Studying abroad is clearly beneficial for students in many ways, but for many study abroad goers, the primary reason for studying abroad is to learn a foreign language. The study abroad environment offers many opportunities for students to enhance their foreign language proficiency that are simply not available at home. The following is a list of ways students can maximize the study abroad environment in order to get the most linguistic experience out of their time abroad:
- Keep a word/phrase notebook. Keeping a notebook of new words and phrases that they hear not only provides students with a tool to review new linguistic items, but also can serve as a language-learning journal that illustrates their linguistic progress and provides a way to remember key moments during students’ study abroad experiences.
- Sign a language contract. While staying completely within the target language while abroad may seem like a daunting task for many students, signing a language contract — whether formal or informal — can serve as a reminder that the goal of studying abroad is to take advantage of all the opportunities to use the target language that aren’t available at home.
- Create a linguistic photo portfolio. This strategy works particularly well if students are taking a language or linguistics class while abroad. Instructors can provide students with a list of linguistic phenomena (e.g., a list of irregular verbs or gender-agreement rule exceptions) that they must find in writing in the real world and then photograph. This project can last as short as a week or as long as the entirety of the study abroad program.
- Find a language exchange partner. Many places abroad that have sizable student populations also have a sizable population of English students. Participating in a language conversation exchange with a study abroad environment local can not only help students with their linguistic skills, but can also provide them with a cultural and social connection to the study abroad environment that may not otherwise be available to them.
- Spend time outside the classroom. While this tip may seem obvious, it’s an important one for educators to keep in mind. We often find ourselves telling students that study abroad is meant for just that — study. However, we must also keep in mind that the word outside of the classroom is where much of our students’ language-learning takes place while abroad. Spending mornings and afternoons in the classroom and evenings completing homework and other assignments does not help students engage with the environment outside of our classroom walls.
What other language-learning-abroad strategies have you suggested to study-abroad students?