Written by Elvira Seyidova
When you decide to study in a foreign country, be prepared to learn a new language along with getting a university degree! This is how I adapted effortlessly to Italian language!
- Basics always save lives!
Try to learn some basics of the language of the country you are going to, as it definitely helps when you first land! From my experience, almost half of international students rely on their English knowledge when going to study abroad. This is one of the fundamental mistakes students make because in many countries, including Italy, Spain and some remote parts of Germany, local people do not really speak English and communication becomes a challenge. During my first year here in Italy, I frequently had to use translators to get some help. So, be prepared in advance. When you have some basic knowledge it’s easier to understand how the language works and learn the vocabulary.
You do not have to study day and night to learn the local language! Just be a perceptive listener. While you go around the city, do shopping or sit in the park to chill out, try to actually listen to what people say to one another such as “good evening”, “you are welcome”, or “it is time to go”. During my efforts to learn Italian, I used to see this as a fun game. For example, while entering shops, I would ask natives something to catch some new words that I could later look up in the dictionary. It is a very effective way to learn new words every day.
- “Language exchange” clubs
This is one of the most amazing ways of both making new friends and learning a new language! If your university does not already have such conversation clubs, you can easily ask student tutors to create one! No matter if you are a beginner or intermediate in the language you want to improve, you can always join such social clubs and develop your language skills while enjoying the company of new people!
- Make native friends!
The city that I study in now (Siena, Italy) is a very small international city. This gives me opportunities to make observations as a future sociolinguist. For instance, I see that students generally tend to hang out with peers from their own country. However, I recommend you to also make friends that are natives in the language you want to learn! In this way, it becomes easier to communicate and improve your foreign language skills. By talking to native friends you’ll learn new ways to express yourself in the new language and have a nice conversation at the same time!
- Grammar always works!
Last but not least, always have some backup grammar! If you know how to make a correct sentence even though you don’t have enough vocabulary, you’ll start to figure out the language. Even though the natives say a bunch of unknown words to you it will make sense in a grammatical way. In my first semester, I learned all the modal verbs and most common verbs: how to use them in a sentence and how to make a question. So I could have basic chats with everyone! After that, all you need to do is to learn more words. This you can do in language exchange clubs or simply with www.duolingo.com and www.babbel.com.