Learning abroad … is that the best alternative?


“Salisbury, one of the authors of the forthcoming monograph Renewing the Promise, Refining the Purpose: Study Abroad in a New Global Century, says that in order for students to really reap the benefits, they need to be pushed out of their comfort zones.”

Even when you are learning another language, you have to think how long children take to learn their native language and how long it takes them to refine it. Yet the language is spoken to them every day, since they wake up until the go to bed, they still need language classes in school to improve grammar and speaking. The way children learn them is almost a full-time, intensive English course, which is why they reach a high level.  So, how are ESL/EFL students supposed to learn a new language if they don’t insert themselves in this new world of words for a fair amount of time?

Also, we must remember that languages are continuously changing. This process starts in at a spoken level, so in order to catch up it is necessary to listen native speakers, read the newspaper, listen to the radio and watch the news.

Nowadays, due to technology and globalization it is even more difficult to use a language. According with David Crystal, a professor of linguistics at University of Bangor: “Language itself changes slowly but the internet has speeded up the process of those changes so you notice them more quickly.” That is why, we can see verbs like “to google” or “friend me” being used every day by English speakers. These examples can suggest us, how quickly language can absorb and change words, and how difficult it can be for an English learner to catch up, even when native speakers can’t understand some new words.

There are many people who study overseas to learn a new language, and even when they spend many years studying the language from books or college, the situation turns out complete different when they are exposed to the “ language in use.”

Salisbury points out that “oftentimes, you talk to people who studied abroad 50 years ago, and they will tell you that that was the most powerful experience that they had”

The simple fact of living in another culture makes you feel the need to learn faster and communicate to “survive”.

We cannot forget all the new knowledge imprinted in the new place. A study called The Impact of Study Abroad done by Sumka (1999) reported that students improve their language skills and gain new cultural perspectives. They reported also that studying abroad helped them make career and life decisions and improved problem-solving skills.

Anything aforementioned can’t be learned by books or college, language is alive and extremely related to culture. In other to understand and be able to speak a foreign language, we need to practice it on a regular basis. We have to think of it as any other exercise, if we don’t constantly use it we lose the ability. On the other hand, globalization is changing the way in which people are learning, people can be in touch with each other even if they live in different places. Who knows whether better alternatives will be found…


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