A "Next Level" Experience: Benefits of Studying a Foreign Language Abroad

Top Articles on Studying Abroad from Students and Experts

story by Antonio Reyes

Can you picture yourself speaking Chinese during a business meeting? Talking to your patient in Spanish at a hospital? Translating documents from Arabic to English in your position at a US Embassy? No matter what career field you’re looking to work in, having a second language may give you the added skill needed do excel. Learning a foreign language can set you apart from your peers in today’s competitive and globalized job market. 

If you’re like many students, you stopped taking language courses after meeting the basic requirements set by your school. However, careers of the future may require a greater understanding of non-English languages and thus preparing for the future can involve taking your language skills to the next level. The best way to achieve a next level understanding of your language skills requires that you are fully immersed and study your target language abroad.
Don’t settle for the basics, but rather pursue the best opportunities that language immersion offers by studying abroad! Here are a few reasons why studying your target language abroad can take you to the next level.

Fluency
Achieving fluency in your target language is the most obvious reason to study a foreign language abroad. From behind a desk in a U.S. classroom, comprehensive understanding of a foreign language can easily elude you. On the other hand, studying a foreign language abroad will give you the opportunity to experience your language firsthand without the distractions and lapses in use that can come with studying in the U.S. 
 
Also, living in a foreign country offers you the chance to continually test your language comprehension. At first, it might seem daunting to use a foreign language with fluent native speakers. However, your ability to communicate with the people in your host country will increase, and so will your confidence.

Cultural Understanding
An added benefit with learning from native speakers abroad is that you will learn how the language is used colloquially to complete everyday tasks and activities, something that the prompts in your language text cannot replicate.

Studying a language abroad will help you pick up a cultural understanding, which is often missed by language students who only study in a classroom. Rather than sit at a desk studying words on a page, you will have the opportunity to experience the language as you shop, eat, and hang out with local friends. Words and sentences that once seemed abstract will become more clear and full of new meaning because of your understanding of their cultural origins.

For example, “Have you eaten?” is a common expression used in China, similar to the English expression “How are you doing” or “Are you well?” The expression “Have you eaten?” often confuses students studying Chinese because they may take it to be a literal question, when in fact it is a casual way of greeting friends. The expression really is an inquiry into one’s health and welfare. If you haven’t eaten, then you haven’t been doing well.

Language Exams
Studying a foreign language abroad can prepare you to pass required language exams at your home school more quickly than your peers who only study in the U.S. Students who study abroad for a semester commonly return home with stronger language skills than their classmates. Their language professors are often surprised at their language growth, expecially with vocabulary and grammer use.

As a result of their growth, these students can bypass or test out of certain language courses required by their school to complete their major. You might also be able to take higher-level language courses that are typically unavailable to undergraduate students or beginning learners. These higher-level language classes can count towards your upper-level credits, thus helping you more quickly meet your requirements for graduation.

In sum, although you may have some foreign language experience, the real key to leveraging it for personal and professional success is to study the language abroad. Being able to speak a second (or third) language fluently, have a strong understanding of foreign cultures, and get ahead in your classes so that you are closer to graduation, are just some of the many benefits of study languages abroad. Your future is waiting and language immersion may be the next level experience you need to get there!

Learn more about studying abroad by visiting the following pages:
Language Programs Abroad
Student Stories From Abroad
Study Abroad 101
Antonio Reyes

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Antonio Reyes is a China specialist with 9 years experience in International Education.

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