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Why Students Go Abroad to Learn Foreign Languages

by Teresa J. Siskin

Studying foreign languages abroad can help you transform your language skills from merely getting by in a foreign language to achieving fluency because you are fully immersed in the language. Studying a foreign language abroad both accelerates your learning and broadens your perspective and understanding as you experience life in another country.

Immersion Among Native Speakers

A big advantage of enrolling in a foreign language study abroad program is that you are completely immersed in that language. According to a study performed by The National Foreign Language Center at Johns Hopkins University, full language immersion has been shown to yield overall better foreign language acquisition than can be achieved in the classroom in part because you are surrounded by native speakers of the language. This gives you the opportunity to absorb nuances in speech that might be difficult to relay in a textbook. Furthermore, working with native speakers allows you to acclimatize yourself to the natural cadence and speed of your chosen foreign language, which can be a hard factor to replicate in the classroom.

Contextual Learning

Learning within a foreign environment surrounded by native speakers gives you the opportunity to interact in your foreign language in everyday contexts. Whether it is new vocabulary while shopping or eating out, new grammar when interacting with others or new gestures used when speaking, learning within these contextual situations will help you feel more confident about your foreign language abilities and it will help you achieve fluency in your chosen foreign language faster as you use it in real-world situations.

Cultural Experience

Foreign language study abroad programs offer students an opportunity to experience a foreign culture, its practices and its customs. Students often gain personal perspective through such enrichment, discovering new skills or values they didn't know they possessed. These programs give you a chance to learn from new perspectives and ways of living, as well as an opportunity to be an ambassador for your own country.

Professional Preparation

Studying a foreign language abroad can amplify your preparation for a career working with foreign cultures or nations. If a career in such a field, such as international business or humanitarian work, is potentially in your future, gaining personal experience within foreign cultures will help you develop valuable skills for working in these cultures in the future. In addition, your participation in a study abroad program can be a fantastic addition to your resume, particularly if you desire a career in a language-based profession, such as being a translator or interpreter.

About the Author

Teresa J. Siskin has been a researcher, writer and editor since 2009. She holds a doctorate in art history.

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