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How to learn a language before moving abroad

Moving abroad can be a daunting task. The thought  of moving abroad to work or study and to have to make new friends, adapt to a new culture and get by day to day while learning a new language is often a worrying point for many who decide to make the move. Personally speaking, when the time came to move abroad (from the UK to Spain) to study my Erasmus I was terrified! Because of this I decided to think of some ways to prepare myself for the big move. I hope they’re as successful for you as they were for me if you’re moving to an English speaking country or any other country that doesn’t speak your native language for that matter!

Learn a language via Webcam

An alternative to having English lessons (or another language) in a traditional academy is to have English classes online using Skype or other webcam VoIP apps (Google Hangouts, Viber, WebEx, etc.) with a native teacher, in the comfort of your own home. If it’s another language that you need to learn, many online language academies such as Break Into English not only teach English but also a host of other languages such as Spanish, French, German, Russian and even Chinese and Hebrew; and always with native teachers of those languages! This type of class presents numerous advantages compared to traditional face to face classes such as one to one student teacher ratio, flexible timetables, cheaper and more time effective, innovative use of technology, classes from anywhere whether it be from home, work or even in a park… All you need is a good internet connection. No need to rush around to get to a class on time and when you’re finished. You can get on with whatever it is you’re doing without a tedious commute back home.

Learn a language by changing the settings on your gadgets

Change the language settings on your phone, your computer, and your tablet. And your T.V. Change all your gadgets into your target language! It might be a bit confusing at first (especially if you need to delve into the depths of a section like ‘settings’) but you’ll get the hang of it pretty quickly. At the beginning you’ll learn some new vocabulary and as the days pass by you’ll be fully used to reading everything on your devices in a new language.

Watch the T.V. and listen to the radio in English

Everyone loves getting home from work and settling down to watch their favourite series on the sofa or even just relaxing with the T.V. on in the background. So why not turn watching your favourite show into something helpful for your language learning? Don’t worry if you find it difficult to follow everything when you first start this. Try putting the subtitles in English to help you. For many people, listening is one of the most difficult skills to acquire when learning a new language. If you can read the subtitles as well you’ll probably find the whole experience much easier. And less stressful too! Once you’ve seen an episode or a movie you like with the subtitles that you like, take advantage of the opportunity that the story is fresh in your head to watch it again as soon as possible without subtitles and force yourself to only use your and strengthen your listening skills. In no time, watching series and films in the new language will be second nature.

Do you love to listen to the radio when you’re getting ready in the morning? Or while you’re cooking dinner? Tune in to a radio station in your target language to listen to songs and general chatter from radio hosts. Even just having the radio on in the background will help you get used to the sound of English or any other new language you’re learning. And given that you’re mainly tuned in for the music, the talk in between songs will just be a stress-free bonus!

Read in English

If you take public transport to get to school or to work, why not use that time to catch up on your reading? Maybe you have an hour for your lunch break? Choose one day a week to take a break and read for ten minutes after your lunch. Love reading the news? Try reading it in English! If you have an advanced level, the best is to read the news on sites meant for natives, such as BBC, the Guardian, Huffington Post and many others, but there are also great alternatives for beginners and intermediate level students where the news is written more simply and key vocabulary is explained. News in levels is a good example: https://www.newsinlevels.com/ 

Also be sure to follow language learning blogs and social media accounts – get an English dose on your newsfeed when you’re scrolling down just before going to sleep! There are many different sources you can use to practice your reading skills – magazines, newspapers, websites to improve your grammar, blogs and books. If you are finding reading novels a bit complicated why not begin with reading a book for teenagers which perhaps uses more simple language. If you manage to read a book in your target language, check to see if there is a film version? Chances are, after reading the book you’ll be able to understand it in the original language too! 

Make Flashcards

You might think that flashcards are only for pre-schoolers; boring and childish, but you’d be wrong! Flashcards can be extremely useful as they allow you to focus on certain vocabulary and you can review them anytime and anywhere you wish. You could choose 15 words a week you want to learn, or some basic expressions you think will be useful for when you first move abroad (for example, supermarket or restaurant vocabulary). Anything short that will fit on a small piece of paper. Write it in your target language on one side and your native language on the other. Keep them somewhere where you won’t forget to review them! Put them in your purse or backpack to review on the underground, in your lunch bag to check during your lunchtime, on your bedside table to look over before you go to sleep – where ever works best for you! Flashcards are great because you can review vocabulary on the go without feeling like you’re really studying hard.

Follow a recipe

You can get excited by all the new, yummy food you’ll be trying in your new country by creating a themed dinner party! Find a recipe online in your target language and try to follow it. You’ll learn new cooking words and maybe some new food vocabulary too. And you’ll have a meal at the end of it!

Attend a language exchange

Language exchanges are when two people who speak different languages meet up and practice the two languages together. For example, in Madrid, a student from England could meet up with a student from Spain and they could practice speaking for half an hour in English and half an hour in Spanish. This is a great way to learn as it is free and usually takes place in a relaxed setting such as a cafe or bar. Do some research and find out if there are any language exchanges where you live. If not, there are apps which allow you to recreate the scenario online instead of in person. They’re also a good option for when you make the move abroad as it’s a great way to meet new people!

Above all, look forward to your move! Whether it’s for a short or long period make the most of all the opportunities which come with moving to another country. Getting the basics sorted before you move is a great idea as it will help you with your confidence and daily routines such as shopping for basic necessities or asking for directions. Have fun, learn a new language and appreciate a new culture!

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