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4 Things That Will Happen if You Study in a Second Language

4 Things That Will Happen if You Study in a Second Language main image

Guest post: Summer Read

In today’s society, having the ability to read, write and speak in several languages is highly beneficial. It can open doors to a number of opportunities, both career-wise and culturally. All you need to do is look at any millennial’s social media feed and see the importance of travel, which undoubtedly plays a huge role when it comes to wanting to learn another language. And what better way to learn a new language, than to study in it?

Going to university and getting a degree is one thing, but travelling to a foreign country and studying in another language is a whole other level. For most people, the first experience of studying in another language is actually learning to speak the language itself. This isn’t exactly the same thing, but it gives you an insight into what it would truly be like to study in a language which isn’t your mother tongue.

For most students studying a modern languages degree, a semester or year abroad may be a mandatory part of the course. It sounds pretty terrifying, right? Moving to another country to study in a language you can barely grasp. But here’s the thing, you won’t be alone. There are other international students in the same boat as you! And since you won’t only be studying in the language, but living in it too, you’ll pick it up more easily.

When it comes to studying in another language, whether it’s your second language or a new one entirely, there are, as always, both challenges and benefits to the experience…

1. You’ll get your registers in a tangle.

One of the most difficult challenges you will face when studying in your second (or third/fourth/fifth) languageis learning the different registers of that language. If you’ve studied a language for a year or so, chances are you’ve only ever been exposed to its formal register. Although it’s necessary to know how to speak (and more importantly write) a language in its formal register, when you study in that language, you will encounter words and expressions that are colloquial or informal.

This makes things more challenging, as you will have to learn to differentiate between these registers for occasions such as university presentations or speaking to locals. A good way of learning how to discern the different registers is to listen to radio stations, read newspapers and watch the news channel in the language you want to study in. Most French radio shows, for instance, will speak in a common and informal register. A newspaper or news channel, however, will be written or spoken with a more formal tone.

2. No one will sound like you expect them to.

It’s easy to forget about accents when learning a new language. If you decide to do your studies in a different language, you may end up in a region with an accent that you are not familiar with. It’s important to take this into account, as it may come as a bit of a shock when you first arrive! The same can be said about the speaking rate. Some languages are very fast-speaking in practice, and you may have only listened to a language when it’s spoken at a slower rate than usual to help you learn it. Once more, a good way to prepare yourself for this is to listen to radio stations online.

3. You’ll become a pro in no time.

Being in a student environment will expose you to teamwork and comradery, contributing to the improvement of your communication skills in another language. Writing essays, preparing for presentations or even just asking questions in class will help your confidence grow and encourage you to express yourself. With teachers and professionals nearby, you’ll be in the perfect environment for mastering another language.

4. You’ll start to think in your second language.

As a British person who has only ever studied in my second language (French), I often get asked whether or not I ‘think’ in this language too. To most people’s surprise, I actually do think in my second language, especially when I’m studying. I believe that if you are to undertake the task of studying in another language, you will eventually think in that language too. At first, you will without a doubt still translate sentences in your head before speaking or writing. But once you’ve lived in another country and studied in that country’s language, you will start to think in that language too. It may take months, years, or maybe decades, but that’s ok.

If you dream of mastering another language, studying in that language abroad is probably the most the effective way of doing so: not only will you be surrounded by people speaking it on a daily basis, but you will be able to improve and develop your skills whilst earning yourself a degree too!

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