Learning the language when your course abroad is in English
Lucy studies Law with Politics at the University of Sussex and has recently returned from a year abroad in Grenoble, France, where she was studying for a Certificate in French Law. Her course was taught in English, which made it hard to immerse herself in the language, so here's her advice about how to improve your foreign language skills abroad despite all the English you hear every day.
Studying abroad is traditionally for those who study languages at university, or those who have a language element to their degree. However, in today’s global environment, more and more universities are offering courses in different languages for exchange students, especially in English, as more of us decide to spend a semester or two studying abroad.
I studied for a Certificate in French Law at Université Grenoble Alpes, a course in French Law taught in English, specifically designed to attract international students. While this made the course very accessible to me and my fellow students, we weren’t getting the same exposure to the French language that others enjoyed. Here are my tips for improving your language skills while studying abroad when your course is in English.
1. Take advantage of classes
If your university offers optional language classes alongside your studies, or intensive classes designed to help you out before your main classes start, take them. Having classes you’re then obliged to attend will be the best kind of motivation for learning. You’ll make friends and be able to practice the language with them, as well as have a professor who you can ask questions to.
2. Use online courses to get you started
The internet is an absolute gold mine for language learning resources and is the best place to start if you’re an absolute beginner. My personal favourites are Duolingo and Memrise. They offer help to language novices and let you track your progress along the way, so you can see how you’re doing.
3. Meet language speakers online
While this might seem a little more scary than the online courses, the internet has many websites for those who want to meet up with language learners. Websites like ConversationExchange.com allow to you find people in your area who want to learn English and will offer helping you with their native language in return. Similarly, meetup.com is a great place to look to see if there are any language learning events in your area. While it obviously takes a bit of confidence to meet up with someone from the internet, I used both websites a few times during my time abroad and didn’t have problems with either one.
4. Live off-campus
If your budget or situation allows, living off campus is really a great way to immerse yourself in a language. I lived in on-campus, university-managed accommodation during my time in Grenoble. It was an amazing collective experience and I met lots of great people, but we never spoke French. Living off campus, you will have to communicate with landlords and letting agents in the native language, as well as the good possibility that you will be living with students who are native to the country. You’ll be essentially forced to speak the language, which may be daunting, but will greatly improve your ability.
As difficult as it is to gather the motivation to learn a language off your own back, it’s good to also remember that you’re only studying abroad for a limited amount of time. Don’t put any pressure on yourself to become fluent, or you’ll only disappoint yourself, but take the opportunity to be living abroad to learn a new language, have fun and meet new people in the process.