7 Tips to Mastering a Foreign Language While Abroad

Most students have to learn (or try to learn) a foreign language in high school as part of their yearly curriculum. But as we all know, nothing beats taking your classroom studies on the road. Practicing a foreign language in its native country is the best way to become a linguistics master. Once abroad, however, you may find stumbling through words and sentences completely frustrating. Hopefully, this list of quick linguistic tips will help.winterline, gap year

1. Do your homework: Research the country you are planning to visit and learn some of the slang/basic phrases ahead of time.

2. Get study materials: Pick up an English translation dictionary for reference. You will need it!

3. Download a few language apps: Google Translate is just one of the many useful travel apps available for iPhone and Android. It can translate whole paragraphs of text or even just spoken words. Simply say a phrase in English and the app will repeat your words in the foreign language where traveling.5 Apps to Help You Learn a New Language

4. Go to school: You may find it helpful to take a few language classes while abroad. This is exactly what Winterline’s students will be doing while spending several weeks in Central America in Costa Rica.

5. Immerse yourself! Meet as many people as you can and talk to them without reverting to English (or your native language).

6. Practice the language: While abroad, speak the language every chance you get. Winterline’s students will also be living in a homestay for part of their experience; the perfect environment to practice, practice, practice.

7. Be patient; it will come.

You may find that navigating a foreign city, deciphering a menu, or simply attempting to barter in a bustling market challenging. Follow these simple steps, though, and you will soon find yourself communicating and interacting like a local. Well, hopefully close.

Why You Should Learn Spanish on Your Gap Year

Learning a new language can be intimidating. We worry about our pronunciation, grammar rules, speaking too slowly…and that’s when we know the right words! But learning a new language is also unbelievably rewarding, and worth the work it takes. Here’s 7 reasons that we incorporate Spanish language learning into our gap year.

Learning is best in-context

We always strive to embed our programs into the contexts where they’d best be learned. Why not learn SCUBA diving at a coral reef, rather than a swimming pool? Why not learn about sustainable energy at some of the premiere institutions in Europe? Learning Spanish is the same. The meanings within the grammar and the motivation for learning itself come together quickly and more naturally in context, such as at a homestay in Panama. We’re all about deep learning experiences.

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Winterline students at a homestay in Panama | Photo By: Maria O’Neal

Ability to communicate with other people

Spanish is spoken by over four hundred million people world wide, which makes it the second most spoken language in the world after Mandarin Chinese. Spanish is the main official language for twenty-one different countries, which makes it one of the most useful travel languages out there. If you study it at the start of your gap year, think of all the doors that might open for you along the way.

Appreciation of more cultures

There’s often no better way to learn about the intricacies of a culture than to learn the ways people express themselves verbally. Even from region to region, variations in speech can tell you an enormous amount about the ways others see the world. Learning Spanish during your gap year can open up encounters with people that might forever change your life for the better, increasing access to the culture on an immediate scale.

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Being welcomed by the children of El Cocal | Photo By: Brittany Lane

It makes you more hireable

Whether you’re interested in management, sales, marketing, banking, or telecommunications, Spanish-speaking ability is becoming one of the fastest growing job needs in the world. We have nothing against students getting great jobs in fast growing industries.

Helps you understand your own language better

This one is not unique to Spanish per se, but learning a foreign language often provides a much deeper appreciation for your own native language, and of the sensibilities and idiosyncracies of the lengua franca in which you grew up, especially your own grammar. For example, why can you say three cups in English, but not three milks?

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Students painting Spanish signs in Panama | Photo By: Maria O’Neal

Because its cool

Speaking Spanish is awesome. Ben Affleck, Maya Angelou, David Beckham, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Matt Damon all speak it, even though its not their native tongue. Plus, you probably have friends who speak Spanish. Wouldn’t you want to know when they’re sharing secrets with each other?

It keeps your brain active

There are many documented advantages to bilingualism. But even if you’re not a young child or concerned about the long-term effects of aging on the human mind, speaking another language can really sharpen your mind, and help you keep bringing your A-Game to whatever you do.

It will help you get ahead when you get to college

Most colleges and universities have language requirements. They used to be Latin, but thankfully, these days you get to choose. A solid foreign language foundation often allows you to ‘test out’ of the foreign language requirement, or at least skip basic intro classes. This saves time and gives you the opportunity to focus on all the things you want to do.

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Students in Costa Rica | Photo By: Maria O’Neal

Interested in learning Spanish and other skills on your gap year? Check out our skills list and itineraries for an idea of what a Winterline gap year entails!