The Guide For Students: Language Preparation For Studying Abroad

If you’re in university and looking to make a change, chances are you’re thinking about studying abroad. It’s a great experience, no doubt. Traveling, seeing new things and trying all the food… what’s not to love?

In comes the dreaded language barrier. Unfortunately, you can’t Google Translate your way through the world. So how can you pick up a new language quickly? Here are a few simple ways of learning a new language.

Watch TV

No, no, it’s not a joke. Watching television in another language is proven to help you learn faster. However, it’s essential that you watch with subtitles in that same language. As some languages differ between spelling and pronunciation, it helps to see and hear them side-by-side.

When you regularly listen to native speakers, you can fine-tune your hearing. Understanding will get easier as you go along. Keep in mind that where the speakers are from may affect your understanding. If you’re learning Italian and the show’s protagonists are from Naples, you may struggle at first. Keep calm and carry on!

Films work well, too. Choose what you like best. The idea is that you force yourself to listen and try to understand the language. Movies and television will also help you learn about the culture of the country. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t understand all the jokes, they may be cultural references that require more knowledge.

Pump Up the Jams

Music brings people together. Make it easier for yourself to jump into the culture by schooling yourself with music. Find a musical artist or genre from the country where you’ll be studying and listen to everything you can. Music videos are a world of help, as well. Learn a dance or two, while you’re at it.

Not only is listening to music more fun than studying grammar, but it will actually help you socialize. Befriending locals is a big part of studying abroad. Nothing shows them that you appreciate their culture more than knowing some of the country’s biggest hits. But, be sure to read the lyrics! You don’t want to make a fool of yourself.

In some countries, like Japan, music is paramount in social activities like going to sing karaoke. Whether or not you’re headed to the land of the rising sun, karaoke is good language practice. You don’t really need to be a good singer. Simply play a song and try to sing along. Chances are you will pick up some new vocabulary on the way.

Practice Everyday

Just like learning to play an instrument, languages require dedication. You can’t just practice whenever you feel like it. If you want to improve, you need to be consistent. You don’t have to spend hours studying every day, although studying a little every day does make a difference. Devote at least half an hour to language practice, and you’ll improve notably.

If you feel like you need an outside motivation, take a look at online classrooms, like the one at BRIC Language Learning website. They use interactive technology that allows them to successfully combine the benefits of learning from a teacher, with the convenience of learning online.

Although, accountability can be tricky. Unless you have someone constantly reminding you, you may start to slack off. That’s where applications like Duolingo are beneficial. On top of providing free language exercises, it prompts you to practice daily. Practicing every day is easier when a cute little owl reminds you to.

For a more gaming friendly alternative, look to Memrise. Perhaps you prefer old-fashioned memorization and tests, then try Quizlet. Test out each different site to see which one works best for you.

Find a Penpal

Interacting with a penpal is a great way to practice another language. Writing letters, emails or messages to a friend is fun. So, why not apply that to language learning? There are a lot of communities that connect penpals, such as InterPals, HelloTalk or Polyglot Club to name a few. Decide which means of communication you prefer before joining.

Once you have found a penpal, get started right away. Be consistent in your correspondence. After all, it’s a symbiotic relationship. Your penpal wants to improve their language ability, just like you. Don’t leave them hanging for weeks on end.

Be clear with your penpal. Ask them to correct you. Otherwise, you’ll keep making the same mistakes. Focus on learning slang and idioms from them. These types of language are very helpful to newcomers in foreign countries. Open yourself up to learn as much as you can.

Get a Dictionary

When the time finally comes to travel abroad, it’s unlikely that you’ll have learned everything. There are some things about language that you can only learn in the country where it is spoken. It will be normal for you not to know certain things. That doesn’t mean you can’t do your research. Be sure to download a dictionary to use on your mobile phone for information on the go.

WordReference, which can be accessed from a browser as well, is a true life saver. Gone are the days of terrible translations. With WordReference, you can see a list of various definitions, parts of speech and examples. This resource is especially helpful as it has dictionaries for a decent amount of languages. Armed with this, you’ll be sure to get your point across.

If you are really struggling with meanings, look no further than iTranslate Voice. This app allows for simultaneous translation while speaking. In the worst case scenario, a robotic voice will directly translate what others are saying to you. Take care as this could become a crutch if you really want to learn.


There they are, the tips that will make your language instructor smile. Remember that we all learn differently. The key is to use the resources that interest you most. If you are bored, you won’t be motivated. If you aren’t motivated, you won’t want to learn.

So, dive in and start practicing already. The sooner you get started, the faster you can learn. Learning is hard, but it’s easier when you have help. Be sure to pass these tips on to someone else who needs them.

Elisa Abbot completed a degree in Computer Science. She finished her study last year but is already a true expert when it comes to presenting a text in a creative and understandable manner. Now she’s engaged in assessing translation services for PickWriters. Elisa is thirsty for knowledge and is always on the lookout for tips to share with her readers.