Have you ever considered learning a new language? Learning a language is one of the most challenging but rewarding things you can do in life. It takes a lot of persistence and patience but it is most definitely worth it. It is especially worthwhile if you are considering spending some time abroad, whether that be volunteering, working or even just to travel.
Why You Should Consider Learning the Local Language Before Going Abroad
One of the biggest reasons you should consider learning the local language of the area you are going to is to connect and communicate effectively with the locals. Of course, if you are a native English speaker you are in the privileged position of being able to be understood in nearly any country in the world. However, you can connect with someone on a much deeper level if you at least try to understand or speak their native language.
Furthermore, there will also still be people who do not speak any English at all. If you have made the effort of learning the local language you are opening yourself up to new friendships and experiences which you would not have had otherwise. It is also a good idea to learn some of the local language out of respect for the locals. You are a visitor in their country and so it is respectful to try and converse with them in the local language rather than simply expecting them to be able to speak your mother tongue.
Secondly, you can also understand the culture of the country or area you are travelling to a lot better when you speak the language. On top of being able to converse more effectively with the locals and understanding idioms that don’t translate exactly into English, many language courses will also teach you about the history, traditions and culture of the areas where that language is spoken. This knowledge will greatly enrich your experience abroad and allow you to truly make the most of the area you volunteering in, working in or travelling to.
Finally, learning a language is fun! Learning a new language is an extremely rewarding and enjoyable experience. It challenges you and causes you to think in a completely different way. Once you have started to learn a new language you begin to look at the world differently as languages open your mind and expand your awareness. It can be discouraging at times as learning a language can also be very difficult and frustrating. However, I advise you to continue to push through as the rewards outweigh the challenges! You will also always learn from your mistakes. Although you might feel embarrassed at the time it can actually be a good thing to make mistakes as it is a learning experience.
How can I begin to learn a new language?
When it actually comes to beginning the process of learning a new language it can feel overwhelming and you may not know where to start. So, I am going to list some of my tips below in order to help you get started!
Firstly, you can go down the traditional route of studying a language at University. Languages are an excellent degree to study and can often also offer you the opportunity to go abroad either through studying or teaching overseas.
However, if University is not for you don’t worry there are many other ways to learn languages! A great way to learn a language for free in your spare time can be through YouTube channels. There is now a multitude of language learning channels on the platform for you to choose from. Some of my favourites are Learn Italian with Lucrezia, Spanish with Vicente, Superholly, Spanish After Hours, Italian with Germana and Couch Polygot. There is also a great channel for beginners called Easy Spanish which also has an EasyItalian and EasyFrench channel.
Once you get to a more advanced level it can also be a great idea to simply subscribe to Youtubers who speak the languages you are learning. For example, if you are learning Spanish follow some Spanish Youtubers who make videos discussing topics that you already enjoy listening to. This way you can enjoy the content you would usually watch whilst also learning useful vocab and practising your listening skills. Another great option is to follow Instagram accounts of influencers who speak the language you are learning. You can learn a lot from this which you would not otherwise have learned. This can also turn scrolling mindlessly on Instagram into a language learning exercise.
Moreover, you can read books in the languages you are learning which can be great reading practice and an excellent way to learn new vocab. However, if you are going to do this I would strongly recommend starting with something which is fiction as these types of books are generally a lot easier to read and to also read a book that has a storyline that you find interesting and genuinely want to read.
In terms of writing practice, something which I find very useful is to keep a diary and to try and write a few entries in the languages which you are learning. It will probably be quite difficult at first and you will make mistakes but you have the internet at your disposal to help you if you are unsure about anything. You can then learn from the mistakes you have made. If you are travelling or volunteering abroad at the same time this can also be a great way to log your experiences for the future!
How to Learn with WorkingAbroad
Finally, an immersive experience is one of the best ways to learn a language. Other than a year abroad through University, as mentioned before, a great way to fully immerse yourself in the language you are learning is through living with a host family. For example, WorkingAbroad offers the opportunity of doing a homestay with a local family while you volunteer in Cusco, Peru. This experience offers the opportunity to practice with native speakers on a daily basis whilst also experiencing the culture of the country you are living in through the eyes of the locals. WorkingAbroad also offers the opportunity of staying with a host family while volunteering to protect vulnerable Olive Ridley sea turtles in Costa Rica and whilst helping to conserve the giant Galapagos tortoise in the Galapagos Islands. These opportunities not only allow volunteers to learn Spanish from native speakers but also give them the chance to help protect endangered wildlife and to make a difference in the world.
As you can see, learning languages can be a truly enriching experience through which you can gain not only the capacity to speak another language but also invaluable experiences and life skills.