7 language tips for your year abroad

TandemFebruary 28, 2017

Each year, students from across the world head off on a year abroad to improve their language skills. But how can you make sure you make the most of this amazing experience? Here are some top tips from a student fresh from a year abroad in Italy.

As I write this blog post, I’m listening to my favorite Italian musician. A year ago, I didn’t even know his name, but now, I can understand everything he is singing about! Like many students, I had the chance to have a year abroad and improve my Italian last year. Through this, I realized how important it is to learn the language of the country you are living in. However, when you spend your time with other international students, you can sometimes end up choosing the easiest way to speak. For me, this was speaking English, rather than speaking Italian!

At the beginning, I felt frustrated and embarrassed when speaking another language at this level. Not knowing how to pronounce a certain word and resorting to a ‘comfort language’ can become a massive obstacle on the path to getting fluent. Diving into language during your year abroad can be difficult, but it is far from impossible, and very rewarding. Here are my seven tips on how to get yourself completely immersed in your chosen language as quickly as possible!


1. Make friends before you go

You should probably start learning the language some time before you leave for your adventure. But let’s be frank - just learning vocabulary is pretty boring and won’t get you very excited for your trip. Instead, try preparing by practicing with a native speaker. A Tandem partner is a great option for doing this remotely. You can ask them everything you want to know about the country and culture and get the best recommendations before you even arrive!

2. Live with native speakers

It is definitely not easy to find an apartment with locals, but it’s worth it if you want to learn a language! In the beginning you will probably feel lost and exhausted from listening to another language the whole time, but you’ll get used to it. My advice: don’t start looking for an apartment until you’re there. If you look online, you will often only find apartments with internationals. When you are there, you will find bulletins posts by locals in the university and even on the street.

3. Set yourself a language challenge every day

For example: talk to a stranger on the street, or go to a bar where nobody speaks English and have a conversation. A little challenge every day makes you feel more confident and helps you to lose your fear of speaking.


4. Do regular cultural trips

Cinemas and theaters are great places to experience something together with your new friends. Search for a cinema where they show movies with subtitles, rather than watching dubbed in a language you already know. Watching and listening at the same time are excellent practice when you’re learning a language.

5. Meet your tandem partner in real life

Always talking on the Tandem app and getting along really well? You will probably also have fun when you hang out in person! Meet your Tandem partner and explore the most beautiful spots in the city together.


6. Find a local hobby

Acting in the theater, listening to music or doing sports are all great for improving your language skills. Do everything you like to do in your home country, just in another language!

7. Keep a diary

You will experience a lot during your year abroad and you want to keep hold of the memories after you leave. So, write a diary in the foreign language to reflect on the time you’ve had. This also forces you to use your language skills you have already learned each day.

Are you heading off on a year abroad? Make sure you practice your language skills on Tandem before you go. Download the Tandem app!