Embrace embarrassment - learn a second language!
So you wanna learn a second language during your stay abroad? Sure, classes, textbooks and flashcards work – but we’ve got some tips for busting through the I-sound-ridiculous-so-I’m-not-going-to-say-anything level to Oh-my-god-I’m-speaking-and-people-understand-me level. It’ll take hard work. There will be tears. It’ll all be worth it, we swear.
Throw pride to the wind. You won’t learn a language if you have an ego. Learning a language means being embarrassed every day you speak it: sputtering out a request for a bus ticket, mispronouncing an innocent word to mean something cringingly naughty, or the very worst – receiving a blank/confused look after delivering what you think is a flawless sentence. Yes, you sound like a two-year-old on laughing gas. Some people may even take you for a lunatic. Who cares? It’s all part of the fun. Embrace it!
Immerse yourself. Seriously jump all the way in. No wading. No water wings (AKA compatriot friends who insist on speaking English). Watch TV, listen to the radio, eavesdrop while on public transportation, strike up random conversations with little old ladies in the park, whatever. It’ll all help you.
Ask for correction. In most cultures it’s rude to correct someone’s speech. You’ll unwittingly keep making the same mistakes unless you straight out ask for people’s help. After they correct you, repeat it back (as many times as possible without scaring people away) to train your ear.
Befriend, befriend, befriend. Join clubs, introduce yourself to neighbours, go out to pubs, ask to join the ultimate frisbee game you pass by in the park. Again, anything goes. Having friends who don’t speak a lick of English are the best (more practice for you!).
Be realistic. Learning a language takes time. A lot of it. It takes decades to master, years to converse without brain frizzle, months to say approximately what you mean, and days to well, get by – if you use LOTS of body language.