparse. This way, you will learn how to develop a higher level of fluency without having to spend money, enrolling for lessons or renting a place out, in the cities.

2. Grasp New Dialects:

It is no shock that the way in which a language is spoken, differs greatly, depending on whereabouts you travel to in a country. A good example would be Japan as the dialect is much more difficult to understand in prefectures such as Akita and Osaka. If you truly want to master a language, it would be in your best interests to study how various phrases are articulated in multiple dialects. In doing so, you will be able to increase the size of those with whom, you can effectively communicate. Either:

- Make use of visual tools on Youtube etc, so you can hear the differences and subtle fluctuations in intonation

-Actively seek out those who speak in these dialects, either through online mediums such as iTalki, or travel to the target areas and spend a minimum of 3-4 months, analysing the change in linguistics. (This is a technique, I recommend for those who are really adventurous and constantly looking for a change of scene. A nomadic approach is best as you will not be spending too much time in one place).

3. Enquire About Slang:

A strange step to take as we are often encouraged to speak any language as eloquently as possible. We are taught the most polite and sincere forms of grammar while in classes and rarely use informal/casual registers even when practising with our peers. However we all incorporate some kind of slang into our everyday conversations along with contractions and omissions of certain words. It sounds more natural as opposed to enunciating every single syllable in a word or using an outdated phrase.

-This is where you would have to openly converse and make friends in what ever capacity you can; be it classmates, neighbours, online etc. The more exposure you have, the better your language skills will be. You will start to speak less robotically and may even pick up some fillers that people often use when they are nervous or looking for the right words.

This is something I started to do while in Japan and it really helped me speak more confidently as even when I was thinking about how to translate a particular word, I was pondering it in Japanese if that makes any sense. Think of the English filler 'um'. We all use it right? Well Japanese has an equivalent as do many other languages.

4. Use English When Necessary:

I don't mean that you should use it when you are unable to translate a word or phrase. I mean that English is at the very core of some languages and as a consequence, they may speak a mix of the former, along with their own native tongue. For example, Hindi, the national language of India is one language that incorporates a high volume of English phrases as rarely anyone speaks pure Hindi, although they do learn it in school. They greet each other by saying Hello, instead of the usual greeting, 'Namaste' and even switch, completely to English without even realising it. This is advantageous to English speakers as they can simply inject their language into a conversation and have it sound natural, without the worry that the other person may not comprehend them.

5. Avoid Language Learning Softwares as You Gain Fluency :

Tools such as Rosetta Stone and Babel only get you so far and when you are actually in your target country, you'll find that these programs may hinder your progress. Here's why:

-They work better for when you are in the beginning phases of learning a language. I have used these programs for Japanese when I was a beginner. This is the optimum time to make use of such tools since you can learn the foundations of the language and also start to speak it through the microphone of your device.

However, I found that Rosetta Stone became quite tedious as I advanced since the recordings were still very slow and Japanese people obviously speak quite rapidly.

-Nevertheless, I have garnered different receptions to the use of such softwares but one factor we can all agree on is the fact that it acts like the training wheels on a bike. Once you master the fundamentals, it isn't required anymore.

Everyone learns at different paces with varied methods but what is listed above, is definitely doable, regardless of your skill-set. All you need is a passion for the language and a drive to stick with it!

I hope this helps you with your future goals and aspirations! Learning how to communicate in a different language, really enables you to expand your horizons and make connections all over the world! My last year at university was truly one of the best as I met so many international students with whom I could practise speaking. It brought us all closer together so I truly encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and go for it!

Lavanya Nair

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