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Tips For Learning a Second Language Overseas

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8 Tips you need if you’re learning a second language overseas

I am convinced that the best way to learn a second language is to live and study in a country where it’s spoken as a first language. It’s a no brainer, you learn grammar and formalities from your classes and then have authentic conversations with locals in your day to day. You’re bound to pick it up that much faster. Nevertheless, learning a new language is time consuming and difficult, so here are some extra things you can do to make it easier for you pick up a new language while you’re abroad.

Find the Right App

I know you’ve heard of the app Duolingo and Babbel. But despite their popularity, I would advise you not to download these if you’re a beginner. Duolingo is great for a refresher when you already have a good grip on a language, but if you’re not self-motivated, it’s more likely you will give up by the third day. Hello Talk is like Facebook, you can post statuses with photos in the language you’re learning and native speakers will correct your sentences. You can private message people and facetime, record your voice for correction or just chat. I improved Japanese on this app and swear by it!

Keep a Language Notebook on You

While studying Japanese in Tokyo, I learned a lot of slang words that I wouldn’t be taught in class. So, I always kept a notebook on me where I could write it down and remember it for later. You could use your phone too, but make sure you’re getting the context in which to use it in and the spelling is correct, or you could suffer a serious word vomit when you test out the new word later!

Use Social Media

While I was in Japan, I made another Instagram account which was photos of Tokyo and all the captions were in Japanese. I grew a following and sooner or later Japanese people started to correct a few of my posts for me and I made some internet friends this way, who were happy to chat online and help. Or you could even make a blog. You don’t need to talk about anything deep or meaningful, you could talk about what you ate for breakfast, at least you’re being proactive and improving your writing skills.


YouTube is full of teachers making free, online lessons. If you want some more practice after class, do some digging and find a YouTuber you like and talk along with them. This is great if you don’t have locals or many native speakers to practise with and you’ll find your comprehension and speaking skills will have improved in class.

Change Settings on Your Phone

Why not spend a whole day with your phone settings in a completely different language? You’ll be forced to try and understand how your phone works and learn some helpful words on the way. Not challenging enough? Keep it like that for a whole week and see how used to it you become.

Watch TV Shows

Learning Japanese? Watch some easy anime shows with the subtitles off. Want to take Spanish to the next level? There are actually some great telenovelas on Netflix right now to get into. Start learning more about the culture by watching movies and tv shows in the language and try to repeat after the characters when you hear a familiar word. But don’t rely on subtitles too much!

Engage With The Locals

Learning a different language in the country is the best way to learn. You don’t stop learning when your class finishes, you will be forced to speak with the locals whether it be when you’re ordering you coffee, asking for directions or checking out at the supermarket. Don’t be shy, embrace this opportunity and speak with the locals, it’s the only way you can improve your language to sound natural. Even if it’s only asking for directions or saying “the weather is nice” or “how are you?” The locals will appreciate that you’re trying and you feel awesome when you say the words right!

Don’t Give Up!

I know how hard learning a second language can be, and at times sitting in class having the same sentence structure drilled into you over and over can be boring. My advice to you is to not give up on learning a language. It’s such an impressive skill that is not only great on the resume but so helpful when you’re travelling abroad. It all pays off when you’re able to go out into the real world and have a decent conversation with a local in a different language. You feel so proud, even if you get some of the words wrong. So hang in there guys, and imagine how cool you’re going to look when you can be a translator for your English speaking friends!

The Bottom Line

So that’s all my language tips, if you’re feeling inspired and want to find out how you can study a different language abroad, check out our programs here!

Words by Sophie Nicolas – Sophie Studied a Bachelor of Arts and Edith Cowan University and also studied abroad in Japan

You can read more work from Sophie on her website or on Uni Junkee

Illustration by Aileen, You can find more of her work on Instagram @cartoonsforsanity and @aileenetc

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